Bible Themes A Study Guide for the Theology Puzzle

I have been silent on the blog for too long!  But that is because a new book was being created.  It is found on Amazon in paperback and kindle, and it is available for free borrowing on kindle unlimited.  Of course, I am looking for reviews on Amazon, so would be delighted if you would let everyone know your reaction to the book!

The book is a guidebook for searching hearts and questioning minds!  It shows how the Bible answers some of the challenges we face in “the real world.”  Questions like, how do I know the Bible is true, or HOW true?  What about the problem of suffering in the world?  The Bible has that as a recurring theme, woven throughout its pages, which explains why sound bite answers seem inadequate.  The real answers are complicated.

The book goes into what the Bible itself says about the Trinity, even though that word does not appear in its pages.

To see the scope of the book, I will list items from the table of contents.  You can see the kinds of questions addressed and the fact that the book is substantial.  I really think it covers a lot of helpful information.  I hope you will have the opportunity to read it and let everyone know what you think.

CONTENTS

 

 

  Acknowledgments vi
1 Why Search for Truth in the Bible? 7
2 How Do I Find My Way Around the Bible? 40
3 How True Is the Bible? 48
4 The Bible’s Introduction to The Goodness Of God 61
5 How Can We Avoid Evil?  How Can Death Exist If God Is Good? 69
6 God’s Moral Characteristics 76
7 More of God’s Goodness 106
8 God’s Power 120
9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

A

B

C

The Power of God and the Problem of Suffering

God’s Law, the Human Sin Nature, and Grace

The Trinity

The Life of Christ

 

Applying What We Have Studied

The Holy Spirit’s Work and Gifts

The Callings of the Holy Spirit

Forming Habits of the Heart for Spiritual Progress

Prayer

Thanksgiving and Asking for Answers

Missions

Wrapping It Up

Appendix A  Tips for Classroom Use

Appendix B  Heaven, Hell, and the Judgements

About the Author

144

157

175

192

203

236

249

260

282

303

309

312

314

316

324

 

Joel’s Prophecy and the Day of the LORD

 

 

The prophecy book written by Joel in the Old Testament is difficult to understand because it superimposes symbolic imagery of a locust swarm with an ancient army, and also with future prophecy about the end time—the Day of the LORD.  The locust swarm probably symbolized the ancient Assyrian conquest which covered the land, reaching to Jerusalem before God miraculously intervened.  The end time prophecies throughout the Bible show a similar chain of events, called the time of Jacob’s trouble, in which God will miraculously rescue Jerusalem by sending Messiah to reign as King.  The rescue of Jerusalem in the end time will be as miraculous as the rescue of Jerusalem from the Assyrians.

 

The end-time prophecies as a whole reveal two “locust swarms” of battle in Israel.  One corresponds to Ezekiel 38 and 39 on the mountains, and one corresponds to Revelation 16:13 and Armageddon.  The valley of Jehoshaphat is the location where the armies have an opportunity to decide for or against evil, and where Messiah will judge them after the battle.

 

The Day of the LORD refers to the entire end time sequence of events, from approximately Seal 6 of Revelation 6:12-17 to the end of the book, where God brings a new heavens and earth into the picture.  Joel 2:11 sets the stage for Seal 6 as the approximate beginning of The Day of the Lord, and Second Peter chapter 3 reveals that the Day of the LORD reaches to the new heaven’s and earth, Revelation 20:7-21:1.  This means The Day of the LORD is a term for the end times, not a specific twenty-four hour day.  The Day of the LORD covers most of the book of Revelation.

 

The first chapter of Joel describes the locust swarm.  These swarms would often come in waves as new broods of locusts hatched from the previous swarm, and then would cover the land.  The army of ancient times would be like a series of locust swarms, devouring everything in their path, swarming into houses, destroying crops.  The Assyrian army was like that, with a scorched earth policy and the use of terrorism to force any survivors into submission. The history of ancient locust swarms gives us a sense of urgency about future prophecy applications.

 

Ezekiel 38 and 39 tell us that the future holds a similar threat for the mountains of Israel.  The timeframe is similar to Seal 6 of Revelation, as seen in Ezekiel 38:18-23.  This means that Joel and Ezekiel 35 through 39 are companion passages. Ezekiel 47 is a companion passage to Joel 3:18.  Using these points of matching imagery, it is possible to place Joel’s prophecy into the end-time sequence of events.

 

The theme of Joel is “decide to seek God, because the Day of the LORD is near.”  The theme applies to multitudes of individuals, this call toward a proper decision.  It applies to everyone, elders, priests, adults, children, brides and bridegrooms, multitudes of warriors.  It is of such important priority, it takes precedence over one’s wedding day!  It is the most important decision of all.

 

We are all supposed to make these matters clear to our children, and our children to make them clear to our grandchildren, and our grandchildren to make them clear to our great grandchildren.  We are supposed to make these concepts so clear that others can pass them on to each next generation.

 

Every generation has an appointment with The Day of the LORD.  The back of the Bible applies to every one of us.  Whether we live to see the end-time prophecies come true, or whether we die early, we will still meet the back of the Book.  We have a rendezvous with eternity.

 

Hard times are coming.  Be prepared.  An invasion will eventually take place.  Make the right decisions. The invasion is specific to Israel as a divided land, but the hard times apply to the whole world during The Day of the LORD. This book is for each of us, back then and there, and here and now.  The invasion of Israel’s mountains means The Day of the LORD is near.

 

Ezekiel chapters 35 through 39 give more detail about the invasion.  The nation of Israel will have been resurrected, as took place after World War 2.  Joel 3:2 tells us the land has been divided, which is a likely treaty outcome, and which is quasi-true at present.  Ezekiel 36 tells us the mountains have been taken over by people who bereave the nation of children, and God is filled with wrath over this issue of the death of innocents—and that is before the multi-national army even gets there.  That is the setting for the first locust swarm.

 

 

Joel 1:1-20 (NASB77)

1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.

Hear this, O elders,

And listen, all inhabitants of the land.

Has anything like this happened in your days

Or in your fathers’ days? 3 Tell your sons about it,

And let your sons tell their sons,

And their sons the next generation.

4 What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten;

And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten;

And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.

5 Awake, drunkards, and weep;

And wail, all you wine drinkers,

On account of the sweet wine

That is cut off from your mouth.

6 For a nation has invaded my land,

Mighty and without number;

Its teeth are the teeth of a lion,

And it has the fangs of a lioness.

7 It has made my vine a waste,

And my fig tree splinters.

It has stripped them bare and cast them away;

Their branches have become white.

8 Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth

For the bridegroom of her youth.

9 The grain offering and the libation are cut off

From the house of the LORD.

The priests mourn,

The ministers of the LORD.

10 The field is ruined,

The land mourns,

For the grain is ruined,

The new wine dries up,

Fresh oil fails.

11Be ashamed, O farmers,

Wail, O vinedressers,

For the wheat and the barley;

Because the harvest of the field is destroyed.

12 The vine dries up,

And the fig tree fails;

The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree,

All the trees of the field dry up.

Indeed, rejoicing dries up

From the sons of men.

13 Gird yourselves with sackcloth,

And lament, O priests;

Wail, O ministers of the altar!

Come, spend the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my God,

For the grain offering and the libation

Are withheld from the house of your God.

14 Consecrate a fast,

Proclaim a solemn assembly;

Gather the elders

And all the inhabitants of the land

To the house of the LORD your God,

And cry out to the LORD.

15 Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near,

And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.

16 Has not food been cut off before our eyes?

Gladness and joy from the house of our God?

17 The seeds shrivel under their clods;

The storehouses are desolate,

The barns are torn down,

For the grain is dried up. 1

8 How the beasts groan!

The herds of cattle wander aimlessly

Because there is no pasture for them;

Even the flocks of sheep suffer.

19 To Thee, O LORD, I cry;

For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness,

And the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.

20 Even the beasts of the field pant for Thee;

For the water brooks are dried up,

And fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

 

Joel tells us the end-time temple has been built, probably also part of a treaty outcome.  Revelation 11 gives us more information about that, with the understanding that the area around the temple is quite restricted.   Joel 2:17 tells us the Israelis will have the area between the porch and the altar for prayer.

 

God calls all His people to prayer, for fasting and weeping and seeking His help, for repentance of sins and becoming people of prayer.  Everyone who calls on His Name will be saved.  Salvation in the end time is directly connected to prayer.  Eternal salvation is always connected to prayer.  See Psalm 21.

 

Just as in ancient times, the invasion will scorch earth. Ezekiel 38 and 39 show how terribly far the damage extends, starting with the multinational army fighting among themselves.  Ezekiel 38 and 39 carry this scorching from Seal 6 of Revelation to Trumpets 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Revelation 8.  Joel’s prophecy is significant for the entire world.

 

Modern weaponry such as drones and helicopters may be implied in the imagery of Joel’s prophecy.  Modern weaponry such as nuclear weapons may be implied in some of the “fire from heaven” sections of Ezekiel and Revelation.  This should hold our attention.

 

What does God command people to do?  He commands us to pray for His help, and He promises to act with zeal to protect and restore His land.  He will restore productivity to the land as well, so famine will not destroy His people.

 

 

 

Joel 2:1-32 (NASB77)

1Blow a trumpet in Zion,

And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

For the day of the LORD is coming;

Surely it is near,

2A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of clouds and thick darkness.

As the dawn is spread over the mountains,

So there is a great and mighty people;

There has never been anything like it,

Nor will there be again after it

To the years of many generations.

3A fire consumes before them,

And behind them a flame burns.

The land is like the Garden of Eden before them,

But a desolate wilderness behind them,

And nothing at all escapes them.

4Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;

And like war horses, so they run.

5With a noise as of chariots

They leap on the tops of the mountains,

Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,

Like a mighty people arranged for battle.

6Before them the people are in anguish;

All faces turn pale.

7They run like mighty men;

They climb the wall like soldiers;

And they each march in line,

Nor do they deviate from their paths.

8They do not crowd each other;

They march everyone in his path.

When they burst through the defenses,

They do not break ranks.

9They rush on the city,

They run on the wall;

They climb into the houses,

They enter through the windows like a thief.

10Before them the earth quakes,

The heavens tremble,

The sun and the moon grow dark,

And the stars lose their brightness.

11And the LORD utters His voice before His army;

Surely His camp is very great,

For strong is he who carries out His word.

The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,

And who can endure it?

12“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

“Return to Me with all your heart,

And with fasting, weeping, and mourning;

13And rend your heart and not your garments.

“Now return to the LORD your God,

For He is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness,

And relenting of evil. 1

4Who knows whether He will not turn and relent,

And leave a blessing behind Him,

Even a grain offering and a libation For the LORD your God? 1

5Blow a trumpet in Zion,

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly,

16Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,

Assemble the elders,

Gather the children and the nursing infants.

Let the bridegroom come out of his room

And the bride out of her bridal chamber.

17Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers,

Weep between the porch and the altar,

And let them say,

“Spare Thy people, O LORD,

And do not make Thine inheritance a reproach,

A byword among the nations.

Why should they among the peoples say,

 ‘Where is their God?'”

18Then the LORD will be zealous for His land,

And will have pity on His people.

19And the LORD will answer and say to His people,

“Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine, and oil,

And you will be satisfied in full with them;

And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations.

20“But I will remove the northern army far from you,

And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land,

And its vanguard into the eastern sea,

And its rear guard into the western sea.

And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up,

For it has done great things.”

2Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad,

For the LORD has done great things.

22Do not fear, beasts of the field,

For the pastures of the wilderness have turned green,

For the tree has borne its fruit,

The fig tree and the vine have yielded in full. 2

3So rejoice, O sons of Zion,

And be glad in the LORD your God;

For He has given you the early rain for your vindication.

And He has poured down for you the rain,

The early and latter rain as before.

24And the threshing floors will be full of grain,

And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.

25“Then I will make up to you for the years

That the swarming locust has eaten,

The creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust,

My great army which I sent among you.

26“And you shall have plenty to eat and be satisfied,

And praise the name of the LORD your God,

 Who has dealt wondrously with you;

 Then My people will never be put to shame.

27“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,

And that I am the LORD your God

And there is no other;

And My people will never be put to shame.

28“And it will come about after this

That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;

And your sons and daughters will prophesy,

Your old men will dream dreams,

Your young men will see visions.

29“And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

30“And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,

Blood, fire, and columns of smoke.

31“The sun will be turned into darkness,

And the moon into blood,

Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

32“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD

Will be delivered;

For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem

There will be those who escape,

As the LORD has said,

Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

 

God promises to pour out His Spirit on His people, who seek Him with all their hearts and call on His Name in prayer at this time.  There will be survivors, and the overwhelming army will be driven away from Israel. God will reveal His love for Israel by answering prayer.  God will be zealous for His land.  Ezekiel 39:27-19 affirms these promises.

 

The next chapter tells us that when surrounding nations “pile on” against Israel, God will fight back. God also encourages self-defense for Israel. Preparation includes military strength and courage.

 

Everyone is called to repentance.  Everyone is in the valley of decision.  Repentance matters for survival.  Repentance is possible and necessary, both now and during the end time.  Anti-Semitism requires repentance, too.  The surrounding nations need to respect God’s love for Israel.  The valley of Jehoshaphat is the location of the second locust swarm.

 

 

 

 

Joel 3:1-21 (NASB77)

1“For behold, in those days and at that time,

When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,

2I will gather all the nations,

And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat.

Then I will enter into judgment with them there

On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel,

Whom they have scattered among the nations;

And they have divided up My land.

3“They have also cast lots for My people,

Traded a boy for a harlot,

And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.

4“Moreover, what are you to Me,

O Tyre, Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia?

Are you rendering

Me a recompense?

But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily

I will return your recompense on your head.

5“Since you have taken

My silver and

My gold, brought

My precious treasures to your temples,

6and sold the sons of Judah and

Jerusalem to the

Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,

7behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them,

And return your recompense on your head.

8“Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation,

“For the LORD has spoken.

9Proclaim this among the nations:

Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men!

Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!

10 Beat your plowshares into swords,

And your pruning hooks into spears;

Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”

11Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,

And gather yourselves there.

Bring down, O LORD,

Thy mighty ones. 1

2Let the nations be aroused

And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat,

For there I will sit to judge

All the surrounding nations.

13Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.

Come, tread, for the wine press is full;

The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. 1

4Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!

For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

15The sun and moon grow dark,

And the stars lose their brightness.

16And the LORD roars from Zion

And utters His voice from Jerusalem,

And the heavens and the earth tremble.

But the LORD is a refuge for His people

And a stronghold to the sons of Israel.

17Then you will know that I am the LORD your God,

Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain.

So Jerusalem will be holy,

And strangers will pass through it no more.

18And it will come about in that day

That the mountains will drip with sweet wine,

And the hills will flow with milk,

And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water;

And a spring will go out from the house of the LORD,

To water the valley of Shittim.

19Egypt will become a waste,

And Edom will become a desolate wilderness,

Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah,

In whose land they have shed innocent blood.

20But Judah will be inhabited forever,

And Jerusalem for all generations.

21And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged,

For the LORD dwells in Zion.

 

Joel 3:11 extends to the Battle of Armageddon, detailed in Zechariah 14.  This corresponds to the latter part of Revelation, when armies from around the globe gather into Israel and surround Jerusalem.  This is a different wave of battle from the Seal 6 time of a northern multi-national army.  The valley of Jehoshaphat is a different location from the mountains of Israel.  The earlier mountain battle will be near the beginning of the seven years of trouble, because the weaponry will be used for fuel for seven years, according to Ezekiel 38 and 39.

The approximately 7 years of trouble will be divided into two sections of approximately three and one half years each. Revelation 12 through 14 tells us Israel will have a place of refuge in the mountains during the latter approximately three and one half years, and the many-nations of armies will cover much of Israel at the end of that time.

When that terrible battle reaches Jerusalem, God will send Messiah and all the Holy Ones, angels and righteous resurrected people—Zechariah 14:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Revelation 19:14.  “Bring down, O LORD, Your mighty ones!”—Joel 3:11.  He will rescue Jerusalem and will mop up the Armageddon scenario, reaching all the way to Bozrah from Jerusalem—Isaiah 63.

 

God gives specific directions for Israel about numbers of days of waiting, found in Daniel 12 and Revelation 12.  From Daniel 12, it will be important to wait the entire number of days.

Messiah will judge the nations after His return to Israel, according to Joel 3:12.  His basis for judgment of the nations is found in Matthew 25:31-46.  Those people who mistreated or failed to help persecuted people will be condemned.  Those who helped the persecuted will have entrance into the kingdom of Messiah on earth.  This is a specific judgment described for survivors of the time of tribulation.  It gives us an understanding of how God judges individuals.

(Each individual will face a judgment for eternal destiny as well as eternal rewards or punishments.  “It is appointed to humans to die, and after that, the judgment.”—Hebrews 9:27.  Avoiding Armageddon and Relieving Disasters: A Devotional Guide to the Prophecy Puzzle collects information about the various judgments described in the Bible.  Too much extra information is involved for one blog post. It is an important topic.)

Jerusalem will become Messiah’s headquarters, and the restoration described in the latter chapters of Ezekiel will take place.  A temple for 1000 years of peace will be built and will have a spring of water flowing from it.  It will be a healing stream.  Joel 3:18 matches Revelation’s and Ezekiel’s descriptions.

The details of these prophecies fit together precisely.  The details enable us to set the prophecies into their portions of the sequence of end-time events.  Joel’s ancient predictions related to the Assyrian conquest came true.  His future predictions mesh perfectly with many locations in the rest of the Bible.  We need to take this book seriously.  It comes true.

We must become people of prayer.  Survival depends upon it.  Eternal survival depends upon it.  If we seek God with all our hearts, He will help us find Him.  His eyes move to and fro throughout the entire earth, seeking those whose hearts are completely His, so that He can act strongly on their behalf—2 Chronicles 16:9.  Give Him your heart.

An Overview of the End Time in Isaiah 24

Isaiah 24: An Overview of End-time Events

 

Many prophecy scriptures are difficult to place in the sequence of events described in Revelation.  Many prophecies in the Old Testament have double fulfillments—one near in time and one far in time.  Often the devastations of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are superimposed over end-time events, because of the similarities in theme. Reading Isaiah is like looking through telescopic lenses at a series of hills. The hills look close together, even though they are actually separated by great distances.  The prophecies are written close together, even though they are separated by great distances in time.  For this reason, we each should try our best to understand the sense of the text, and to recognize what we cannot yet see.  Sometimes, little clues are scattered in the text that tell us we are seeing end-time predictions.

Isaiah 24 (NASB95) holds details that tie into other prophecy scriptures.  It begins,

“Behold, the LORD lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface, scatters its inhabitants.”

These are drastic changes.  Only the LORD has the authority, both in power and moral authority, to command judgment on the earth.  This sentence reminds of Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24:6-10 of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes in diverse places, refugees, many people who fall away from faith, and persecution.  So Isaiah 24 begins with a possible end-time description.

Isaiah 24:2 “And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor.”

This verse implies an economic and spiritual meltdown.  Nobody has answers and nobody has resources to help. This is similar to Revelation 6:5-6, regarding the economic meltdown, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 regarding the spiritual meltdown, the mega-falling away from the faith. The devastations in Isaiah 24:1 will affect the economy and the religious beliefs of people and religious leaders. The predicted troubles in Revelation have wave upon wave of various kinds of devastation.  It is clear that the economic system of the world is a victim of the destructions.  Everyone becomes like a refugee if the economy falls apart.

Isaiah 24:3-4 “The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the LORD has spoken this word.  The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away.”

Remember that in Revelation 8, Trumpet Judgments 1 through 4 destroy 1/3 of the earth by fire from heaven, followed by pollution of the oceans and rivers, lakes, and wells, and followed by something that sounds suspiciously like nuclear winter.  All the green grass is burned up, along with one third of the forests. It is a fierce coincidence that humans developed the technology to make this series of predictions a reality.

Isaiah 24:5-6 “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, (and) broke the everlasting covenant.  Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty.  Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.”

These verses are consistent with the description of Trumpets 1 through 4 of Revelation 8 and consistent with the technology of WMD.  Notice, however, the presence of survivors.  Some people will survive fire from heaven, only to be faced with polluted water and devastated land.

Isaiah 24:7-9 “The new wine mourns, the vine decays, all the merry-hearted sigh. The gaiety of tambourines ceases, the noise of revelers stops, the gaiety of the harp ceases.  They do not drink wine with song. Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.

The party is over. Even the plants will be unproductive because of the devastation. But there is also a hint of a takeover “in the middle of the earth”—probably the Middle East–by people not accepting of wine and song.  A clue in the next portion of text fits that idea.

Isaiah 24:10 “The city of chaos is broken down.  Every house is shut up so that none may enter. There is an outcry in the streets concerning the wine. All joy turns to gloom.  The gaiety of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city and the gate is battered to ruins. Thus it will be in the middle of the earth among the peoples, as the shaking of an olive tree, as the gleanings when the grape harvest is over.”

The clue is in the word “city of chaos” which is an Arabic word for city with a plural Hebrew ending.  This could mean “Arabic speaking cities” which also fits “the middle of the earth” as the Middle East.  This portion sounds like a match with the chaotic situation already taking place there.

Therefore, we can expect an even bigger problem than the present during the end-time.  The number of survivors is described as like gleanings after harvest.  If the fire from heaven hits places that are power centers for economics and defense, as implied by the earlier verses, that fiery event will leave a power vacuum in the world.  We already see how bad actors try to fill power vacancies.  The Middle East will not be a safer place than now during that time, and it is already the opposite of safe. It needs to be stabilized.

This brings up the need to take strategic defense seriously.  It is not a matter of making enemies in the world, but of encouraging former enemies to care about the future and discouraging other nations from taking up WMD.  We especially do not want to see a situation where a small rogue nation begins a conflagration that gets out of control and encompasses one third of the world.

We can see the chess pieces on the board already.  We need to renew our search for God’s guidance for policy and God’s protection for the world.  In the first verses of Isaiah 24, it is God’s decision to let these devastations happen, so we need to avoid His wrath by following His wise advice.

In Isaiah 24, there will be a remnant of people doing just that, even during the devastations of the end-time.

Isaiah 24:14-16 “They raise their voices, they shout for joy, they cry out from the West concerning the majesty of the LORD.  Therefore, glorify the LORD in the East, the Name of the LORD the God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea.  From the ends of the earth we hear songs, ‘Glory to the Righteous One.’…

It is a good encouragement to know that some survivors during this terrible time will love God and praise Him, even when the world is experiencing devastation.  If we see these things hastening upon the world, we should wish to be among the survivors.  But there is a problem.

Isaiah 24: 16-20 “But I say ‘Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me!”  The treacherous deal treacherously and the treacherous deal very treacherously.  Terror and pit and snare confront you, oh inhabitant of the earth. Then it will be that he who flees the report of the disaster will fall into the pit.  The one who climbs out of the pit will be caught in the snare.  For the windows above are opened and the foundations of the earth shake.  The earth is broken asunder. The earth is split through. The earth is violently shaken.  The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and it totters like a shack, for its transgressions are heavy upon it. And it will fall, never to rise again.”

This portion confirms the passage as an end-time prediction set—“earth never to rise again.”  The person who seeks God and survives the Trumpet Judgment fire from heaven by means of an underground shelter (pit) will still be faced with treachery and with earthquake dangers.  “The windows above being opened” may even hint at surveillance making a safe shelter difficult to preserve.

It is tremendously counterproductive to ignore self-reliance and disaster preparation, because it could make the difference between life and death for everyone who arranges it.  In fact, it would be in the best interest of governments to encourage this kind of self-reliance among the whole population.  Yet those individuals who do take steps to preserve life may face treachery instead of encouragement, when the end-times are in progress.  This suggests the strong need of God’s protection and guidance.

Today, underground shelters are wise for protection from tornadoes, and they also can make food storage last for those who garden and want to avoid the cost of refrigeration for their fresh vegetables. They don’t work for every disaster.  Earthquakes and floods come to mind—not a good option there. They have the benefit of sheltering from WMD such as “dirty” weapons, if constructed well, and can be a shelter from fire.  They make sense when one considers the difficulty of evacuation from large population centers in the event of major disasters.

Isaiah 24 continues with verses that match the end of the time of trouble.  Verse 21-22 “So it will happen in that day that the LORD will punish the host of heaven on high and the kings of earth on the earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners in the dungeon and will be confined to prison, and after many days they will be punished.”

This corresponds to the end of Revelation, from chapter 19:11-21 to Revelation 20:1-3.  Here is a very brief summary of those chapters.

An unseen war will be ongoing among angels and demons, and the wicked will be confined to the abyss during the 1000 years of peace that the return of Messiah—Jesus Christ—will bring to a restored earth.

The evil humans who filled the earlier power vacuum with their own terrible rule will also be punished.

After the 1000 years of Christ’s peaceful reign, the resurrection of the wicked will take place, the righteous already having been resurrected before Christ returns. Every individual not yet judged at the end of the 1000 years will meet God at His great white throne for their eternal destiny.

Isaiah 24 leads into the new heavens and earth of Revelation 21 and 22.  Earth itself will be burned up and a new heavens and earth will be made available to righteous people to be with God forever, in a transformed state. There will be no need for the light of the sun or moon there, because God will be the light.  There will be a city of Jerusalem in both places where the LORD will reign, for 1000 years on a restored earth and for eternity in the new heavens and earth.

Isaiah 24:23 “Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, for the LORD of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and His glory will be before His elders.”

Isaiah 24 is like an overview of the entire book of Revelation.  It is perfectly consistent with Revelation’s expanded description.  It also gives a perspective that involves individual choices and dangers.

One of the amazing characteristics of Bible prophecy is the way individual predictions from many locations in the Bible fit the overall pattern described in Revelation.  This is a test of the truthfulness of scripture, and a test of our willingness to search for God’s answers in His word.

Isaiah 57 Anwers a Big Question

 

Why Do Some Righteous People Die before Their Time?

 

How does the Bible answer this question?   Isaiah chapter 57 holds a partial answer.  The chapter vividly contrast ideas, like a patchwork. The reader must think about the connections between ideas.  The chapter presents God’s comfort for tragedy, which is necessary for seeing the goodness of God.  It is difficult to obey the most important command to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength if the troubles of the present time hide His goodness from you.

Patchwork Piece Number One:

Isaiah 57:1-21 (NASB77) 1

The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, 2

He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way.

 

The first part of the answer appears.  God sometimes takes people on to heaven to spare them the painful future they would have on earth.  It appears senseless, but God knows the future, so from His perspective the death of the righteous is never senseless. In fact, that death represents ultimate peaceful rest.

 

Isaiah prophesied about impending war. God knows the suffering and its effect on individuals who have to go through war.  Not everyone is designed to be a happy warrior. Not everyone has the emotional resilience to bear the suffering they may face. Only God has the authority to decide the day of one’s death.  If He makes such a decision for someone, we must trust Him with that decision.

 

The Bible is filled with commands to choose life.  The next part of this chapter emphasizes that.  The failure of Isaiah’s people to choose life had torn away God’s protection from them.

 

At first glance, the next patchwork piece seems totally unrelated to the first one, but the two ideas are vital to understand together.

 

We can trust God to help us through life, even if we face suffering.  This answer about untimely death is never about choosing death for oneself.  Only God has the authority over life and death.  Because this matter is so vastly important, this chapter puts the patchwork pieces together.

 

Patchwork Piece Number Two:
3

“But come here, you sons of a sorceress, Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute. 4  

“Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion, Offspring of deceit, 5 who inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every luxuriant tree, who slaughter the children in the ravines, under the clefts of the crags? 6 “Among the smooth stones of the ravine is your portion, they are your lot; Even to them you have poured out a libation, you have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things? 7 “Upon a high and lofty mountain you have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice. 8 “And behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your sign; Indeed, far removed from Me, you have uncovered yourself; and have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on their manhood.

 

 

The idolatry of Isaiah’s time was hedonistic and violent.  Unwanted children were conveniently killed in idol rituals.  Unwanted children were produced in idolatry because of the hedonism. It was a horrifying evil mess.  It was ugly.

 

The people thought they were not doing wrong because their false religion told them it was ok.  So how are right and wrong really defined?

 

God was filled with wrath about that loss of innocent life. God had warned Israel from the beginning to remove this type of evil from their land, and they had failed to pay attention. He used vivid words to describe His emotions about these practices.  These practices were leading to war, because God’s protection was removed from the nation.

 

The people had killed their consciences when they adopted these terrible practices.  It was dangerous to speak out against them.  Later, according to tradition, Isaiah himself would be killed because he spoke up.  When King Manasseh filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, Isaiah was among those slain.  Because Manasseh had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, God would not forgive—2 Kings 24:4.

 

Patchwork Piece Number Three 9  

“And you have journeyed to the king with oil and increased your perfumes; you have sent your envoys a great distance, and made them go down to Sheol. 10 “You were tired out by the length of your road, Yet you did not say, ‘ It is hopeless.’ You found renewed strength, Therefore you did not faint. 11 “Of whom were you worried and fearful, when you lied, and did not remember Me, nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me?

 

Another choice leading toward war was alliances with enemies.  The people had lost their faith in the True and Living God.  They were trusting in alliances with surrounding nations to protect them. They had forgotten God.  They had failed to seek His advice as they watched danger approach. They had failed to maintain their honesty, their integrity. Trouble was coming.  Many would face death in the impending war.

 

 

Patchwork Piece Number Four

12  

“I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. 13 “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away.

 

People had lost their sense of right and wrong as they practiced idolatry. They thought they were righteous, even as they did things that removed God’s protection from them.  But their idols were made of wood and metal, without the breath of life.  Their idols could not help them, either in the present world or in eternity. Something as insignificant as a tornado could destroy their gods which were not real gods.  The morals of their gods were not real morals, either.  Only the True and Living God has the moral authority to establish right and wrong.

 

Romans 1 tells us people have a sense of right and wrong that God has written on their hearts.  It is not the most perfectly accurate sense, because when people violate their own conscience, they lose some of that sense.  When cultural norms violate that God-given sense, nations can drift away from the real essence of what is right. This terrible drift had occurred during Isaiah’s time.  People thought they were righteous, but they were not.

 

Because God is totally good, His rules for us are totally good. Hedonism is described in the Bible as “the pleasures of sin” in Hebrews chapter 11.  Moses rejected the pleasures of sin, and God worked through him to rescue his nation from slavery.

 

In this generation, we need to realize the importance of getting this right. All religious opinions are not equal.  Because God is real and good, we need to find Him.  We need to learn His rules.  He loves life and He loves us, and every good thing comes from Him.

 

This should make all of us serious about searching for the real God and for His opinion about right and wrong.  If we fail to find Him, our ideas about right and wrong will be inadequate.  We will fail at the judgment of our life.

 

This chapter keeps contrasting the righteous and the wicked.  If a person seeks God with all his heart and soul, and God dwells with him, that person will become better than he is.  That person will be made righteous.  Jeremiah 23:6 calls Messiah, The LORD our Righteousness, for that reason.  We won’t see “perfect” until heaven, but we will see “better” in the here and now.  Righteousness is a gift from God.

 

 

Patchwork Piece Number Five

 

But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land, And shall possess My holy mountain.” 14  And it shall be said, ” Build up, build up, prepare the way, Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.” 15  For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 “For I will not contend forever, neither will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before Me, and the breath of those whom I have made.

 

Here we have God’s answer about finding Him.  We must take refuge in Him.  We must be sorry for our sins, contrite and lowly of spirit. We must seek His forgiveness. Our good works will not be adequate without His Presence in our lives. He dwells with the contrite and lowly of spirit. He is our refuge and strength.

 

The one who takes refuge in Him will inherit the land and possess God’s holy mountain.  This is a fact, even if that person dies before his time.  This promise holds for all who take refuge in God, even if they die first.

 

In the resurrection of the righteous, when God restores the earth to a peaceful state, then those who have died in His favor will have a new life in the restored earth. This will be the time of Messiah’s kingdom on earth, when “the meek will inherit the earth.” Jesus expanded this teaching from Isaiah 57 in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, so we can know that it includes us, as well as the people of Isaiah’s time.

 

Right now we do not see the meek inheriting the earth.  The meek are often pushed around by the less than meek people.  Meek people generally have more peaceful souls than bullies, but they often do not look successful in the competitive realm of the present. God measures success on an eternal timeline.  We want to choose His kind of success.

 

 

Patchwork Piece Number Six

  17 “Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, and he went on turning away, in the way of his heart. 18 “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, 19 creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “and I will heal him.”

 

 

What about the person who deserved to die, but repented of sins and sought refuge in God?  Even if that person dies, God is able to heal him in heaven. God will comfort him there, and will comfort his mourners here.  This is a powerful statement of the reality of eternal life.  This is a powerful statement of God’s love for all who seek Him.  So we should never go to a funeral in judgmental mode, because God can reach a person’s heart, even if his life was less than exemplary.

 

From the perspective of the New Testament, Jesus’ painful and infinite sacrifice on the cross was enough to cover serious sins. Taking refuge in Him brings the power of His resurrection into your future. He is the beginning of the future resurrection of the righteous.  God is talking about future reality.  He gave us the amazing cross and resurrection of Christ to show us this is real.  This is not just “religious opinion.”  God did that amazing miracle to let us know about the concrete reality behind faith.

 

Hebrews 11 calls faith “substance,” which means bedrock foundational reality.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, because one must believe that God exists and that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  God is real and God is good, and because He is good, we can trust Him.

 

 

Patchwork Piece Number Seven

 

20  

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

 

But the person who never becomes contrite and lowly of heart, who never seeks refuge in God, is in big trouble in eternity.  The promises of peace and comfort do not apply in that case.  Everyone owes it to themselves to seek the real God and His righteousness for their lives.

Blogging the Book Day 4: What’s in the Last Chapter?

 


Revelation 21-22: The New Heaven and Earth

The last chapter of Avoiding Armageddon and Relieving Disasters covers the final two chapters of Revelation very briefly. We want to look at those chapters in a little more detail. First, we need to go to 2 Peter 3:10-14 to define “the Day of the LORD.”

2 Peter 3:10-14 (NLT) 10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. 11 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

 

Notice that “the Day of the LORD” includes the end of the world as we know it, and the establishment of a new heaven and earth. From our study of the entire book of Revelation, we know that the period leading up to that time includes

  • a preliminary time of painful events such as persecution of the righteous,
  • followed by seven years of terrible troubles,
  • followed by the return of Messiah to rule for 1000 years.
  • A final battle occurs and then the world ends.
  • At that point God’s final judgment takes place. Each person not already judged will have their turn before His Great White Throne to give an account and to receive His decision about their eternal destiny.

 

That means “the Day of the LORD” is a period of time, the “end time.” If it includes all the above list, it lasts a long time. It represents events leading to the end of the world as we know it, leading to the eternal reign of God among His people.

 

What does the Apostle Peter recommend as our response? He recommends that we live holy, godly lives, and that we look forward to the new heavens and earth, to Christ’s return, and to a world filled with God’s righteousness. He defines holy, godly lives as peaceful, pure, blameless lives in God’s sight.

 

An amazing recommendation is that we “hurry the Day of the LORD along.” It is not immediately obvious how to do that. 2 Peter 3:3-9 give a clue.

2 Peter 3:3-9 (NLT) 3  Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” 5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6 Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. 8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

We notice in these verses that Peter recommends standing firm against skepticism. He reminds us that the Bible reports a drastic judgment in the ancient world by means of a flood. He says the assumption that God does not intervene in the natural world is a mistaken assumption, and that we have to remember who God is. He also reminds us of an idea from the Psalms, that God is not bound by time as we are. God is infinite, and He views time differently from our human perspective. God is not slow about His promise—the promise of rescue by the return of Christ. No, God is waiting to allow more people to repent, so they can have eternal life.

So how do we cooperate with God’s goal? How do we make the world a better place so His judgment is delayed? How do we reach the skeptics with the message of salvation, so that more people can find eternal life? Here is what I think. There is a critical point in suffering when the process leading toward judgment begins, and at that point, our efforts to reach people with the truth of God’s word will shorten the time of suffering and hurry His return. Up until that critical point, our efforts to make the world a better place will work to postpone His judgment, by making the world less deserving of judgment and more open to a new generation’s hope of heaven. So the same good human actions that shorten suffering and stand against evil and reach people with God’s truth all have an effect on the way the final events take place.

Of course, God already knows the future, so He already knows how it will actually go.

He tells us to pray (Matthew 24:15-22) that a certain end-time event will not take place on the Sabbath or in winter, so that more lives and souls can be saved. Thus, our choices and our prayers make a real difference in these things, even though God already knows the outcome.  There is a sense of joy in realizing that God is so much greater than we can imagine.  We can be joyful, too, that our actions matter.  What eternal privilege God has built into the world of humans!

Now let’s look at Revelation 21, to see how God describes the new heaven and earth. Peter’s themes of purity and godliness are repeated symbolically in the description of the city, beautifully adorned with jewels as a bride ready to meet her husband. The picture of purity and belonging and forever commitment is seen in the earthly metaphor of a bridal gown. The very stones of the city symbolize that set of ideals.

Revelation 21:1-27 (NLT)

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,

For the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.

And the sea was also gone.

2 And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem,

Coming down from God out of heaven

Like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying,

“Look, God’s home is now among his people!

He will live with them, and they will be his people.

God himself will be with them.

4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes,

And there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.

All these things are gone forever.”

5 And the one sitting on the throne said,

“Look, I am making everything new!”

And then he said to me,

“Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

6 And he also said, “It is finished!

I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.

To all who are thirsty I will give freely

From the springs of the water of life.

7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings,

And I will be their God, and they will be my children.

8 “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt,

Murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft,

Idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is

In the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

This is the second death.”

9 Then one of the seven angels

Who held the seven bowls

Containing the seven last plagues

Came and said to me, “Come with me!

I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

10 so he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain,

And he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem,

Descending out of heaven from God.

11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone

—like jasper as clear as crystal.

12 The city wall was broad and high,

With twelve gates guarded by twelve angels.

And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates.

13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west.

14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones,

And on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand

A gold measuring stick to measure the city,

Its gates, and its wall.

16 When he measured it, he found it was a square,

As wide as it was long.

In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles.

17 Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick

(According to the human standard used by the angel).

18 The wall was made of jasper,

And the city was pure gold, as clear as glass.

19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones

Inlaid with twelve precious stones:

the first was jasper,

the second sapphire,

the third agate,

the fourth emerald,

20  the fifth onyx,

the sixth carnelian,

the seventh chrysolite,

the eighth beryl,

the ninth topaz,

the tenth chrysoprase,

the eleventh jacinth,

the twelfth amethyst.

21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—

each gate from a single pearl!

And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

22 I saw no temple in the city,

for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

23 And the city has no need of sun or moon,

for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.

24 The nations will walk in its light,

and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory.

25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day

because there is no night there.

26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city.

27 Nothing evil will be allowed to enter,

nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—

but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

The foundation stones of the city are carried into our traditional memory of birthstones for the various months, such as topaz for November, the “ninth month” of the old calendar, amethyst for February, the twelfth month of the old calendar. They can serve as a little reminder that God’s new world will be filled with beauty and abundance, because He cares about us forever.

I believe the bride metaphor is symbolic rather than literal, because the passage also mentions individual humans such as kings of the world, and individuals who live in the city as God’s children.  The intriguing idea that angelic measurements are the same as humans’ means people will still be people, just in a better state of character. The physical bejeweled city is “the bride,” in metaphor, because the people of the city will live in their new home forever, and God will be with them and will be committed to their well-being forever. They will be pure and holy as befits a bride.

The city is as tall as it is wide, so its many stories can accommodate huge numbers of people. God makes it big enough to have room for all who will repent of sins and trust in Him.  He has made room for you.

What else do we notice in this chapter? It enumerates sins that are serious in God’s sight, that disqualify people from being in the new beautiful home. These include idolatry (a serious problem in the end time when the evil world ruler demands worship of his own image on penalty of death.) The sins include dishonesty, involvement in the occult, cowardice, unbelief, corruption, murder, immorality, and “all liars.” The flip side both of idolatry and of the occult is the virtue of loving the true and living God. The flip side of cowardice is courage to be righteous in times of persecution, the courage of commitment to truth and godliness.

 

Of course, this list should make us desire to follow the Apostle Peter’s directions, and live godly, pure lives. Even more, it should make us examine ourselves to make sure we have repented of sins and trusted in God to take away our sins, and to be our righteousness. We need Him at the center of our lives to help us be good.

 

Revelation 22 is the last chapter of the Bible. It is a description of things most important for us to realize. First it describes the provision and fruitfulness of the new world, proceeding from the throne of God. There will no longer be any curse of sin in the perfect new world. Death will have no place there. We will be changed enough to see His face, and we will have His name upon our foreheads. We will belong. We will even reign! Other passages tell us God divides such responsibilities as a reward for faithfulness in fulfilling responsibilities in our present lives.

 

Revelation 22:1-21 (NLT)

1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life,

clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

2 It flowed down the center of the main street.

On each side of the river grew a tree of life,

bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month.

The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything.

For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there,

and his servants will worship him.

4 And they will see his face,

and his name will be written on their foreheads.

5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—

for the Lord God will shine on them.

And they will reign forever and ever.

The text ties the first three chapters of Genesis into the eternal future we have. The tree of life forbidden after the curse of sin will become available in that perfected world. Perfect freedom from evil and harm will be normal forever.  

Next, the text affirms the trustworthy nature of the book of Revelation, and the fact that Jesus is coming back soon. God will bless those who pay attention to Revelation.

Next we see that angels are just messengers, and that we must only worship God.

6 Then the angel said to me,

“Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true.

The Lord God, who inspires his prophets,

has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

7 “Look, I am coming soon!

Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”

8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw all these things.

And when I heard and saw them,

I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me.

9 But he said, “No, don’t worship me.

I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers the prophets,

as well as all who obey what is written in this book.

Worship only God!”

 

The book of Revelation is not to be sealed up, whereas God told Daniel to seal up his prophecy. That makes us realize the complete nature of Bible prophecy, and its availability to our understanding. We need to be courageous to study Bible prophecy. Revelation helps us understand other ancient prophecies such as the book of Daniel.

10 Then he instructed me,

“Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book,

for the time is near.

11 Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm;

let the one who is vile continue to be vile;

let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously;

let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

12 “Look, I am coming soon,

bringing my reward with me

to repay all people according to their deeds.

 

At this point, the chapter stresses the urgency to get right with God now, and not to wait to clean up your own life. The time is too short for that. Life flies by. We need to respond in repentance and faith when we feel the Holy Spirit’s influence on our minds. Now is the acceptable time. Those who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, by asking God to count Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for their sins—they will be permitted to enter the eternal city, New Jerusalem.

13 I am the Alpha and the Omega,

the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes.

They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city

and eat the fruit from the tree of life.

15 Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral,

the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

 “Dogs,” in the Greek and Roman world, was slang for the Cynics.  Do not allow cynicism to rob you of  your eternal future.

The angel speaks Jesus’ message. His message is an invitation to all to come to the eternal city. He wants each of us to be there, forever.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches.

I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne.

I am the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.”

Let anyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

 

Lastly, Jesus’ message stresses the importance of the exact words of the prophecy of Revelation. Any book about Bible prophecy is only a starting point for study. We must study the words of God’s book. We must place them on a higher plane than any other words. We must keep them all, and not add to them by  placing other words in the category of God’s Holy Word. We must not minimize their message.

18 And I solemnly declare to everyone

who hears the words of prophecy written in this book:

If anyone adds anything to what is written here,

God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.

19  And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy,

God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life

and in the holy city that are described in this book.

 

20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says,

“Yes, I am coming soon!”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.

Blogging the Book, Day 3: Isaiah 53:12 and the Revelation Sequence

Many people recognize Isaiah chapter 53, because it fits events in the life of Jesus Christ amazingly well, as described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, verse 12 is a bit more difficult to interpret. Dividing the booty of war, or the spoils of war, seems to fit the idea of Warrior-King Messiah rather than Suffering Messiah. How does verse 12 fit the rest of the chapter and the rest of the Bible? We can look up other scriptures about future prophecy to see what it implies. Every mysterious remark is meaningful in God’s word. Many times they have a spiritual or emotional meaning for the present, and a literal meaning for the future.

Isaiah 53:12 (NASB) 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

God’s Servant is great. He deserves to be famous. But does this passage have a literal meaning?

First we need to fit Isaiah 53 into the context of Isaiah 52 for a very important reason. Sometimes the prophecy scriptures call Israel “God’s Servant” and sometimes they call Messiah “God’s Servant,” so we need to see what the context can tell us.

Isaiah chapter 52 is God’s message to Zion, and the word “you” in Isaiah 52 means Zion or Israel. Isaiah 52 is about the joyful return to the land from exile. Isaiah wrote generations before the Babylonian captivity, and this passage predicts the joyful return from exile for the nation after that terrible time. It is a chapter about “Zionism” of the first return. It expresses God’s great joy and His sense of the loveliness of that return from captivity. (It also tells us how God feels about the return to Israel in the modern era, and we really should pay attention to His feelings.) In Isaiah 52:8, God’s goal is restoration. He instructs the Jews of the exile to go back home to Israel, and He will clear a path for them. He wants them to return, very much.

The return from Babylonian exile is like seeing the nation rise from the dead. That comparison is one theme of Ezekiel chapter 37. A physical resurrection of the righteous dead is also in view in that chapter, but the comparison of the nation coming back to life is seen in Ezekiel 37:11-12.

The last few verses of Isaiah 52 hint at that same comparison, with an added dimension. Isaiah 52:14 compares “you, My people” with Someone else.

Isaiah 52:13-15 (NASB) 13 Behold, My servant will prosper,

He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.

14 Just as many were astonished at you,

My people,

So His appearance was marred more than any man

And His form more than the sons of men.

15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations,

Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;

For what had not been told them they will see,

And what they had not heard they will understand.

We see a new pronoun—“He,” referring to God’s Servant, while “you” still refers to Zion, God’s people. So we can be sure that God’s Servant in chapters 52 and 53 of Isaiah speaks of Messiah, rather than Israel. Isaiah 52 answers the question about the identity of God’s Servant in Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 52:14 says Messiah will be marred just as the Babylonian captivity marred the nation. Verse 15 says Messiah will thereby sprinkle the blood of atonement for many nations, even for kings of many nations.

This matches Isaiah 49, where it is too small a thing for Messiah to be only for Israel. Instead, Messiah will be for raising up Israel, and Messiah also will take God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.

We start to see that all these ideas are woven together intricately and yet with perfect consistency. Isaiah 53 tells how these things will be possible.

Isaiah 53 explains that Messiah will be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He does so by becoming the ultimate offering for sin in the place of everyone else. The iniquity of all sinners will fall on Him, so that each of us can be saved from sins.

Isaiah 53 explains His atoning death, and that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the sake of other people.

Isaiah 53:10-11 says He will be victorious over death, that He will see again and be satisfied, and that He will justify many. He will see His offspring. Jesus’ resurrection is the answer to the riddle of verse 10 and 11. His offspring refers to those born again or adopted into God’s family because He opened the way for them.

The wonderful thread of our belonging to His family shines in this passage. This fits John 1:20 where all who receive Him receive the right to be called the children of God. It fits John 3 where Jesus said we must be born again to see the kingdom of heaven.

Because He was willing to suffer death in our place, God will, according to verse 12, allot Him a portion with the great. What does this mean? The future prophecy scriptures explain. Ezekiel 45 describes the portion of Israel allotted to the Prince and His family in the future 1000 year reign of Messiah as King. This also fits the time described in Revelation 19:11-20:15. The Messianic Prince will be completely fair to His people and will not take their portions away for Himself. Instead, He will receive a portion for Himself and for His temple and for His family. Because the resurrection of the righteous takes place before His 1000 year reign, the portions of the land will have places for all the righteous dead of all time, as well as righteous survivors of the time of Jacob’s trouble. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be there with all their righteous family members. They will return to the land from heaven, as surely as God’s promises come true. Death is not the end. God’s promises are stronger than death.

Isaiah 53:12 also says Messiah will divide the booty with the strong. This fits His return as Warrior-King, described in Isaiah 11, where with righteousness and fairness He will judge for the poor and persecuted of the earth. He will slay the wicked with the sword of His words. He will restore nature to its gentle state, where lions and calves and leopards and baby goats and wolves and lambs can safely pasture together, and where children can safely play among snakes because even the nature of animal life will be aware of the LORD.

Luke 19:11-27 describes the booty of the 1000 year reign. The booty is authority to administer cities and locations of the restored earth with the goodness of God. Revelation 20:4 tells that His followers who suffer deadly persecution for their faith will come to life and will reign with Him. Luke 19 tells us the responsibilities will be divided to those who used their opportunities to serve God wisely.

We must also remember that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last,” Matthew 20:1-16. The people beheaded by the evil world dictator for refusing to worship his idol will look like “the last.” They look like failures. They will die a terrible death. Their lives will be cut short with no visible gains on the earth. We have to remember that Jesus Christ conquered death and hell and sin. They will be faithful to God in the most difficult circumstances. They will reign with Him.

From Isaiah’s perspective, all of this was future prophecy. From our perspective, most of Isaiah 53 has been fulfilled. Just as Micah 5:1-5 tells us the suffering Judge and the Kingly Messiah are the same Person, Isaiah 53:12 tells us the Suffering Messiah and the Kingly Messiah are the same. We can read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to see our Messiah who will one day return as Warrior-King. Once He defeats the wicked, He can reign as beautifully as He already lived for us to see.

Because the Resurrection of the Righteous Dead occurs before His reign, those of us who trust in Him will be there for His reign, even if we die before He returns. Psalm 2 tells us Messiah is God’s Son, and God will install Him as King in Zion. From heaven’s perspective, it is already a fact. So what choices do we have, according to Psalm 2? We can either take refuge in the Son of God, or we can be judged by Him. How blessed we are if we take refuge in Him! We take refuge in Him by repenting of sins and trusting Him with our future, now and forever!

Blogging the Book Day 2: How Does Understanding the Revelation Sequence Explain Zephaniah 3?

Many times we find prophecy scriptures in the Bible that we do not automatically know how to interpret.  If we think about the framework of ideas in Bible prophecy, that can help us understand such passages.

Zephaniah is a prophecy book that superimposes distant ancient prophecies on future prophecies. This is a challenge to our understanding. Chapter 1 verse 2 says God will completely remove all things from the face of the earth. This implies that the near term prophecies in Zephaniah’s time have similarities to that final decision about the earth. Zephaniah 1:2 refers to the same event found in Revelation 20:11-18, the judgment of human beings after the 1000 year reign of Messiah, where earth and heaven flee away before His judgment throne. That verse gives us a starting point for understanding Zephaniah 3.

We have several clues that help us place the chapter in the sequence of events. Zephaniah 3:8 says “all the earth will be devoured by the fire of God’s zeal,” so chapter 3 is in the same context as the verse in Zephaniah chapter 1. Thus, we should be able to understand what Zephaniah 3 means by comparing it to Revelation.

First we need to look for a rebellious city in Revelation, and we find one described in Revelation 18, code name Babylon. We know from our earlier study that this code name stands for a series of empire headquarters described in the book of Daniel. The first empire was Babylon, where a giant golden statue was used to enforce conformity in religion. If the people did not worship that statue, they risked death in a fiery furnace. The second empire was the empire of the Medes and Persians, which took over Babylon’s world. The third empire was the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, which was divided among four Greek generals after his death. The fourth empire was the Roman Empire, which arose out of a portion of the Greek world, and which was predicted to have two lives, one in ancient times and one in the future. The same Roman Empire that destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, according to Daniel 9, will one day come together again with a world dictator, an evil tyrant who will demand emperor worship of himself.

Thus Zephaniah tells us the city is a tyrannical city.

Revelation 13 tells us the dictator will become ruler over all the nations and an associate of his will act as religious enforcer. That religious enforcer will demand that everyone worship a statue of the dictator or die. He will also integrate the economy of the world with that fake religion, so that no one can buy or sell without a code number in his hand or forehead.

So we can tentatively identify the rebellious city in Zephaniah 3 as Rome, code name Babylon.

What do we notice about this city in the next few verses of Zephaniah 3? First of all, the city has ample communication of true religion, ample opportunity to avoid caving in to the fake religion. In fact, the true God is the God of the city, but the city has stopped trusting in God. Her political leaders and judges have become roaring lions and wolves at evening, devouring everything. This describes the devastation from the false religion and tyrant economy on people’s lives.

Of all the major cities in Europe, Rome has had the longest opportunity to trust the true and living God. During the final era of earth history, the city will go over to the dark side, and trust the evil dictator instead. Notice that the influence of Christ’s church will be replaced by the influence of the religious enforcer of the dictator. But God is still righteous in the city. His justice and His character do not fail. His truth remains truth.

Many innocent people will die because they stay true to the real God. Everyone will suffer economically, because the evil dictator will loot the world and will apportion land and perks to his cronies, according to Zephaniah 3:3-4, Daniel 11:21-39, and Daniel 8:23-26, and Revelation 13. No wonder God pronounces woe on that city.

Zephaniah 3:1-20 (NASB95)

1 Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,

The tyrannical city! 2 She heeded no voice,

She accepted no instruction.

She did not trust in the LORD,

She did not draw near to her God.

3 Her princes within her are roaring lions,

Her judges are wolves at evening;

They leave nothing for the morning.

4 Her prophets are reckless, treacherous men;

Her priests have profaned the sanctuary.

They have done violence to the law.

5 The LORD is righteous within her;

He will do no injustice.

Every morning He brings His justice to light;

He does not fail.

But the unjust knows no shame.

 

The sanctuary that the priests of the evil dictator profaned will be in Jerusalem. We see in 2 Thessalonians 2 that the evil dictator enters the temple of God in Jerusalem to declare himself god. Jesus Christ called this action “the abomination of desolation” in Matthew24:15-28.  This temple is not in existence at present.  This helps us know the events are in the future.

 

God issues a warning to the tyrant city for that time in the future. The city leaders need to remember that God is able to cut off nations and cities. We see cities being cut off in the present in places like Syria, where war has left cities in ruins. Because God is able to act in real time to judge evil on earth, we should all fear Him. We should take His perspective into account with our decisions.

6 “I have cut off nations;

Their corner towers are in ruins.

I have made their streets desolate,

With no one passing by;

Their cities are laid waste,

Without a man, without an inhabitant.

7 “I said, ‘Surely you will revere Me,

Accept instruction.’

So her dwelling will not be cut off

According to all that I have appointed concerning her.

But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.

 

The city will not listen in that future time, and woe is pronounced against the city. We see how that will be carried out in various descriptions in Revelation, such as chapters 17 and 18. In Revelation 16:17-21, the “seventh bowl of wrath” destroys the city of “Babylon.” But the city has true believers in it, so what must they do? One passage tells them to get out of town to avoid dying with the city—Revelation 18:4.  Zephaniah tells them to wait for the LORD—not to give up the faith. He will return to save His people and to deal severely with the wicked.

8 “Therefore wait for Me,” declares the LORD,

“For the day when I rise up as a witness.

Indeed, My decision is to gather nations,

To assemble kingdoms,

To pour out on them My indignation,

All My burning anger;

For all the earth will be devoured

By the fire of My zeal.

 

God has a plan behind the terrible events of human history. His plan will not fail. He will judge evil and He will rescue His people.

9 “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips,

That all of them may call on the name of the LORD,

To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.

10 “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers,

My dispersed ones,

Will bring My offerings.

11 “In that day you will feel no shame

Because of all your deeds

By which you have rebelled against Me;

For then I will remove from your midst

Your proud, exulting ones,

And you will never again be haughty

On My holy mountain.

12 “But I will leave among you

A humble and lowly people,

And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD.

 

Next God describes the Jewish survivors of that time, who also wait for His return. Revelation 12 tells us God plans a place of refuge for them, so that Israel will still live, even during “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” When Messiah comes to rescue them, He will remove all their enemies.

13 “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong

And tell no lies,

Nor will a deceitful tongue

Be found in their mouths;

For they will feed and lie down

With no one to make them tremble.”

14 Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!

Shout in triumph, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter of Jerusalem!

15 The LORD has taken away His judgments against you,

He has cleared away your enemies.

The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;

You will fear disaster no more.

16 In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:

“Do not be afraid, O Zion;

Do not let your hands fall limp.

17 “The LORD your God is in your midst,

A victorious warrior.

He will exult over you with joy,

He will be quiet in His love,

He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

18 “I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts—

They came from you, O Zion;

The reproach of exile is a burden on them.

19 “Behold, I am going to deal at that time

With all your oppressors,

I will save the lame

And gather the outcast,

And I will turn their shame into praise and renown

In all the earth.

20 “At that time I will bring you in,

Even at the time when I gather you together;

Indeed, I will give you renown and praise

Among all the peoples of the earth,

When I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” Says the LORD.

 

Two possible translations are found for Zephaniah 3:8. Either the LORD will rise up as a witness, or the LORD will rise up to the prey. Both translations are consistent with other passages of Scripture. In Genesis 49:9, Messiah from the tribe of Judah is a lion’s whelp who will rise up from the prey. That translation emphasizes God’s Son as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Isaiah 11 says that Messiah will return to rescue the humble of the earth and to destroy the wicked. His actions will prove Him as the Lion.

On the other hand, Messiah will also rise up as a witness. He will be the Judge who insists that the facts be presented at the judgment of each individual. He vindicates His people. I Corinthians 3:10-16 describes His fairness in the judgment of His own people. I John 2:1-2 tells us He will also be our defense attorney. He intercedes for us with His Father.

Revelation 19:11-21 and Daniel 7 describe a judgement when Messiah returns as Warrior King, where the evil dictator will meet his doom, along with his religious enforcer. The wicked of the earth will not be allowed into the 1000 year reign at that point, but will die. Matthew 25:31-46 describes how the wicked and the righteous are different.

Revelation 20:11-15 describes the judgment at the Great White Throne of God, for all those who have not yet been judged at the end of the earthly 1000 year reign of Christ. This includes the wicked dead, who are raised to life at this point. Those whose names are not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life will meet their final destination in the Lake of Fire. Revelation 21 and 22 describe the final destination of those whose names are present in that book, because God will replace the present earth and heaven with a new heaven and earth. It sounds like an amazing destination.

Zephaniah 3 tells us about the character of those survivors who will be in the 1000 year reign and in the eternal new heavens and earth. They will be humble and lowly and honest, and God will love them and rejoice over them with shouts of joy, with singing. God will heal all their afflictions and restore their fortunes. Both Jews and Gentiles will be in their number. The survivors among the Gentiles are described as from Africa south of the rivers of Sudan/ Ethiopia. This may reflect the devastations of the northern hemisphere during the end time. We know that the first resurrection of the righteous will take place before the 1000 year reign, so those righteous people who have died by that time will also be in the 1000 year reign, in their transformed state.

The description of future events is complex, yet every individual is accounted for. God’s plan includes the world as a whole. God’s plan includes nations. God’s plan includes every individual. We each have a responsibility to search for His best plan for our lives and for our eternity.

Blogging the Book, Day 1, Introduction

It is always a bit iffy to plan a series of posts for the blog. Single posts are more easily accomplished, especially when in the middle of writing another book. The opportunity or the ideas may not materialize as one expects for a series of posts. So these plans are hopeful, but uncertain.

I want to introduce the book to blog readers in reverse order, with excerpts and summaries that highlight ideas in each chapter, but starting with the last chapters first. By going in reverse order, the blog will become a supplement of related material that readers of the book can add to a notebook for more depth. Readers will be able to read posts in proper order after they are all posted. That’s the plan. Maybe it will work.

It may not be easy to blog in reverse time order, though. We shall see how this will go. We need a little outline for starting.

The prophecy scriptures challenge us because there are so many of them. Proper interpretation will fit them seamlessly together, without contradictions. They are scattered all over the Bible, with some fitting distant past events, some future events, and some fitting both categories. How does one decide where a puzzle piece fits?

The second part of Avoiding Armageddon and Relieving Disasters: A Devotional Guide to the Prophecy Puzzle is a chapter by chapter look at Revelation. Revelation is a superb study, because it sets major prophetic events into an orderly time sequence. That sequence helps us put the puzzle together.

If we blog the book backwards, we will be going from eternity back to the present. No matter where we are in time, whether here and now in 2015 appears in Revelation or not, all of us have an important stake in eternity. We will be starting with events that matter to each of us.

Avoiding Armageddon and Relieving Disasters creates a puzzle framework to fit the scriptures all over the Bible into proper context. It builds that framework piece by piece, so that readers can defend their conclusions. Otherwise, we are forced to depend on other people’s study rather than our own. So the book has great value in the forward step-by-step study. It is straightforward enough to be easy to read.  Probably it will have been easier to write than these blog posts.
If we blog the book in reverse order, we can see how to use that puzzle framework to organize new passages we have not studied before. When the blog series is complete, it will be like an extra notebook of supplements to go with each chapter.
The blog posts will be like zooming into a new passage, using the simpler framework of the book. The book will be an easy read by comparison, and you will also see how to use it for other passages not covered in its pages.
Many prophetic passages have great devotional value. They give us God’s perspective when we go through the troubles of life. We see His principles at work. We see His emotions in relation to earthly events. We see His priorities.
When we understand, at least to some degree, how specific prophecy details fit the context of future events, we may find new, practical insights. They may help us make plans or settle priorities as we notice the trends in modern society.
If we want to blog the book in reverse order, we need a little idea of the sequence of events, so that we can understand how the framework looks. Going forward in the book will build this picture, but for the first post, if you have not studied the book, you can take this list as a tentative outline of events.
Revelation is divided into a series of symbols that connect events in heaven with events on earth. The first chapter of Revelation covers what the Apostle John saw when he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” The next few chapters deal with “things that are.” Those chapters describe seven different local churches and challenges they faced. They give us examples to follow or to avoid following when we see similar problems. After that, Revelation describes “things to come.” Revelation chapter 1 verses 19 and 20 establish this time framework for the book of Revelation.

The future events (from John’s lifetime) begin in Revelation 4. Some scholars think the churches represent ages of church history, but that is speculation. The passages do not say that. We want to be careful to separate what the scriptures actually say from speculation, so that we do not confuse the two. There are so many prophecy scriptures that we can easily make mistakes if we depend too much on speculation.
It is very clear that the churches described were near-term in prophecy in John’s era. It is also very clear that eternity, described in the last few chapters of Revelation, was far-term prophecy from John’s era, since eternity has not “overtaken earth” yet. Scholars who claim Revelation was only about John’s era are not taking the last chapters into account. They have not happened yet.
Because interpretations vary all over the map, one must study for oneself. Scholars disagree with each other all the time. They cannot all be right. It is much better to read the book and ask for God’s help in understanding the ideas you need. Blessing follows study, according to God’s promise in Revelation 1. The time is near—at least for each of our lives to intersect eternity. The back of the book matters to each of us. We will all be present for some of the things that happen in Revelation.

The series of symbols in the book are keys to its organization. Seven seals are opened in heaven, opened by the Lamb of God because nobody else is found worthy to open them. They begin the events that open up the final era of earth history as we know it. Only the Messiah, who has suffered for the sins of the whole world, is worthy to decide when it is time to end the present age.

These seven seals are official seals to keep a scroll from being opened. God the Father has this era sealed until the proper time, when Christ opens each seal. Opening these seals in heaven unleashes severe problems on earth. Those severe problems lead to eventual near-destruction of the world.
Some of the seals describe earthly troubles that are common to many eras of history. It is only toward the end of the seal sequence that the end time is recognizably certain.
The seventh seal begins a series of Trumpets which are sounded in heaven by angels. Each trumpet announces more severe troubles on earth. Because the seventh seal begins the trumpets, we know the seals and trumpets are in time order. Because the trumpet judgments are so severe, we know they have not happened yet. It is possible that we are experiencing the opening of some of the seals, but the trumpets must be future events.
Because the trumpets represent such severe earthly troubles, we need to pay attention to the way Revelation fits current events. It may matter for survival until Jesus returns. It may matter for survival for other people even if the rapture takes place very soon. It isn’t just about us. It is about the people we know and care about and can do something to help. The prophecy scriptures actually are about us, because God cares about us. He has good purposes in the information He gives us. He especially is pleased with those who pay attention to His word, because they become the ones available to accomplish His good purposes. If you don’t pay attention, how can you help?
In Genesis, God let Joseph know ahead of time about 7 good years and 7 years of famine, so that he could save many lives by preparing for those troubles. God let him know the information first. Then God gave him the opportunity to do something. God let Noah know about a flood, so Noah could prepare an ark to save his family. It is a Bible principle that God lets people know about impending trouble for the sake of saving lives. Pray about this. See if God wants you to learn the prophecy scriptures.
The seventh trumpet starts the Bowls of Wrath. The wrath is God’s anger against evil, and the bowls represent consequences of His wrath, poured out on the earth. They are exceedingly severe judgments.
The series of bowls of wrath destroy the headquarters of the evil world dictator, but armies from around the world will still be fighting the war called Armageddon at that point. When the war reaches Jerusalem, Christ will return from heaven as Warrior-King to rescue the oppressed of the earth and to establish a reign of 1000 years of peace. During that reign, the earth will be made habitable again after the devastations of the bowls of wrath.
After the 1000 years of peace, the last few chapters of Revelation describe eternity overtaking earth, with the present world destroyed and replaced by a new heavens and earth. The curse of sin and death will be over completely at that point, completing and contrasting the description of moral defeat from the first few chapters of Genesis with God’s eternal victory over evil in the last chapters of His book. The first and last chapters of the Bible are connected. The prophecy scriptures fill in many details.

More about Eternal Life in the Old Testament

What Do Psalm 61 and Psalm 145 Have in Common?

Both Psalms are about eternal life, as found by individuals. In Psalm 61, the individual is overwhelmed and seeks shelter in God. He finds a place where he can abide forever, a strong and mighty tower that protects from all evil. What must he do? He must trust in God, in the shelter of His wings. He must fear God’s name.

In verse 6, God will prolong the King’s life as many generations, abiding before God forever. But wait! The psalmist is not talking about himself, but a different King. The psalmist is praying for God to prepare mercy and truth to preserve that King. This hints about the necessity for King Messiah to be morally perfect. All eternity hung in the balance when He underwent temptation for us. Because He passed the test, verse 8 is true. The psalmist will sing praise to God’s name forever, and will daily keep his vows. There is a resolve toward maintaining integrity in those vows.

 

In this Psalm, just as in Micah 5, we see that the King and the Suffering Messiah are the same Person. We see that eternal life is available because of Him, both before and after He came to suffer. Eternal life is available for the asking and the trusting. Verse 4 spells it out. “I will abide in Your tabernacle forever.”

 

Psalm 61:1-8 (NKJV)

1Hear my cry, O God;

Attend to my prayer.

2From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3For You have been a shelter for me,

A strong tower from the enemy.

4I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;

I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

5For You, O God, have heard my vows;

You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.

6You will prolong the king’s life,

His years as many generations.

7He shall abide before God forever.

Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!

8So I will sing praise to Your name forever,

That I may daily perform my vows.

 

Psalm 145:1-2 starts with eternal life as a fact.

Psalm 21 says God promised King David eternal life when he asked. We must call on the name of the LORD in prayer. We must ask.

Psalm 145:3-9 gives the basis for asking. That basis is God’s perfect goodness and His might. He has the power to deliver. He has the moral authority to deliver. He wants to deliver because He is good.

Verses 4 and 11 and 12 tell us we need to hear the facts, and we need to be able to talk about these things with each other, and with the next generation.

God’s dominion is everlasting. People who fear Him and trust Him, and ask for life in His name, can be part of His kingdom. People who trust in Him will be made capable of praising Him forever. We can bless God. God loves us so much that when we seek Him with our whole hearts and find Him, that blesses Him. What an amazing thing to know! We can reach His heart by trusting Him.

He blesses us in every way. Every good thing comes from Him. That includes eternal life. It is available to all for the asking and the trusting.

Psalm 145:1-21 (NKJV)

1I will extol You, my God, O King;

And I will bless Your name forever and ever.

2 Every day I will bless You,

And I will praise Your name forever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;

And His greatness is unsearchable.

4  One generation shall praise Your works to another,

And shall declare Your mighty acts.

5I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,

And on Your wondrous works.

6Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,

And I will declare Your greatness.

7They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,

And shall sing of Your righteousness.

8The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

Slow to anger and great in mercy.

9The LORD is good to all,

And His tender mercies are over all His works.

10All Your works shall praise You, O LORD,

And Your saints shall bless You.

11They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom,

And talk of Your power,

12To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts,

And the glorious majesty of His kingdom.

13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

14 The LORD upholds all who fall,

And raises up all who are bowed down.

15The eyes of all look expectantly to You,

And You give them their food in due season.

16You open Your hand

And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17The LORD is righteous in all His ways,

Gracious in all His works.

18The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,

To all who call upon Him in truth.

19He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;

He also will hear their cry and save them.

20The LORD preserves all who love Him,

But all the wicked He will destroy.

21My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD,

And all flesh shall bless His holy name

Forever and ever.

 

Isaiah 51(NASB95) gives us some more clues about the path to eternal life. Verse 1 implies that the person must be seeking righteousness. The subject of the chapter is highlighted in verse 6: “My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not wane.”

In Psalm 145, the wicked do not receive the blessing of eternal life, but rather eternal justice. The eternal destination of the wicked is a place of destruction.

There is a problem, though, because all of us make mistakes. All of us choose wrongly at times, even if we are pursuing righteousness. So Isaiah 51 tells us to look to Abraham and Sarah, who were very isolated and old when they became parents. They received the promise by faith, and were able to conceive and deliver a baby. He was a miracle baby.

Eternal life is miraculous. We cannot see it, any more than Abraham and Sarah could see how they could produce a child.

Secondly, Genesis 15:6(NASB95) tells us regarding the promise of descendants that, “Abraham believed in the LORD, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” God saw Abraham’s trust in Him as righteousness.

Why would that be so?

Once we face the fact that we cannot achieve righteousness, because our errors and failures get in the way, then we have to seek another source of righteousness. We have to pursue righteousness to even understand the problem. But then, once we face the problem, we realize we need God’s help. Abraham made his share of errors and failures, if you read the Genesis record. He needed God’s help with righteousness.

When we repent of our failures and errors, and we seek God’s forgiveness, then He gives His righteousness as a gift. When Isaiah 51:5 tells us “God’s righteousness does not wane,” then His gift to us makes eternal life available.

That means the gift is available to flawed human beings, because God replaces the flaws with His goodness. Flawed human beings must seek righteousness, but the situation is not impossible.

One of Messiah’s names is “The LORD our Righteousness,” according to Jeremiah 23:5-6. This fits very well with Psalm 61:6-8. Every detail of this puzzle fits well together. We begin to see the path to eternal life. It is a humble path, not based on achievements, but on trust.

We also see that God is complex, that God is totally good, and that He cares about us. Isaiah 51:14 hints about all of that in relation to the exiles of the impending captivity of that era. The same God who stirred up the sea to bring the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery cared about the exiles of the later era. He watched over them.

Verse 16 has a startling reference to Messiah. God is speaking to Messiah, and says, “I have put My words in Your mouth and have covered You with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”

So the next riddle is this. How did God empower Messiah to establish the heavens and found the earth? What does that tell us about the identity of Messiah? Could the resurrection of Christ establish the reality of the heavens for us? Could the existence of Messiah, from eternity past, found the heavens and earth? Could the return of Christ to reign found the earth on a better foundation than its present flawed state?

Notice also that the One who is our peace proclaims to Zion that “You are My people.” Jesus loves Zion. Jesus claims the people of Zion as His own, and as God’s own, at the same time.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. He loves you.

Micah 5:1-5 and a Prophetic Fingerprint

Micah 5:1-5

The Wavy Lines of a Prophetic Fingerprint

God condensed much information into the first five verses of Micah chapter 5. The poetry is crowded with meaning. A technique appears in this chapter. Near-in-time prophecies validate later-in-time prophecies.

Micah wrote during the time of Isaiah. The latter portion of Micah 5 describes impending conquest by Assyria. The chapter helps us see that God used the term “shepherds” for human political and religious leaders who had responsibility over the nation at the time of siege. 2Chronicles 29, 30, 31, and 32 describe Hezekiah’s reign. 2 Kings 18, and 19 give more detail. Isaiah’s perspective appears in Isaiah 36 and 37. Earlier passages in Isaiah warned people of the impending danger, just as Micah 5 does.

Micah 5:5-15 reports that the Assyrians would destroy the cities of Judah as well as Northern Israel. The chapter reports God’s promise to protect His people. There would be a strong remnant scattered from the land, and within the land, who would still be under His watchful eye. The surviving remnant would bless the surrounding nations, as dew blesses the dry ground. The scattered remnant would be strong like a lion, and would not be defeated by being scattered. God had been grieved by their idolatry. God’s purpose ensured that the idolatry of that generation would end. God promised deliverance from the Assyrians in this chapter, for His remnant. He promised deliverance for those who survived in Judah, and available for those scattered. We also notice God’s judgment on His enemies during this terrible war. God kept His promises during extremely dangerous times.

Because the passage is poetically written, it is easier to understand after events took place than it would have been beforehand. This characteristic is often true of prophecy. This characteristic challenges us to be careful when interpreting prophecy. The way that seems obvious to us may be a mistaken understanding.

This passage in Micah has hints of God’s care for His people even after hard times have devastated and disheartened them. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His love never fails. His love does not falter.

In some ways, God challenges us to study His word and seek His face, because His word is a puzzle. He made it challenging with good purpose, to reach those among us who have puzzle-solving talents.

Sometimes people think the Bible is only for the simple, but it actually contains challenges for the sharpest among us, too. God loves us, and we are all simple compared to His wisdom, so He included motivating themes within His word for us all. As you read Micah 5:5-15, see if you think the explanation is reasonable. You may need to read the other references in Kings and Chronicles and Isaiah for comparison.

 

Micah 5:5-15

When the Assyrian comes into our land,

And when he treads in our palaces,

Then we will raise against him

Seven shepherds and eight princely men.

6 They shall waste with the sword the land of Assyria,

And the land of Nimrod at its entrances;

Thus He shall deliver us from the Assyrian,

When he comes into our land

And when he treads within our borders.

 

7 Then the remnant of Jacob

Shall be in the midst of many peoples,

Like dew from the LORD,

Like showers on the grass,

That tarry for no man

Nor wait for the sons of men.

8 And the remnant of Jacob

Shall be among the Gentiles,

In the midst of many peoples,

Like a lion among the beasts of the forest,

Like a young lion among flocks of sheep,

Who, if he passes through,

Both treads down and tears in pieces,

And none can deliver.

9 Your hand shall be lifted against your adversaries,

And all your enemies shall be cut off.

10 “And it shall be in that day,” says the LORD,

“That I will cut off your horses from your midst

And destroy your chariots.

1 I will cut off the cities of your land

And throw down all your strongholds.

12 I will cut off sorceries from your hand,

And you shall have no soothsayers.

13 Your carved images I will also cut off,

And your sacred pillars from your midst;

You shall no more worship the work of your hands;

14 I will pluck your wooden images from your midst;

Thus I will destroy your cities.

15 And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury

On the nations that have not heard.”

 

That short-term prophecy came true during the reign of King Hezekiah. The Assyrians attacked the whole land, defeating Northern Israel. The survivors of Northern Israel were carried away captive. They are called the lost tribes because they did not return in large numbers, as the later captives from Judah did.

The Assyrians attacked the cities of Judah, but those who fled to Jerusalem for refuge received miraculous protection. God fought against the Assyrians and defeated them. God sent a plague upon the army of the Assyrians, and many died. The rest fled and returned to Assyria.

This event is reported in multiple passages of the Old Testament, and also appears in the Assyrian archives, from the political perspective of Assyria. The Assyrian archives reported Hezekiah shut up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage, but it did not tell why the cage was left unharmed.

This early fulfillment lends validity to the distant future prophecy in Micah 5:1-5. Because Micah 5:5-15 came true, people could believe Micah 5:1-5 is from God even before it came true. Now that it has come true, it is like a fingerprint to identify Messiah.

 

Verse 1 of Micah 5 describes another siege, this time in the distant future from Micah’s time. Because we can identify the fingerprint in verses1-5, we know this verse describes the Roman Empire conquest of Israel, which occurred long after the Old Testament was complete.

 

Micah 5:1-15 (NKJV)

1Now gather yourself in troops,

O daughter of troops;

He has laid siege against us;

 

The next verse tells us the Romans would strike the Judge of Israel on the cheek. After one of Jesus’ trials, (Mark 15:16-20) the Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on His head and struck His face and head repeatedly with a reed. They also spat upon Him. Micah 5:1 tells us the One struck is the Judge of Israel. Messiah will be the Judge of all.

 

They will strike the judge of Israel with a rod on the cheek.

 

Micah 5:2 tells us that The Ruler in Israel, who is alive from eternity past, from everlasting, will be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. That is the city where Jesus Christ was born. This verse tells us Messiah will be “God-with-us” because only God is alive from eternity past.

 

Micah 5:2 tells us Messiah will be the King of Israel. Jesus Christ qualified to be the King by His earthly lineage through Mary, descendant of King David through David’s son Nathan. Jesus also had the legal lineage rights by adoption from His father Joseph through King David’s son Solomon. Because Joseph married the Virgin Mary, Joseph’s lineage applies legally to Jesus.

 

2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,

Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,

Yet out of you shall come forth to Me

The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,

From everlasting.”

 

The next verse is very interesting. It may relate to the scattered remnant of Israel that became absorbed into Gentile nations—those given up, yet watched-over by God. When the Gentiles were brought into the New Covenant by Jesus Christ, and the church extended God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, the descendants of God’s scattered remnant once again heard the good news of God’s salvation. There is more than one kind of “return to the children of Israel” for descendants of those scattered in the long ago Assyrian exile. There is a remnant within the remnant.

3 Therefore He shall give them up,

Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;

Then the remnant of His brethren

Shall return to the children of Israel.

 

Next we see that Messiah, who is God-with-us, Judge, and King, is also the Good Shepherd.

4 And He shall stand and feed His flock

In the strength of the LORD,

In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God;

And they shall abide,

For now He shall be great

To the ends of the earth; 5 And this One shall be peace.

 

Messiah shall be great to the ends of the earth. His people, His flock shall abide. Abide means to stay. Usually abide means to live somewhere, but in this case no place is mentioned. This hints of eternal life. Messiah abides forever, so we have the opportunity to abide forever. This matches Psalm 61:6-8.

 

Messiah shall be great to the ends of the earth. His flock is not only Israel, but includes people all over the world.

 

He is our peace. Because He is our peace, we have no essential conflict with others in His flock who are at peace with Him. Finding Him and being at peace with Him is a stream of internal peace in the middle of world conflict. If enough people find Him as their peace, the world will be a better place.

 

The Judge, The Ruler, the Suffering Messiah, The Good Shepherd are the same Person, and He is our Peace.