Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The battle rages on … but the victory is assured!"

Day #356:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - December 19th

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 12 - 17 …

Reading John's "Revelation" can be like trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle.  There is symbolism, yet there is also a continuous picture of the battle between God's Anointed One, Jesus Christ, and Satan, the "great dragon" ... "the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (12:9).  As the Christians in the first century needed encouragement that in the end the victory would belong to Christ, so we need that same encouragement today.  The forces of evil continue to mount an offensive against the truth of God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, deceiving millions upon millions of people who remain in bondage to their sin and unbelief and who will inevitably face God's judgment and wrath.

ONLY faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that leads to "patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" (13:10; 14:12), provides an escape from God's judgment and a place in the kingdom of God that will be established when Jesus returns.  While many ignore this book of the Bible, God reveals details within its pages that are given specifically to those who will be alive on the earth as these things unfold.  While many believe that the Church and all believers will be "raptured" before the Great Tribulation and the persecution that accompanies it takes place, the sequence of events in Revelation points to a different scenario … one that calls for us to be ready to stand firm in our faith against the attacks of the evil one who becomes personified in the Antichrist, the "Beast" of Revelation 13.

As the seals of the scroll of God's judgment are removed in Chapter 6, the Antichrist sets out to conquer those who would oppose him and to establish HIS rule (Satan's rule) on the earth.  No one should doubt that this has been and is Satan's plan since the beginning.  Chapter 7 reveals the "sealing" of 144,000 Jews or descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribes of Israel, and then the rapture of the Church, that great multitude from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  All this takes place in the first three and one-half years of Daniel's "70th week" (Daniel 9:25-27).  Then God begins to pour out HIS judgment on the Antichrist and those who follow him (Chapters 8-9).  As the angels sound the trumpets God's judgment begins.

To understand the sequence of events you must take into account Matthew 24:1-33 and other Scriptures that speak of these things.  A significant event in Daniel's account, the breaking of a covenant with Israel and others, is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-28.  It is AFTER this that the Great Tribulation begins and it is this period that is being described in Revelation 12-13.  The "woman" described in the first few verses of Chapter 12 is beyond question, Israel, as she "gives birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter" (12:5).  God protects the woman for 1,260 days or 42 months (12:6; 13:5).  God's supernatural protection of a remnant from Israel during this time fulfills His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  All these events center around Israel and Jerusalem.  To understand these things figuratively, only as symbols, is to miss the very purpose of God to glorify Himself by keeping His covenant with Abraham.

Chapters 12-14 are an interlude where John goes back to the birth of Jesus and then gives details of some of the events that will take place as the seals of Chapter 6 are opened, before and during the trumpet judgments of Chapters 8 and 9.  John pictures the war in heaven when Satan is cast down to earth (12:7-9) and then fast forwards to the climactic battle that will be waged at the end of time.  As he has done for centuries, Satan "pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child" (12:13), but when he sees that God is protecting her, "the dragon … went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (12:17).  That's Christians!!  It is impossible to see how Satan, through the Antichrist, can persecute Christians if we have been raptured before any of this takes place.

The "beast" of Chapter 13 is the Antichrist, who becomes possessed by Satan.  He arises out of the governments of the world and is given authority for 42 months (1260 days - 13:5).  "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them" (13:7 … the 5th seal - 6:9-11).  "All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain …" (13:8).  God will protect a remnant of Israel and He will give strength to Christians to endure the most severe persecution the world has ever seen.  And along with the beast will be a second "beast" (13:11-17), later called the "false prophet" (16:13).  While the Antichrist is a political ruler, the false prophet is a religious leader.  They will form an unholy alliance and will deceive all those whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb (13:8).  People will be forced to receive a mark in order to buy or sell.

For the first time in history, the things spoken of in the book of Revelation are not only possible but close to happening.  Some believe we who take these things literally, unless Scripture indicates otherwise, are foolish to do so, but as these events unfold only those who look to God's Word and who trust in Jesus Christ will stand firm against Satan's deception.  Already today millions are being deceived by voices that cry out for the uniting of all religions and all governments through the United Nations and other organizations and even the visible church!!

Chapter 14 gives a second picture of the 144,000 who had been sealed with the Father's name and the name of the Lamb as they worship God, and then more pictures of God's wrath falling on the Antichrist and those who follow him as they are thrown into "the great winepress of God's wrath" (14:19).  Anyone who does not take the coming judgment of God seriously is a fool, for the wrath of God will fall upon all mankind and ONLY those who are protected by the blood of Jesus will escape.  Many will be martyred, but in death will find rest as they await the resurrection at the time of the rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Surely, these things must take place as God has said they will.

As Chapter 15 begins, John picks up the sequence of events which began in Chapters 8-9.  With the Church raptured, the trumpet judgments have brought devastation on the earth.  Now John writes, "I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign:  seven angels with the seven last plagues - last, because with them God's wrath is completed" (15:1).  As with the trumpet judgments, the events of Chapter 16 take place through the direct actions of the angels whom God sent to carry them out.  In spite of the horrible judgments that are almost beyond description, the remainder of mankind "refused to repent" (16:9, 11).  And so the "unholy trinity," Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet (16:13), "go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty" (16:14).

This will be the battle of Armageddon (16:16).  It is then that Jesus will return from heaven with His heavenly army (19:11-21).  More details are given in Chapters 17-18, as John speaks of "the woman on the beast" and the Antichrist, "the beast who once was, and now is not" who "is going to his destruction" (17:11).  As evil does its worst and the forces of evil that are all around us today come together in their last stand against God's judgments, GOD is in control … the Lamb reigns.  "God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose (JUDGMENT) by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, UNTIL God's words are fulfilled" (17:17).

Those who believe and teach today that God's purpose is only love, grace, forgiveness and life do not know God or understand His desire to glorify Himself by putting an end to evil.  They fail to understand that Jesus Christ came to save a "remnant," those chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  We who believe are called to proclaim the Gospel to ALL people, knowing that only those who are born again by the Spirit will respond and believe, being born again by the Spirit and given ears to hear and hearts to respond to the truth of God's Word.  God is just, holy and righteous and NO ONE can stand in His presence ... except through union with Christ by faith.

Evil exists and God's judgment against evil is assured.  But "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ... This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (I John 5:1,4).  The battle between good and evil, quite literally - between God and Satan ... rages on, but the victory belongs to US, to those who are united to Christ by faith.  Put on the armor of God and engage in the battle!!  God is on our side and He will never leave us.  Stand firm and the Lord will fight for you!!!

"Lord God Almighty, in Your strength and for Your glory I will stand firm in my faith, trusting Your Spirit to equip me to persevere.  I thank You for revealing Your plan to destroy evil and to bring judgment upon those who stand opposed to Jesus and His kingdom.  Give me wisdom, Father, to hate what is evil and to cling to what is good, to hate what You hate and to love what You love.  Change me, Lord, into an ambassador of Your kingdom, declaring Your praises, now and forever.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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