Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The Seven Persons

For those who would like to start at the very beginning of this series on the book of Revelation, click here.

If you have not followed this series from the beginning, I recommend that you visit this post about the structure of Revelation. The thesis of that post is that the structure of the book of Revelation, after the vision of the throne, consists of seven profiles of the future. Each profile tells the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, but each has its own time line and purpose.

Recap: The seven seals told the story of the coming Kingdom of God from a natural point of view. It involved war, violence, famine, and martyrdom. Such things happen in the natural realm, although the intensity during the very end of this age might be markedly increased. The trumpets told the story from a more supernatural view. The events that follow each blast of a trumpet were unlike anything that the world has seen. If the seven seals were about the end coming from the natural consequences of human activity and sin, then the trumpets were about the Lord applying pressure on mankind by providing a foretaste of the wrath that is coming.

The next profile in Revelation is told through seven persons. These are the primary players in the drama. You might say that these are the ones from whom the events of the seven seals and the seven trumpets flow. Their tale is told in Revelation chapters 12 through 14. 

  1. The Woman: Clothed with the sun, having the moon at her feet, and twelve stars for a crown. She represents the nation of Israel. We can know this form two bits of evidence. The first is that she gives birth to one who is clearly Messiah. Second her description has several connections with Joseph's dream:
  2. Then he had another dream, and told it to his brothers. “Look,” he said. “I had another dream. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father and his brothers, his father rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream that you had? Will I, your mother, and your brothers really come and bow down to you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept what Joseph said in mind. (Genesis 37:9-11, The Net Bible)

  3. A Red Dragon: Having seven heads and ten horns. The dragon is waiting for the woman to give birth so that he can devour the child. Revelation, itself, identifies this dragon as Satan (Revelation 20:2). The destruction of the Messiah was a critical to Satan's strategy, but he failed because of the resurrection.
  4. The Child: He has the essential Messianic credentials. He is the one who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. the quote comes from Psalm 2, which is a famous and important messianic prophecy.
  5. Michael is the next person. According to Daniel 12:1, this angel is the guardian angel of Israel. He does battle against the Dragon and casts him out of heaven. At this point, a very important song is sung in heaven:
  6. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the ruling authority of his Christ, have now come, because the accuser of our brothers, the one who accuses them day and night before our God, has been thrown down. But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore you heavens rejoice, and all who reside in them! But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to you! He is filled with terrible anger, for he knows that he only has a little time!” (Revelation 12:10-12)

    At this point, the dragon pursues the woman. Here is the mark of the centuries of anti-Semitism that has hounded the Jews. However, since he is not successful against the nation, his strategy turns towards a general persecution of all who hold the testimony of Jesus.

  7. The dragon calls forth a beast from the sea. This is none other than the fourth beast in Daniel's dream recorded on Daniel 7. Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 share the motif of the sea and the use of beasts to represent empires and kingdoms. Daniel just barely describes the physical appearance of his fourth beast, but John gives us a pretty good description. What is interesting is that this beast has elements of the three earlier beasts in Daniel's dream. As Babylon was represented by a lion, so this beast has the mouth of a lion. As the Medean/Persion empire was a bear, this beast has the feet of a bear. The empire of Greece was the leopard, and this beast was like a leopard. Forget the revived Roman empire, the beast that John sees contains the worst of all the past empires rolled into one. It is interesting, in light of this image, to look back at Jesus' wilderness temptation at the point where Satan shows and offers to him all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus refused the offer. There is one who is coming who will accept, and this monster will come forth.
  8. There then comes forth the beast from the earth. This might be an allusion to Israel, just like the sea is likely an allusion to the Gentiles. This beast looks like a lamb and talks like a dragon. He will seem to some to be the Messiah, but those who know Jesus' voice will recognize that he is not the true Messiah. It is this beast who arranges for everyone to have the mark of the beast on his or her forehead. Without this mark, there is no buying or selling. Herein is told that the mark is the number of the name of the beast: 666. It really does not matter whether this speaks of a literal marking or a spiritual mark. The dominance of the number 7 in Revelation, combined with the beast from the earth--who looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon--provides the clue needed to discern that the number 6 (one less than seven) is the number of a counterfeit. Indeed the next chapter places the mark of the beast in the context of salvation and survival.
  9. The Interlude: Just as the seals and the trumpets had an interlude between their sixth and seventh manifestations, so do these seven persons. The interludes before have always shown the victory of the believers in the context of the seals and the context of the trumpets. The beast from the earth makes so that anyone who wants to buy or sell must have the mark of the first beast. Here is shown the Lamb on Mount Zion with 144,000 men who have His Name and the Name of His Father on their foreheads. This is in contrast to the rest of mankind who have received the mark of the beast. Three angels proclaim the coming kingdom in three parts: 1. The gospel is proclaimed through all the earth; 2. Babylon--newly introduced here--is proclaimed to have fallen; 3. Anyone receiving the mark of the beast is signing up for eternal condemnation. The interlude is about whose mark you receive. The Father, I surmise, and the Spirit give encouragement to those whose choice will mean martyrdom. They are blessed and they will find rest. Those who choose the mark of the beast will never find rest (See Isaiah 48:22, 57:20, and 66:24).

  10. The Son of Man: He is on a cloud and he reaps the earth. After him comes another angel who reaps the earth of grapes to be pressed in the winepress of the wrath of God. There are two harvests here. Since the second harvest is about wrath, I conclude that the first harvest is about the righteous. The entire build up of these seven persons has been receiving a mark. The Son of Man, who is Jesus, who is the Lamb harvests the earth of those marked with his Name. The rest are harvested to His wrath. You should read this section (14:14-20) along with Daniel 7 and Matthew 24:24-30).

Speaking of Matthew 24:24-30, here it is:

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time. So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him. For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:24-31)

The connections between this passage and the seals, trumpets, and persons is striking. I will have more to say about this later in the series.

As with the seals and the trumpets, this profile told through these persons ends with wrath and salvation.

This profile, told through seven persons, has a theatrical face. Here are the main shakers and movers in the drama of human history. God and the dragon bring forth their people with profound effects on mankind. Indeed all men and women will have to choose to whom they belong. I read this section and I think Jesus' parable about the wheat and the tares:

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “ The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field . “But while his men were sleeping , his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat , and went away . “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain , then the tares became evident also . “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘ Sir , did you not sow good seed in your field ? How then does it have tares ?’ “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this !’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then , to go and gather them up?’ “But he said , ‘ No ; for while you are gathering up the tares , you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest ; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers , “ First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn .” ’ ” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Wednesday: The Bowls of Wrath

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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