Saturday, July 2, 2011

Revelation Chapter Seven, Part 1 of 4

I have opted to conclude our studies in Revelation with chapter seven, but before we press on to the heart of the matter I would like to detour a moment and examine a scripture that captured my attention some while ago and I think is worthy of some consideration. That scripture verse is this: “For then will I [restore (NKJV)] to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent,” Zephaniah 3:9.

The preceding verse of this passage in Zephaniah deals with God’s determination to gather all nations to His judgment, verse 8. I believe this generally means the seven year Tribulation period we are presently studying, and particularly the battle of Armageddon and the judgment of nations described in Matthew 25:31-46. To frame our understanding regarding the verse in question we turn to Daniel, who gives us a little more insight into the time frame toward the end of the Tribulation and the entrance of the thousand years.

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days,” Daniel 12:11-12. According to this timeline there will be 1290 days from the time the Antichrist disrupts Jewish sacrifice and proclaims himself to be God as he sits in the temple of God; the midway point of the Tribulation or the heralding of what Jesus referred to as the Great Tribulation, Matthew 24:15, 21. This equals 43 months of 30 day months, or one month over three and one half years. Yet beyond this there is a further point of 1335 days, or 45 days beyond what is (presumably) the conclusion of the Tribulation period. Why are those who wait until the end of this time blessed? I believe it is due to the fact that this represents the people and nations (still alive after the Tribulation concludes) who will be permitted to enter into the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on this earth; again, see Matthew 25:31-46.

Zephaniah 3:9 informs us that at this time, after the Tribulation and at the commencement of the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ from David’s throne, God will return a pure language to the peoples. He will give back something that had been taken from us for the purpose of being able to worship God and call on Him with one mind and accord. When did man lose this “pure language” the prophet refers to? “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech…Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth,” Genesis 11:7, 9. Some scholars believe that the language of the Millennial earth will be Hebrew. Perhaps it will, but the language of the prophet suggests that God is returning something back to us that mankind has not had since He took it away at the tower of Babel. This language may or may not be Hebrew; I am simply disinclined to believe so.

The world saw a glimpse of this promise fulfilled in the lives of the apostles when the church was founded on the day of Pentecost. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in a language all people present could comprehend, Acts 2:6. Peter, in the first Christian sermon ever spoken, told his audience that Joel the prophet foretold a time when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, Acts 2:17. Since the apostles and disciples of Christ accepted His claims as Messiah and Lord they received, in a minor sense, the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. It was a foretaste of what Israel willfully passed by and the church received, for Israel sought righteousness by the deeds of the Law, Romans 9:30-33. I am convinced that when Israel repents and accepts Jesus Christ as their Messiah their national restoration will result in the complete fulfillment of passages such as Joel’s and Zephaniah’s, Romans 11:15. Without further ado, on to the conclusion of our studies on Revelation.

7:1 after these things
There is a definite sequence of chronological events occurring presently. John records that the events of chapter seven occur “after these things.” What “things” could John be referring to? The judgments of the seals, the riders and the earthquake are portents of something greater coming, and it will come “after these things.”

The Tribulation will be a linear chain of cataclysmic judgments upon this earth and will ultimately and finally separate the chaff from the wheat, or the tares from the wheat as it were. Chapter seven chronicles events that occur between the breaking of the sixth seal, which triggered an earthquake, and the seventh seal, which announces the preparation of the seven angels who bear the trumpet judgments.

7:1 I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth
There is a specious argument that has been around for a long time that attempts to discredit the Bible as being outdated due to language such as this passage. The argument goes along the lines of “The people who wrote the Bible thought the earth was flat, and this type of language simply proves it.” What proponents of such arguments fail to acknowledge is that this type of language is still used today. It means, the farthest reaches or remotest parts of the earth, which is clearly what was being stated in our present passage. We still talk about the sun rising and setting in our times, though we know very well that the earth revolves around the sun and this creates our day/night transition. We’re merely speaking from an earthly perspective, and people everywhere understand what we mean when it is said. John testified that “he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth,” John 3:31. Simply put: we coin things in relatable terms to our existence and experiences here on earth.

Second, the proponents of this argument seem to conveniently ignore, or perhaps they do not know, the fact that the Bible describes the earth as a globe. Job writes that God hangs the earth upon nothing, Job 26:7. This blunt description of the earth’s position in space, from human perspective, could certainly be described as hanging the earth on nothing. Isaiah wrote that it is God who “sits above the circle of the earth,” Isaiah 40:22. God does not dwell on our earth, but views it from above. The prophet, being divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, describes the earth as spherical. Solomon when writing Proverbs does the same, Proverbs 8:27. These verses taken as testimony reveals a knowledge about the position and dimensions of the earth that mankind would not be privy to until many successive generations later. The Roman Catholic Church, had it been willing to allow the Bible to speak for itself, would not have had to threaten Galileo with excommunication for claiming the earth was round when the Bible said it was otherwise. In fact Rome was in error and the Bible backed Galileo’s findings thousands of years prior to his birth.

7:1 I saw four angels … holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
Wind controls atmospheric circulation, which is necessary for continental rain. Thus the actions of these four angels create a worldwide drought to follow on the heels of the world-wide earthquake that already perturbed the earth and moved islands and mountains. It is said later that the two witnesses have power to shut the heavens so that no rain falls on the earth in the days of their prophecy, which will occur during the first three and one half years of the Tribulation, Revelation 11:6-7. This also partly explains the black rider with his scales, and the increased price of perishable goods. The appearance of these angels may be in response to the supplication of the witnesses to shut the heavens so that no rain falls on the entire earth. This was also once done in Elijah’s day for the land of Israel, 1st Kings 17:1. That drought likewise endured three and one half year’s time, 1st Kings 18:1; James 5:17.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.