Since our last look at Revelation, I have side tripped on several things. As I thought about what to say I remembered that one of those topics was my having to deal with depression.
- I don't know about you, but I survived Christmas. Many, like the song, believe that it is the most wondrous time of the year. I admit, I love Christmas lights. There is a little town near me that has lights (white ones) in the trees lining the street all year-long. I love that street, but Christmas is not just lights. There is the prepping we do, all while babysitting the grandchildren – several of which are more than willing to tear apart anything you put up, like a tree with ornaments. Then, there are the family members that have fractured the emotional relationships with most, and this year their mother-in-law pushed her way into the trip. Do you want to know how I dealt with it all? As one of my friends said, “I suit up, show up, and shut up.” I was not aware of this phrase prior, but this is what I was doing.
Hang around the church for any length of time and someone will tell you that you just need to put on the armor of God! I suppose then all your problems will go away, but that does not always happen; in most cases, it never happens. What happens is that you look at things differently, and perhaps if your lucky, deal with them differently, even if this, in its simplicity, is what you do, suit up, show up, and shut up.
[As a side note: I hate having people tell me that I need to put on the armor of God. You might as well tell me that you do not care about me and that I need to go away. That happens enough by your turning your back to me, as you find someone more interesting to talk to. Besides all that, God has placed this armor in our repertoire, but most of us do not even realize it is there. I happen to believe that it is on me all the time; it was placed there the day I placed myself into Christ care. I think it might be easier to visualize this if you can picture yourself being brought into the kingdom as a knight. Knighted, dressed and assigned to function on behalf of the king and the kingdom. Can I take off my armor to at least bathe? Well certainly. Since what we are dealing with here is emotional and internal, are you really taking it off? Having set aside your armor then, do not forget to redress yourself. Hence, suit up, show up, and do the appropriate thing suitable for the situation.]
Well, shutting up is primarily what I did, and I guessed it worked. There is always the possibility that God had been working from the other end of this nightmare and calmed the problem child down. All the craziness fell into the category of not my circus and not my monkeys. Fortunately, I do not have to train them or discipline them. Now, in reality, you spill too much of that crazy on me, and I will be struggling immensely to not react. So when people asked me, how was my Christmas season, I said, good. No one got to me, and I did not get to them.
I imagine some of you reading this started screaming that Christmas is all about remembering Jesus birth, and we do that; we remember that our Messiah was born in a manger, having chosen to come as a man; chosen to set aside what he had with the Father, just so he could ransom, rescue and restore. Jesus is the reason for this hope that Paul preached throughout the New Testament, and, it is one of the reasons that many of us come to Jesus. Having lost our hope, someone showed us that Jesus can bring and restore hope once again, and, therefore, we follow him.
This takes me back to where I wanted to be, the book of Revelation. Isn't that odd, I speak about having hope and restoration in the same breath as the book of Revelation. That is because the book is the revealing of Jesus Christ. If you hold that one concept in your mind as you read it will help keep you centered on one thing: Jesus paid the price for all, but will not tolerate those who intentionally fight against him. This battle we see is for the heavyweight title belt, and we already know who wins.
Having said all that, open your bibles to Revelation chapter 15.
We ended last time at verse four.
Bear with me as I recap.
Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels, with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire--and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:1-4 ESV)
It has just gone from ugly to bad, to worse, but what is this?
“ And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire--and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass..”
This sea of glass mingled with fire is before the throne, and what a sight it must have been.
But these are not angels standing here, these are the multitudes “who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name”. The time of wrath still continues, and Christ, as the Messiah, has yet to come; however, here, they are represented as conquerors.
How did they come to be conquerors?
- By accepting that, the Messiah/Jesus Christ is their life.
- By refusing to: worship the beast; it's image, and not taking on themselves whatever mark it is that represents its name.
While some may fight and be moderately successful, we are told that those who fight with the sword will die by the sword. Do you see that described in Revelation 15: 1-4? Not at all. Putting this scenario in context, you become aware that the first image of these before the throne, given by John, has them calling out, “how long until you avenge our blood?” The implications are clear, they died as martyrs.
Do people, in general, go to a violent death willingly? No! Does everyone that is martyred profess a relationship with Jesus Christ? No, many are merely non-compliant with the beliefs of their assailant. What is the primary religion that is killing others because they are “non-believers”? Islam. I am aware that other belief systems have died in conflicts over religion.
Seeing some of the horrific pictures that come out of the Middle East, carrying descriptions of people that have been slaughtered because their faith was in something other than Islam; you get the impression that some of them had no chance to make a blatant refusal of Allah.
Others, after some thought, decided that this Jesus is for real and that what those crazy Christians were saying was true. But some apparently, do not put all that much thought into this decision, to refuse one god over another. Overrun by radical Islamists', some have, in those moments before their death, merely chosen not to worship Allah, nor pay the Jizyah tax, and in their death it seems that God deems many of them to have chosen Him (If I err, I chose to err on the side of mercy).
Logically think about that process of choosing whom you will serve for a moment. If you refuse to serve some god, in this case, Allah, are you not accepting some other? Yes, I get it, there are other possibilities in this scenario, and we see the result of this in the Great White throne judgment.
Matthew's gospel is where we find the “great white throne” and the sheep and goat judgment. (Although it is not called that here.)
Who is handing out the judgment here, as some are deemed goats and sent off to eternal separation and punishment? You want to say, God. Everyone does; it is almost instinctive, but this is Jesus doing the judging. This is the same throne we see in Revelation 20. I told you to keep in mind that the Revelation is the revealing of Jesus. Therefore, this is Jesus we see in Revelation 20, just as it is Jesus in Matthew 25; the difference is that in Revelation we see Jesus as the vengeful God, and in Matthew we see him as a gentle shepherd. Those brought before him in Matthew's account are the dead from among the nations.
This is where you need to sort things out.
This is especially hard for Christians as most of us were trained to be harshly judgmental. So here is a quick overview to help you understand who these are before the throne.
- The rapture has come and gone. The dead in Christ have risen, as have those who remained.
- The end of grace, therefore, salvation primarily comes by the showing of total commitment and more than likely death.
- Seven years of God's wrath, and man's. Where multitudes have continued to die. The tribulations of this time period will get to be so bad that God has to intervene, and He will.
- Jesus comes once again, and those who choose to fight against him will die. Thus begins a thousand years of peace. Why is there peace? Because the martyred rule and reign with Jesus during this time. Do you think they tolerate nonsense? I doubt it.
- At the end of the thousand years comes the great white throne judgment I have been speaking of.
These dead from among the nations are those that did not go up in the rapture, and quite probably those that have died since the beginning of time. Since the martyred seem to be gathered to the Lord as they are killed we can exclude them. Out of this group of dead he calls some sheep and invites them into the kingdom. When asked he explains that it was because of their acts of kindness. Did you get that?
We could not seem to find the time or the words with which to worship God, but clearly the day will come. How could I not worship the one who rescued me, and showed me, such love?
After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. (Revelation 15:5-8 ESV)
Angels “clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests” come striding out. Most of us have never seen an angel, but Daniel did, and he fell on his face as though dead. Balaam's ass saw one and turned to avoid the sword in his hand. Jacob fought with the angel of the Lord and walked away a cripple because of it.
Illustration 1: While I can only conjecture, I suspect that the angels are more warlike than we like to imagine.
“ and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests”. I wanted so badly to say this sounds like Jesus, but I did a word search in Revelation and could not find him described like this. However, I did find this description of Jesus, and it is much more war-like.
His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. (Revelation 19:12-13 ESV)
Other examples of angels and their appearance are similar.
- The two Mary's, arriving at the tomb, see two “men”, dressed in dazzling white apparel. Luke 24:1-10
- Cornelius, the Roman Centurion had an angel appear to him. That angel was dressed in shining clothing. Acts 10:29-31
I do not know if it is worth trying to make something out of the word seven; it feels like the concept of seven has been beaten to death. We should understand that it indicates completeness, but is this the end of the wrath? No. Nor is it the beginning. The context of what is happening here is just one aspect of the wrath. It is not consummated with the actions of these angels, they are just messengers, but each scene must be completed.
Revelation 15:7 NET. Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God who lives forever and ever,
One of the problems we have has been our lack of understanding of God's character and nature. We read a sentence like this and all we seem to see is God, filled with an eternal wrath. I know this happens because I sit with guys one day a week reading then discussing the book of the month. [Currently, the John Eldredge book, Beautiful Outlaw. I suggest you read it if you have not.] Several, must have learning disabilities as I have. They read common words but twist them to the manner that their brain perceived them. Having the book in front of me I can see instantly what they did. Most of the time they too noticed their error, and attempted to correct it, and then said the same thing a second time. It is almost as if the mind, having seen a particular accepted pattern, refuses to see anything different from what it wants to see.
“ seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God who lives forever and ever,”
While there is no doubt God gets angry, his anger seems to be directed at those who abuse. It is so easy to carry on with descriptives that show God angry, I suppose the ideal thing at this point is to merely point out a couple of things that demonstrate the opposite.
- A classic is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that ...” When you consider that he gave his son to die, for the redemption of the world, at a time when the world hated him; they still do. The point here is that God loves the world; the opposite of hatred and wrath.
- When Saul, soon to be referred to as Paul, was confronted by God/Jesus, he was not verbally abused, but asked, why are you persecuting me? Of all the things an angry God could ask or say. Apparently God is not angry with us as we think.
- Is God capable of being angry? No doubt. Then whom is he angry with? Israel, for its rejection of him as Messiah; in general, that has been an ongoing process. The other group receiving God's wrath is the nations. Who are the nations? The other name they go by is the gentiles. This includes everyone outside of a relationship with the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These are generally considered those willing to fight against God. Having this in your mind is key in our understanding of his character.[As a side note: Wasn't Saul, while lying on his back due to the bright flash of light from God, confronted by God, saying, why are you persecuting me? Saul was fighting against God. Does that make Saul among the nations? No, but Israel had some real problems with their desire to follow the nations and, therefore, acted like them. Therefore, the end result will be comparable lacking a repentance from the offender.]
“ and the temple was filled with smoke from God's glory and from his power.”
Revelation 15:8 NET. and the temple was filled with smoke from God's glory and from his power. Thus no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues from the seven angels were completed.
This seems like a good stopping place, as you focus on an aspect of God's character and nature we seem to forget. The idea of his glory eludes me. Vine's Dictionary of New Testament words gives this as a part of their explanation: “acts of God in self-manifestation”. Since no man has ever seen God and lived, then what else do we have that explains him? Jesus told the listeners, if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father, but didn't that sort of apply to his character and nature? God is a spirit, but that is so difficult to comprehend; that it, unless that spirit is evil and trying to kill you, like Satan's henchmen – these are fallen angels or what we like to call demons. So what John sees is the remnant of his presence, a fog or cloud that fills the temple. The temple is the original and a pattern for the things we have seen on earth. You find this in Hebrews 8:5.
There is no doubt that God is powerful. You are standing on the earth he created with a spoken word. All that we see and know calculated, balanced, and intricately designed long before they were spoken. And isn't it odd that it takes mankind with their electron microscopes years to find these evidence of his perfect design.
God has the power to create and to destroy. This reminds me of the saying some use on their rebellious children; I brought you into this world, and I can take you out! Since you are trying to understand the character of God, how do you interpret the mass annihilation of man from the earth in a flood? There was more going on in the background than most want to understand. But since you know that God spared one family, then you know that concealed in that destruction was mercy and love.
The Jews understood that Noah appealed to all that would listen, that they could join him in salvation. How many chose to listen? None.
and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2Peter 2:5 NASB)
God also made a promise to the man – Noah and signified it with a rainbow. So we know that, never again would God do a mass destruction of man from the earth. [Genesis 9: 15-17.]
So why does God not destroy all of us? Thanks to this sin nature thing embedded within us, it would seem we should be unlovable and hopeless, and that might be true if not for one thing. Jesus, the Son, gave himself as the final sacrifice; a payment in full that redeems us all from the penalty of that propensity to fight against God. It would be easy to say, he made us lovable again, but that is not the case, he loved us, and that is why he allowed his son to be the payment through a horrific death.
He loves us. He made the world for his creation, and the creation gave it away in exchange for what? So he himself, could be a god? That was Satan's problem; amazing was simply not good enough, and humanity has been tossed about in the middle of the struggle ever since. How do you change any of this? By changing addresses; it is really that simple. In accepting that Christ paid this price for you and by believing that his promise is true – that there is a hope of life with the Father, you instantly change addresses. You are now in Christ and have a permanent home there.
Unfortunately, this all happens internally and spiritually, and much like a recovery group, you are going to need support. This is one of the reasons people want to drive you – like cattle sometimes, to church because that is where people of strength often gather. But the church can have drawbacks and sideshows. I think that many of us merely tolerate the sideshow aspect. Personally, I need real people around me; people that care about me, someone willing to sit and listen when I am in pain. If you were to be honest, your heart cries out for that as well.
The relationship with Christ is easy; finding someone you can trust and share your life with, might be a little more difficult. It is going to require your trust and you will be taking a risk. Find a Celebrate Recovery group because they will accept anyone there, then observe people. You will find someone there that you mesh with; then ask them to be an accountability partner as you walk through life.
One last thing: Learn to trust the voice inside of you; that is the Holy Spirit of God, and it is his job to lead and guide you through life.