Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What the Future Holds (3)

This is part 3 of chapter 10 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

How do we interpret Revelation?

Now the Book of Revelation is for most a very difficult read. It was composed in apocalyptic style, which refers to a common literary style used during the time when much of the Bible was written. Because the events and sights were too awesome to describe with mere words, the author, John, used vibrant imagery to tell his audience what he learned. He painted a picture with words of what could otherwise not have been explained.
Before being shown the events of the end times from heaven’s perspective, John revealed a message from Jesus Christ. “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8). Jesus gave a message to each of seven churches in Asia (present day Turkey), encouraging them to overcome certain hardships and temptations.

Then John was caught up into heaven, where he saw all the creatures there worshipping God. A scroll with seven seals was presented to Jesus Christ; He alone was worthy to open it. As Jesus opened the scroll, the first seal revealed a rider on a white horse, denoting war. The second seal exposed a rider on a red horse, signifying famine. The third seal loosed a rider on a black horse, indicating disease. The fourth seal showed a rider on a pale horse, implying death.

The fifth seal revealed a fixed number of martyrs predetermined by God. The sixth seal brought forth the greatest earthquake in all of history to that point. Kings and leaders tried to hide from what they saw as the wrath of God, but they could not. “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him Who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb’” (Revelation 6:16)!

As the seventh seal on the scroll was opened, “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1). This seal brought forth seven angels with seven trumpets—more judgment.

The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with
blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned
up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all
ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third
of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were
destroyed. The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a
torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of
water—the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and
many people died from the waters that had become bitter. The fourth angel
sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and
a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day
was without light, and also a third of the night (Revelation 8:7-12).

The fifth trumpet unleashed stinging locusts, which were allowed to torture unbelievers for five months. The sixth trumpet brought forth an army of 200 million along with four angels specifically created for this moment. One-third of the earth’s population was killed by this army.

The rest of mankind that were not killed … still did not repent of the work of
their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons and … idols that cannot see or
hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their
sexual immorality, or their thefts (Revelation 9:20-21).

Before the seventh trumpet was sounded, John was given a small scroll to eat. It was sweet tasting, like the message of the Gospel, but it made his stomach hurt, because of the judgment that accompanied it. Then two witnesses preached the Gospel in Jerusalem for three-and-a-half years. A beast (the antichrist) came and killed them when their testifying was completed, but their bodies lay in the street for three-and-a-half days for the whole world to see. Then they were resurrected to life before many onlookers, and as a great earthquake destroyed a tenth of Jerusalem killing 7000 people, they were taken to heaven. Finally, the seventh trumpet sounded to announce preparation for the final battle.

After giving a picturesque portrayal of a great battle in heaven, where Satan was thrown down to earth “to make war against … those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17), John explained the rise of the antichrist, who reigned on earth for three-and-a-half years and had tremendous power. Such was his power that:

He … forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive
a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell
unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his
name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number
of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666 (Revelation

Next, three angels announced the commencement of the final judgment. Two other angels began reaping the harvest with their sickles. John saw seven more angels with seven bowls of judgment—the final plagues of God’s wrath on the earth. The first bowl was poured out, and “ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:2). When the second bowl was poured out, the sea turned to blood, killing everything in it. The third bowl caused the same to happen to all the fresh water sources.

When the fourth bowl judgment was poured out, “the sun was given power 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 fifth bowl caused men to gnaw at their own tongues, due to the pain coming from the sores on their bodies. The kingdom of the beast was sent into darkness.

The sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates River, preparing the way for the final battle. Spirits of demons went out to gather nations to support their cause, and kings gathered at Armageddon (perhaps the present day Israeli city of Megiddo). The seventh bowl finished the judgments as another earthquake, even larger than the previous one, crumbled the cities of nations worldwide, flattened every mountain, and destroyed every island. Hundred pound hailstones fell on the earth, and all survivors cursed God for the severity of the plagues.

An angel then showed John an image of a great prostitute, named Babylon, riding a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. The Bible says:

The beast and the ten horns … will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to
ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For
God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose by agreeing to give
the beast their power to rule, until God’s Words are fulfilled. The woman … is
the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:16-18).
Then Babylon was conquered; a great multitude was seen praising God in victory as Jesus Christ appeared riding on a white horse; the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of eternal fire.

Satan will be bound for 1000 years, while Christ reigns with His saints. Then Satan will be unleashed to gather an army, which will “number … like the sand on the seashore” (Revelation 20:8). Satan’s army will be defeated by fire, and he will be thrown in the lake of fire with the beast and false prophet. “They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). The Great White Throne Judgment will follow, and all those whose names are absent from the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire.

A new heaven and a new earth will be created. A new Jerusalem will be made, where God will dwell with His people and be their God. The city measures like a 1400-mile cube! Its walls are 200 feet thick! Their will be no Temple for worship, because God Himself will be there. There will be no sunlight, for God is present; rather, there will be pure Son-light! There will be no nighttime, no darkness. “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).

Having browsed the Book of Revelation, I want to make it clear that I am a mere novice on the subject of eschatology, the “branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind6.” Therefore, I will briefly mention several viewpoints regarding Christian end times theology and then elaborate on the one to which I currently subscribe.

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