The Harvest of the Earth

THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN (14:14-16). The sixth vision of this interlude pictures the events that fulfill Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man coming as Judge to establish His kingdom:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

The imagery turns from Christ as the Lamb to the Son of Man:

I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown [stephanos] of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.

A SHARP SICKLE signifies the time of reaping, the harvesting of the earth, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28).

The sharp sickle is the same as that mentioned in Joel 3:9-16 in picturing the destruction of the nations at Armageddon. This battle will remove many of the wicked from the earth through death. After this, the surviving nations left on the earth will be judged:

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:32-34).

ANGEL HARVESTERS. Jesus taught in the Parable of the Net that angels would do the harvesting.

This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace [Hell], where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50).

Jesus also talked about harvesters at the end of the age in the Parable of Weeds.

Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned [Hell]; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn [kingdom] (Matthew 13:30).

THE GREAT WINE PRESS OF GOD’S WRATH (14:17-20) is the seventh vision of this interlude. Here two angels appear; one comes forth from the Temple also having a sharp sickle, and another comes out from the altar having charge of the fire.

RIPE CLUSTERS OF GRAPES denotes the nations who are ready to be reaped for judgment. It would seem that God’s judgment is long overdue; only the longsuffering and patience of God can account for the delay. There is a harvest of the righteous, but here John witnesses the harvest of the wicked. The cup of iniquity is full, the harvest is ripe, and the time of God’s judgment has come!

In the OT, Israel is symbolized by a vine—a fruitless, disappointing vine (Deuteronomy 32:32-33; Isaiah 5:17). Hence, some perceive the clusters of grapes to be unsaved Israel at the end of the age. Zechariah 12:10-13:1 and Romans 11:23-27 strongly speak against this view.

The angel threw the ripe clusters of grapes (nations) into the great winepress of God’s wrath, signifying either the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16) or the fall of Babylon (Revelation 16:17-21). Isaiah 63:3-6 records the LORD’S impressions at this time:

I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground (Isaiah 63:3-6).

Some interpret each of these angels as another manifestation of Christ in judgment. Christ returns at the end of the age with the armies of Heaven following Him (Revelation 19:14).

John records that “they were trampled in the winepress outside the city [Jerusalem}, and blood flowed out of the press [Armageddon], rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia [about 180 miles, about the distance of Palestine].” It appears that the blood from the slaughtered is dammed up until the battle is over. Then suddenly the dam breaks as a flood of blood gushes from this valley rising as high as horses’ bridles into the Great Rift and flows a distance of about 180 miles. This is the end of man’s glory and Satan’s rule on the earth. The exact site of this bloody end of the nations is the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:10-14; Zechariah 14:1-4). The Lamb is triumphant!

Historicists picture the harvest as the consummation of all things, when the enemies of the Church will be cut off. The first sickle is the ingathering of the wheat into the kingdom and the second sickle leads to the crushing of the wicked. Some take the blood flow to be the length of Italy. Others make it symbolic of the universality of judgment as it 40 x 40 x 40 with 40 being the number of judgment.

Preterists hold that the vision of Christ on the cloud is not the second coming but depicts the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The reaping of verses 14-16 is the Judean Christians escaping to Pella in A.D. 66-70 and verses 17-20 describes the ensuing judgment of Jerusalem. The blood flow is an allusion of the great sea of carnage in this destruction.

Idealists discern the final judgment at Christ’s coming as the Church is first raptured in verses 14-16 and the wicked gathered to judgment in verses 17-20. The trampling outside the city stands for the exclusion of the wicked from the society of the redeemed. Numerous symbolic interpretations of the blood flow are presented by those who do not take the text literally.

The Three Angels

THE FIRST ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL (14:6-7). An angel announced Christ’s First Advent (Luke 2:8-12) and here an angel announces His Second Advent. This angel is flying in mid-air in the sight and hearing of all. Some view this angel as a type or figure of the good and faithful servants of God who proclaim the Gospel. Any agency that does God’s work or carries his message may be an angel (messenger). However, this appears to be the first and the last time God commissions a heavenly angel to preach the Gospel to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people.

There is the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14); the Good News of Great Joy (Luke 2:10); the Good News of Peace (Acts 10:36); and the Good News of God (Book of Romans); the latter three are specifically about Christ. Notice that the Eternal Gospel the angel announces does not mention the vicarious death and resurrection of Christ but focuses on God the Creator:

He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

This Gospel is not localized in certain periods of history, but one for all ages—it is eternal. Hence, the Everlasting Gospel is an announcement of Divine judgment upon the wicked. Those who refuse to worship God in any age as well as in the coming Great Tribulation can expect His judgment to come. From the very beginning of creation, worship of anything other than the Creator merited Divine judgment. Yet, there is a measure of mercy in this announcement for those who fear God and worship Him. There are seven great occasions of the Bible where God’s wrath and mercy are manifested:

1. The Garden of Eden
2. The Flood of Noah’s Day
3. The Tower of Babel
4. The Exodus of Israel from Egypt
5. The Cross of Christ
6. The Fall of Babylon the Great
7. The Battle of Gog and Magog

From the beginning, all intelligent creatures were to fear God and worship Him. Fear and love are the two greatest motivations in the universe. Observe how Yahweh employs fear and love in Deuteronomy 10:12-13:

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

What does the expressions “fear God” or to “fear the LORD” imply?

1. Fear is faith and trust expressed in childlike humility (Deuteronomy 9:23-24; Matthew 18:24; James 3:13; Isaiah 57:15; 66:2).
2. Fear is awe in the sense of respect, honor and greatness that we cultivate toward the superior and almighty God (Exodus 19).
3. Fear is being afraid and terrified of the LORD (cf. Ezekiel 30:13; Jonah 1:10, 16).
4. Fear is reverence, consecrating oneself to the LORD for living in harmony with God and with other people. The best expression is imitation of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). God’s Law teaches us in detail to imitate God in being compassionate, gracious, forbearing, loving faithful, forgiving and just.
5. Fear is ethical integrity, a progressive sanctification, whereby the believer aligns himself or herself more and more with God’s will. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Job are OT examples of a blameless and righteous walk with and before God.
6. Fear is the foundation of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Consequently, we are not to fear man, the Antichrist nor Satan; we are to fear God.

THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT HAS COME. This angel sounds the warning that the last moment has arrived to repent and believe before God’s wrath is poured out.

ALL CREATION. The heavens signify the three heavens, earth is the physical earth, the sea is the world system, and the springs of water signify Paradise.

Historicists hold this angel represents the missionary era and the Great Awakening in the time of the Wesleys, Whitefield, Edwards and Finney in England and America, while the bowls of wrath were poured out on the papal system on the Continent through the French Revolution.

Preterists believe the angel is the Church preaching the Gospel of salvation as the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Idealists hold this angel is not literal but a general concept based on Galatians 1:8 and Jude 3. The Gospel is a warning for earth’s inhabitants to awake to God’s rule before it is too late.

Futurists distinguish the Eternal Gospel from the “Church-age” Gospel; others hold it is the latter Gospel; and still others a Gospel including the various messages of the Bible, where men of all nations and times are summoned to repent.

THE SECOND ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE FALL OF BABYLON THE GREAT (14:8). Chapters seventeen and eighteen record the details of this fall under the seventh bowl. The warning is over and God’s judgment has come. Babylon, mentioned for the first time in Revelation, refers to the entire worldwide political, economic, and religious kingdom of the Antichrist (cf. Revelation 16:17-19). There are three additional views held: Babylon refers to (1) the city of Jerusalem, (2) the city of Rome, and (3) the rebuilt city of Babylon.

Babylon signifies the revival of its namesake, which was the birthplace of idolatry and rebellion against God under Nimrod after the Flood (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1-9).

THE MADDENING WINE OF HER ADULTERIES pictures Babylon causing the world to become intoxicated with her pleasures and idolatry.

Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad (Jeremiah 51:7).

This cup of madness becomes a cup of wrath poured out on the rebellious who worship the Beast instead of God.

In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs (Psalms 75:8).

This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it (Jeremiah 25:15).

Historicists tend to identify Babylon with Ancient Rome, especially the papacy.

Preterists identify Babylon with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, immediately after the preaching of the Gospel.

Idealists see Babylon as a symbol for human society organized against God throughout the centuries.

Futurists refer to Babylon in Revelation as a literal city, a religious system, and a political system, all stemming from ancient Babylon. The city of Rome of the Tribulation is often identified as Babylon.

THE THIRD ANGEL ANNOUNCES THE DOOM OF THE BEAST WORSHIPERS (14:9-12). The third angel will fly in mid-air warning all people in the kingdom of Antichrist. If they do take the mark, the name, or the number of the name of the Beast and worship him they will seal their own doom and be punished in eternal Hell. “Anyone” and the personal pronoun “he” indicates that judgment comes upon the individual, who is personally responsible for his own rejection of the Eternal Gospel.

THE WINE OF GOD’S FURY (14:10) is poured out full strength; this wine of God’s wrath is undiluted; there is no drop of water to cool its heat.

“Fury” (yumov thumos) denotes wrath, fierceness, and indignation. This is a passionate anger that turns to red-hot heat and boils up. Is it any wonder that God will be so indignant when people will reject His written Word? When they refuse to repent after judgments from heaven are sent upon them? When they reject the preaching of real angels flying in mid-air? When they ignore the preaching and miracles done by the two witnesses, the 144,000 sealed Israelites, and the testimony of multitudes of martyred Tribulation saints?

TORMENT FOR THE WICKED (14:10-11). No passage is clearer than this one on the eternal punishment of the wicked. Today, it is popular to deny the existence of Hell and teach annihilation of the wicked. But the Bible teaches that Hell is a real place where the wicked are tormented forever! The imagery is taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Burning sulfur (puri kai yeiw equals fire and brimstone, a fiery sulfur) signifies God’s judgment on the wicked (Genesis 19:24-25: Isaiah 34:8-10; cf. Revelation 14:10-11; 20:10-15; 21:8; 22:15; Isaiah 66:22-24; Matthew 8:12; 13:39-50; 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-49; Luke 12:5).

“In the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb” most likely indicates the angels will be employed to carry out the sentence of the wicked, while the Lamb—the Lord Jesus Christ—will act as their Judge.

ASSURANCE FOR THE BLESSED (14:12-13). “Blessed” reminds the reader of the blessings Jesus outlined in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12). Three characteristics of the blessed are: (1) patient endurance [in suffering]; (2) obeying the commandments; and (3) remaining faithful to Jesus Christ. Those who persevere in the faith until they die in the Lord have the assurance of rest and reward. This is the second beatitude in Revelation.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10).

Historicists view fire and brimstone as eternal pangs of remorse and conscience, while Christian death is a blessed event.

Preterists are divided with some viewing the symbolic language depicting either Ancient Rome or Jerusalem as already judged by God. The language does not indicate personal damnation of the inhabitants but rather a visible destruction of the cities as a historical witness to God’s wrath.

Idealists see the system in every age that opposes God already judged. Some speculate if the fire of Hell is literal, or simply a figure. The punishment of the wicked should provide incentive for the patience of the saints.

Futurists hold that eternal judgment is described in graphic detail, showing the horrors of a literal Hell. This is a warning to both the pagan and the believer of what happens when one denies faith in Christ and worships the Beast.

The contrasts in this chapter are: (1) fear God and worship Him with the assurance of rest and rewards; or (2) fear the Beast and worship him with the assurance of everlasting torment in burning sulfur. It is a matter of personal choice!

The Lamb and the 144,000

CHAPTER FOURTEEN contains three parentheses: (1) The Lamb and 144,000; (2) The Three Angels; and (3) The Harvest of the Earth. The previous chapters are all gloom and doom, but this one offers a ray of hope. This chapter is an interlude before a new outpouring of God’s wrath, like chapter seven, which revealed the sealed 144,000 Israelites and the countless multitudes of Gentiles saved in the Tribulation.

The words “I looked” or “I saw” signal important visions John was given in the Apocalypse. These are employed with all the seven visions of this chapter.

This chapter brings to conclusion the material found in chapters twelve through fourteen. The material in this chapter is arranged thematically instead of chronologically, preparing the way for the climax, which begins in chapter fifteen. This chapter is like looking into to the many facets of a diamond as it pictures the Triumphant Christ in diverse rays of light. It is a panoramic picture of the Tribulation Period, illustrating the Lamb’s victory.

The Lamb and the 144,000

STANDING ON MOUNT ZION (14:1-5). John saw the sealed evangelists from the twelve tribes of Israel standing on Mount Zion, a metaphor for the earthly as well as the heavenly Jerusalem.

Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—Mount Zion, where you dwelt (Psalm 74:2).

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly (Hebrews 12:22).

Here is the scene that takes place around the Throne in Heaven with harpists, the four living creatures and the elders. The 144,000 appear to be raptured; they “had been redeemed from the earth” (verse 3). Does this signify the rapture or partial rapture of the Church?

On the other hand, John appears to be back on the earth since he heard a sound from or out of heaven. Since the Lamb and 144,000 are standing before him, Mount Zion might be the earthly Jerusalem. If so, the 144,000 have gone through the entire Tribulation and have entered the Millennial Kingdom with Christ in their temporal bodies. If raptured, they have entered with a spiritual body. They would be the only redeemed Jews that will be suddenly delivered from the Great Tribulation. In either case, not one has been lost!

This scene is thrilling because it reminds the believer that Christ is coming and He will stand triumphant on Mount Zion with His people. God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled!

The 144,000 sealed Israelites are most likely portrayed by the five wise virgins in Christ’s Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and by the invited guests, dressed in wedding clothes, in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). These go into the marriage banquet of the Groom (Christ) and His bride (the Church) and then the door is closed to the unprepared. Others hold the five wise virgins represent all believers during the Tribulation Period.

THE NAMES ON THE FOREHEADS is a reminder the 144,000 belong to God; it stands in contrast to the mark of the Beast on the unsaved. There are two names written on their foreheads: The Lamb’s name and His Father’s name. The Lamb has many names in Scripture; but “Jesus” is His name! “Yahweh” is the most likely name for the Father’s name.

SOUND OF RUSHING WATER, THUNDER, HARPS AND A NEW SONG (14:2-3) adds excitement. It is a song of redemption as God accomplishes His heightened anticipation of the final redemptive acts of Christ’s return. It is one no man can learn but the 144,000, implying they have an experience that no other man of any other company has ever had. This new song is similar to the one sung in Revelation 5:9-10, indicating the reign of Christ and His saints has arrived (Psalm 96). This parenthesis is a flash-forward to Revelation 19 and 20.

CHARACTER OF THE 144,000 (14:4-5). The 144,000 did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. Obviously, the idea is to picture their purity of character. This does not refer to virginity. This passage cannot be advanced in favor of celibacy, whether among the clergy or laity, or in favor of monastic principles in any form; for the thing that is specified is that they were not “defiled with women,” and a lawful connection of the sexes, such as marriage, is not defilement. These are saved Israelites who have not polluted themselves with the idolatrous and immoral religious system of the great prostitute of Revelation 17.

FOLLOWERS OF THE LAMB who go wherever He goes denotes their faithful obedience to Christ. May God help us to do likewise!

PURCHASED AND OFFERED FIRSTFRUITS to God and the Lamb is like the firstfruits offerings of the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 26:1-11). The 144,000 represent not the whole of Israel, but only a portion of the great harvest to come (a first installment); they are marked for a unique service to God and the Lamb.

NO DECEIT AND BLAMELESS. No lie was found in their mouths signifies that they speak God’s Truth accurately, with no exaggeration or understatement. What a contrast to the Antichrist’s lies and deceitfulness! Blameless is not perfection or sinless but sanctification (Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Colossians 1:22).

Historicists hold that Mount Zion is the heavenly place of the departed saints or a symbol of the true Christian Church. The new song is the doctrine of the Reformation and the undefiled are not necessarily virgins or unmarried (Matthew 24:19; 1 Corinthians 7:25-35) but those who are celibate in marriage. The 144,000 are representative of the redeemed.

Preterists find this vision as reminiscent of the second Psalm. Despite all the efforts of the Dragon and the Beast to eliminate the Church, the Judean believers stand secure with the Lamb in victory. Dating Revelation before the fall of Jerusalem, they believe the writer of Hebrews had this scene in mind when he wrote of the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). The 144,000 are those who refuse to associate with the harlot (Jerusalem or Rome).

Idealists see the 144,000 standing with the Lamb in heaven, but are uncertain of their identification. The new song is a song of redemption like Moses’ song in Exodus 15. Some think the 144,000 comprise all the saints of the entire dispensation with none to follow.

Futurists identify the 144,000 with those sealed in chapter seven. They are the firstfruits of a larger number to be harvested from the earth. Mount Zion is either the literal mountain in Israel or the one in Heaven.

The Two Beasts

THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA (13:1-8). There is a textual variant at the beginning of verse one. Later manuscripts have “I stood” instead of “he stood,” which the NIV translates “the dragon stood.” If John watches the scene, he sees the Beast coming up out of the sea; otherwise, Satan is contemplating the scene.

For the most part Historicists and Preterists identify the Beast out of the sea as the Ancient Roman Empire, Idealists as recurring world governments, through which Satan operates, and Futurists as the Revived Roman Empire. Some historicists identify this Beast as papal Rome or the revival of Roman papacy.

The majority of expositors agree that the sea is the symbol of the Gentile nations. He will rise out of the sea of humanity (Daniel 7:24; 9:27; 11:36-45). Some identify the sea as the region around the Mediterranean Sea.

BEAST is a term that represents both a person (Antichrist) and his system (the world empire). The beasts in Daniel portray the empires as well as their leaders. The dragon (Satan) gave the Beast his power and his throne and great authority. The final world empire will be inseparable from Satan who possesses the man who leads it.

Daniel shows that the human Antichrist will rise up from the ten kings of the Revived Roman Empire, which is pictured by the ten toes of clay and iron feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:41-42; 7:16-24). This final world empire will be crushed when Christ’s kingdom fills the earth (Daniel 2:32-45; 7:79, 19-25).

It is easy to identify this Beast with the Fourth Beast in the seventh chapter of Daniel, which followed the Lion (Babylon), the Bear (Medo-Persia), and the Leopard (Greece). John describes the characteristics of the Beast in reverse order, indicating this kingdom shall possess the traits of the previous kingdoms—a monster that maliciously slanders, tramples and devours its victims.

He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. Horns always represent power, as in the animal kingdom horns are both offensive and defensive power.

The seven heads are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Ancient Rome and the Revived Roman Empire. The ten crowns (diadhma) on his ten horns symbolizes the ten kings of the confederacy of ten nations that makes up the Revived Roman Empire.

Historicists identify the ten kingdoms as the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, the Alleman-Franks, the Burgundic-Franks, the Visigoths, the Suevi, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Bavarians, and the Lombards.

BLASPHEMOUS NAME. On each of the seven heads is a blasphemous name. Blasphemy pertains to one who claims to be God. A good illustration is Caiaphas’ reaction to Jesus’ affirmation of being deity.

But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy (Matthew 26:63-65).

He will defy God and claim to be God himself (Revelation 13:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 7:25; 8:25; 11:36-39) and the earth will worship him as God (Revelation 13:8, 14-18; 14:9-11; 20:4-6). He will have a religious leader in the false prophet of Revelation 13:11-17; 6:13-16; 19:20; 20:10. This Beast will promote the worship of the Antichrist’s image (Revelation 13:14-17; 14:9; 15:2; 20:4-6).

The heads of the six previous empires imagined themselves to be God and desired worship. In Egypt, Pharaoh was Ra, the sun God, on earth. In Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar erected a golden image and commanded it be worshiped. In Medo-Persia, Darius issued a decree that he alone be prayed to for thirty days. In Rome, the emperor was worshiped as God. In the seventh empire, the Antichrist will be worshiped as God. Satan is behind all this blasphemy!

Historicists view the blasphemies associated with this Beast as statements made by various popes. For instance, Pope Nicholas said, “I have the authority of the King of Kings, I am all in all and above all . . . Wherefore, if those things that I do be said not be done of man but of God, what can you make me but God?” In his apostolic letter of June 20, 1894, Pope Leo XIII claimed: “We hold the place of Almighty God on earth.” His successor, Pius X boasted, “The Pope . . . is Jesus Christ himself, hidden under the veil of flesh.” Pope Pius X said, “I am God on earth.” Hence, making war against the rest of the woman’s offspring comes from the number of persons slain by the Beast, the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages and the Reformation.

Preterists see the worshiping of the Beast as when the Jews proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), believing that giving allegiance and obedience is an act of spiritual worship. Roman emperors permitted, encouraged, or enforced the people to worship them. The assumed divine names like Sebastos, meaning “one to be worshiped” and Divus, Deus, and Theos all connote “god.”

Idealists say the seven heads speak of the various manifestations of the beastly spirit in successive empires and Rome recovered from the wounding of one of its heads in John’s day—the death of Nero in A.D. 68. Rome recovered when Vespasian came to power in A.D. 69.

DEAD AND ALIVE (13:3). One of the heads of the Beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. This might be the revival of the Roman Empire or a fake resurrection enacted by the Antichrist, who is a great deceiver. Some think that the Antichrist will actually die, and be resurrected by Satan, since he will come from out of the Abyss (11:7). However, the Abyss is not the place of the dead— departed humans. It is also improbable that Satan has the power to give life since he is a created being!

Whether real or fake, the Beast through this resurrection will claim divine majesty and worship. The whole earth will be astonished (eyaumasyh, that is, in admiration) as the Antichrist appears to have been raised from the dead and will follow the Beast. Satan will obtain one of his goals. Mankind has worshiped him through idolatry and false religions; now completely deluded, mankind will worship Satan directly because he has given authority to the Beast (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:12, 14; 17:13) in accord with God’s power, plans and purpose (Revelation 17:17).

The world will ask, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” For forty-two months, the Antichrist will reign over the world’s last superpower! The Antichrist will have the absolute authority of a Nebuchadnezzar, the massive military of a Cyrus, and genius of an Alexander the Great, and he will be worshiped as a Caesar!

The Beast (the Antichrist) will receive great authority and power from Satan is great, for he:

1. Overcomes the saints (Revelation 13:7; 7:9-17; 20:4)
2. Conquers many nations (Revelation 13:7; Daniel 7:8, 23-24)
3. Destroys mystical Babylon (Revelation 17:12-17)
4. Kills the two witnesses (Revelation 11:7-12)
5. Change times and laws (Daniel 7:25)
6. Understands mysteries (Daniel 8:23)
7. Performs miracles (Revelation 13:1-18; 19:20; Daniel 8:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)
8. Controls money and commerce (Daniel 11:38-43; Revelation 13:17; 8:1-24)
9. Causes great deceptions (Revelation 13:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; John 5:43; Daniel 8:25)
10. Controls religion (Revelation 13:1-18; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 20:4-6; Daniel 11:36)
11. Controls all classes of people in his realm (Revelation 13:15, 17: 17:12-17)
12. Mobilizes nations to Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16; 19:19-21)
13. Fights Christ (Revelation 17:14; 19:11-21; Daniel 8:25; Zechariah 14:1-5)

THE BEAST OUT OF THE EARTH (13:11-15) is the seventh personage in this interlude. “Another” (allo) denotes this Beast is like the first Beast. He is the man at the head of the end time’s religious system, the False Prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). This Beast wears no crowns, implying it is not a political power.

Historicists, who do not identify the Roman Church with the first Beast, hold that this Beast is papal Rome under Charlemagne, who returned the Roman Empire to paganism. The Beast has two horns like a lamb and mimics Jesus Christ. Bishops since Pope Gregory (A.D. 590) wear a pallium of lambs’s wool, a symbol of full Episcopal authority, and Abbots wear a miter with two points known as Goruti (“the horned ones”). Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). The great and miraculous signs are the alleged miracles of Catholicism.

Preterists view this Beast as:

1. The cult of the emperor
2. The Roman procurator of Judea under Nero; the two horns being Albinus and Gessius Florus at the time of Jewish War
3. The Jewish religious system collectively since this Beast comes from the land (Israel)

Idealists see the second Beast supporting the first, but different in form and strategy. While the first is ferocious, the second seems harmless. Yet, it speaks like a dragon; it too is ferocious, devouring people spiritually instead of physically like the first Beast. Therefore, this Beast symbolizes false religion and false philosophy throughout this dispensation.

Futurists to a small degree believe this Beast imitates the Lamb of God, possibly a counterfeit Messiah. Most are of the opinion that this Beast is an individual, who heads the apostate church, which may be the Roman Catholic Church of the last days.

The Beast’s religion is identified by the title on the forehead of the woman who rides on it: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Revelation 17:5). Numerous practices and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church have been traced to mystery religions of Babylon by Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylon or The Papal Worship.

Others hold the second Beast is a Jew, since they see him coming out of the land (thv ghv) instead of the earth. He imitates the priestly and kingly authority of Christ. They argue he must be a Jew for the Jews to accept him. That argument presupposes Israel is unconverted at the beginning of the last forty-two months.

The False Prophet speaks like a dragon with the craftiness and cunningness of Satan on behalf of the Antichrist. He is empowered by Satan to have worldwide influence and reputation as a miracle worker and speaker with the same kind of authority and power of the First Beast but in the religious realm. He imitates Elijah by calling down fire from heaven while declaring the Antichrist to be God; an obvious counterfeit fulfillment of Malachi 4:5:

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.

ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION: THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST (13:14-15) spoken of by Daniel and Jesus (Daniel 9:27; 11:21; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) is set up on the west wing of the Temple of God in honor of the Beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. Compliance to worshiping the image of the first Beast happens because of deception, great miraculous signs and threats of death. Nebuchadnezzar’s attempt to be worshiped through an image failed but the Antichrist’s will not. Since Satan could not command worship in heaven, he will go to the next best place—the Temple of God in the Holy City. Antiochus Epiphanes foreshadows “the desolation that causes abomination” (Daniel 8:9-14).

THE MARK OF THE BEAST (13:16-18). In the Roman Empire, a mark was normally an identifying symbol or brand, which slaves and soldiers bore on their bodies. Ancient mystical cults delighted in such tattoos and God forbade the Israelites to have them (Leviticus 19:28). The Mark of the Beast is a way of enforcing an economic boycott on those who worship the true God. It has been suggested this might be an implanted computer chip or tattooed identification number such as one’s social security number.

No one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666 (Revelation 13:17-18).

The Greek reads: o ariymov autou {its number is} cxv {six hundred and sixty six}. Notice that Greek letters are employed for numerals, which also is true of Hebrew and Latin. Many attempts have been made to solve the mystery of the meaning of the number of the Beast. The earliest solution was by Irenaeus in the second century, who believed it to be the name Lateinos (Greek for “Latin”). He interpreted this name to signify Daniel’s Fourth Beast as “Latins” as well as the sum of “all apostate power,” a concentrate of six thousand years of unrighteousness, wickedness, deception, and false prophecy.

Using diverse methods of assigning numerals to letters in names of various languages, a host of names has been suggested for the Antichrist from Nero to Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin.

The key phrase seems to be “for it is the number of man.” The number of man six falls one short of God’s perfect number seven. One might speculate that the number 666 signifies an unholy trinity of the Dragon, Beast Out of the Sea and the Beast Out of the Land. The interpretation of this number, however, remains unknown to us but will play an important part in the end times. It will be understood by those belonging to God and who have wisdom in those days. For those who choose to accept the Mark of the Beast, the Bible warns that they will be doomed for all eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 14:9-10).

Clearly, there will be no separation of powers of government and religion in the end times.

The War in Heaven and the War on Earth

At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people— everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered (Daniel 12:1).

THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL (12:7-9). Michael means “like God.” War breaks out in heaven. It appears the Archangel and his angels start the war, since the Dragon and his angels fought back. The objective of this war is to cast the forces of evil out of heaven and to the earth. Angels are capable of being captured and confined by chains and prisons like people (Daniel 10:13-21; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6-7; Revelation 9:11, 14; 20:1-10). The Great Dragon’s forces were not strong enough; they lost their place in heaven, and they were hurled to the earth. That is good news for heaven; bad news for the earth!

Could this be the same war as the one in heaven at Satan’s fall (Isaiah 14:12-14; Luke 10:18)? Certainly, Satan has led the whole world astray to the present and he will intensify his efforts during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:14; 20:3; John 8:44) and after the Millennium (Revelation 20:8-10).

THE SONG OF THE LOUD VOICE (12:10-12). This voice could be all heaven in one accord rejoicing over the victory won by Michael and his angels. Never again will Satan cross the threshold of Heaven. The voice announces seven things:

1. Salvation and power and the Kingdom of God has come
2. The authority of God’s Christ
3. The accuser has been hurled down
4. Martyrs have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and their testimony
5. Woe to the earth and sea
6. The Devil’s fury
7. The Devil knows his time is short

THE DRAGON PURSUES ISRAEL (12:13-16). The Devil knows that he has 1,260 days or three and one half years to be loose before being confined to the Abyss. He pursues Israel but she is given the two wings of a great eagle so she might fly to Petra, where God will take care of her for three and one half years.

What or who are the two wings of a great eagle? Reaching safety may involve God’s miraculous power or human instruments. After Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, God reminded the people, saying:

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4).

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and either Pharaoh Psammetichus or Hophra of Egypt are called great eagles with powerful wings (Ezekiel 17:3, 7). Is it possible modern Egypt and Iraq (Assyria and Babylon) will help Israel to reach Petra?

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25).

These two nations are going to be blessed in the kingdom for an important reason—God promises in the Abrahamic Covenant: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).

TWO MOUTHS. Mouth appears sixteen times in Revelation. The water like a river/flood might be evil propaganda against the Jews issuing from the Devil’s mouth. It could be the Antichrist’s armies in pursuit of Israel. Jeremiah 46:8 uses similar imagery:

Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers of surging waters. She says, “I will rise and cover the earth; I will destroy cities and their people.”

The earth could open its mouth and swallow the armies of the Antichrist as it did Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:29-35).

THE REMNANT (12:17) is the fifth personage in this parenthesis. Whatever happens will not keep Satan from making war against the rest of her offspring. Those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus are either tribulations saints not martyred or the remnant of Jews scattered in the other nations. In Christ all saints are offspring of God’s covenants with Israel (Romans 11:13-24).

Historicists identify the war in heaven as the time of Christianity’s conflict with heathenism in the days of Emperor Julian the Apostate (A.D. 361-363). The two wings of the great eagle given to protect the Church are the Western and Eastern divisions of the Roman Empire.

Preterists suggest the Archangel Michael is Christ and the death of Christ did not finish Satan but ended his career as an accuser of the brethren. If Satan is cast to the earth, he cannot accuse the saints before God any longer. The two wings of the great eagle stand for the escape of Judean Church from the Edomite and Roman invasions during the Jewish Wars. This church did escape to Pella in A.D. 66. The river or flood is the Devil’s campaigns against the Church.

Idealists believe the woman’s flight into the desert (where she is sustained for 1,260 days) speaks of God’s care of the Church throughout this age. The river from the Dragon’s mouth is either the peoples of the world or a stream of lies, delusion, religions, etc. The earth opening its mouth symbolically is seen as the saving of the Church from the dangers of deceit and false religions.

A Third of the Stars

THIRD OF THE STARS (12:4). Presently, Satan is “the prince of this world” and is “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), with a host of demonic forces at his disposal. His tail swept a third of the stars [fallen angels or demons] out of the sky [heaven] and flung them to the earth. At least one third of the angels rebelled with Satan and they presently have access to heaven (if this war in heaven takes place in the future).

The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. Throughout history, Satan has attempted to stop the Messiah’s birth. Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill boys when they were born (Exodus 3:16). Athaliah managed to kill all the heirs to the throne of David, except for Joash, who was hidden from her (2 Kings 11:1-3). Herod the Great gave orders to kill all boys two years and under living near Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth (Matthew 2:16).

THE MALE CHILD: HIS INCARNATION, RETURN AND ASCENSION (12:5). She gave birth to a son, a male child [with Christ’s incarnation], who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter [at His Second Coming]. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne [at His ascension].

THE PREPARED PLACE (12:6). The woman [Israel] fled into the desert to a place [Petra] prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days [the last half of the Tribulation].

Isaiah 16:1-5 predicts the flight of Israel into Moab and Edom, and mentions Sela (Petra) the ancient capital of Edom as their headquarters during Tribulation. Also the prophet pictures Christ in His second coming as descending from the direction of Edom where the Israelites are to be protected (Isaiah 63:1-5; Matthew 24:27; cf. Isaiah 19:23-25).

In addition, Isaiah predicts that the people in the desert and Sela will sing rejoicing at the LORD’S coming (Isaiah 42:11-13). The woman (Israel) will be delivered from the Antichrist along with those who protect her (Luke 21:21-28).

The Antichrist will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon (Jordan of today) will be delivered from his hand (Daniel 11:41).

Explanation of the Ten Heads, Ten Horns and Seven Crowns

(Linking of Daniel 7:8, 23-25 and Revelation 17:8-11)

While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was ANOTHER HORN, A LITTLE ONE, which came up among them; and THREE OF THE FIRST HORNS WERE UPROOTED before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully (Daniel 7:8, uppercase for emphasis).

The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. THE TEN HORNS ARE TEN KINGS who will come from this kingdom. After them ANOTHER KING will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will SUBDUE THREE KINGS. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time (Daniel 7:23-25, uppercase for emphasis).

The beast, which you saw, ONCE WAS, NOW IS NOT, and WILL COME UP out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because HE ONCE WAS, NOW IS NOT, AND YET WILL COME. This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. FIVE HAVE FALLEN, ONE IS, THE OTHER HAS NOT YET COME; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to destruction (Revelation 17:8-11; capital letters added for emphasis).

Daniel’s Beasts – Revelation Heads – Kingdoms  Signified
ONCE WAS—FIVE HAVE FALLEN

1 Egypt
2 Assyria
1 3 Babylon — Uprooted
2 4 Medo-Persia — Uprooted
3 5 Greece — Uprooted — Little Horn of Daniel 8 (Antiochus IV Epiphanes)

ONE IS
4 6 Ancient Rome

WILL COME—OTHER HAS NOT YET COME
4 7 Revived Rome (10 Kingdom Confederacy) Ten Horns initially but three horns subdued by the Little Horn (The Antichrist)

WHO ONCE WAS, AND NOW IS NOT
4 8 Kingdom belongs to the seven—the Little Horn (the Antichrist)

The seven heads are not crowned (Revelation 13:1), meaning that the Antichrist has not ruled the seven kingdoms preceding his, the eighth kingdom (Revelation 17:8-11). On Daniel’s Fourth Beast, each horn represents a future king and kingdom. All ten horns are present at once; therefore, they are a ten-kingdom confederacy. There is no period in history that comes close to fitting Daniel’s vision of the ten horns; it remains future to this day. The European Union could be the formation of the Revived Roman Empire.

The European Union is united under THE TREATY OF ROME, signed on March 25, 1957 by “The Six”— France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg. Since 1973, the number has been steadily increasing to the current number of twenty-five member states. The Treaty of Rome, as amended by subsequent treaties, deals with goods, capital, persons, services and significantly its associations with overseas nations and territories. As of 1999, passports were no longer required for travel between the twelve countries. The Eurodollar began replacing European currencies and is now one of the strongest currencies in the world. Recently, this union embarked on marshalling its own military force. The European Union is now a major player in world events.

Southern Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa were part of the Ancient Roman Empire, but not the European Union. It seems unlikely that the ten kings of the Revived Roman Empire will be limited to Western Europe. Probably, the foundation for the ten kings has been laid in the European Union of today. Nevertheless, the configuration of this ten-kingdom confederation would be totally speculation at this time.

 

The Seven Personages

CHAPTERS TWELVE AND THIRTEEN is the fourth division of the sevenfold structure of revelation as well as another parenthesis. This interlude reveals the seven key personages of the Great Tribulation. The twelfth chapter contains flashbacks and flash-forwards. The woman in this chapter is the key interpretive figure of the Apocalypse. Covenant theologians, who spiritualize the fulfillment of the OT prophecies, interpret the woman as the Church. Dispensational theologians, who take the OT prophecies as literal, interpret the woman as Israel. The crux of the interpretation of the entire book revolves around the identity of this woman.

Historicists see chapters 4-11 as the outward state of the Church and chapters 12-19, looking at the same period, as the inward state of the Church. The woman’s child symbolizes the enthronement of Constantine over the entire empire in A.D. 324.

Preterists hold different views at this point. Some see the prophecy continuing with the destruction of Jerusalem, now called Babylon; while others see Babylon as the city of Rome, the great persecutor of the Church, in the remaining chapters. The woman is the faithful remnant of Israel and her child is Christ.

Idealists view the principal details of these chapters as beginning at Acts 11:9 so that they are not prophetic but relate to things past and passing. The travailing woman is either the believing remnant of OT Israel or a symbol of God’s people in both OT and NT dispensations. All agree the child is Christ.

Futurists find details unfolded that chronologically precede the consummation of God’s judgment. Some along with the Roman Catholics say the woman is Virgin Mary. The majority take the woman to be Israel and her child to be Christ.

THE HEAVENLY CLAD WOMAN (12:1-2). Some believe this woman is the visible outward false church. However, the false church is spoken of as a woman, who is a great prostitute (Revelation 17). Others say she is the Church in travail awaiting the Rapture.

However, this description of the woman is found in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9, in which the sun and moon and twelve stars depict the family of Jacob, the people of Israel. Israel is often spoken of as a woman married to God under the terms of the old covenant (Isaiah 54:1-6; Jeremiah 3:1-14; Hosea. 2:14-23). Israel gave birth to Christ (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Romans 9:4-5; 12:5).

Israel is identified as the woman by the wars against her and her seed. The same predictions of this woman are found in connection with Israel in the OT so they must be the same (Daniel 7:21; 8:9-14, 24-25; 9:27; 11:40-45; 12:1, 7; Joel 3; Zechariah 12:1-9; 13:8-9; 14:1-21).

The Seventh Seven of Daniel 9:27 concerns Israel and Jerusalem, as did the first sixty-nine sevens (Daniel 9:24-27). The Church is not once mentioned in connection with these last day events. Therefore, this woman is taken to be Israel.

THE GREAT RED DRAGON (12:3-4).

There is no doubt as to the identity of the dragon.

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9).

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2).

In Revelation, four names are used for the Evil One:

1. The Great Dragon depicts that he is the enemy of God and Israel
2. The Ancient Serpent points to his craftiness in deception
3. The Devil denotes that he is a slanderer or accuser
4. Satan means he is an adversary or enemy

In Revelation, the Evil One’s end is recorded in four stages:

1. From the air to the earth (Revelation 12:9; Luke 10:18)
2. From the earth to the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3)
3. From the bottomless pit to the earth (Revelation 20:7-9)
4. From the earth to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10)

Dragon is used fourteen times in Revelation as a symbol of Satan. The fall, rebellion, and end of Satan (the Guardian Cherub or the Morning Star, Lucifer in Latin Vulgate) are vividly described in Isaiah 14:12-20 and Ezekiel 28:11-19. He is a created being, not a god! He is powerful, however. He presently controls the kingdoms of this world as well as the demonic realm. When Adam and Eve fell in sin, Satan seized dominion and rule of this planet. Even Christians are warned not to underestimate the power of their adversary:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11). And that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26). The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Ten heads and ten horns and seven crowns on the beast’s head correspond to Daniel’s vision of the Fourth Beast (Daniel 7:7, 23-25) and John’s vision of the Beast (Revelation 17:8-14).

The Third Woe

THE THIRD WOE (11:14). The second woe (two hundred million mounted troops, the angel and the little scroll, the two witnesses, a severe earthquake in Jerusalem) has passed; the third woe is coming soon. The third woe extends to the end of the Tribulation Period. It covers the final three and one-half years.

THE SEVENTH TRUMPET: JUDGMENTS AND REWARDS (11:15-19). Undoubtedly, the sounding of the seventh trumpet looks forward to the end of the Tribulation Period when Christ establishes His kingdom. It would seem, therefore, the seven bowl judgments must be included in the seventh trumpet.

CHRIST’S KINGDOM COMES (11:15). The kingdom of the world up to this point belongs to the prince of this world, Satan (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The world is now Christ’s kingdom—the petition of the Lord’s Prayer is answered: “Thy kingdom come.” This triumphant shout of victory comes from an unnamed chorus of loud voices.

THE SONG OF THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS (11:16-18). The response in Heaven by the twenty-four elders is a hymn of thanksgiving and anticipation. There are six statements made by the elders:

1. Thanks to God for using His power to reign
2. The nations are angry
3. The time of God’s wrath is come
4. The time to judge the dead saints
5. The time to give rewards to saints
6. The time to destroy earth’s destroyers

The first three statements are rooted in the Second Psalm. The next two statements deal with the Judgment Seat of Christ. And the final statement with the events leading up to and including Armageddon. Prophecy sometimes appears in reverse chronological order; this might be the case here.

GOD’S TEMPLE OPENED IN HEAVEN (11:19). An actual Temple exists in heaven (Revelation 14:15, 17; 15:5-6, 8; 16:1, 17; Isaiah 6:1-8; Hebrews 8:2, 5; 9:24) and it served as the pattern for the earthly Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 25:8-9, 40; 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 19). These worship centers represent God’s desire to dwell with His people. As eternity begins, the Temple will no longer be needed since God will dwell with His people (Revelation 21:3, 22).

There are seven great openings in the Apocalypse:

1. A door is opened in Heaven, 4:1
2. The seven seals of the scroll are opened, 6:1-8:1
3. The Abyss is opened, 9:2
4. The Temple of God in Heaven is opened, 11:19
5. The Tabernacle of the Testimony is opened, 15:5
6. Heaven is opened, 19:11
7. The Books of Judgment and Life are opened, 20:11

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT is also known as the Ark of God (1 Samuel 3:3), the Ark of Your Might (Psalm 132:8), the Sacred/Holy Ark (2 Chronicles 35:3), and the Ark of Testimony (Numbers 4:5). Historically, the Ark had four main functions:

First, the Ark served as a container for three objects that typified Christ (Hebrews 9:3-5):

1. The two stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai
2. The gold jar of manna that God provided during the desert wanderings
3. The staff that budded to confirm Aaron’s exclusive call to Israel’s priesthood

Second, the Ark’s COVER was the place where the sacrificial blood was sprinkled once a year on the Day of Atonement to make atonement “for all the sins of the Israelites” (Leviticus 16).

Third, the Ark was viewed as the site of God’s presence with His people. Years later, King Hezekiah did not dare to go into the Holy of Holies in the Temple where the Ark rested. Hezekiah prayed to the God of Israel who was “enthroned between the cherubim” (2 Kings 19:14-15).

Fourth, the Ark was carried into battles, signifying the presence of Yahweh with His people (Joshua 6).

THE ARK disappeared around the time Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple in 586 B.C. Archaeologists have searched in Egypt and the Middle East looking for the Lost Ark, thinking that the priests moved it before the Temple was destroyed. In Ezekiel 8-11, the prophet is lifted up by the Spirit between earth and heaven and in visions of God, the Spirit takes Ezekiel to Jerusalem, where He sees the glory of the LORD depart from the Temple and go to the Mount of Olives to return to heaven. Ezekiel 12:22 probably describes the Ark being taken to heaven in 586 B.C. This foreshadows Jesus’ ascension to heaven in A.D. 33, from the Mount of Olives, after Israel rejected Him. Heaven is opened and the Ark of the Covenant seen, typifying Israel finally perceiving Christ for whom He is.

In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the LORD, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts (Jeremiah 3:16-17).

However, one must not overlook the fact that the earthly sanctuary is a copy and shadow of what is heaven (Hebrews 8:3-5). It is possible that John saw the original of which the Ark on earth was only a copy and it is lost or destroyed! Alternatively, John saw Jesus Christ in heaven and described Him as THE ARK!

The Ark of the Covenant was an earthly sign that God would guard and protect His people from evil forces. It went with Israel into battle and it was where atonement was made for the nation. It is only fitting that John saw the Ark at this point since all Israel has been saved and the LORD is taking up the battle, as the forces of evil move against God’s covenant people. Verse 19 ensures the fulfillment of Jeremiah 30:7:

How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.

That the battle is Yahweh’s is signified by the “artillery of heaven”—flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. Psalm 99:1-3 declares:

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.

Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy.

The inhabitants of the earth have cause to tremble, but the Redeemer still waits to be gracious. Let all who hear, take warning, and seek His mercy. Repent and Believe!

The Two Witnesses

MY TWO WITNESSES (11:3-6). Do the two witnesses prophesy in the first or second half of the Tribulation Period? As in the days of Noah (Hebrews 11:7) and throughout history, God warns and condemns the objects of His impending wrath through these two witnesses. The Mighty Angel of chapter ten is still speaking and He describes them as “My two witnesses,” a powerful proof for identifying this angel is Christ. They are empowered to prophesy for 1,260 days, which is 42 months or three and one half years.

Who are the two witnesses? They are identified as the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. Lampstands signified those who are saved (Revelation 1:20) and olive trees stand for God’s covenant people, Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Hence, Christ’s two witnesses are saved Jews. Idealists hold the two represent the Church and Israel.

In Zechariah’s vision of the gold lampstand and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-6, 10-14), the two olive trees represent Joshua., the priestly leader, and Zerubbabel, the civic leader. The golden lampstand signifies they are two Spirit-filled Jewish leaders. Both were instrumental in rebuilding the Temple after the Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel laid the foundation and finished it (Zechariah 4:9) and Joshua would represent the people before Yahweh. Their Spirit-filled preaching of Haggai and Zechariah motivated the leaders and people to rebuild the Temple. Zechariah’s vision has both near and distant future fulfillments.

The two olive trees and two lampstands are lights before the powers of darkness. They are clothed in sackcloth a sign of mourning and penitence (Joel 1:13) and the distress of these days. Sackcloth is the prophet’s garment of lament for his people. The two witnesses stand before the Lord on the earth to open the eyes of Israel to Christ.

Two witness is required for a legal testimony (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15); that is why Christ sent out His disciples two by two.

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil {Greek unclean} spirits (Mark 6:7)

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two {some manuscripts seventy; also in verse 17} others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go (Luke 10:1).

There were two angelic witnesses at the tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:4-7) and at His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). However, these two cannot be angels since they are killed by the Antichrist. There were two witnesses at Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4): Moses, representing Christ fulfillment of the Law, and Elijah, His fulfillment of the Prophets.

The earlier writers identified the two witnesses as Moses and Elijah since they performed similar miracles to the two witnesses.

These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want (Revelation 11:6; cf. Exodus 7:19; 1 Kings 17:1-7; 18:1; 2 Kings 1:8-12).

Moses was buried by God (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Jude 9) and Elijah was translated into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). If Moses were one of the two, he would have to die a second time!

Modern writers identify the two witnesses as Enoch and Elijah. However, one cannot argue that the two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah since neither died and must fulfill what is written in Hebrews 9:27: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Why? Because those alive in Christ, who are raptured will never die! Additionally, the two witnesses cannot be two of the 144,000 Israelite witnesses since none of this group will die either.

A stronger argument can be made for one of the witnesses being Elijah:

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6; cf. Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:17).

So who are the two witnesses? Wait and see! All we know about them is recorded here; they are persons, prophets, powerful, persecuted, preserved but finally killed, resurrected and raptured. The fire that proceeds from their mouths and devours most likely is literal fire. It at least represents divine protection so they cannot be harmed until their ministry is completed.

THE BEAST FROM THE ABYSS (11:7). Now when they have finished their testimony, the Beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.

Historicists see the Beast as papal decrees of the Lateran Councils of A.D. 1179 and 1227 that denied Christian burial.

Preterists view the Beast as various historical enemies of the Church.

Idealists visualize the Beast to be powers that seek to silence the witness of the Church.

Futurists identify the Beast from the Abyss as the same as the Beast out of the sea (13:1), who attempts to be the world dictator, the Antichrist. The Beast out of the land is the false religious leader of the last days (13:11).

Christ’s two witnesses will be so effective on earth that everyone will know of them because of their supernatural powers, but many will refuse to repent (Revelation 9:21). It is clear from what Jesus said and Israel’s unbelief after His death and resurrection that miracles lead more to condemnation than to repentance.

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah (Mark 16:4).

DEATH, RESURRECTION, ASCENSION OF THE TWO WITNESSES (11:7-12). Notice that when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. The Antichrist could not harm them before God was finished with them on earth.

At the end of 1,260 days, the Beast occupies Jerusalem, the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Sodom and Egypt signifies that Jerusalem has filled its cup of iniquity for God’s wrath. Sodom’s sexual immorality was destroyed with fire and brimstone; Egypt’s idolatry was overpowered with Ten Plagues from Yahweh. Moral and religious decay go together!

Idealists identify the great city as the world in rebellion against God, not literal Jerusalem.

For three and a half days, men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. Before satellites, television and internet, this prophecy seemed impossible. Obviously, the Beast is capitalizing on their deaths.

Jesus foretold that the end times would be like the days of Noah and their celebration manifests “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). Their celebration is an antitype of Christmas, but their joy turns to terror.

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on (Revelation 11:12).

Those who hold to a Mid-Tribulation Rapture of the Church place it here, seeing the two witnesses’ resurrection and ascension as symbolic of the Church being caught up to heaven. If the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, they might picture the bodily resurrection and ascension of the OT saints at this time; and possibly the martyred Tribulation saints as well. At this point, Amillennialists envision the Church meeting Christ in the air as He returns to destroy the present heavens and earth.

Historicists hold that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Thesis to the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517, precisely three years and 180 days (one half of a 360-day year) from the Fifth Lateran Council on May 5, 1514, and thus, the Reformation church stood to its feet.

A SEVERE EARTHQUAKE AND REVIVAL (11:13). At that very hour, there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The earthquake could signify the opening graves of OT saints or martyred Tribulation saints (cf. Matthew 28:2).

The seven thousand might imply the full and complete destruction of the hardhearted in Jerusalem prior to the conversion of Israel. In 586 B.C., the opposite happened when God removed the righteous by death prior to His judgment (Isaiah 57:1-2). A reversal of the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:40-41). Those left behind enter the Millennial Kingdom.

Historicists hold the severe earthquake symbolizes the political convulsion that rocked Europe after the Reformation.

Preterists associated the severe earthquake with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Idealists see the severe earthquake as the very eve of the final judgment, being the same as the great earthquake under the seventh bowl at the end of Daniel’s Seventy Seven (Revelation 16:17-21).

Futurists literally see a severe earthquake in Jerusalem that results in multitudes giving glory to the God of heaven. This glory is a realization that Christ is Lord, not the Antichrist. It is reasonable this verse pictures the conversion of all Israel at the middle of the Tribulation Period. This could be the final event before Israel’s eyes are opened to see Christ, whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10-13:9; Romans 11:25-27).

Now the promises of the New Covenant are fulfilled (Deuteronomy 30:6; Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-32) as God answers the prophet’s prayer on behalf of Israel: “In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).