Week 51, December 19-23
By using some obvious situations in nature, Amos shows that idolatry naturally leads to judgment from God. But in the same way that a shepherd rescues an animal from the mouth of a lion, so will God rescue a remnant of his people (signified by the two legs or corner of an ear instead of the whole animal) from the mouth of a lion. God shows Amos all the ways that God has called Israel to himself, but he also shows Amos all the ways the people have rejected him at every turn. But God’s anger is not forever. There will be a remnant which God will preserve in the midst of judgment to rebuild the city. Seek the Lord and live.
You might read chapter 6 and see the familiar words of justice rolling like water and righteousness rolling like a stream. Martin Luther King Jr. used this passage to rally support for the civil rights cause of the 1960s. In its proper context, Amos is calling for proper worship. Instead of going through the motions of sacrifices, just live the law that was already given.
Amos has nothing good to say, whether he’s addressing the northern or southern kingdoms. So far he has spoken more about the north, or Samaria, but he has plenty of scorn for Jerusalem, or Zion, in the south. The Judeans should not think that their proximity to the temple has any bearing on whether or not God accepts them.
Chapters 7-9 are visions of judgment. God hears the prayers of his people and relents from judgment. The point of holding a plumb line against the people of Israel is to see how straight they are, or rather, how straightly (I can make up words better than anyone) they follow the law. The law is the plumb line, measuring stick, and guide for their obedience. As God sees their failure to obey, he will send a day of mourning to them. Amos sees a basket of summer fruit, which signifies a harvest, or an end to their labor with an expectation of ease. However, instead of ease and comfort, God will send an “end” of them. “Fruit” and “end” sound alike in Hebrew, so there is a bit of wordplay going on.
Israel may be destroyed, but God’s anger is not forever. God promises to one day raise up the booth of David and rebuild it himself. The remnant will be preserved. This was seen first in the return from exile, again at the coming of Christ, and will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ.
Sometimes I assume that the problem God has with Israel/Judah is that they are mean people. But that’s not it. God is in covenant with Israel to bring blessing to the entire world. His plan is to redeem the world, bring about new creation, and restore humanity to our place of image-bearing rulers. With Israel’s sin as a violation of that covenant, besides it being an extenuation of the sin of self-exaltation that took place in Eden, how will God fulfill the covenant and plan of redemption with Israel being who they are when they keep bringing about the curses of the covenant instead of the blessings?
Edom is the neighbor-nation to Israel, and they have a fraught history. The Edomites are the physical descendent of Esau, while the Israelites are the physical descendants of his brother, Jacob. As Israel is being attacked by the Babylonians (pre-exile), the Edomites should have come to Israel’s aid. However, they “stood aloof” or turned a blind eye to their problems. So, the misfortunes of Israel will become the misfortunes of Edom. Edom will eventually be destroyed.
The story of Jonah is a familiar one. Jonah prophecies before either nation goes into exile. He is mentioned in 2 Kings 14, as well. Jonah’s background is quite important to understand his actions in the book. During the reign of king Jeroboam II, Israel was attacked by the Arameans because of his grandfather’s sins. The king of Assyria helps Israel to win against the Arameans. But there is still a general hatred of the pagans, especially if you should be grateful to them. God is showing compassion on the Assyrians, and Nineveh is one of their major cities.
Jonah hesitates to go to Nineveh because he hates them. He would rather God destroy them in his anger than show them compassion, so he runs. But God shows Jonah compassion and sends him on the same journey again. Jonah obeys this time, and he sees the Ninevites repent and be spared. While he knows that God has done the right thing, he is not happy about it. Jonah knows that if God sees them repent, his anger will subside. God is glad to show mercy.
There are a few other interesting parts of the book. We see the sovereignty of God in appointing a fish, a plant, a worm, and a wind, all to bring about his will. God does not just know the future; he determines it.
In Jonah’s prayer, we also get the sense that Jonah actually died while in the fish. He said the waters closed to take his life, he went to the land where the bars are closed, and his life was sent to the pit. But he believed in new life. He knew he would one day see the temple. As he was dying, his prayer went into the temple.
If it’s true that Jonah actually died, then it makes the connection between Jonah and Jesus even more strong. In Luke 11, Jesus says that his generation will receive no sign but “the sign of Jonah.” He is referring to the three days and nights in the belly of the fish being akin to the rising of the messiah on the third day. Does it not stand to reason that as Jesus was truly dead, so was Jonah?
Micah is from Moresheth, which is a small village near Jerusalem. He is writing before and shortly after Assyria attacks the northern kingdom of Israel, but he is writing to Judah. He primarily addresses the citizens of Judah and not the religious leaders.
God promises destruction in response to the idolatry of Judah. Micah writes to the ordinary people of Judah because the ordinary people are the ones oppressing their neighbors against God’s law. The ordinary people are calling for the preachers of the day to stop their preaching, such as Micah. Their rules are not addressed directly, but Micah does say the rules and prophets of Judah have failed in their job and will be removed from their offices.
But that is not the end. God will restore his people and his land. God will bring his presence back to his house on Mt. Zion. Not only Israel, but all people will flock to the temple. But what about when there is no temple? We read a gospel promise in chapter 5:2. Christ would be born in Bethlehem, one of the smallest cities in Judah. He will be born, but he will also be an ancient being. This is only fulfilled in Christ. This ruler will finally deliver the remnant of God’s people.
God promises restoration. The people seem to start getting the picture, and they ask what they need to do to please God. Does he need more sacrifices? What God actually demands is justice, kindness, and humility. Other than that, we must simply wait for God to act. He has promised restoration, and he will bring it about when his judgment has been meted out.
Nahum prophecies to the southern kingdom. One reason not to gloss over the prophecies of Nahum is that we come across one important attribute of God: jealousy. Yes, God is love, but God is also jealous, avenging, and wrathful. It is wrong for us to take vengeance, but not because vengeance itself is wrong. We are not in a place of authority to do so, but God is. And when his covenant has been cast aside by idolatrous people, he is right to seek vengeance for being wronged. Judgment is all too real, and we should not avoid the issue.
God deserves our complete devotion. Anything else is prideful on our part. No one is blameless before him. This is why divine justice is so horrifying—we deserve it. Nineveh will be wasted and forgotten. God will throw filth at them and treat them with contempt. This is not because God is mean; this is because unredeemed people are wicked. Sometimes we are so far in time away from such atrocities such as the world wars that we think humanity has improved. But instead of physical destruction, now we see moral and sexual destruction. Gay men are paying women to have children for them so they can take them from their mothers. Men are dressing like women and dancing provocatively for children. We are enshrining into law the ability to murder unwanted children in the womb, and there is a very vocal minority advocating for infanticide after birth. We film people having sex and sell it online. And we think God was too harsh in flooding most of us out of existence? We have the audacity to look back at civilizations like the Vikings and Mayans and think they were barbaric? Having filth thrown at us is just a small piece of what we’re due.
And this is where the short book ends. Sometimes there is a need to simply sit with our sin.
Much like between the sixth and seventh seals, there is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. Instead of silence (a sign of the response to judgment), there is a vision of a small scroll. By the description given, the angel giving the vision could be Christ (cloud, rainbow, sun, fire, and roaring voice). There have been seven seals, and there will be seven trumpets. At some unconfirmed point, there will be seven thunders. However, what these thunders refer to are kept a secret. He does, though, confirms that the next trumpet call will be the last and that it will arrive without delay. God’s patience with sinners is coming to an end. The request of the martyrs in chapter 6 is about to be answered.
Eating the small scroll harkens back to the prophet Ezekiel. John must receive the words before speaking them. The sweetness is that although many from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will come to Christ, the bitterness is that there will be many who do not. Not only will individuals reject Christ, but entire nations and their kings will, as well.
The vision of chapters 11-14 is what is called a “proleptic” vision. This just means it is a vision of the future, which will be known after the events of the various seven judgments.
Part of this vision consists of the two witnesses. There is debate on whether these are Jews or Gentiles. What gets measured is the temple, the courts of the priests, Israel, and the women. The court of the Gentiles is not measured. As in Zechariah 2 and Amos 7, measuring something is not about creating a blueprint but assessing its spiritual state. Should the city be preserved or destroyed? The inner court is found worthy, but the un-measured court of Gentiles is left alone. The whole world will attack Jerusalem and destroy her. But there is a distinction between what gets measured and what does not. What John sees is a remnant being guarded amidst persecution.
Forty-two months is 3.5 years. The vision of seventy weeks in Daniel 9 is really “seventy weeks of years”. It’s called a heptad. In Daniel 9:27, a prince makes a covenant with his people for one week, and for half that week (3.5 years) he puts an end to sacrifices and offerings. However, the events of Revelation must necessarily come after the events prophesied in Daniel 9. Instead of directly applying Daniel 9:24-27 to Revelation, we should more than likely do nothing more than make the connection of 3.5 years being a time of satanic power. Though it is described in various ways through different numbers, 3.5 years is the duration of time Jerusalem is oppressed in 11:2, the length of the ministry of the two witnesses in 11:3, the time of the preservation of the woman in 12:6 and 14, and the time the beast is given to rule in 13:5.
The oppressed people in Jerusalem will receive two witnesses, or prophets. I lean, although charitably, toward the interpretation that these witnesses represent the church preaching to the remnant of Jews being preserved in Jerusalem. The two witnesses are also called the two olive trees, two lamp stands (11:4), and two prophets (11:10). Even though the behavior of the witnesses pulls from Moses and Elijah (11:6), v.8 calls Jesus “their Lord”, which heavily implies that these witnesses are Christians. So it does seem as if the church is on the earth at this time, IE, a post-tribulation rapture.
John is clearly pulling from the visions of Zechariah 4, where he sees a golden lamp stand with seven lamps and two olive trees on each side. These olives supply the lamps with oil. In Zechariah, they represent Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor. The sin of the Jews was to reject their Lord, so God now sends the church to call Israel to believe. These witnesses cannot be harmed until the job is done. Elijah called fire down from heaven, and Jeremiah spoke words that were a devouring fire. Elijah stopped the rain from falling, and Moses turned the water to blood and brought the plagues. As John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Elijah’s return, so we do not need to think we will actually have a resurrected Moses and Elijah at the end of the age.
A beast was a common prophetic/last-days figure, so we shouldn’t be surprised that John just throws him in seemingly out of nowhere. We will learn that this beast will be the antichrist and try to steal worship from Christ. Once the mission of the two witnesses has reached completion, they will be killed. Jesus mentions this kind of persecution in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25. Paul mention the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2. He comes from the pit, as did the plagues of the fifth and sixth trumpets. That the witnesses die in war could just as easily be because of spiritual conflict, but they will definitely be physically dead. Their bodies will lay in Jerusalem. While I do not think we should go as far as the dispensationalist and argue that the city and temple will be rebuilt in the last days, we can surely say that Jerusalem will play a significant role before Christ’s return.
Laying in the street is a sign of a lack of dignity. The evil powers may think they have won, but the witnesses will be resurrected and ascend to heaven in bodily form. Their oppressors will see them ascend. For those not near enough to see it, there will be an earthquake to mark the occasion. Those who survive the earthquake give glory to God, which seems to imply repentance. This is the fulfillment of Romans 9-11; the Jewish people repent and believe! This is what the prophets have worked towards for so long. Think of the all the prophets God sent to Judah and Israel throughout their history. Their work is being rewarded.
Now we come to the seventh trumpet. In the “days of the trumpet” the end will be introduced. The fifth and sixth trumpet were woes 1 and 2; the seventh trumpet will be woe 3. The seventh seal seems to have consisted of the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet seems to have consisted of the seven bowls. The seventh trumpet begins with the revelation that God has taken this world to be his kingdom. The elders, as they did earlier, begin to worship him. As God’s kingdom is established, the world becomes even more aggressive—they rage. The rage of the nations and the wrath of God against them is simply a summary worship statement of what is about to happen.
The presence of a temple in heaven is not uncommon. This is where Christ entered with his blood on behalf of the elect. The ark is a reminder that God is the covenant keeper. It also shows us that we will see into the holy of holies in the age to come. There will be no temple, because Christ himself is our temple. God’s majesty is expressed in lightning and earthquakes.
One of the reasons I hold to premillennial return of Christ is that during his millennial reign, Satan is bound in the pit. Satan also seems to be inactive during that time. I struggle to see how Satan could be inactive in the present time as the amillennialist holds. In the vision of the dragon, the woman, and her seed, we will see how active Satan is. Instead of being a snapshot of time in history, this vision, or “great sign”, is indicative of the oppressive nature of evil (Satan, or the dragon) against the people of God, but God sustains them in the wilderness. I read this as an idealist; it is a picture of the whole age, not one moment in time.
The woman gives birth to a male child (12:5), who is Christ, who is then caught up to God’s throne (12:5, which I take to be Christ’s ascension, thought we must admit he did not ascend to escape the devil; otherwise, the male child becomes the church, which is even less likely). Thirty-plus years are passed over in a single verse. The woman (must be Israel) is sent into the wilderness (the dispersion of Jews) and nourished for 3.5 years. After AD 70, the Jews were dispersed around the known world (this is one argument for a late date for the writing of the book—AD 90s). The dragon and his angels/demons are cast from heaven, so he can no longer accuse the brethren/the church before God. The church has conquered over Satan. Satan cannot accuse the church any longer, so he somehow causes the dispersion (“the woman who had given birth to the male child”, v.13). She/Israel is guarded from Satan for 3.5 years (symbolic of Satanic rule). Satan makes war “with the rest of her offspring” (v.17), which is the church, who is even called “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus [not Moses].” There is a distinction between the woman and her offspring, which makes sense if they are taken as Jews and Gentiles. This cannot be entirely ethnic Jews. Both the woman and her offspring, who are scattered, who is distinct from the male child, are protected.
The presence of the dragon in heaven is a difficulty, but it is not unprecedented. The Accuser is in God’s heavenly court in the book of Job. What this looks like in reality, Satan will be barred from accusing God’s people of their sins any longer. The dragon’s presence on the earth sets up what comes later. But now, Satan is pursuing the woman again. By seeing the woman with wings, John is simply shown that the woman will be guarded miraculously by God. The woman is guarded, so the dragon now prepares to call for the beast who will come from the sea.
Again, beasts are common images for anti-Christian powers. Both the dragon and the first bast have ten horns and seven heads. We seem to be finally reading of the fourth, most wicked beast of Daniel 7. The blasphemous names represent idolatry, or demanding worship for himself that is only due to God alone (Daniel 7:25, Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:4). The beast has a head which truly had received a deathblow and yet had come back to life. There is no explanation given, but this beast’s “resurrection” of sorts draw a lot of attention and wonder. It is astounding that the nations will be astounded at the resurrection of the beast and not Christ. This goes to show the human heart is devoid of any ability to love God apart from God loving us first.
The beast is given the ability to rule for 42 months, or 3.5 years. During that time, he fiercely persecutes God’s people. He is not successful in converting the elect to himself, but he is successful in his persecution. The rest of the world will turn to the beast in worship. This is an advance warning of what will come; we must endure during that time, whether death or exile. But, because we have been marked out by God, we will stand.
The first beast came out of the sea, and the second beast comes out of the earth. His goal is to draw worship to the first beast. But this second beast is meant to be seen as an antichrist as well. It has horns like a lamb but the voice of a dragon. It has the appearance of the Christian religion with the content of devil-worship. This second beast apparently truly has the ability to make the statue of the first beast speak, which is itself a parody of the creative work of God. In the same way God marked his own people, this beast parodies that and gives his people his own mark. Between the two beasts, we see satanic control of worldly and religious authority.
Perhaps no other word or phrase in Scripture has been the subject of as much conspiratorial consideration as Revelation 13:18 and the number 666. I’m going to lay my cards out now: I think this is a situation where we will know the meaning when the time comes.
Ancient languages often did not have a separate numerical system, so they would use their alphabet to form numbers. Roman numerals is the prime example, but Hebrew did the same thing. This is called “gematria”. Every possible solution has been offered to understand 666. The most popular is that the number refers to Nero. However, that is only possible if you translate Nero from Greek into Hebrew and add his title of Kaisar, also translated into Hebrew, and if you use a variation of the spelling of Kaisar. Keep in mind that John is writing in Greek. This was not even considered an option until the middle ages. The first intelligent suggestion was given by Irenaeus, a prominent pastor writing in the late 100s, and he said the number came out to the Latin Empire. If the number is used like Babylon standing in for Rome, then the Latin Empire may be nothing more than a stand-in for a world power.
After the beast has persecuted the church and garnered worship from the rest of the world, John sees the elect, with the mark of God on their foreheads, and the Lamb on Mt. Zion, or Jerusalem. In the midst of horrendous persecution, God’s people are kept safe by the Lamb.
God’s patience is about to run out, but it has not yet. The angel flying above preaches the gospel yet again. John does not say “the” gospel, but we should probably not make too much of that. Paul does that from time to time. “Give him glory” is all about repentance, not just judgment. The world powers, represented by Babylon, are fallen. Those who followed the beast have been condemned. It is time for the great last-days harvest. The only way to understand the one “seated on the cloud…like a son of man” is Jesus Christ. An angel confirms to Christ that the harvest is ready; the number of the elect is full. He puts out his sickle, gathers not the church but the reprobate, and places them in God’s winepress. They will be smashed outside the city, and their blood will flow, fill the city as high as a horse’s back.
We have come to the end of the vision between trumpets six and seven, chapters 11-14.
This brief chapter serves a kind-of epilogue to the vision of chapters 11-14. The elect who did not obey the beast are praising God with Scripture! They are standing on the same sea of glass from chapter 4. The song of Moses is known as the song the people sung as they were saved in the exodus. We do not know what the song of the Lamb is unless verses 3-4 are in the fact that song. Either way, what we see is Old Testament saints and New Testament saints worshiping together.
The final plagues will come out of the seven bowls. Having the sanctuary filled with smoke is an image of the presence of God. In Exodus 40, Moses could not enter the tent because a cloud covered it and the glory of God filled it. The priests could not enter the temple for the same reason in 1 Kings 8. Ezekiel falls on his face and cannot enter the temple because the temple was filled with smoke in the temple of Ezekiel 44. Now, the heavenly sanctuary is covered in a cloud and the glory of God fills it.
The seven bowls are similar to the seven trumpets but are much more intense in nature. You’ll also see similarities between these plagues and the ten plagues of Egypt, or the city that oppressed the Hebrews. These plagues end with Babylon, the city that will oppress the elect, being destroyed. Also, perhaps the biggest difference is that these plagues are clearly stated to be targeted at those who bear the mark of the beast.
One of the ongoing conspiratorial effects of Revelation is that people think the drying up of the Euphrates river is a sign of the last days. If that were the case, then we’d had already gone through seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, and five bowls. The Euphrates river was one of the original boundaries of the promised land. When the river dried up, as it often did, it was easier for enemies to attempt invasion. Isaiah uses the same imagery in Isaiah 11. That’s the symbolism here. The kings of the east, the wicked kings, are gathering together in the name of the unholy trinity (the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet) to attack God’s people. Armageddon is not the name of a battle but the name of the place where the battle happens. “Har Megiddo” is where Barak and Deborah defeated Jabin and where Jehu defeated Ahaziah.
God sends an earthquake the likes of which the earth has never known. Babylon is devastated and broken into three parts. Entire nations collapse. Hailstones kill untold numbers of people, who curse God instead of repent. This is how given over to our own wickedness people are. God must do the work of regeneration if there is any hope of salvation.
God does not forget justice. He remembers Babylon, meaning he will not let all the evil done in the world go unpunished. This is the moment God’s people have been waiting for. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see evil destroyed.
Leave a Reply.