The seven heads of the beast

There is so much interest in the church lately about the apocalyptic books and the return of Jesus Christ, possibly being right around the corner. I was recently sent a question about the beast with the seven heads, spoken of in Rev 13, whether it represents Rome on seven hills, as some say it is, or Jerusalem on seven hills, as others say it is:

"Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority." Rev 13:1-2

My opinion is that it is neither.

Daniel saw four beasts in his vision (Dan 7:1-7), and they had seven heads between them. The four beasts were:

1) a winged lion with one head, representing Babylon.
2) a bear with one head, representing Media – Persia.
3) a leopard with four heads, representing Greece.
4) a terrible beast with one head, representing Rome.

Daniel was seeing a vision of the kingdoms of this world, which are always opposed to the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah. Babylon is the head of gold, i.e. Babel (rebellion, man’s will and way exalted over YHVH’s will and way) is the first kingdom of this world, and the pattern all the kingdoms of this world follow. Daniel was looking forward into history.

We are still living under the beast of Rome. One of the books I read with my kids when we were still homeschooling, was Ancient Rome: How it Affects You Today by Richard Maybury. It was not written by a believer nor had he Bible prophecy in mind. He just took all the threads of the society, culture, worldview, and political system of Rome, and showed how they have endured through the centuries, and are so well entrenched in modern society, in American society, in what we consider 1st world societies all across the globe, that we have no idea that we are even living by the dictates of Ancient Rome. Very enlightening little book. There is a reason, I believe, YHVH commanded fathers to teach history to their children.

So fast forward to John. He saw a vision of a single beast with seven heads. The beast has the attributes of a lion, a bear, and a leopard, as well as of the terrible beast. John is seeing the same thing that Daniel did, only since John was looking back, more or less, on history, while Daniel was looking forward, John saw the beast as a single entity while Daniel saw it as four entities. By that I understand that the four beasts of Daniel are the kingdoms of this world, and the one beast of Revelation is also the kingdoms of this world — they are one and the same.

I see Revelation as a picture of unfolding history from the Messiah’s first coming to His second (therefore most of it including the mark, 144,000, etc. has already been fulfilled). Just as Daniel’s vision vwas a picture of unfolding history from his time to Messiah’s first coming. The two visions are of a piece.

This is all my opinion and I could be wrong. But let’s allow that the Lord still has things to reveal to us, that perhaps not all of prophetic Scripture has been opened yet. So let us not get "set" in our interpretation or understanding, we might miss something important if we do. 🙂

What does all this mean for our daily lives today? "Come out, come out from among her, My people, lest you partake of her sins, and take part in her plagues." Heed the call!

Revelation 16: the seven bowls of wrath, part three

Previously: Revelation 16: the seven bowls of wrath, part two
The first post in the Revelation series

Last time we looked at the traditional historicist understanding of the seven bowls of wrath. If they are correct, we are in the middle of the sixth bowl, waiting for the seventh which will culminate in the downfall of the kingdoms of this world, and the beginning of the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah. They might be correct.

However, here are my questions with the traditional historicist understanding: First, the identity of the two witnesses. I believe the rest of Scripture makes it clear that they are the two houses of Ephraim and Judah, who correspond to Gentiles who believe in Jesus the Messiah (otherwise known as Christians), and Jews. If that is correct, then the historicists were mistaken in saying that the death and resurrection of the two witnesses took place during the French Revolution. The prophecy doesn’t fit.

Second, the testimony of the two witnesses seems to take place right up until the very end. Their resurrection might very well correspond with the resurrection of all the saints at the last trumpet. The last trumpet may even correspond with the seventh trumpet, for the seventh trumpet was blown following their resurrection. As soon as the seventh trumpet was blown, the voice from heaven says, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!" It just doesn’t seem like that happened at the end of the French Revolution.

Third, it seems to me that Revelation 14 sets events in this order: the increasing triumph of the true Lamb over the false lamb who speaks the words of the Devil; then the great harvest of the souls of men, then the harvest of the grapes of wrath. It is the vintage from that harvest that is present in the seven bowls of wrath. It may very well be the returned Lamb who Himself executes the wrath of God on His enemies as described in Revelation 16, for He is said to be the One who treads out the wrath of God. In other words, the events of Revelation 16 might take place following the return of the Lamb. 1 Corinthians 15 says of Messiah Yeshua that He must reign UNTIL He has placed His enemies under His feet. Might He subdue opposition "with a rod of iron" throughout His millenniel reign? We don’t know for sure.

We are speculating – the thing with prophecy, is that it is not a crystal ball in the sense that any one of us can know the exact details of what will happen. The purpose of prophecy is to glorify God – after the thing has come to pass, mankind can look back and see that God had said it would happen just that way thousands of years before it happened. Prophecy most exactly reveals itself through hindsight, not foresight.

So those are my little quibbles and nagging uncertainties about the strict historicist interpretation.

To be continued …

Revelation 16: the seven bowls of wrath, part two

Previously: Revelation 15: the seven bowls of wrath
First post in the Revelation series

n this chapter, the final seven bowls of the wrath of God are poured out on the beast and the kingdoms of this world, to bring about its fall. The wrath in the bowls, remember, comes from the harvest of the grapes of wrath which were harvested in chapter 14:

Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs. Revelation 14:17-20

Now the historicists see the completion of the trumpet judgments at the French Revolution, and the seven bowls of wrath, then, correspond to events from the French Revolution to the present. In their scheme, the plagues are as follows:

1. Dreadful sores – atheism and rejection of Roman Catholicism, which rose from the French Revolution and grew until it affected all the earth.

2. Death of naval supremacy of the beast — France, Spain, and other Roman countries at the hands of the Protestant British.

3. Battles fought in Europe during the Napoleonic wars which bloodied the same rivers struck by the 3rd trumpet judgment in Rev

4. Napoleon as the sun scorches the men of the earth with his great heat.

5. Plague on the throne of the beast, or the Vatican, which causes darkness and pain: during the wars for nationalism which followed the destruction of the Napoleonic empire, the temporal power of the papacy was removed when the Papal States were absorbed into the new nation of Italy (1848).

6. Euphrates drying up symbolizes the gradual drying up of the Turkish empire, which was released as a plague upon the earth in the 6th trumpet judgment.

The purpose of this loss of power was to prepare the way of the kings of the east: that is, kings east of the Euphrates (Iran? India? Afghanistan? China?) so that they can come to the battle of Armegeddon against God. Notice the sixth plague is not the actual battle, but it prepares the way for the battle, by removing the power of the Turks. The Turkish empire was fully defeated at the end of World War I in 1917.

The sixth judgment in any series of judgments is an interval period, in which spiritual events more than historical events unfold. The spiritual event of the sixth judgment is the letting loose of the three frog demons which go out to decieve the nations, so that they can be drawn to the battle of Armegeddon. The three frogs come from the dragon, which I believe is the spirit of atheism / naturalism / evolution; from the beast which looks like a lamb but which speaks the words of the dragon, which I believe is the spirit of false religion / paganism / new age pseudo spirituality and the like; and from him whom the Scriptures call the false prophet, but whom history calls the prophet, which I believe is the spirit of a resurgent virulent Islam. In fact, the battle of Armegeddon may very well be a spiritual battle which has been taking place since the mid 1800s, a battle which on one side is God and His truth, and on the other side are the enemies of God characterized by atheism, false religion, and Islam.

If the historicist interpretation is the correct one, we are in the midst of the 6th plague at the moment, and the releasing of the 7th bowl is coming quickly.

7. The plague in the air which culminates in the final fall of the enemies of God and the kingdoms of this world. There is a great earthquake, which one would expect if power was finally transferred to the triumphant Messiah after man has held sway for 6000 years. The great city was divided into three parts – Jerusalem? The cities of the nations fell, Babylon or the Babylonian worldview received wrath from the Lord, and every island and mountain fled away, or every nation and political boundary fled away, either because a one world central government arises, or the Lord Jesus begins reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords. We will not know what the plague of hail is until it happens.

However, I have some quibbles with the traditional historicist understanding of the final seven plagues …

To be continued …

Revelation 15: the seven bowls of wrath

Previously: Revelation 14: the two harvests
The first post in the Revelation series

By Revelation 15, we begin to pick up the history where it was left off at the end of Revelation 11. The intervening chapters – 12 through 14 – had a purpose – to identify upon whom the seven bowls of wrath would be poured out. So the history of the dragon was told, and his war against Israel and the saints, and his beasts (which we saw were kingdoms of this world) and their horns (which were their rulers) and the antichrist. And the history of those who worship the beast was told. All these had to be identified, because the next portion of the prophecy concerns them – it is upon them that the wrath of God, contained in the seven bowls of wrath, is to be poured out.

Now we saw previously in Revelation, that the seventh seal was not actually a judgment in and of itself, because when the seventh seal was opened, it produced the seven trumpet judgments. So also, the seventh trumpet judgment is sounded at the end of Revelation 11:

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Revelation 11:15

The result of the seventh trumpet, is that the kingdoms of this world are no more, and they become the kingdoms of YHVH and His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does that happen? The seven bowls of wrath, which was contained within the seventh trumpet, if the pattern already established in Revelation holds, judges the kingdoms of this world and brings about their fall.

The saints who did not bow the knee to the beast or worship him, who did not receive his mark, are pictured in heaven on what sounds like a sea or pavement of transparent diamond, singing the praise of God who is getting ready to pour out His judgment on the world.

I believe this scene actually takes place BEFORE the return of Jesus Christ. These are the souls of those saints who have died, for they are in heaven, and the harvest or resurrection of their bodies has not yet taken place. I say that because, in chapter 14, the sequence of events was: 1) the Lamb appearing on Mt. Zion, 2) the three proclamations, which proclaim the everlasting Gospel and which proclaim the fall of the kingdoms of this world and the punishment of those who reject the everlasting Gospel, 3) the reaping of the earth’s harvest, and 4) the harvest of the grapes of wrath, and the treading out of the winepress the wrath of God.

But then the Great Lamb actually does not make His appearance until Revelation 19:11-16. At that time He returns from heaven on a white horse, and defeats the beast (the kingdoms of this world) and his armies. But in His description, it says of Him, "He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." He is the one, with His return, who treads out the winepress that we read about in Revelation 14.

So I am thinking that chapter 14 is another summary chapter, as the passage at the end of chapter 11 was. Chapter 14 gives us the general outline of how the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, but then chapters 15 through 19 or so give us the details.

Next, the wrath of God begins to be poured out …

To be continued …

Revelation 14: the two harvests

Previously: Revelation 14: the patience of the saints
The first post in the Revelation series

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs. Rev 14:14-20

Quick recap: Revelation chapters 12-13 describe the rise of the kingdoms of this world, under the leadership of the Beast and the antichrist. The kingdoms of this world are typified by the Roman empire which lived on after its head received a mortal wound (the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman church). The kingdoms of this world waged a successful war upon the saints, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

But then the Lamb that was slain appeared on Mount Zion (Revelation 14), and the tide began to turn. First the everlasting Gospel was once again preached, to every tribe, nation, and tongue. That has been going on since the Reformation. Then as a result of the spread of the Gospel, the angel announced the fall of the kingdoms of this world (which is the city of man) and the fate of those who reject the Gospel to remain citizens of the world – eternal torment in the lake of fire. The saints are encouraged to have patience, for the fall of the kingdoms of this world will not take place in one day, or one month, or one year.

That brings us up to verse 14. The next event is the harvest of the earth, which the Son of Man harvests. This harvest is of the souls of the saints. The feast days of the Lord are prophetic in nature, and three of them are harvest festivals. The first, Firstfruits or the barley harvest, prophesies of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as the firstfruit of those who will be reborn with new life for God.

The second, Weeks or Pentecost, the wheat harvest, is I believe the harvest which is going on right now, which has been going on since the day of Pentecost described in Acts chapter 2. This is the harvest of those who are "born again" – another reference to new life and resurrection from the dead. The third and final harvest festival is Tabernacles, the fruit harvest. This harvest takes place at the Lord’s return. My current understanding is that Tabernacles represents the actual resurrection from the dead and rapture of the saints which will occur at the blowing of the Last Trumpet at the Lord’s return. This may well be the harvest referred to here.

If that is the case, let me just say that the rapture will not leave a void on the earth of godliness because of the absence of the saints for seven years. Paul clearly describes the saints going up (raptured) to meet Jesus in the air at the same time as He is coming down. Although Paul stops his explanation there, it is likely that once we have met Him, we will also continue down with Him and His host that has come with Him from heaven (those who have died in Christ and whatever angelic host accompanies Him). We will be added to His host, to serve Him in His defeat of His enemies as He establishes His millennial reign on the earth, beginning in Jerusalem. That is my opinion.

Okay, the next event, after the harvest of souls, is the harvest of the grapes of the wrath of God. The souls who are His are harvested first from the earth, because the wrath of God is not going to be poured out on them. Those with the Lord’s mark on their foreheads, the name of the Father of the Lamb, will not receive the wrath of God, nor will we be under its punishment. The wrath of God is reserved for His enemies, for the kingdoms of this world, for the Beast and the antichrist. For Babylon and those with the mark of the beast.

I believe that what might happen, at the Lord’s return, is Jesus establishing His kingdom beginning in Jerusalem. I believe His reign will be local over Israel at first. His local reign may be very brief indeed. His saints – us – will be dwelling in Israel, and beginning from Israel, He will establish His reign over all the kingdoms of this world. Thus the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. I believe the story of Moses, Pharaoh, Egypt, and Goshen is historic, and prophetic. As the wrath of God was being poured out on Egypt in terrible plagues, the people of God were dwelling in safety with no plague to be found anywhere within their borders. The point is, it is those with the mark of the beast who will experience the wrath of God, not the saints.

The history of the final plagues and of the final war, which will establish the Lord Jesus as King of all the earth for a millennium, is found in Revelation 15 through 19. Stay tuned …

Update: continued in Revelation 15: the seven bowls of wrath

Revelation 14: the patience of the saints

Previously: Revelation 14: three proclamations, continued
The first post in the Revelation series

"Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Revelation 14:12-13

This follows the three proclamations which the angels make: 1) the everlasting Gospel preached to every nation, 2) the fall of Babylon, or the kingdoms of this world, 3) the warning that the end of those who refuse the mark of the name of YHVH, and instead receive the mark of the name of the beast of Babylon, will be plagues, fire, brimstone, and torment for ever and ever. During the time that these three events are happening, which have been occurring since the Reformation, the saints will need patience. In other words, it will not all be accomplished in one month or one year or ten years. We will need patience until we come to the end of the kingdoms of this world, and until we come to the end of those who receive the mark of the beast.

There is an interesting translation issue in verse 12. The phrase, "here are those" is not in the Greek. The sentence would read, "Here is the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." There are the two witnesses again – those who keep the commandments of God, who is Judah, and those who keep the faith of Jesus, who is Ephraim.

It is in fact NOT God’s plan that the two remain separate forever. At some point in time, according to Ezekiel, the two witnesses will be made one:

Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’— say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God." Ezekiel 37:15-23

This is one of the unfulfilled prophecies remaining in Scripture. It immediately preceeds the chapters in Ezekiel which describe the battle of Armageddon. God intends to make Judah, the Jews, those who keep the commandments of God, and Ephraim, the Christians, those who keep the faith of Jesus, into one people in His hand. In that day, Ephraim will be careful to not defile themselves with transgressions and destestable things – in other words, they will also keep the commandments of God. And in that day, Judah will acknowledge their king, who is David their king forever and forever – in other words, they will also keep the faith of Jesus. There will be ONE people of God as there is ONE God.

Because the two people becoming one, as spoken of in Ezekiel, is echoed in Revelation, in that the saints of God are those who BOTH keep the commandments of God AND the faith of Jesus, I believe the events of Ezekiel parallel the events of Revelation here.

To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 14: the two harvests