Daniel 10-12 is one vision. Daniel has been attempting to understand the prophecy of Jeremiah and the 70 years of captivity. We’re not given the name of the being speaking to Daniel, but we know that he has been with the arch-angel Michael. These beings are called “prince”—Michael, who is the prince of Israel, along with the the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece. This carries the sense of something along the lines of a spiritual power. Evil spirits do in fact have a measure of control over godless nations.
We learn about the players in this vision by looking back. The Greek king whose kingdom will be scattered to the wind is likely Alexander the Great. After he died, four generals divided his kingdom among themselves. The king of the north is the Ptolemaic dynasty, and the king of the south is the Seleucid dynasty. These two empires fought constantly, and the land of Israel was geographically between them. After a series of battles and alliances, we come to a horrible king of the north, likely Antiochus IV. He won an important battle in Egypt, and as he went home, he ransacked the temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed unclean animals. Antiochus comes up against the Romans, but he is no match for them. He is not going to sit back as a loser, so he returns to Jerusalem, an easy target. He puts an end to the sacrificial system. This time, the Jews fight back in what is called the Maccabean Revolt of 167 BC, a well-documented event. The books of Maccabees in the Apocrypha recount much of it. The Jews had some help from the Romans, which resulted in Rome occupying the land. The Romans become extremely powerful, become known as the new king of the north, and defeat the Greeks. They will pillage Jerusalem and destroy the temple between AD 66-70.
The point is that all of these events have an “appointed time”. God has determined the future of his people. Israel’s “guardian angel”, their prince Michael, will deliver God’s people. Daniel 12:2 is a promise of end-times resurrection. The devastation of chapter 11 is not the final word. It is fitting that we are reading Revelation and Daniel together. Hopefully you see the promises of Daniel being fulfilled in Revelation. This is why I (charitably) think that the scroll Daniel is told to seal is the scroll which the Lamb is worthy to read in Revelation.
The first three chapters of Hosea deal with a living prophecy. The Israelites have descended into rank idolatry, which is spiritual adultery. God has Hosea marry a whore and have children. She will be unfaithful just has Israel has been unfaithful. God will use this prophetic act as a way of warning Israel about their impending punishment.
Hosea spends the rest of the book spelling out what this prophetic act means. He is clear about the specific sins of the people. If it seems as though Hosea jumps around a lot, it may be because these were separate prophecies he or a later editor published together. These accusations are the same as the other prophets, so I will leave you to read the book for yourself.
The main idea of the book is “the day of the Lord.” That day is the day of judgment. But because God is a God of faithfulness, he will always spare his people from his wrath, even if they are in the midst of it. Sometimes Joel speaks of “a day” or “the day”, and it refers to the same thing. Sometimes Joel speaks of a current day of judgment, and sometimes he speaks of a future day of judgment for both Israel and all nations. Judgment can be averted if the people turn to God in faith and repentance. Covenant-faithfulness is what assures the people that repentance can turn judgment into blessing.
A previous invasion of locusts serves as a prophetic type of a future foreign invader, likely the Babylonians in 586 BC. But even this destruction is not the end. In the same way Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak of a new covenant, Joel speaks of God pouring out his Spirit on his people (2:28-29). This is fulfilled, as Peter preaches, on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.
If Amos has a single theme, it is “justice”. He also speaks, like Joel, of a “day of the Lord”. He lives in Tekoa, which is in Judah. Amos is not among those who live their whole lives as a prophet, but he is a shepherd of some kind. However, God uses this simple shepherd to send a great message. He writes before the fall of Judah and Israel.
The first six chapters are various “oracles” of judgment, or prophecies. In chapter 1, God sends prophecies concerning places outside of Israel and Judah. In chapter 2, Amos moves on to judgments against Judah and Israel. They are not exempt from judgment; in fact, they are held to a higher account because of their knowledge of God and their covenants with him.
If you’re reading this, you probably take Bible reading quite seriously, so you take study of the Bible quite seriously, as well. The book of Revelation has been interpreted in a great many ways, some more faithfully than others. It might be helpful to place my cards on the table before moving forward that I firmly but charitably hold to a historic premillennial view of Christ’s return. This view generally holds that the church will be present through the tribulation and judgment of the last days, but God will shield his people through it as he did before the Babylonian exile. Christ will return at the end of the tribulation, destroy the beast and false prophet, cast Satan into the abyss, and establish his millennial kingdom in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. The more popular view, somewhat held by default by many American Christians influenced by dispensationalism, is a pre-tribulational form of premillennialism. This view holds that Jesus will return before the tribulation and judgment to take his people to heaven for seven years. He will return with the church after the tribulation to establish his millennial kingdom. For a number of interpretive reasons, I believe the post-tribulational view of the rapture holds more water. Some of those I have mentioned in earlier posts, and it will come up throughout the comments on Revelation. If I had my druthers, I would like to be raptured beforehand to avoid the peril of the last days. But I believe that consistent interpretive methods (and reading the Old Testament as the New Testament apostles did) require me to hold to a post-tribulation rapture. However, as stated before, I hold this position firmly but charitably. This was the view of many in the church immediately after the time of the apostles. One church father, Polycarp, was himself a disciple of John, the author of Revelation, whose writings indicate a historic (although he would obviously not call himself that) premillennial view of the return of Christ. So, read on with this in mind. If you believe that Jesus is returning in his body to judge the living and the dead, we can learn from each other concerning the timing of that blessed hope.
The church in Sardis does not have much to commend. There is a remnant, however, who have stayed faithful. The church in Philadelphia is small but mighty. Some have argued that 3:10 is evidence of a pre-tribulation rapture, but it does not hold up under scrutiny. There is no warrant to apply one component of one church’s letter to the church at the end of the age. If we want to apply a component of one church’s letter to all the other churches, we must be consistent. Are we going to apply the components of Laodicea, a church with nothing to commend, to the other churches, and vice versa?
John begins his vision in the throne room of heaven in chapter 4. Another proof-text for a pre-tribulation rapture is “Come up here” in 4:1. If you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, you can do so with a clear conscience, but you must use good texts. A voice in heaven simply tells John, not all the church at the end of the age, to come up to heaven. This call takes place before the vision is even given. The purpose of his coming is to receive a vision, not to live in heaven forever. This is “interpretation by free-association”. Even then, John says that he was “in the Spirit”, as he was on the Lord’s Day, meaning he might have stayed bodily on the earth and was simply shown the vision in his mind.
I read the twenty-four elders as angelic beings of some kind. Some have tried to read this as twelve tribes plus twelve apostles, but if this were true, “elder” would be the first time this designation is used. Typically, “elder” in the biblical sense is an official in ancient Israel or as a pastor within the church. But God is often described as being surrounded by a heavenly court of angels. Later in chapter 7, there will be a series of angels, elders, and living creatures worshiping God around the throne (7:11-12). They are not praising God for salvation like the multitude are (7:9-10) but instead for his might. The point is that there little to nothing in the text itself to interpret the elders as the raptured church.
Lighting and thunder are common illustrations of God’s presence, so there is no mystery about who is seated on the throne. “Seven” has already illustrated the Holy Spirit, and the seven torches of fire do the same here. In Exodus 24, the pavement under God’s feet is described as perfectly clear sapphire stone, and the elders of Israel are the ones privy to this vision. The heavenly elders saw the throne room of heaven, and John is bringing the biblical imagery to fulfillment.
We read of living creatures in places like Isaiah 6 (seraphim) and Ezekiel 10 (cherubim). This is one means of God’s vigilance in keeping his eye on the world.
Chapters 5-8 consist of the seven seals. There is a scroll sealed with seven seals of wax, and each one will be broken in succession. Each broken seal is accompanied by some kind of disaster or plague. Daniel is told to seal up his vision of the end (Daniel 12:4), and this may be that vision. Ezekiel is also told to write on a scroll of “lament and mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2), but he is told to eat his scroll. I take this to be Daniel’s scroll. The problem is that no one is able to open it in heaven or on earth. But as close to the throne as possible, even before the elders, the Lamb who has the Holy Spirit is able to open it. Once the Lamb takes it, the elders burn incense, which is the prayers of the saints (and leads again to believe the elders are not saints themselves). Every creature in heaven and on earth is praising the Lamb.
The seals are opened in rapid succession. The first four seals release horses and riders who devastate the world’s systems, both agricultural and financial. The fifth seal looks back to heaven and sees martyrs under the altar, presumably the altar where the Lamb presented his blood to the Father. They are told to continue resting until the end of the end. The sixth seal is complete devastation of the earth and sky.
Between the sixth and seventh seal, John sees something else. It’s not necessarily an interruption, but it’s necessary information to understand what’s going on. God is guarding and protecting his people with a mark. This harkens back to Ezekiel 9 when God sends executioners into the city to kill the idolaters in Jerusalem. Six men are sent to kill everyone, but a seventh is sent out with a writing utensil to mark the foreheads of those who grieve the idolatry. They will be spared even in the midst of the judgment. God does not necessary remove his people from judgment, but he does spare them in the midst of it. In Revelation 7:5-8, we’re told just how many are guarded from the judgment of the seven seals—a predetermined remnant. This is the fulfillment of Romans 11, where Paul says that there will be a remnant within Israel at the end of the age who is elect and will be re-grafted in to the body. Only those who bear the beast’s mark, which is a cheap imitation of the mark of God, will endure the judgment (16:2). If Paul was referring to literal Israel in Romans 9-11 (which I think he was), then is John referring to the literal nation of Israel, as well?
The list of tribes does not match any Old Testament list. Dan and Ephraim are left out, but Joseph is there. While the New Testament does not have a verse that says, “The church is considered the spiritual inheritor of Israel”, it says as much in many places. For example:
Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Romans 2:28-29, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Romans 4:11, “He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.”
Philippians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”
Even in the seven letters of chapters 2-3, the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia had Jews were were Jews in name only and not true Israel (2:9, 3:9). Physical Israel is not the same as spiritual Israel. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6). I take the 144,000 to be a stylized way of identifying the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). If the 144,000 identify the ones with the mark of God before the tribulation, the multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 project the fulfillment of that promise to after the tribulation. Not a single one of the elect will perish in the great tribulation of God’s judgment.
The seventh seal is silence. That may not sound too threatening, but in passages such as Habakkuk 2:20 (“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.) and Zechariah 2:13 (“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”), silence is an image of the earth’s reaction to God’s holiness. God is bringing this age to a close, he is no longer in the temple but in heaven, and the only appropriate reaction is for heaven to keep quiet.
The seven trumpets begin immediately. The first trumpet destroys a third of the earth. The second trumpet sends a mountain into the sea, turning a third of it to blood, killing a third of sea life, and destroying a third of ships. The third trumpet is a great star (possibly what we’d call a meteor?) hurled to earth to make a third of the drinking water bitter so that many will die. The fourth trumpet darkens a third of the heavenly bodies. The first four trumpets have been about devastation on the earth, but the last three will focus on human life, as made clear by the eagle pronouncing three “woes” to those who dwell on the earth.
The fifth trumpet introduces an angel described as a star who falls to earth with a key to the bottomless pit, or the abyss. This cannot be Satan, because he would not be given the key to his own prison. This angel opens the pit to let out smoke and locusts. The locusts are told to harm only those who do not have God’s forehead mark. Their stinger will be incredibly painful, but it won’t cause death. Their physical description come straight from Joel 1:6 and 2:4. The angel of the bottomless pit is likely the one who let them out in 9:2-3.
The sixth trumpet releases the angels bound at the Euphrates river (the great river of Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 1:7, and Joshua 1:4). The fact that the angels are bound lends to the notion that they are evil and have been reserved for this moment. They must be the leaders of the horse-mounted troops. Their description is to identify them as wildly bloodthirsty and destructive. A third of mankind is killed. While the locusts of the fifth trumpet only tormented people with their stingers, the tails of these horses can kill. Perhaps the most incredible part of this trumpet is that no one who survives repents of their sin. This goes to show that mankind is hopelessly lost without God’s work on our hearts.