Revelation Revisited © 2013
In undertaking persecution against His people, earth has crossed an unseen line, filling their cup of guilt. (See Matthew 23:29-35) Soon God’s judgments against the earth will begin to fall; and as the Trumpets of Revelation start to sound, man will learn that God’s opinion really does matter.
With the breaking of the fourth seal, we see a quarter of the earth in dire shape - the populations so weakened by the ongoing warfare and famine that they fall easy prey to various diseases - and even to the predation of wild animals.
The work of the Holy Spirit through the lives of Jesus followers will excite strong and determined opposition by those resisting his calling. As in the case of the early church, persecution will be used as a tool to silence and intimidate those endeavoring to advance God’s kingdom.
Recent history proves that war often results in famine. The Bible tells us that food shortages will be a notable marker on the path ahead of us.
Censer Cast Down
Sealing of the 144,000 Servants
“and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." - Rev. 5:5
It’s easy to get caught up in the dramatic events that are predicted to take place - but we must not lose sight of Jesus. He is the only one that can open the seals - He controls the timing of these events - He can be trusted to care for us in these tumultuous times.
The Bible is replete with names or titles for Jesus. This one - the Lion of the Tribe of Judah - has its root in the prophetic utterance of Jacob in Genesis 49:9-10. In it, he likened Judah to a lion, and predicted that the messiah would be born through his lineage.
Imagine John’s surprise then when he turns to look at the Lion - but instead sees a lamb! And not just any lamb. This lamb is “standing, as if slain”.
Comparing different translations brings an interesting point to light, for this is not a lamb that just looks like it has been gently and mercifully sacrificed. The word “slain” comes across in other translations as “slaughtered” and “murdered”. This lamb has entered the enemy’s territory and has been cruelly killed.
This is what sets Jesus apart from every other being in the universe, and gives him the right to open the scroll! “Worthy are you to take the book and break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
The overriding purpose of the Seals - as seen in the “interlude” story of Revelation 7 - is the spiritual growth and development of a group of people who will be chosen and sealed as God’s bondservants - the 144,000 messengers that will take his final appeal to earth’s inhabitants. Such spiritually mature saints are not developed in church pews, but through adversity, trials and grace. The events that envelop the earth during the time of the seals - the famine, war, trouble and persecution - combined with the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit, provide the impetus for rapid spiritual growth and development.
The sealed book contains the final message that the 144,000 bondservants will take to the world - after they are sealed. That’s right! As the book is being UNSEALED, God’s servants are being SEALED. Once they are prepared to receive their commission, a mighty angel is seen (Revelation 10) brining the unsealed book to give to his servants. Since the only prophetic writings in the Bible that were sealed were those given in the final chapters of Daniel (Daniel 12:4, 9), we should not be surprised to find that a new understanding of the prophecies of Daniel may be central elements of the final messages of warning that God’s servants deliver.
It was the Gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that provided the courage, the strength, the wisdom, the spiritual gifts - and most of all, the connection with Jesus - that powered the first century church in its mission to take the Gospel to the whole world.
In the same manner, the closing work for humanity will be divinely initiated by the gracious worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Revelation pictures the church of God, impelled by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a victorious rider on a charging white horse - the crown and bow signifying the powerful victories won as the Gospel advances.
The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically why political instability and war occur at this time, we are merely told that peace is taken from the earth. However, given the degree to which national and cultural conflicts are often rooted in religious matters and viewpoints, it may be that the passions that fuel this outbreak of conflict around the world come from the fanatic’s awareness that God is making his presence known.
9/11/2001 stands as a stark reminder that fundamentalist fervor can be extraordinarily violent.
As the first six seals were opened, John saw a series of events here on earth. Not so with the final one. For with the opening of the seventh seal, his attention is directed toward heaven. (NOTE: Seven has always been associated with God - as in the weekly cycle, where six days are set aside for common work, but the Seventh Day is the Sabbath, set apart for communing with God. In the prophecies of Revelation - the Seals, Trumpets and Plagues - we observe the same pattern. With the first six we see earthly events, but the seventh directs our attention to heaven where we see a key event, or hear a solemn announcement - always centered on Jesus Christ.)
Now John watches as seven angels are given seven trumpets - trumpets that will bring unprecedented damage to earth. But he notes that they cannot sound them until a momentous ceremony occurs in the Temple in heaven - a ceremony in which a mighty angel casts his censer to the earth.
Because the Censer Service in the earthly sanctuary was conducted by the High Priest, and because Jesus is our Heavenly High Priest, we know that this angel is none other than Jesus himself.
The Old Testament teaches us that it was the censer in the hand of the High Priest that held back the legitimate wrath of God against the rebellious camp. (See Numbers 16: 45-49) Therefore the casting down of the censer by Jesus - our Heavenly High Priest is a very serious thing! It marks a dramatic change in the administration of Divine Justice - for no longer will the High Priest make atonement on behalf of the camp of humanity.
Please note that this is not the end of human probation. Christ is still our Savior and Mediator. What has come to an end, however, is the blanket protection which He has always provided to mankind. The way is opened for God’s Wrath to fall on the earth.
As the scene closes, the seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets.
In Matthew 24 and Luke 21 Jesus said that before his return the following events would occur: Kingdom would war against Kingdom and Nation against Nation, famine, disease, earthquake, dramatic signs in the heavens, and persecution of the Church. Sound familiar?
The Seal events are also warfare, famine, disease, persecution, dramatic signs in the heavens, and earthquake!
That should be no surprise, for after all, Jesus gave all these predictions - so they should agree. But does that prove that these are end-time events - that they are, in fact, the Early Time of Trouble?
Jesus gave this list of events in answer to the question “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” To make his point clear, Jesus also called these events “the beginnings of birth pangs” - thus linking them to end-times. (Matthew 24:8)
He then went on to say (in verses 21 and 22) “then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved.”
So these events - the same as listed in the seals - are end-time related events that occur just before the great tribulation. Sounds like a good description of the Early Time of Trouble!