Sunday, May 29, 2016

REVELATION 17 - VISION OF THE GREAT PROSTITUTE

Revelation 17:1 through 22:9 tell the story of the Great Prostitute, or Harlot, the King and the Bride. The story of the Great Prostitute and her fall is long, extending from 17:1 to 19:10. This means it is important. There will be several comparisons between the Prostitute and the Bride. The Prostitute is the negative image of the Bride. The story of each one begins with the appearance of one of the seven angels who carried the bowls of judgment. The angel says come and I will show you and then carries John away in the Spirit to the wilderness to show him the Great Prostitute, as the Spirit carried Ezekiel into the wilderness. It also seems to reflect Isaiah 21, an oracle “concerning the wilderness of the sea” that foretells the destruction of the city of Babylon, even saying “Fallen fallen is Babylon”. These words will be repeated in Revelation 18.

The ending of both stories ends with words substantially similar to “these are the true words of God”. In each case, John fell down and attempted to worship the angel, but was prevented from doing so.

The Harlot is a symbol of the world system opposed to God. The Harlot is also called Babylon. That symbol makes since because, in the Old Testament, Babylon is the capital of those who rebel against or oppose God. Remember Nimrod, son of Cush, grandson of Ham? He was a mighty man and he established many cities which became enemies of God’s people. The first of those cities was Babel. (Genesis 10:10)  Later the people of Babel attempted to build a great tower to heaven to make a name for themselves. God thwarted their plan. (Genesis 11) Later, Babylon became the enemy of Israel, attacking it many times and finally destroying it and taking the survivors back to Babylon in exile. The fall of Babylon, the Great Prostitute, was announced by an angel is 14:8. It was shown in 16:18-19, the Seventh Bowl. Now we see a more detailed version of it.

The Vision of the Prostitute (what John saw)
17:1-6

The angel first says up he will show John the judgment of the Great Prostitute. He described her as: (1) seated on many waters; (2) the one with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality; and (3) who made those who dwell on earth drunk with the wine of that sexual immorality. Remember, “those who dwell on earth” refers to those who are no believers and are not sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Often the image of sexual immorality in the Old Testament, and in apocalyptic literature, is a symbol for idolatry. I think it is the case here. It goes back to the relationship between God and his people. God referred to himself as the groom or husband. HIs people, Israel, were his bride or wife. If they were unfaithful to him by worshipping other gods (idolatry), it was then similar to a wife being unfaithful to her husband (adultery or sexual immorality) In the New Testament, Christ is the groom and the church is the bride.It is similar to God’s condemnation of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16. It is also the basis for Babylon’s judgment in Isaiah 21. The Beast forces worship of the state through physical power, violence, agains the church. It began with Rome. But Rome also seduced through economics and physical pleasure. This is represented by the prostitute.

The woman’s dress shows her to be wealthy and powerful, dress in the colors of royalty and adorned with jewels. She held a golden cup, an item reserved for the wealthy and powerful. This cup, though, is full of abominations having to do with sexual immorality. The word “abominations” was often used in the Old Testament for the practice of idolatry with various false gods. The word also brings to mind the “abomination of desolation” which described Antiochus’ desecration of the Jewish Temple Daniel foresaw in Daniel 9:27 and 11:31. Jesus used the phrase also to foretell the destruction of the temple by the Romans. (Matthew 24:15) On her forehead, was written a name of mystery, Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of the earth’s abominations.

In addition to her gross immorality, she was a persecutor and murderer of the saints, becoming drunk on their blood. (6) Their is a partnership between the government wishing unlimited power and the world system of greed and pleasure to kill their opponents, the followers of Christ who refuse to participate because they seek holiness and the worship of the one, true God.

The woman sat on a beast. The beast had blasphemous names, seven heads and ten horns. (3) This is the description given to the first beast, the beast rising from the sea. (13:1) This beast symbolized the power of government to persecute the saints. Like the beast from the sea, this beast is covered with blasphemous names. The fact that the woman sits on the beast indicates the world’s system of greed and pleasure is held up by the power of government. These two forces are united (at this point) against a common enemy, Christ and his church.

This vision was powerful. John marveled greatly at the prostitute, likely because of her obvious wealth and important position. She also looks like a great religious figure. But the angel rebuked him. And, good for us as well as John, the angel explained the meaning of the prostitute.

The Angel’s Explanation
17:7-14

The Beast is the one with the mortal wound. He was, is not, is about to rise from the pit. (8) The fits with the description of the beast from the sea, who had a mortal would, but it healed. (13:3) This beast has the power and authority of Satan, having Satan’s throne and great authority. (13:3) He leads people to worship himself and to worship Satan. He is a powerful force of government, forcing worship of the state and its leader. The first and immediate type of this was the Roman government, forcing emperor worship on its subjects and killing those who resisted. But the ultimate power that is the Beasts at the end of the age will be even more powerful and aggressive. The angel said the miracle of apparent resurrection will cause every non-believer on earth to marvel at him or worship him. But, the end of the beast is destruction. It “goes to destruction”. (11) Christ will defeat him.

The angel continued his explanation in verse nine. The beast had seven heads. (3) The angel said they are seven mountain and also seven kings. Some think the mountains represent the seven hills upon which Rome was built. Some interpret the kings as Roman emperors and attempt to order them to fit this passage. But, these appear to be kingdoms or centers of power. Daniel referred to kings, but clearly meant kingdoms. The beasts in Daniel are also kingdoms or governments.

Much time has been spent speculating on who the fallen five are, and the others in verse 10. I will not speculate, but instead concentrate on the shortness of their reign: a little while. (11)  It may be that the seven represent pagan kingdom across the age, since seven in Revelation represents complete periods of time. The Beast, as the eighth king, belongs to the seven in that it is a powerful government opposed to God.  Regardless, time is short for these early powers. Christ is coming in power to defeat all of his enemies. The Beast “goes to destruction”. (11)

The ten horns are ten future kings who join the beast. But their authority only lasts one hour, a very short time. (12) They agree with the beast and submit to his authority in order to make war on the Lamb (Christ). But this was a mistake, for the Lamb will conquer them. He is after all the Lord of lords and King of kings. We who follow him are the “chosen and faithful”. We can persevere because we know this.

The Prostitute Is Deserted
17:15-18

The angel revealed that the waters upon which the Great Prostitute was seated are the people of the earth (peoples, multitudes, nations, languages). This is a picture of a world order devoted to immorality ruling over all those who are not in Christ. But, there is trouble in this faux paradise. The governmental powers turn against the powers of the economic and social order. The kings turn on it and destroy it. This is because the kings believe the Beast’s power and worship must be absolute.

In verse 18, the angel told John the woman was the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth. She is “Babylon” symbolically.

Behind this destruction of Babylon the Great Prostitute is the Almighty God, who put it in the hearts of the kings to carry out God’s purpose. The description of her destruction is very similar to the destruction of Jerusalem God threatened in Ezekiel 16.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Titles of Jesus in the Bible

TITLES OF JESUS

 Christ, the Son of the living God. Matt. 16:16
The Word who became flesh. John 1:14
The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation Col:15
The man, Christ Jesus. 1 Tim. 2:5
The radiance of the glory of God. Herb. 1:3
The one who partook of flesh and blood. Heb.2:14
Lord and God. John 20:28
The King, the Lord of Hosts (Jn. 12:41; Isa. 6:5
Bread of life. John 6:48
Light of the world. John 8:12
The door. John 10:9
The good shepherd. John 10:11
The resurrection and the life. John 11:25
The way, the truth and the life. John 14:6
The true vine. John 15:1
Teacher. Mark 1:27
Prophet. Matt. 21:11
Son of David. Mark 9:27
Servant. Mark 12:18
Son of Man. Mark 12:8
Lord. Mark 14:30
Lamb of God. John 1:36
Holy One of Goed. John 6:69
The Beginning. Col. 1:18
High priest. Heb. 5:1-10
Living One. Rev. 1:18
Deliverer. Rom. 11:26
Bright Morning Star. Rev. 22:16

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Look to the cross, thing of the cross and then go and set our affection on the world if you can."
 J. C. Ryle

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Westminster Larger Catechism Question 87.

Q. 87. What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?

A. We are to believe, that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the self-same bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls for ever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonour by him, as an offended judge.

Monday, May 23, 2016

THE SIXTH BOWL (expanded) - REVELATION 16:12-16

16:12-16
The Sixth Bowl

The last two bowls set the stage for the end of this age and the judgment of Gods enemies. This sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates River. The reason is to prepare the way for the kings from the east.

Rivers were often sources of protection. They are natural barriers. In the Old Testament, God dried up rivers and seas to deliver his people, but also as a judgment on their enemies. God caused the Israelites to walk across the Red Sea on dry ground. But, he also caused those same waters to drown the Egyptian army in judgment. The drying of the Jordan inaugurated God’s judgment on the Amorites in Canaan. God’s drying the Euphrates inaugurated the defeat of Babylon by Persia.

Here, God is getting the earth ready for the return of Christ in victory. This drying the Euphrates inaugurates the defeat of all of God’s enemies by Christ. In Isaiah 11:10-16, we see a prophecy of the return of the Lord (the root of Jesse in verse 10) to gather his people and defeat his enemies. Verse 14 says God’s people shall plunder the people of the east. People of the east symbolize the enemies of the people of God, as first represented by Assyria and Babylon. In verse 15, he says the Lord will wave his hand over the Euphrates with his scorching breath and strike it into channels. This would allow it to be crossed to defeat Assyria or Babylon. This was initially fulfilled when Cyrus diverted the river, allowing his army to cross and defeat Babylon. This event was recorded by Herodotus, the Roman historian. But it is finally fulfilled at the end of the age, as he sets up the destruction of these nations to the east. Specifically, Babylon is God’s target.

But remember that Babylon has become symbolic here. It stands for the world system of pleasure and immorality. Revelation 14:8 said Babylon made all the nations drink from the wine leading to passion for her immorality. It is also described in chapter 17 as sitting on many waters rather than on the river.  Because of this, I am more inclined to see the drying up of the rivers as symbolic of God preparing for judgment rather than a literal drying up of the river.  The drying up could also refer to Babylon losing support in the world, that people get tired of it. This would set the stage for its destruction. Indeed, in chapter 17, the kings of the earth turn against it.

It also appears that physical Babylon will not be rebuilt. Isaiah 13:20 records the Lord saying “It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations”. In order to destroy a physical Babylon, you would need to rebuild it and occupy it. That would contradict the word of the Lord.

Satan responded by sending evil spirits to the nations. Satan, the beast and the false prophet all send out “frogs”, symbolizing evil spirits. These spirits are emissaries of the beast who go through the world performing miracles and using them to unite the earth’s people into rebellion against God. (14) They gather for a final assault on the church (the camp of the saints in 20:9), to wipe out the remainder of those loyal to the God who has brought suffering and judgment on them. But in doing this, Satan and his minions actually work to accomplish the will and work of God, for they are setting up the “great day of God Almighty”. (14)

John will see two visions of this final battle. The first shows the defeat of the beast and the false prophet and their followers in chapter 19. The second will show the outcome for the dragon in chapter 20.

The act of Satan deceiving the nations brings up the issue of the binding Satan. If we look forward to Revelation 20:1-6, we have the only explicit mention of the millennium. What we se in this vision is Satan being bound by a great chain. His binding prevented him from deceiving the nations for a thousand years. After that, he is released for a little while.

In the premileenial model, this is interpreted to mean Christ coming and ruling on earth for a thousand years exactly, but somehow Satan getting loose from his rule and staging a final rebellion.

Postmillennialists believe there will be a future time of great peace and the domination of Christianity in the world. At the end of that time, Satan gets loose and stages a rebellion.

I believe the 1,000 years is symbolic of the church age. Satan is bound from deceiving nations, although he may deceive individuals. Jesus talked of binding Satan in is story of the strong man and his description of seeing Satan fall from heaven. At the end of the church age, as these last bowls of wrath are poured out, and as the beast is specifically attacked by God, Satan is released and is again able to deceive the nations. He does this by sending these emissaries around the world to perform miracles, just as Pharaoh’s priests mimicked some of the miracles of Moses. This view is the Amillenial view.

This rebellion of Satan and his demons leads to the event described in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. There Satan causes a rebellion, the man of sin or lawlessness is revealed. He is restrained at the time Paul wrote, but will be revealed and released at the end of the age. Then the Lord Jesus will destroy him wit the breath of his mouth when he returns. Note also that this passage speaks of the wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved. This is the picture of this sixth bowl.

All of Satan’s forces assemble at Armageddon. The plain of Megiddo was the sight of many battles in the Old Testament. So, it seems a fitting place for Satan’s forces to oppose God.

In verse 15, Jesus inserts a reminder and a warning. He reminds us that he will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. He warns that us to be prepared, clothed and ready to go. This may indicate he will come when it appears the church is on its last legs and about to be extinguished.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

PSALM 24: Prelude to Worship




    This Psalm deals with the Lord coming to his Tabernacle.  It may have been written when David brought the ark to Jerusalem, or in later commemoration of it.  It then deals with what kind of person may come into the Lord's presence and worship him and receive his blessing. 
    Verse 1 says the earth belongs to the LORD.  He owns it. It is his.  Every thing in the earth and every one who lives in it is his.  They are his possession. 
    Why does he own it?  Verse 2 tells us.  It is because (or "for" in this verse) he made it.  "Founded" and "established" are metaphors for beginning a city or constructing a building.  The Bible often speaks of the foundations of the world.  For example, Psalm 102:25 says "In the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands."  The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse in Hebrews 1:10.  So, the "foundations" means the beginning, the time of creation. 
    God’s creation of the world is an important concept in Scripture.  Genesis 1:1 begins the whole Bible with the statement that God made the heavens and the earth.  It then proceeds to show us that God created all things on the earth and all of the things in the heavens.  As we discussed before, "heavens" means the sky and space, not just "Heaven" where God dwells.  The God we worship is the Creator. 
    So, the one who makes it owns it.  Deuteronomy 10:14 says "Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all that is in it."  In Job 41:11, God said "Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?  Whatever is under the whole of heaven is mine."  Paul even uses this argument when he writes about election in Romans 9:20: "But, who are you, O man, to talk back to God?  Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"
    The implication here is that, since God created us and therefore owns us, he is to be worshipped and he determines who may come to worship him. 
    Verses 3-6 deal with the issue of who may come into God's presence and worship.  David asked the question, “who may ascend the hill of the Lord or who may stand in his holy place”.  He alludes to the tabernacle here.  David brought the ark to Jerusalem and made a tent for it there on the hill.  (2 Samuel 6).  To go to the tabernacle, you had to ascend the hill of the Lord.  To stand in the holy place, in the tabernacle, you had to be clean.  He specifically addressed clean hands, a pure heart, and a soul not given to idol worship.  You see a very similar approach here to Psalm 15, which asked who could dwell in the sanctuary. 
    "Hands", "head" and "heart" are often named in the Bible but are actually representative of other things.  Here, "clean hands" does not refer to washing, but to actions that are right.  If you steal something, you do not have clean hands.  A "pure heart" does not mean one with no plaque in the arteries, but a person of pure motives.  In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said "blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God".  This means you come to truly worship, not to be respected or to look good or to socialize with your friends or to make business connections or to look for clients.  Thus, the one who could come to the tabernacle was one who had not acted sinfully, one who was not coming out of improper motives.  Also, one could not worship idols.  God commanded that only he be worshipped. 
    We can see that the one who could come into God's presence in the tabernacle had to be holy.  We know God is holy and cannot tolerate sin in his presence.  (That is Isaiah's vision of Christ in Isaiah 6.)  Verses 5-6 tell us this person will receive a blessing from God, worshipping God and being in God's presence. 
    Verses 7-10 are the herald's cry of the coming of the Lord's presence to the city of Jerusalem.  This may have meant the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem by David.  We know the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle according to Exodus 40:34.  The gates to the city of Jerusalem are opened so the Lord may come in.  He is referred to as the "king of glory".  He is strong and mighty in battle.  He has led Israel to victory over Egypt, over the Canaanites and all who oppose them.  He is the Lord Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, who is sovereign over all the powers of the universe. 
    The covenant people, Israel here, have the great privilege of worship in the presence of the Lord Almighty.  But they must be holy to come into his presence.  Not every one in Israel qualified.  This was acted out in the Old Testament by the sacrifices which cleansed of sin.  Before the High Priest could come into the holy place, he had to be purified.  The people all came offering sacrifices for sin.
            Of course, by this time in our journey through the Old Testament, you know I am going to look for Christ in the passage.  I did and I found him. 
    The New Testament tells us the world was made by Christ and for Christ.  John 1:3 is well known for this:  "All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made."  Paul gives a great explanation of this in Colossians 1:16-17:  "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether throne or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him."  They were all created for him, to bring him glory.  He took part in creation and it all belongs to him.  All will bow before him one day for this reason.  He is entitled to be worshipped.
    Those who worship God receive the blessing of his presence.  Where does Christ dwell today?  He is with us when we gather as his body.  Who gets to come into his presence?  Does the sinner?  No, just as in this Psalm, it is the one who is clean and the one who worships no other god.  If we believe in Christ, we are clean.  We are not clean because we have been perfect, but because he has cleaned us.  Even more accurately, he has declared us clean and he has imputed his cleanness to us. 
    We believe in Jesus not only as savior, but as Lord, and as the only Lord.  David said the worshipper could not lift up his soul to what is false.  God commanded that there we have no other gods (Exodus 20:3).  Jesus said loving God with all of our being is the greatest commandment.  This principle has not changed from Old Testament to New Testament.  We cannot worship the gods of self, money, success, power or pleasure.  See what Paul tells Timothy about this in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. 
    Some believe this Psalm to apply to the ascension of Christ into heaven.  For those who observe the liturgical calendar, this Psalm is often read on Ascension Day or Ascension Sunday.  However, since it deals with those men and women who will come into his presence to worship him, I believe we can apply it to his second coming.  He will come as king and will be worshipped.  Revelation 21 shows the holy city coming down out of heaven and says the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people.  This is the blessing of his presence.  The tabernacle and the temple are types of this presence of God with man, they foreshadow it. 
    This chapter goes on to say who will not be there, who is not clean.  Revelation 21:8 says "But for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderer, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.  They cannot come into the presence of the holy God, for they are not cleaned by the blood of Christ.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Whatever we are and whatever goodness we have, we hold it all wholly from God and of his free grace.” - John Calvin