Friday, June 13, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The Return of the King

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: 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. The seven persons revealed the main players in the drama and the place that Satan has in motivating the kings of the earth against the saints. 
  4. The seven bowls describe the wrath of God poured on the earth and mankind.
  5. We are given details about Babylon and her judgment.

There follows the return of the King to the earth to reign. It, too, has seven sections:

  1. The King and His army are appear.
  2. Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16)
  3. There is a call from heaven for the birds to come and feast on the flesh of kings.
  4. Then I saw one angel standing in the sun, and he shouted in a loud voice to all the birds flying high in the sky: “Come, gather around for the great banquet of God, to eat your fill of the flesh of kings, the flesh of generals, the flesh of powerful people, the flesh of horses and those who ride them, and the flesh of all people, both free and slave, and small and great!” (Revelation 19:17-18)
  5. The beast and the kings of the earth are assembled for battle and defeated.
  6. Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to do battle with the one who rode the horse and with his army. Now the beast was seized, and along with him the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf—signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Both of them were thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur. The others were killed by the sword that extended from the mouth of the one who rode the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh. (Revelation 19:19-21)
  7. Satan is bound.
  8. Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a huge chain. He seized the dragon—the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan—and tied him up for a thousand years. The angel then threw him into the abyss and locked and sealed it so that he could not deceive the nations until the one thousand years were finished. (After these things he must be released for a brief period of time.) (Revelation 20:1-3)
  9. The King reigns.
  10. Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)
  11. Satan is released and defeated.
  12. Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)
  13. Final judgment comes and this age ends
  14. Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

As Babylon is shown ugly and in defeat, here is the returning King in glory. As the faithful were called to the wedding feast of the Lamb, here birds are called for the feast of kings. The return of our King was also described by Zechariah:

A day of the Lord is about to come when your possessions will be divided as plunder in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to wage war; the city will be taken, its houses plundered, and the women raped. Then half of the city will go into exile, but the remainder of the people will not be taken away. 

Then the Lord will go to battle and fight against those nations, just as he fought battles in ancient days. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward. Then you will escape through my mountain valley, for the mountains will extend to Azal. Indeed, you will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. 

Then the Lord my God will come with all his holy ones with him. On that day there will be no light—the sources of light in the heavens will congeal. It will happen in one day (a day known to the Lord); not in the day or the night, but in the evening there will be light. Moreover, on that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it will happen both in summer and in winter. The Lord will then be king over all the earth. 

In that day the Lord will be seen as one with a single name. All the land will change and become like the Arabah from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will be raised up and will stay in its own place from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate and on to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses. And people will settle there, and there will no longer be the threat of divine extermination—Jerusalem will dwell in security. 

But this will be the nature of the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that have fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will decay while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot away in their sockets, and their tongues will dissolve in their mouths. On that day there will be great confusion from the Lord among them; they will seize each other and attack one another violently. Moreover, Judah will fight at Jerusalem, and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered up—gold, silver, and clothing in great abundance. This is the kind of plague that will devastate horses, mules, camels, donkeys, and all the other animals in those camps. 

Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the sovereign Lord, and to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. But if any of the nations anywhere on earth refuse to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the sovereign Lord, they will get no rain. If the Egyptians will not do so, they will get no rain—instead there will be the kind of plague which the Lord inflicts on any nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and of all nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 

On that day the bells of the horses will bear the inscription “Holy to the Lord.” The cookings pots in the Lord’s temple will be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar. Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will become holy in the sight of the sovereign Lord, so that all who offer sacrifices may come and use some of them to boil their sacrifices in them. There will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the sovereign Lord on that day. (Zechariah 14:1-21)

Is there a physical return of Jesus to reign as King? That is a question that has been asked and answered through the centuries is a variety of ways. Some would see the spread of the gospel through the earth and the establishment of God's reign in the hearts of men as fulfillment of these prophecies. As I read this passage in Revelation and Zechariah, I find that I do not have enough imagination to treat the words of battle, carnage, plagues, and feasting birds as symbolic of the gospel's spread. I read and I say, "It is yet to happen." And then I look at events in my lifetime:

  • In 1948, Israel became a sovereign nation again for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar destroyed her in 586 BC. To be sure, there have been times when Israel has occupied the territory, but never with a recognition of national sovereignty. Israel became a nation by a vote from the United Nations, which brings to mind this prophecy in Isaiah, "Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen this? Can a country be brought forth in one day? Can a nation be born in a single moment? Yet as soon as Zion goes into labor she gives birth to sons! (Isaiah 66:8)"
  • In 1967, Israel acquired control of a portion of Jerusalem. In this same year, you could have searched the world over and not have found a Jewish synagogue that proclaimed Yeshua as Messiah (Yeshua is Jesus' Hebrew name). However, within a decade and partly as a byproduct of the Jesus Movement, Messianic Jewish synagogues began to appear and more and more Jews came to faith in Yeshua for their salvation. I link these two events because of these verses in Luke coupled with some verses in Romans:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that her desolation has come near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those who are inside the city must depart. Those who are out in the country must not enter it, because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-24)

For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. 11:27 And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:25-29)

Is it a coincidence that the Jews regain some control of Jerusalem out of Gentile hands and soon afterwards Jews begin returning to the gospel?

And so I believe that Jesus will return and reign in Jerusalem over Israel and also over the kings of the earth.

Monday: The Throne of Judgment

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

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