Tag Archives: Revelation

Three Great End-Time Alliances (Judgment 2)

A close examination of Revelation 17 indicates that the relevant images and powers of the end-time unify into three great alliances; (1) religion in opposition to God (Babylon), (2) secular/political power, and (3) a looser confederation of the saints, God’s faithful, end-time people. In the scenario of Revelation 17, Babylon gains the support of the secular/political alliance for its war against the saints (Rev. 17:6) for a short time. After the End-Time spiritual battle (Rev. 17:14), but eventually the secular powers of the world turn on Babylon and destroy her (Rev. 17:16). Rev. 18 expresses their three-fold regret afterward for having done so (Rev. 18:9-19). While the fall of Babylon is mourned by the world, it brings rejoicing to the saints (Rev. 18:20).

Let’s drill down a little deeper into this scenario. At first glance, Revelation 16-18 contains a bewildering variety of images describing end-time powers and groupings. But upon closer analysis it becomes evident that many of these images are different ways of describing the same thing. For example, the seven heads of the beast are also described as seven mountains and seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10). Likewise, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:1) is clearly the same as the woman who rides the beast (17:3) and Babylon the Great (17:5). Similarly, we have noticed earlier that God’s people are also named by many names in the book of Revelation.

The resulting conclusion is that the variety of images in these chapters can all be linked to three great, worldwide alliances that develop in the final period of earth’s history. 1) There is a great worldwide alliance of religious institutions that join together in opposition to God and His faithful people. This alliance is named by many names: Babylon, the great prostitute, the great city, the woman that rides the beast. End-time Babylon comes together with the rise of the unholy trinity of Revelation 13 and 16:13-14. These make up the three parts of Babylon (Rev. 16:19).

2) There is a great worldwide alliance of secular, political and military power. This alliance is also named by many names in Revelation: the Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12), the kings of the whole inhabited world (16:14), the cities of the nations (16:19), the many waters (17:1), the kings of the earth, the earth dwellers (17:2), the beast (17:3), the seven heads, the seven mountains, the seven kings (17:9-10) and the ten horns (17:12-13). These secular powers are also represented by the kings (18:9), merchants (18:11) and sea-farers (18:17) of chapter eighteen.

3) There is also a worldwide, end-time alliance of the saints, which is named by many names: the sealed (Rev. 7:1-3), the 144,000 (7:4-8), the great multitude (7:9-12), the remnant (12:17), the saints (14:12; 17:6), the kings of the east (16:12), those who keep their garments (16:15) and the called, chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb (17:14). In the very last period of earth’s history, this alliance is probably not so much institutional, as we know religious institutions today, but a coming together of kindred spirits out of every nation, tribe, language, people and religion. In a following blog we will briefly explore the narrative of these three alliances in the final days of earth’s history.

Revelation 17 and 18: Judgment on Babylon (Judgment 1)

Revelation seventeen and eighteen focus on the fall of end-time Babylon in the closing days of earth’s history. Revelation 17 describes the rise and fall of end-time Babylon as symbolized by a woman, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:18). Revelation 18 also describes the fall of Babylon, but this time in the image of the great city (Rev. 18:10, 16, 18, 19).

These chapters introduce the following themes, among others:

1. Three Worldwide End-Time Alliances. The multiple symbols of Revelation’s End-time coalesce into three great worldwide alliances: 1) religion, 2) secular/political power and 3) the saints.
2. The Difference Between Visions and Their Explanations. In a vision the prophet can be taken any time and any place, but explanations of the vision to the prophet, in order to make sense, must come to the prophet in the time and place of the prophet.
3. The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10. In order to understand the identity of the seven kings of Rev. 17:10 one must determine the time of the sixth king.
4. The Narrative of Rev. 17.

The passage implies that faithful people can be found within “Babylon” to the very end. This should impact the way we treat people of other faiths than our own. The similarities and differences between the women of Revelation 12 and 17 should tell us that even faithful Christian institutions are capable of falling away from that faithfulness. So constant vigilance is advised.

Some Practical Thoughts on Armageddon (Plagues 8)

1. In the midst of the Battle of Armageddon account (Rev. 16:13-16) is a blessing on the one who keeps watch and hangs onto his clothes (16:15). This verse is a clear allusion to Revelation 3:18, the warning of Christ to Laodicea (see comments on Revelation 3:17-18). There are four major words in Revelation 16:15 that are found together in only one other place in the Bible, Revelation 3:17-18. These are the Greek words for seeing, clothes, shame and nakedness. You will find all four concepts in the story of the Fall (Gen. 3:6-15) but not all of the specific words. So there is a specific and clear connection between the message to the church of Laodicea God’s final call to the world in the context of Armageddon. This indicates that the church that will pass through the final crisis of earth’s history will be seriously flawed, but very much the object of Jesus’ solicitude. This should be a source of both warning and encouragement to God’s people today.

2. In one single verse (Rev. 16:15) John brings together a variety of New Testament appeals in light of the End. Both “I come like a thief” and “Blessed is he who stays awake” echo statements of Jesus and are further echoed by Paul (Matt. 24:42-44; Luke 12:37-39; 1 Thess. 5:1-6). All three of these passages are about readiness for the coming of Jesus. By echoing these concepts in the middle of the Battle of Armageddon, the Book of Revelation makes it clear that the military language of Revelation is not to be taken in a military way. The Battle of Armageddon is a battle for the mind.
In the final battle of earth’s history, it is our spiritual task to keep watch over our attitudes, thoughts, and behavior, and to remain faithful no matter the deception or the coercion we may face. There is a need for both faithful endurance and discernment, fortified with the words of Jesus in the gospels, Paul in the epistles, and Jesus’ message to Laodicea. When we choose to be faithful today in the midst of various temptations, we are being prepared for even greater battles at the end of time.

The Meaning of Armageddon (Plagues 7)

The word “Armageddon” is really “Har-Magedon” in the Greek. Revelation 16:16 explains that the word is based on the Hebrew. In Hebrew “Har” means mountain. So the most natural meaning of Armageddon is “Mountain of Megiddo.” The problem with that reading is that there is no mountain in the whole world named Megiddo. The Bible refers to the waters of Megiddo (Jdg. 5:19), a Valley of Megiddo (2 Chr. 35:22) and a city of Megiddo (1 Kgs. 9:15). But nowhere is there a reference to a mountain of Megiddo.

There are a couple of other possibilities. In Zechariah 12:11 the LXX translator translates the Hebrew for “Megiddo” with “slaughter.” The mourning of Jerusalem in the future is compared to the mourning “of” or “for” Haddad-rimmon. We don’t know who or what Haddad-rimmon was, it is a Syrian name and the event referred to occurred outside Scripture. Relevant to our purpose, the mourning, whatever it refers to, is not in the city of Megiddo, but in a place where slaughter occurred. If this is what the author of Revelation had in mind, “Armageddon” would be a reference to Zechariah 12:11, and would mean “mountain of slaughter.”

Another option suggests that “Armageddon” is a reference to the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14. Lucifer fell from the “Mount of Assembly” (echoing Isa 14:12). But the expression in the Hebrew of Isaiah 14:12 is quite different from that of Revelation.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary concludes that the best explanation of “Har-Magedon” is to associate it with the mountain that looms over the waters, valley and city of Megiddo; Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is the place where Elijah called fire down from heaven to earth to demonstrate who the true God is (Rev. 13:13-14). If this was John’s intent, in the last days of earth’s history there will be a showdown between the true God (Rev. 4-5) and the counterfeit trio (Rev. 16:13-14), between the three angels (Rev. 14:6-12) and the three frogs. In that final contest, the fire will fall on the wrong altar (Rev. 13:13-14), but the true God will be vindicated in the end (Rev. 15:3-4).

Cyrus the Persian and the Second Half of Revelation (Plagues 6)

In Revelation 16:12 it is “kings from the east” who dry up the Euphrates River. Since the Euphrates River passed right through the city of Babylon, it in part was and in part supplied the moat that protected the city. To in the Old Testament, the Euphrates River became a symbol of Babylon’s political and military support system (Jer. 50:37-38; 51:35-36). As a defense system for the city the Euphrates came to represent the officials, wise men, warriors, treasury and mercenaries that made the city strong (Jer. 50:33-36. So in the original story, when the Euphrates River dried up it left the city defenseless. This symbolic meaning of the river is taken up in this part of the book of Revelation.

Ancient Babylon was a nearly impregnable fortress. Revelation 16:12 recalls how the armies of Cyrus came from the east and camped north of Babylon. Cyrus’ engineers excavated a large depression in the nearby landscape and diverted the flow of the Euphrates River into that depression, thus causing the river to “dry up.” Cyrus’ soldiers used the dry river be to march under the river gates into the city. Timing the diversion to take advantage of a feast day inside the city, Cyrus’ soldiers discovered that drunken guards had left open the gates along the river bank. The army of Cyrus poured into the city, conquering it and killing its ruler, Belshazzar (as described in Daniel 5). In the months and years that followed, Cyrus initiated a process in which the scattered remnant of Israel were encouraged to go back home and rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

The story of Babylon’s fall was taken up as the back story for the last third of the book of Revelation. Notice the total sequence once more: In Old Testament times, Cyrus, king of Persia, dried up the literal Euphrates River in order to conquer literal Babylon, to let literal Israel (Judah) go free and to rebuild the literal city of Jerusalem. This narrative clearly sets the foundation for the last portion of the Book of Revelation. In the Book of Revelation an end-time Cyrus (the “kings from the rising of the sun”) dries up the end-time River Euphrates, conquers end-time Babylon to deliver end-time Israel and build a New Jerusalem!

The fundamental narrative substructure of the battle of Armageddon is grounded in the Old Testament story of Cyrus and Babylon’s fall. The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus is, so to speak, a subtext for everything that happens in Revelation 16-22. To notice this connection is to understand what is going on in the Battle of Armageddon. To miss this connection is to miss the point of this vision.

Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result? (Bowl Plagues 3)

A very challenging question that people ask about Revelation 16: What is the purpose of the seven bowl/plagues if they are after the close of probation and therefore no repentance can be expected? I think there are a number of considerations to keep in mind.

First of all, Revelation makes clear that God is not the author of death, pain and destruction (Rev. 7:1-3). Satan is the destroyer (9:11). Because freedom is essential in order for genuine love and trust to exist, it is crucial to the peace and security of the universe. But if people are free to love, they are also free to hate, rebel and harm. Respecting freedom means not only allowing creatures the freedom to choose, but allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices. A God who constantly intervenes to prevent negative consequences is not a God of freedom. So God allows Satan a certain freedom of action in the course of history and at the End, after securing the righteous, God allows Satan to more fully demonstrate what his kind of government would look like. One purpose of the seven last plagues is to convince the universe that Satan’s alternative to love and trust in God leads to total disaster. This will help convince free beings in the universe to never choose that option again.

Second, even Satan’s worst actions can be used by God to fulfill His purposes (17:17). The deceptions and plagues of the final crisis expose the truth about Satan and those who follow him (2 Thess 10-12). It is not God’s fault that the wicked are unredeemed, neither the grace of God (Rom 2:4) nor the plagues of the End (Rev 16:9, 11, 21) bring about any repentence. They are hardened in the course they have chosen. Thus, even the destruction of the wicked glorifies the character of God in the end (Rev. 15:3-4). They have made themselves unsafe to save and God sadly lets them go (Hos 11:7-8). Even after the millennium and a clear perspective on God’s character, nothing in their character has changed (Rev. 20:7-10). The plagues expose their settled unfitness for eternity and vindicate God’s judgment in each case.

So even though probation has closed, the seven last plagues serve a purpose in preparing the universe for a free, loving, safe and secure eternity.

God’s People Named by Many Names (Bowl Plagues 2)

I have noted earlier that there is evidence in Revelation that the multiple names for God’s people all refer to the same end-time group rather than multiple end-time groups. For example, we noticed in the blogs on Revelation 14 that God’s faithful end-time people are called remnant in 12:17 and 144,000 in 14:1. The allusion to Joel 2:32 in Rev. 14:1 made it clear that John sees the two groups as the same. But this is not the only place in Revelation where two different expressions for the people of God are clearly parallel.

We noticed in Revelation 7 that the 144,000 and the Great Multitude appear to be opposites. One group contains a fixed number of people drawn from the twelve tribes of Israel. The other group contains an uncountable number from every nation, tribe, language and people. But these two seeming opposites are drawn together by the fact that John never sees the 144,000, he only hears about them, when he turns to look he sees the Great Multitude. So these are also two ways of describing the same end-time group (see Rev 5:5-6 for the literary pattern).

Another, similar instance is in the latter part of the book. God’s end-time people are called 144,000 in Rev. 14:1 and “saints” in Rev. 14:12 and 17:6. So God’s one end-time people are called by many names in Revelation: 144,000, Great Multitude, Remnant, and Saints. They stand by the sea of glass (Rev. 15:2), they are the ones who keep their garments (16:15) and are the called, chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb (17:14).

So the visions of Revelation are not intended to identify many various versions of God’s people at the end-time. The people of God are seen as a whole, although that whole can be described in a number of different ways. The primary path to God has not changed. Claims to total uniqueness are probably exaggerations of reality. The people of God can rejoice that they are sealed, but should never be proud or arrogant on account of that fact.

The Seven Last Plagues (Bowl Plagues 1)

Revelation sixteen describes the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1) of earth’s history. Included in these plagues is the only mention of the word “Armageddon” in the Bible. This section (Rev 15-16) begins with the end-time people of God standing by the sea of glass singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, an allusion to the Exodus (Rev. 15:1-4). Then the seven plagues are introduced with a vision of the heavenly temple emptied because of the glory of God, a reversal of the original inauguration of the Mosaic sanctuary (Rev. 15:5-8; Exod. 40:34-35). This is close of probation imagery. Seven angels were then told to pour out bowls of wrath upon the earth one by one (Rev. 16:1-21). I will explore this part of Revelation through the following themes”

1. God’s People Named by Many Names. Evidence of the text is that names like remnant, 144,000 and saints all refer to the same end-time group.
2. Why Plagues When No Repentance Will Result?
3. The Symbolic Meaning of the Euphrates River in Rev. 16:12.
4. Two Gospels in Revelation. The three angels (Rev. 14:6-12) and the three frogs (Rev. 16:13-14) are contrasting symbols of the gospel.
5. Cyrus the Persian and the Second Half of Revelation. A pagan king foreshadows the Messiah.
6. The Meaning of Armageddon.

The final blog in this series on the seven last plagues explores how the description of the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation (Rev 16:14-16) promotes spiritual preparation for the End-Time.

Q and A on Revelation 14 (Fourteen 8)

Why do you think judgment is an unpopular concept among many Christians today?

Judgment today is often seen as cold and harshly legal. Courts are places you want to avoid, if possible. But in the biblical sense, judgment is something for God’s people to look forward to. It is a time when all the wrongs of earth will be made right. If there is no judgment at the End, there will never be any justice in this world.

But biblical justice is as much positive as it is negative. It is the basis of reward as well as negative consequences. Jesus said that even something as small as giving a cup of cold water to a child will be remembered in the judgment (Matt. 10:42). It provides great meaning in this life to know that every good deed, every kindness shown, matters in the ultimate scheme of things.

Why does the Sabbath play such a central role in the final events of earth’s history? What difference could a day of the week possibly make in the ultimate scheme of things?

God placed the Sabbath at the center of all His mighty acts as a remembrance of Him. When we keep the seventh-day Sabbath we are reminded of creation (Exod. 20:8-11). God created us free, at great cost to Himself (we were free to rebel), so we could truly love Him back and also each other. Not only the Sabbath, but the whole of the Decalogue was designed to promote freedom (Jam. 1:25; 2:12). So the creation side of Sabbath reminds us of the loving, freedom-giving character of God.

The Sabbath also reminds us of the Exodus (Deut. 5:15), God’s great act of salvation for His people. He is a gracious God who acts mightily in behalf of His people. The Sabbath also reminds us of the cross. Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath between His death and His resurrection. The cross is the greatest revelation of God’s character and the Sabbath is a reminder of that.

The Sabbath also looks forward to the future salvation at the End (Heb. 4:9-11). Those who truly trust God find in the Sabbath a down payment on the rest from sin that the whole universe will experience in eternity.

So the placing of the Sabbath as an important issue in the final crisis is a constant reminder of all that God has done and will do for us. And for those who appreciate the substitutionary role of Jesus Christ in salvation, Jesus kept the Sabbath perfectly throughout His time on earth and His perfect Sabbath-keeping is ours by faith. Jesus never kept Sunday or any other day of the week, so His faithfulness does not complete our Sunday-keeping. The Sabbath, therefore, is not legalism, it is a reminder of the gospel of what Christ has done for us.

The First Angel and the Fourth Commandment (Fourteen 7)

The message of the first angel contains a direct allusion to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. This is evident for three major reasons. 1) There is a strong verbal parallel between Rev. 14:7 and Exod. 20:11. Both passages contain the words “made,” “heaven,” “earth,” and “sea.” They also contain a reference to the one who created. While similar language can be found in Psalm 146, that Psalm does not play a consistent role in Revelation the way that the Ten Commandments do. It is likely that Psalm 146 and Revelation 14 both allude to Exodus 20, Revelation is not primarily referencing Psalm 146.

2) Rev. 14:6-7 contain references to salvation (14:6), judgment and creation (14:7). All three themes echo the First Table of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2, 5-6, 11). While thematic parallels by themselves are the weakest evidence for an intentional allusion, this triple collection of thematic references is quite remarkable and in conjunction with other evidences makes the allusion to the fourth commandment almost certain for Revelation 14:7.

3) There are multiple references to the Ten Commandments throughout this section of Revelation. There are direct references to the commandments as a whole at the beginning and end of the section (Rev 12:17; 14:12. We have earlier noted the counterfeits of the first four commandments in Revelation 13. In addition there are the verbal parallels in 14:7 and the thematic parallels cited above. It seems clear that there is a strong structural parallel to the Ten Commandments in Revelation 12-14. There is little question that the final call of God to the world is in the context of the fourth commandment.

In conclusion, note the narrowing of focus as you read through Revelation 12-14. First, there is a reference to the commandments as a whole in Revelation 12:17. Then in chapter thirteen the focus zeros in on the first table of the commandments, as the beast counters each of the first four commandments. Then in Revelation 14:6-7 the multiple references to the first table of the law focus in on the fourth commandment alone. It is a powerful literary way to focus the readers attention on the fourth commandment and its role in the final crisis over worship.