Scriptures

The Book Of Revelation Part 4

Introduction

‘They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’ Revelation 12:11

We’re now going to examine Revelation 12 through Revelation 22 of the book, and we will be looking at the main idea or theme of each chapter so that we see how these items tie into the overall message of God offering Christians help and encouragement during times of persecution by the Roman government.

Revelation 12

In chapter 12 we’re presented with images of the dragon, the woman, and the child. Before he can do harm to her child the dragon is caught up into heaven. The woman flees into the wilderness to a place prepared for her for 1,260 days.

A war develops between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels, Satan is defeated and has lost his power to use government to persecute. The dragon now begins to pursue the woman. She is given two wings of an eagle, so she might escape. Now angered even more he turns against the church.

‘The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.’ Revelation 12:9

This tells us that the dragon is none other than the devil himself. But who is the woman? And who is the child that the dragon is trying to consume?

We learn in Revelation 12 that the child is one who will rule all nations with a rod of iron.

‘She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.’ Revelation 12:5

‘Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.’ Revelation 19:15

This harks back to Psalm 2 where we find a prophecy about Jesus reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords, Psalm 2:9.

But who is the woman?

It’s the woman who gives birth to the child, she represents the people of God. It’s not Mary as nowhere in the Scriptures does it refer to Christians as the children of Mary.

‘She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.’ Revelation 12:5

Most Bible scholars believe that this woman is representative of Old Testament Israel, that is, the faithful remnant of Israel from which the seed, Christ came, which would include Christians, Genesis 3:15.

In Genesis 3:15 it was promised that the seed of woman would deal a death blow to Satan. In Revelation it’s the seed of woman who defeats the dragon. It was Israel’s faithful remnant that prepared the way for Jesus, the child, the Son of God, to come.

It was prophesied in 2 Samuel 7 that someone from the seed of David would rule and reign forever over God’s kingdom, 2 Samuel 7:12-14.

We learn from Luke 1 that this was Jesus. ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ Luke 1:32-33

Thus, it would be out of the faithful remnant of Old Testament Israel, those through whom God was working His purpose, that Jesus would come, Matthew 5:17-20.

Jesus said that He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but instead to fulfil it. He said that not a single jot or title would pass away until everything had been fulfilled. So, Jesus, having been viewed through prophecy in the Old Testament, had finally arrived and it was through Him that the devil would be defeated, 1 John 3:8.

The lesson for us is that if we’re children of God, we can defeat the devil and be a part of God’s eternal scheme to save humankind. We can have access to the blood of Christ, which is able to cleanse us of our sins.

But how do we, through Jesus, overcome the devil? How can we defeat the devil in our lives today? One of the most practical verses in the Book of Revelation is found in Revelation 12, which presents a three-fold way for us to overcome Satan.

‘They (first-century Christians) triumphed over him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’ Revelation 12:11

These Christians overcame the devil through Jesus’ sacrifice, Scripture, and their own self-sacrifice. They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb. What was it that defeated the devil, the one who seemed to have the power of death? Hebrews 2:14.

Jesus, through death, conquered him who had the power of death, who is the devil. Jesus’ sacrifice, ‘the blood of the Lamb’, was the sacrifice which provided the death blow that had been promised in Genesis 3:15. But these first-century Christians also overcame by the word of their testimony, which is what we have today recorded in Scripture.

It’s God’s inspired Word and it’s in the Word of God today that we find the power of salvation, Romans 1:16. The Word of God is living and powerful, Hebrews 4:12.

James said in James 1:21 that we should ‘humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ Peter said that we are born again by the Word of God, 1 Peter 1:23-25.

Thus, first-century Christians overcame the devil through the sacrifice of Jesus when He died on the cross in obedience to His Father’s will. They overcame the devil through Scripture and they overcame the devil through self-sacrifice. Even if we recognise the importance of the sacrifice of Jesus, obey the Gospel, and become Christians, if we fail to make self-sacrifice a part of our lives, we will not be saved, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Our lives as children of God must belong to Christ, and we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for God, Romans 12:1 / Luke 9:23.

Jesus said that if we desire to come after Him, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. We overcome the devil through the sacrifice of Jesus, by obedience to the Scriptures, and by living a life of self-sacrifice.

Revelation 13

In Revelation 13 John introduces us to the sea beast, which we identified earlier as Rome and her rulers. He also introduces us to the land beast, which represents the militia who set up images of Rome’s emperors and who enforced emperor worship.

The Number 666, The Imperfection And Sinfulness Of Man

We now come to a number that has become so popular in our day and age that it deserves to be discussed here, 666.

‘This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.’ Revelation 13:18

If the number seven represents that which is complete, perfect, and whole, the number six falls one short of seven. Does 666 represent some type of ‘hidden meaning’ that requires us to use algebra and trigonometry to uncover some kind of ‘magical calculation’? No. That isn’t what God is saying.

The number six is one less than seven. If seven is perfection, then since six is one less than seven it represents imperfection. And look at how it is multiplied in 666, imperfection, imperfection, imperfection! That’s the idea.

The Roman Empire was the embodiment of human imperfection and human sinfulness. The number 666 isn’t some literal number on some literal human’s head. Nor is it a Social Security number, as some have suggested in the past.

It simply represents the imperfection and sinfulness of man, and especially those who were enforcing emperor worship. Without God in our lives, we cannot have salvation and if we look to men for our salvation, our salvation will be imperfect. Thus, 666 is a sign of utter and complete imperfection of man and his sinfulness outside of Jesus, especially in light of the identity of the sea beast and the land beast, which was enforcing emperor worship.

THE MARK OF THE BEAST

When it comes to the subject of the ‘mark of the beast’ in Revelation 13, it never ceases to amaze me the many different theories there are on what this mark actually is.

Does it really speak about people being ‘microchipped’ in the future?

Does it really speak about ‘bar codes’ being tattooed on people’s heads and hands in the future?

I don’t have to remind you that the Book of Revelation is a highly figurative book, and we must also keep in mind, it was written to the seven churches of Asia Minor, Revelation 2-3, to prepare the saints in Asia for the enormous persecutions they would soon have to face, not thousands of years later, Revelation 1:1 / Revelation 1:3 / Revelation 22:6 / Revelation 22:10.

It was written at a time when the faith of Christians was put to the ultimate test, as they were forced to deny their faith in the Lord and worship Caesar, or face torture and death.

‘The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.’ Revelation 13:15-18

To understand what this ‘mark’ is we need to go back into the history of Rome. Rome had ordered that all citizens give both political and religious allegiance to Rome and her government. All citizens had to submit to the Roman laws along with the Roman religious laws, this was a demonstration of loyalty to Rome.

The ‘mark’ refers to those who would direct worship toward Rome, Revelation 14:9 / Revelation 20:4. The mark, or identification, was both psychological, that’s what the mark is on their ‘foreheads’ refers to, and the mark was also physical, that what the mark on their ‘hands’ refers to.

Make no mistake about it, Domitian wanted total allegiance given to him and he wanted the very minds of people, the ‘forehead mark’, along with an outward recognition, the ‘hand mark’, that people were allegiant to him.

Remember if people weren’t willing to openly declare that Caesar is lord, then they would be put to death! Those who gave in to Rome were given this identifying mark, either on their right hand, or on their forehead, because with this mark, came privileges.

Those who had the mark could buy and sell goods, in other words they could prosper. On the other hand, those who didn’t give into Rome and her laws and religious laws, weren’t able to buy or sell any goods, this is the reason why they would suffer. They could buy or sell clothes, they couldn’t buy or sell food, everything they needed to live was going to be refused to them because they didn’t have this mark.

When Domitian was ruler, anyone who worshipped the emperor needed to ask for a certificate, but it was only after receiving this certificate, were they allowed to buy and sell and take part in any Roman activity, this was a way of becoming a Roman citizen.

IS IT A LITERAL MARK?

Many believe that the ‘mark’ is a literal, physical mark on the bodies of unbelievers, but when we contrast this ‘mark’ with the ‘seal’ which is on the forehead of believers, we soon discover it isn’t literal.

‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Revelation 7:3

‘They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.’ Revelation 9:4

‘Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.’ Revelation 14:1

‘They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.’ Revelation 22:4

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a Christian with a literal, physical seal, with the names of Jesus and the Father tattooed on their foreheads.

Remember this is figurative language and here John is describing those who have been born again and redeemed by Christ’s blood. In other words, the seal is describing ownership, those who belong to Christ and the Father, those who are faithful to Him.

By way of contrast, the false prophet who causes everyone who isn’t a Christian to have the ‘mark of the beast’ written on their forehead, this simply means that this ‘mark’ was as a sign that they belong to the beast and are loyal to him.

The devil always tried to do what God does and so, this ‘mark’ on their foreheads or on their right hand is simply the devils way of imitating the seal of God on God’s people.

If you have the name of Jesus and God the Father written on your forehead, it simply means that they own you, that you belong to them, that you are loyal to the Lord God Almighty. But if you have ‘the mark of the beast’, Revelation 13:17, written on your forehead, it signifies that he owns you, that you belong to him, that you are loyal to the devil.

Since the seal or name on the believer is obviously invisible, symbolizing the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, it seems certain that the mark of the beast is likewise a symbolic way of describing the loyalty of his followers and his ownership of them.

CONCLUSION

We must always be careful when we’re trying to understand any text of the Bible, especially those texts which are very figurative in nature. If we’re not careful we can come to all kinds of conclusions and sadly, many people do.

When we remember that the things John wrote about in Revelation were ‘soon to take place’, Revelation 1:1 / Revelation 1:3 / Revelation 22:6 / Revelation 22:10, we can know for sure that John when he speaks of this ‘mark’, isn’t speaking about ‘microchip implants, tattoos or bar codes’, something which going to happen in the future. He was writing to Christians about things which were going to happen to them.

The important point in all of this is simply to ask ourselves this question, do you have a ‘mark’ which identifies and signifies your loyalty to the devil? Or do you have a ‘seal’ which identifies your loyalty to Christ? Philippians 2:9-11.

Revelation 14

The Number 144,000, The Redeemed Of All The Ages Who Have Obeyed God And Who Are Living Faithful To Him

In Revelation 14 we find 144,000. While the number 666 probably is the most-popular number today in the Book of Revelation, then the number 144,000 probably is the second most popular number. Have you ever had someone come to your door and ask you, ‘are you sure you’re part of the 144,000’?, as if the 144,000 is a literal number of which we must be a part because this is the number of people whom God will literally save. That’s not what is being stated
here.

Notice something interesting about the 144,000. If this is a literal number, then let’s take other such things in Revelation literally, too.

‘Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.’ Revelation 7:4

The text says that these were Jews only.

‘These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins.’ Revelation 14:4

The text says that they ‘had not been defiled by women’, thus, they were male virgins. Therefore, those who are part of the 144,000 are: (a) Jews; (b) males; and (c) virgins.

How many people are going to buy into such a concept today? We must recognise that such passages aren’t speaking literally, the 144,000 isn’t literal. And when Revelation speaks of ‘Jews who had not been defiled by women’, it’s speaking of purity. The number 144,000 isn’t to be taken literally.

The number 12 represents humanity. If you take 12 and multiply it by 12, you get 144,000, meaning simply a large number of those members of humanity who had been redeemed. This number simply represents those members of humanity who had decided to obey God’s will and become Christians.

It’s not saying that if you aren’t a part of a literal 144,000 people, then you will miss out on Heaven. It’s simply speaking of the redeemed of all the ages who have obeyed God and who are living faithful to Him.

Now I would like you to notice a very encouraging verse, which is found in Revelation 14, to Christians who were suffering, and to those who had seen family members die for the cause of Christ.

‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’ Revelation 14:13

The redeemed needed to know that if they died for the cause of Christ, they still would be blessed. Death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. In fact, did you know that you cannot get to Heaven without dying first? Death is a marvellous thing for the child of God. If we’re living faithfully as a Christian, death isn’t a bad thing, death is a wonderful thing.

The Scriptures don’t promote a black, cold, dreary view of death like some in this world do. Death is viewed as wonderful. This is how God views death, Psalm 116:15.

When one of His children dies, and that person has lived faithfully, even though that person may have died at the hands of an evil Roman government, it is a blessing for that person.

‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’ Revelation 14:13

Death is a wonderful thing for the child of God, Philippians 1:21, who has lived faithfully because that person has had his sins washed away, and therefore has the promise that if he walked in the light, he will remain in fellowship with God. He also has the promise of eternal life, Matthew 25:46 / 1 John 2:25.

‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’ Revelation 14:13

This passage in Revelation is encouraging and practical for us today, too but we must be faithful unto death, and then God will give us the crown of life.

Revelation 15

In Revelation 15 we are introduced to the song of Moses and the Lamb. John sees seven angels, their actions are a recapitulation of the seven seals and seven trumpets. They are singing the song of Moses, a song of triumph and they also are singing the song of the Lamb. These songs contain thanks, victory and praise.

Following these songs, they come they come out of the heavenly temple with seven plagues. The description given of their clothing is very significant indicating unlimited power to execute judgment. The four beasts are the same as in Revelation 5. One of these gives the angels seven golden vials of God’s wrath.

The Song Of Moses And The Lamb

‘They sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’ Revelation 15:3-4

Here we see an event serving as an introduction to the bowls of judgment which show that the wrath of God is being poured out on the ungodly. Prior to that, the saints are rejoicing, the song of Moses brings to our minds Exodus 15.

The people had escaped from Egyptian bondage, they were under horribly tyranny under Pharaoh, who was a hard taskmaster. God delivered them through ten plagues, and they walked across the Red Sea on dry land. The Egyptian army was crushed by the waters of the Red Sea, and the Israelites cried out victoriously because they had been delivered from great tribulation and trouble. God’s people had been able to overcome and end up triumphant, so, they sang the song of Moses, Exodus 15:1-18.

But in Revelation, the people aren’t merely singing the song of Moses, instead they are singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Just like Moses led God’s people out of Egyptian bondage to the Promised Land, the Lamb is able to lead Christians out of trials and tribulations resulting from the Roman government so that those Christians could be victorious and be able to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.

This, then, was another sign of how, if Christians would trust in God, He would lead them to victory. Here we find great comfort given to these first-century Christians.

Revelation 16

Revelation 16 presents the seven bowls of judgment where God is seen as pouring out His judgment upon the Roman Empire as punishment for its sin against Christians. This chapter records he’s pouring out of the bowls which contained God’s wrath. They are similar to the plagues that came upon Egypt.

We have envisioned the same events here that are symbolised in the seven seals and the seven trumpets but with more intensity. As the bowls are poured out an angel acknowledges that God is just in his execution of judgment.

In short Revelation 16 describes how God, through natural means, punished Rome for its sins.

The First Bowl of Wrath

‘Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’ The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.’ Revelation 16:1-2

The first bowl of wrath was poured out upon the earth, in other words, it was poured out upon the Roman Empire, it affected only those who bore the mark of the beast and worshipped Domitian.

This plague paralleled the boil plague of Egypt in the days of Moses and caused grievous sores to come upon those who bowed to worship the emperor.

The Second Bowl of Wrath

‘The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.’ Revelation 16:3

Immediately following the first plague, the second bowl of wrath was emptied out upon the sea. The imagery paralleled the plague of Egypt where the Nile was turned to blood. This isn’t to be taken literally, as God promised to protect the Christians who made their livelihood by the sea from His wrath.

What was intended here was to illustrate that God would use natural calamities of the sea to orchestrate, in part, the downfall of Rome. Keep in mind that a significant portion of Rome’s power lay in its trade expansion through conquering territories. Major trade routes to the east were achieved by sea travel. Closing these would seriously cripple Rome’s ability to pursue trade in this and other directions.

The Third Bowl of Wrath

‘The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: ‘You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ And I heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.’ Revelation 16:4-7

The third bowl of wrath was poured out on the fresh water. During this event, a voice was heard that proclaimed God’s righteousness in this act. The Roman Empire slaughtered so many Christians that they literally made their blood flow like water. It could be said that they drank of the blood of the Christians.

This bowl of wrath surely gave comfort to the Christians who had seen their blood spilled mercilessly. God is assuring the Christians that the Roman Empire will drink of the blood they shed. God’s final words of judgment to Edom speak similarly of them suffering equally for what they had inflicted, Obadiah 15-16.

The Fourth Bowl of Wrath

‘The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.’ Revelation 16:8-9

The fourth bowl of wrath was emptied out upon the sun which then sent out scorching rays to burn the wicked. Those upon whom the rays fell were so hardened in their hearts that they refused to see this as an act of divine retribution and added blasphemy to their already sin cursed lives.

John gives credit to God as having power over the plagues that were coming. The Christians to who this was written were here told that God is in charge of what’s going on. Of significance also is the wording, ‘they refused to repent and glorify him’.

This reveals that the oppressors were given the chance to repent. This should bring great comfort to those who believe they have gone too far and can never repent and come back to God. Even after all the horrible things done to the Christians, the people of the Roman Empire still were given an opportunity to avoid God’s eternal wrath which is far more severe and lasting than His wrath executed on earth.

We can see God’s long-suffering and patience at work here in His efforts to reach those who worshipped under the beast and to present them with every opportunity to avoid His eternal wrath.

This calls to mind God’s reluctance to destroy Nineveh when He sent Jonah to preach to them in hopes of converting them from their evil ways. But, they ‘they refused to repent and glorify him’.

The subjects of the beast, Rome, had so taken in his spirit and absorbed his characteristics that instead of repenting and turning to God, they rebelled against God’s efforts to turn them, hardened their hearts just like Pharaoh and rebelled against His efforts to soften them.

Even the scorching heat of God’s wrath unleashed with the sun could not mellow their rebellious hearts, rather it hardened them. The fourth bowl completes the first section of plagues involving earth, sea, waters and the sun.

The Fifth Bowl of Wrath

‘The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.’ Revelation 16:10-11

And now we see the fifth bowl of wrath being poured out on the throne of the beast, Domitian, and his entire kingdom is darkened. This imagery is reflective of Psalms 69:23-24.

Beginning at the throne, the kingdom is darkened so that the eyes of the leaders lose their ability to see how their kingdom needs to be managed. They are turning a blind eye to the priorities of managing a worldwide empire and turning them instead to the inner pleasures of wicked debauchery. They feel secure in their power, so they become blind to the needs of the empire. The Roman Empire is by no means the only power on earth that came to demise because of this.

The Romans who are faithful to the Empire and its emperor worship see it happening, they are in anguish over it, yet in their stubborn pride, they continue to refuse to accept that this internally evil system of government cannot possibly be worthy of their worship so ‘they refused to repent of what they had done,’ rather choosing to blame and blaspheme the one to whom they should have turned,  Romans 1:21-25.

The Sixth Bowl of Wrath

‘The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.’ Revelation 16:12

The sixth bowl of wrath was said to be poured out directly on the Euphrates River causing it to dry up. The Euphrates River formed the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. Beyond the river was the Parthian nation which had been in rebellion to the empire throughout its existence.

The ancient city of Babylon was finally destroyed in 539 B.C. when the Persians diverted the Euphrates River and entered the city underneath its protective walls, Jeremiah 50:38 / Jeremiah 51:36. That historical event formed the imagery that the Christians would identify the overthrow of God’s enemies with.

Again, this imagery is used to conceal the real meaning from the Roman authorities. The drying up of the Euphrates signified to the oppressed Christians that the Roman Empire was now vulnerable to external invasion by the Parthian kings. The external invasion did indeed occur, after which, the mighty Roman Empire was reduced to a declining world power.

The Seventh Bowl of Wrath

‘The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away, and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.’ Revelation 16:17-21

The seventh bowl poured out upon the air symbolises the complete retribution of God through the use of natural elements, earth water, fire, (the sun) and air. The previous natural disturbances were not as severe as the ones after the outpouring of the seventh bowl.

There can be no doubt that there is a great deal of figurative language used here and so it would be in that God is describing the downfall of the Roman Empire and must protect the Christians from added persecutions by concealing the real message from the Roman authorities.

A clue to figurative significance of the outpouring of the final bowl of wrath on the air may be found in Ephesians 2:2.

The prince of the powers of the air spoken of by Paul is undoubtedly Satan. In view of the gathering forces for the upcoming battle of Har-Megedon mentioned earlier, it’s reasonable to conclude that the final bowl of wrath will be poured out directly on the ‘ruler of the kingdom of the air’, or the powers of Satan.

The fifth bowl was poured out on the throne of the beast, the sixth bowl opened the way for invasion from hostile countries followed by a gathering of forces by the allies of Satan to his evil cause, followed then by the outpouring of God’s wrath upon the entire sphere of Satan’s operation. Air would be an appropriate symbol representing the prevailing influence surrounding the Roman Empire.

Thus, the course of the Empire which was evil to the core, characterised by lives of trespass and sin, ruled by the Satan, prince of the powers of the air, who controlled his subjects by a spirit of rebellion and disobedience to God, is now going to brought under divine judgment.

With the pouring of the seventh bowl, the Christians are again reminded that the forces of evil cannot win the battle. With the outpouring of this last bowl of wrath, we are told that thunder and lightning from heaven and an earthquake unlike any other shakes the earth, all of which are manifestations of divine retribution. The city of Rome is divided into three parts, the divine number, which symbolises God’s involvement in the overthrow of the city. When this final action is finished, God’s wrath on the beast and the false prophet is complete.

The seven bowls of wrath represented three things which historian Edward Gibbons attributed to the ultimate fall of the Imperial Roman Empire: 1. Natural calamity. 2. Internal rottenness, and 3. External invasion. All three of these were works of God which ultimately caused the doom of the Roman Empire.

It did no good for Rome to rally help from other nations, for God would destroy Rome regardless of any help Satan may recruit. The vision of the bowls of wrath were designed to set forth the assurance of ultimate triumph of righteousness over any and all evil that may be hurled at it.

The message to the Christians of the day was that God is ruling and they must persevere and keep themselves in righteousness and in so doing they will achieve the ultimate victory. The message for us is the same, God cares for us and as long as we live in righteousness we too can triumph over any evil which can be hurled at us.

Armageddon

Also, in Revelation 16 we see a great battle occurring, the battle of Armageddon. Today we hear so much about Armageddon and how it is some type of future battle in which God and His saints will war against the ungodly, eventually be victorious, and then reign for a thousand years in a utopian state here on Earth.

But at this point, let us remember some of the key points we discussed previously. Revelation is a symbolic book, a real battle isn’t being depicted in this symbolic book. Remember, too, that the book speaks of things that will ‘soon take place’’.

‘The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.’ Revelation 1:1

These were things that were ‘near’.

‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.’ Revelation 1:3

Whatever battle is going to occur would take place during the time period of the people who were reading the Book of Revelation.

‘Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.’ Revelation 16:16

In any time of international unrest, uncertainty or conflict, there have been those who have raised the age-old spectre of ‘Armageddon’. Not so very long ago the word frequently appeared in the literature of the Watchtower magazine of the self-styled ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ as they attempted to arrest people’s attention and scare them into professing some sort of religious belief.

Furthermore, the very word ‘Armageddon’ has become something of a byword; a synonym used to describe any cataclysmic event, whether real or imaginary.

But what do the scriptures really tell us about ‘Armageddon’? Does the word, indeed, warn us of a mighty battle which will bring our world to an end? Does ’Armageddon’ really relate to a conflict, either literal, and or figurative, in the 16th chapter of the Revelation where the word occurs?

The explanations and theories which have been proposed in attempts to explain ‘Armageddon’ are like the demons in the demoniac of Gadara, their name is ‘Legion’. Some expositors have boldly claimed that it represents ‘the last great conflict between East and West’. Others explain it as ‘the great universal conflict before the return of Christ’. And others describe it as the conflict involving ‘all the nations against the church’.

But, do the Scriptures, really, speak of a mighty, literal battle in which huge armies will take to the field and fight, employing all the sophisticated weapons of modern warfare?

The ‘Revelation’. The Most Figurative Book In The Bible

I think we should bear in mind, whenever we read the ‘Revelation’ in which this ‘conflict’ is said to be described. It is the most figurative and symbolic Book in the Scriptures. Remember, also, that every single figure, symbol or illustration that we find in the Book, comes from elsewhere in the scriptures.

In other words, and this is of crucial importance, not one symbol, or illustration, used in the ‘Revelation’ comes from outside of the Bible itself. This means the Bible is our only source of reliable information, and that to understand the term ‘Armageddon’ it is essential to begin in the Old Testament scriptures for guidance and enlightenment.

A Brief History

Before we do this, let us notice one more vital fact; namely, that the chapter already referred to, Revelation 16, contains the one and only reference to ‘Armageddon’ found in the entire Bible. In Revelation 16:14 is described ‘the war of the great day of God, the Almighty’, and in Revelation 16:16, this day is given the name ‘Armageddon’.

So, Armageddon is God’s Day! And this is hinted at again in Revelation 19:19-21, where it is described in terms which remind us of Ezekiel 39:19.

‘AR’, Or ‘HAR’ Mageddon?

Please look closely at the actual word. The first two letters, ‘Ar’, mean ‘city’, so that ‘Armageddon’ indicates the ‘City’ of Megiddo. When the word begins with ‘Har’, because ‘har’ means ‘hill’, ‘Harmageddon’ describes the ‘Hill’ on which the city of Megiddo was built.

And, when these two words are used symbolically, they remind us of the fact that. just as there are, in world-history, names of physical locations that tell dramatic stories; cities such as ‘Masada’, and places such as ‘The Alamo’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Trafalgar’, etc., the name ‘Armageddon’, reminds us of a great or special event.

About 60 miles north of Jerusalem, there is a valley about 10 miles long, stretching from the River Jordan to the Coast and enclosed by mountains at one end. This valley has several names. It’s called the ‘Plain of Jezreel’, but Bible maps will also use the name ‘The Valley of Megiddo’, the valley which is famous in the Old Testament as the
site of some of the bloodiest battles in Israel’s history.

Harmageddon’, the Hill of Megiddo, is still there. It’s the hill upon which are the ruins of ‘Armageddon’, the City of Megiddo, which is the ancient city that was formerly a  Canaanite stronghold.

The Significant Of The ‘Armageddon’ Area

A brief examination of the Old Testament will reveal how significant this place was in those days. Judges 5 tells us that it was here that Barak defeated the Canaanites, Judges 5:19.

Judges 7 records that it was here that Gideon fought against the Midianites. 2 Samuel 1 tells us that Saul and Jonathan died in this area. 2 Kings 23:29, reports that the good King Josiah also died here, when he intervened in a battle with which he really shouldn’t have become involved. Here, too, King Ahaziah was killed by Jehu. In a word, the Valley of Megiddo was renowned as the location of great battles and terrible conflicts, so that it came to symbolise conflict.

Look At The Events Described In Judges 4

Jabin, king of the Canaanites, had oppressed Israel for 20 years, and the reason for his apparent superiority and invincibility was the fact that his army commander, Sisera, had at his disposal 900 war-chariots which supported his army. And what weapons did the Israelites have? None! Not a sword, shield or spear! Judges 5:8.

This is because the Canaanites had followed the example of the Moabites before them who, having conquered the Israelites had disarmed them. They had stripped them of their weapons, a course of action that was the usual practice in those days, designed to make rebellion impossible.

In 1 Samuel 13:19 we are told that there was ‘no smith in Israel’. At that time, the Philistines, who were oppressing the Israelites, didn’t allow them to work in metal, because they didn’t want them to be able to make weapons for themselves. Indeed, there was even a time when Israel’s farmers had actually to go to the Philistines and pay to have their tools sharpened, because the Philistines had obtained the secret of iron smelting.

This explains why Judges 3:16 records that Ehud ‘made himself a sword’, an act which, under normal circumstances, would hardly have been regarded as a startling event! And Judges 3:31, tells us that Shamgar fought the Philistines armed only with ‘an ox-goad’, a stick with a point on the end! It is, therefore, not surprising that, when Sisera’s army attacked the Israelites, they turned and fled. So, what followed? Read Judges 4.

In the mountains, there lived a woman named Deborah, a prophetess, to whom the Israelites turned for advice. She stated plainly, ‘You are not able to deal with this enemy. But God is!’ For this is the day when YAHVEH will deliver Sisera into your hands. Is not YAHVEH gone up before you?’

The two armies faced each other; the mighty army of the Canaanites and the unarmed men of Israel. They met in the Valley of Megiddo, and the seemingly impossible happened! The Canaanites were defeated, not by Israel, but by God. In Judges 5 we read Deborah’s song of victory, in which she makes it very clear that God Himself fought for His people, Judges 5:20.

The Day And The Victory Is God’s

Now, this is the first Bible reference to ‘Megiddo’, and It’s a story which reveals that, when the need of His people was greatest, and His time was right, God Himself defeated their enemy, without the His people lifting a finger to defend themselves.

Consequently, whenever the ancient Israelites, and the Jews in later years heard the word ‘Armageddon’, far from striking fear into their hearts, it was a word of comfort and encouragement, just as in New Testament times, the word ‘Maranatha’ became a word of comfort for Christians.

‘Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.’ Revelation 16:16

Therefore, when, in Revelation 16:18, where ‘Harmageddon’ appears again, God is telling the Christians that opposition raised against His people and His cause will meet with the same overwhelming defeat that was inflicted on Sisera. It will be God’s Day and His conflict once again! God Himself will inflict the final defeat on evil!

This means that the word ‘Armageddon’ found only in the 16th chapter of the Revelation, has nothing to do with a mighty, literal, physical conflict, nor should Christians be afraid of the word. The reference should be seen properly as God’s assurance that the victory lies with His cause and His people, because His great purpose must be accomplished.

A Final Question

How can these references to Armageddon possibly relate to a literal, great, world-conflict? Remember that the Valley of Megiddo is a very small valley in a very small country. I suggest, therefore, that common-sense should tell us that the idea of a literal battle, involving modern armies with modern weapons, fighting in a real geographical location such as the Valley of Megiddo, is nothing short of ridiculous.

The scene is symbolic, and it declares that, although the church may experience difficult times as she faces persecution and false doctrine, her final victory is guaranteed. Not because she becomes numerically or politically or financially strong, or strong in any other conceivable way, but because this is God’s War and God’s Victory. If you know this, you will realise that, whatever the future holds in store for the world, the Church has nothing to fear, because her future is secure.

Revelation 17

We’re introduced to the woman described as a great prostitute, the great city Rome, Revelation 17:1-3. In the vision, the angel removes John from where he was and takes him into a wilderness where he sees ‘a woman.’ The question immediately arises, is this the same woman previously mentioned?

A closer examination of her characteristics reveals that she is bedecked with those items signifying royalty, Revelation 17:4. The woman in view here is representative of none other than the Roman emperor himself.

The Beast

Notice the beast was ‘was covered with blasphemous names’, this would be a reference to the names the beast called himself. Domitian, during his reign issued his decrees as ‘Lord God Domitianus’ and such. Therefore, it would have been unmistakable in the minds of the first readers of John’s letter that he was referring to the emperor.

‘The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.’ Revelation 13:1

‘There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.’ Revelation 17:3

‘This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.’ Revelation 17:9-10

It obviously refers to the emperors of the Roman Empire.

The Ten Horns

‘The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people.’ Revelation 17:12

The kings of the provinces will ultimately turn against Rome. One of Rome’s greatest fears was insurrection and turmoil in the provinces. History records that is precisely what happened to the Roman Empire. She was defeated from within by her own subjects.

‘The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.’ Revelation 17:16

The Roman Empire as a republic was organised as a provincial government. Each province was ruled by a governor appointed by the Emperor. There were many more than just ten provinces in the Roman Empire, and there weren’t exactly seven emperors at the time of John’s letter.

A figurative view of the imagery would be that the beast had 7, perfect, heads and 10, complete, horns, authority. Domitian claimed in his early years as emperor to be Nero returned so it was a common superstition among the people of the time that Domitian was thought to be Nero either returned or reincarnated. Daniel prophecies of a great beast in Daniel 7:23.

The beast of Daniel is the same as the beast of Revelation. This is an unmistakable reference to the Roman Empire. No other empire fitting this description devoured the whole earth. Daniel goes on to say that out of this fourth kingdom will arise one who will ‘speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.’ Daniel 7:25.

This can be no other person but an emperor of the fourth kingdom, the beast of Daniel, the beast of Revelation. No other imagery would come to mind in the imaginations of the first readers of Revelation.

The Seven Heads

‘This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.’ Revelation 17:9-11

The seven heads of the beast were seven heads of the Roman empire. Rome ruled her empire through a government system made up of several geographic territories called provinces. Each province fell under the control of a provincial governor. The governors of these provinces were completely at the whim of the Emperor and could serve from 1 to 5 years. There were about 28 imperial provinces at the height of the empire. All of these provinces were subject to Roman rule.

The Downfall of Rome

Such great significance has been attached to Rome as the centre of the persecuting power toward Christianity in the latter half of the first century, that three chapters of the Revelation are given to portray her downfall. Revelation 17 appears to be intent on identifying Rome as the recipient of God’s judgment and portraying just how evil an adversary she is to the saints.

In Revelation 17 we also turn our attention to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who will overcome.

‘They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.’ Revelation 17:14

The battle was over before it even started. God and His people would be victorious. Christ is the One Who is leading the army. He is the Captain of the Lord’s army, Hebrews 10:9-10.

We have the perfect spiritual armour, Ephesians 6:10-12. We have been promised that we will be victorious, Hebrews 2:14 / 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Christ always leads us in triumph, the Bible tells us and so, here it’s no surprise that the Lamb, Jesus, and those who follow Him will overcome Rome and her government and will arise out of persecution victorious.

What is the message for us today?

When we face tribulation, and when evil opposes Christianity, whether it is an evil government, atheism, humanism, or post-modernism, Christ and the faithful will always win the battle. The battle has already been won. If we make sure that we are on God’s side, we will overcome. Why? It’s because Jesus is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. There is no one greater than the Lord Himself.

No one can match His majesty, His power, or His ability to lead us to Heaven. No one can even compare to Jesus, the Captain of the Lord’s army. Yes, we will be victorious, but we must be sure that we are among the faithful who are God’s chosen.

Revelation 18

The Fall Of Babylon. Rome

In Revelation 18 we are introduced to the fall of Babylon. Earlier in our study we identified some characteristics of Babylon and the great harlot. Both, because of their characteristics, represented Rome. Christians no doubt were wondering, what is God going to do to Rome?

God had already told them to wait a while because He would reap vengeance upon Rome. That vengeance was seen in the seven bowls discussed in the book. God had promised that His vengeance would come.

Now, God explains that Rome will fall, Christianity will live and rule forever, but Rome and its government will not.

‘Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour, your doom has come!’ Revelation 18:10

This represents the power of God and the completion of His promises. People didn’t even want to get close to what they were seeing because things were so bad. They were saying that at last the great city had fallen. Look at the swiftness involved in God’s power as it destroyed Rome.

History records that Rome was destroyed, and that its evil ways came to an end. God’s kingdom, the church, however, is still reigning today. This is a powerful tribute to the Word of God, to the Book of Revelation, and to Jesus Christ.

Just as God promised, Rome was destroyed, but look at the Lord’s church today, it flourishes and grows. The Word of God, we learn from Acts 12:25, grew and multiplied but Rome has long been forgotten. Meanwhile, the Lord’s church is still ruling and reigning in the hearts and lives of men and women today.

The lesson, then, is that we must make sure that we’re a part of the most important kingdom of all, the kingdom of Christ. It’s not a kingdom that has a physical location or that is composed of physical things. Rather, it is a spiritual rule and reign in the hearts and lives of men and women.

In Revelation 19-22, the battle is over, and God explains what will happen to the enemies of Christianity and to the redeemed.

Revelation 19

In Revelation 19 we learn that Satan will be defeated. We learn that Jesus is identified as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is victorious, and the dragon is defeated. Rome is thrown down and Christ is exalted. And Christians, we see, will live and reign forever. Look at this great tribute to the power of the Lord.

‘On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’ Revelation 19:16

Jesus is the One Who is the Conqueror, He is victorious.

Revelation 20

In Revelation 20 we see the scene of Satan’s binding and eventual release, which shows us that God has control over Satan. Today, Satan still tempts people, but God has control over Satan. Who bound Satan and released him? God did that because He has power over Satan.

Jesus said in Mark 3:20-30 that a powerful man had control over His own house. On that occasion Jesus was able to cast demons out of a man, which showed that because he could cast out demons that were under Satan’s control, He was greater than Satan.

The 1000 Years

‘And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison.’ Revelation 20:1-7

The Number 1000 Represents Completeness or Fullness

These are the only verses in Scripture that mention a thousand-year reign but from them have come countless ideas to suggest a future thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. The number 1000 was symbolic of completeness or fullness, and so in this passage signifies a complete or full period of time.

And notice what the text doesn’t say, Revelation 20 doesn’t mention, 1. The second coming of Christ.

2. A bodily resurrection.

3. A reign on earth.

4. The literal throne of David.

5. Jerusalem or Palestine.

6. Us instead of they who lived and reigned.

7. Christ on earth.

Does this passage, especially Revelation 20:4-6, teach the establishment of an earthly kingdom and a thousand-year reign of Christ with the saints?

Notice first that the thousand years of this passage corresponds with the thousand years that Satan is bound in the bottomless pit of Revelation 20:2-3.

The number 1000 symbolises completeness or fullness and refers to the complete period of time Satan is bound. However long that is, Christ’s reign is the same period of time. But who reigns with Christ? Revelation 20:4. These martyrs lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Neither the return of Christ to the earth, the establishment of an earthly kingdom or His reign on earth with His disciples for a literal thousand years is in this verse.

Gog and Magog

‘When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.’ Revelation 20:7-8

Here again, we are carried back to the Old Testament, where the reference to these two names is found in Ezekiel 38:2-3. ‘Gog’ is said to be the ruler, and ‘Magog’ his kingdom and, as we might expect, there has been a great deal of speculation as to the meaning of these two names, as people have attempted to identify a particular individual and a particular nation.

However, they aren’t identified for us by the prophet Ezekiel himself, he merely predicted that a nation would come ‘from afar’ to fight against Israel.

But, the thing to notice is that the prophet said that God would destroy this enemy, without any fighting on Israel’s part, and the outcome would be that the Nations would see His glory. Perhaps it helps us to understand this passage if we know that the word ‘Gog’ is an ancient Sumerian word ‘Gug’, which means ‘darkness’. Therefore, ‘Gog’ is the Prince of Darkness, and ‘Magog’ is his kingdom, the Kingdom of Darkness.

Is further identification really necessary?

Here, then, in Revelation 20, we see that, once again, a piece of Old Testament history involving God’s ancient people, is used to bring comfort to the church of the New Testament.

The important and very significant fact which should always be remembered, is that this persecution by ‘Gog and Magog’ predicted in the prophecy of Ezekiel, represents the last persecution of God’s ancient people in Old Testament times. When the names re-appear in the New Testament, in the ‘Book of the Revelation’, they are used to predict the end of the persecution of the church and the defeat of Satan, the prince of darkness, and those who serve him.

In Revelation 20 we also see a great judgment scene, God’s judgment has been released upon Rome.

‘And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.’ Revelation 20:12-15

The message is that God was going to bring judgment upon Rome. Thus, Christians had to make sure that their lives were right with God. There was going to come a time when everyone, great or small would be judged by God, and would have to give an account before God for how they had lived their lives.

The practical application from this for us today is that during times of tribulation and trial, even if we lose our lives, we must be ready to stand before the judgment seat of God. We must be sure that our names are written in the Book of Life because we have lived as we ought to have lived and because our deeds in this life allow us to stand justified before God.

Revelation 21

In Revelation 21 we find a glorious picture of the church and of Heaven.

‘Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.’ Revelation 21:1

New heavens and a new earth

There are many theories about the phrase, new heaven and earth but probably the most common one is that the phrase means that the present Earth is going to undergo some kind of renovation, some kind of cleaning process using fire, so that it becomes like it was in the beginning when God created it and so, it will become our new heaven. This theory doesn’t correspond with what the Scriptures actually teach.

Notice the following Scriptures. This Present Earth Is To Pass Away,  Matthew 24:35 / Hebrews 1:10-12 / 2 Peter 3:10-12.

Our Eternal Dwelling Place Is Heaven

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.’ 1 Peter 1:3-4

Context! Context! Context!

When it comes to understanding any Scripture, we must always keep the text in its context and so with this in mind, let’s go to the Scriptures where we first find the phrase, ‘new heavens and a new earth’. Isaiah 65:17.

The apostle Peter declared by inspiration that all the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to Christ are fulfilled in the present age, Acts 3:19-26, which is the last days, Acts 2:16-17, or last age, 1 Corinthians 10:11, that is the age when God speaks through His Son, Hebrews 1:1-2.

Now some people object to these truths by pointing to Isaiah’s prophecy of ‘new heavens and a new earth’ and argue that these prophecies haven’t been fulfilled. So, I guess we need to ask the question, what is this ‘new heavens and a new earth’? Has this prophecy of Isaiah been fulfilled or not?

I want you to notice that Isaiah twice foretold ‘new heavens and a new earth’. Isaiah 65:17 / Isaiah 66:22, the apostle Peter did so too, 2 Peter 3:13, and so did the apostle John, Revelation 21:1. But what do they mean when they use this phrase?

Let’s take a moment to go through each one whilst keeping each one in their context.

‘See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.’ Isaiah 65:17

The apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1-2, the beginning of the context, and applies them to the present age, Romans 10:20-21. Notice how Isaiah’s prophecy ends.

‘They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD.’ Isaiah 65:25

The words, ‘my holy mountain’ is a clue that identifies the time and nature of the fulfilment. The prophecy of the Lord’s ‘holy mountain’ relates to the first coming of Christ, Isaiah 11:1-2 / Isaiah 11:9 / Isaiah 61:1-2 / Luke 4:16-21 and is a figurative term for the rule of Christ in His church, His kingdom, Isaiah 2:1-4 / Hebrews 12:22-23 / Hebrews 12:28. And the nature of this kingdom is spiritual rather than material, John 18:36 / Romans 14:17.

In other words, ‘the new heavens and new earth’ of Isaiah 65:17 is the present divine order under the rule of Christ and the spiritual dwelling place for the people of God, the church.

‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the LORD, ‘so will your name and descendants endure.’ Isaiah 66:22

In this chapter Isaiah refers to this same ‘new heavens and the new earth’. The context here is a prophecy of Christ coming into the world and establishing His church, Isaiah 66:7-9 / Micah 5:2-3 / Revelation 12:1-11.

In other words, Isaiah 66:22 is a continuation of the promise of Isaiah 65:17 and likewise relates to the present rule of Christ over His kingdom, the church.

‘But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.’ 2 Peter 3:13

Now this passage is in a totally different context, here Peter is warning against scoffers who deny that Christ will come again, 2 Peter 3:1-4. And so, he assures us that the promise of the Lord’s return will be fulfilled, 2 Peter 3:5-9, at which time ‘the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.’ 2 Peter 3:10.

But notice there is nothing in the passage or even the context for that matter which indicates Peter is speaking figuratively, therefore we should take the warning literally. This present universe is destined for sudden, fiery, divine destruction.

This shouldn’t worry the Christians because Peter says, ‘we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’, 2 Peter 3:13.

In other words, in harmony with the meaning of the phrase ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ we await a new order of things and a new dwelling place. This is a home in heaven, 1 Peter 1:3-5, in which we will have glorious, immortal, spiritual bodies like that of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 / 1 John 3:2.

‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.’ Revelation 21:1

John likewise saw in a vision this new order of things after the return of the Lord in which the death, sickness, pain, suffering, and sorrow of this present age shall have passed away and God once more dwells with His people and this for all eternity.

‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Revelation 21:2-5

Conclusion

Common sense tells us that if the Christian is promised ‘heaven’ which is our final dwelling place, and yet we’re also promised a ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ common sense tells us that the new heavens and earth represents the same state as heaven.

All the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ, most of which were both figurative and spiritual, are indeed fulfilled in the New Testament age. The ‘new heavens and a new earth’ of Isaiah are the rule of Christ over His spiritual kingdom, His church.

So, what does the phrase mean in the New Testament? It simply means, its symbolic of heaven itself, nothing more, nothing less. There are yet ‘new heavens and a new earth’ in store for Christians at the Lord’s return, it will be a wonderful home in heaven where everlasting joy awaits. No wonder John writes, ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’ Revelation 22:20.

To suffering Christians John said, ‘hang in there, because Heaven will be worth it all!’ That’s a message we need to hear today as well. No matter what it costs, and no matter what we may have to give up, even if we have to die for the cause of Christ, Heaven, where there will be no more sorrow, death, crying, tears, or pain, will truly be worth it all.

Revelation 22

Jesus closes the Book of Revelation by instructing us not to add to or take away from its message.

‘I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.’ Revelation 22:18-19

God said, ‘Do not add to or take away from anything you read it because it is correct just the way it is.’ That’s the overriding message about all of Scripture, Proverbs 30:6.

The message of the Book of Revelation is simply this, Jesus wins! To be true to God and His kingdom, which will rule and reign over all kingdoms. If we remain faithful unto death, the Lord will give us a crown of life. May God bless us as we strive amidst trouble and tribulation to be faithful to Jesus.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9

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