SCROLL DOWN TO JANUARY 31 TO SEE THE REVELATION STUDY FROM THE BEGINNING.
The seventh angel has blown his trumpet and all heaven has begun celebrating the end of Satan’s time as “the prince of this world” (Jesus speaking, John 12:31). “Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of His covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm” (Revelation 11:19, NLT).
“Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of His covenant could be seen…” In the earthly Temple, the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded – see Hebrews 9:4) represented the presence and the faithfulness of God. The cover of the Ark of the Covenant was the mercy seat, representing the throne of God. God Himself covers us with His love and protection and fulfills every promise He makes. This was the place of atonement, and God Himself in the form of Jesus Christ atoned for our sins through His own death. In heaven, John now sees the actual Temple and Ark, not the earthly representation that had once stood in Jerusalem.
“Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm.” In Exodus 19 we read: “Then the Lord told Moses, ‘Go down and prepare the people for My arrival. So Moses went down to the people. He consecrated them for worship… On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain” (verses 10a, 14a, 16a). In the Exodus passage, the Lord was meeting with His own people. In Revelation, the Lord is coming to deal with those who don’t belong to Him.
Note, too, that at the foot of Mount Sinai – the place where the Exodus 19 passage takes place – the Lord is hidden within “a dense cloud.” When Jesus returns to Earth, He will be with the clouds, but not hidden by them: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him" (Revelation 1:7a, KJV).
Don’t confuse His Second Coming with the Rapture. In the Rapture, the Church is taken up into glory; Jesus doesn’t set foot on the Earth. He calls His own to join Him in heaven. In the Second Coming, Jesus returns to Earth, along with all of His people, to end the reign of “the prince of this world” after the seven years of the Tribulation.
I’m going to stop here since this ends Chapter 11 and we’ll begin Chapter 12 in May. God bless all of you. I appreciate your encouragement and support so much. I really will miss all of you, but I hope you’ll re-read the information we’ve covered so far and be ready to jump back in in May. All of the studies can be seen by scrolling down this page.
Judy Woodward Bates
The two special witnesses are killed, left in the street in Jerusalem and then raised from the dead. As they’re being visibly taken up into heaven, “there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city. Seven thousand people died in that earthquake, and everyone else was terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13, NLT).
The ones who’d been celebrating the deaths of the two witnesses because they’d been speaking out against the Beast and the False Prophet suddenly decided they’d better switch sides. A lot of people do this. Let a crisis come along and suddenly they want Jesus as their very best friend. Let the crisis pass, and it’s back to their same old ways.
If you think back, we’ve seen seven special angels who had been given trumpets to blow at specific times. Six have done so and the fifth and sixth trumpets brought horrific destruction. Then there was a lull or break in the timeframe before the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and that’s what we’re looking at now.
After telling us about the earthquake, John says: “The second terror is past, but look, the third terror is coming quickly. Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: ‘The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:14-15).
“…the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.” If you’re familiar with Handel’s Messiah, you recognize this phrase from the music.
Next, John shows us a scene in heaven. Just like the people of Earth celebrated the death of the two witnesses, everyone in heaven is celebrating what’s about to happen on Earth. No one is rejoicing over the destruction or horror people on Earth are enduring, but they are celebrating as God prepares to end Satan’s time as “the prince of this world” (Jesus speaking, John 12:31).
“The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped Him. And they said, ‘We give thanks to You, Lord God, the Almighty, the One who is and who always was, for now You have assumed Your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of Your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward Your servants the prophets, as well as Your holy people, and all who fear Your Name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth” (Revelation 11:16-18).
“…the time of Your wrath has come.” The Lord’s patience has ended. Those remaining on Earth have only seen the tip of the iceberg compared to what awaits them in eternity.
“It is time to judge the dead and reward Your servants the prophets, as well as Your holy people, and all who fear Your Name, from the least to the greatest.” Not only will God’s people be rewarded, but those who have rejected Him will soon stand at the Great White Throne of Judgment and hear their eternal damnation clearly pronounced.
“It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.” What kind of destruction is this verse talking about? More than anything else, I believe it’s talking about those whose lives have led people away from faith in Christ. Every person influences someone, and that influence either points people to Jesus or draws them farther from Him.
When the time of God’s wrath comes, where will you be? If you know Jesus, you’ll be one of those celebrating in heaven.
TO ALL OF YOU FOLLOWING THIS STUDY: As of Tuesday, April 16, I’m going to be away for a couple of weeks and unable to post until I return. Sorry for the break in the study, but there’s just no way around it. See you again in May!
Copyright 2019Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for APRIL 11
God’s two special witnesses have completed their time of prophesying and have been killed by “the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit,” (Revelation 11:7b, NLT). Let me stop right here and say that whatever God has called you to do, do it. He will give you the strength, ability and time to do it. Yes, the Bible says we can lengthen or shorten our days by the way we live – which is another entire lesson in itself – but if you’re living for the Lord and doing His will, you ain’t goin’ nowhere until God says your time is up.
The time for these two special witnesses is up and the whole world watches as the two men’s bodies are left “in the main street of Jerusalem” (Revelation 11:8a). There’s a global celebration since these men had been speaking out against the Beast and the False Prophet.
“But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up!”(Revelation 11:11a). Bet that put a halt to the celebrating. All around the world, the partyers will be glued to their computer, laptop, TV and phone screens watching with mouths agape. When John saw this future event, he said, “Terror struck all who were staring at them.” I bet it did!
And the world is in for another shock: “Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, ‘Come up here!’ And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.” (Revelation 11:12). Does everyone watching hear the voice? I don’t know, but they do see the two witnesses as they are visibly taken into “heaven in a cloud.”
“At the same time there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city. Seven thousand people died in that earthquake, and everyone else was terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13). Isn’t it pathetic how quickly we humans can change directions? One minute they’re elated over the death of the two witnesses and the next minute, when God takes them home, they’re giving “glory to the God of heaven.”
That, my friends, is what is called foxhole conversion, and for many, it lasts about as long as it takes to write this sentence. I’ve seen so many people “on fire” for Jesus one minute and living like the devil the next. Anyone can get hit with a spark of the Spirit – He’s constantly at work in this world – but only those who truly surrender to Him through faith and repentance allow Him to indwell their lives and give them the stick-with-it-ness to stay the course toward heaven.
How did Jesus put it? “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom” (Luke 9:62). Meaning what? If you mess up, you’re toast? No! Jesus knows we’ll mess up. He knows not a one of us will get it all right. But no one who truly receives Jesus as Lord and Savior ever misses their old life and old ways. I know I make mistakes every day, but I also know I never want to go back to who I was pre-Jesus.
Real conversion lasts. Real Christians are ready to go when Christ calls His Church home to glory. No one who truly knows Jesus will be left behind.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for APRIL 10
We’re in Chapter 11 of Revelation and we’re looking at the two special witnesses God will send for the last half of the Tribulation. “…they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days’” (Revelation 11:3b, NLT). These two special witnesses will primarily witness against the Beast and False Prophet, and whoever they are, they’re no ordinary humans.
“If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish” (Revelation 11:1a, 3-6).
During the time God has determined for these men to be on Earth warning people against putting their faith in the Beast and False Prophet, the Lord will protect these two men from all harm and empower them to do mighty acts of warning, from stopping any rain from falling to releasing deadly plagues.
“When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt,’ the city where their Lord was crucified. And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them” (Revelation 11:7-10).
At God’s appointed time, the two witnesses will be killed by “the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit,” which will look like a victory for evil. The people of Earth will be so enthralled with the Beast and False Prophet (which we’ll learn more about later) that they actually celebrate the deaths of the two witnesses who spoke out against them.
The place of their death is clearly Jerusalem, “And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them.”
Never before in history has it been possible for “all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations” around the world to all be able to simultaneously watch what is happening in real time in entirely different part of the world. Today there are many ways of instant communication. Larry and I regularly Skype with our friends in Norway. We see them, they see us, and we chat away in real time.
Turn on the news and you’ll often see live action of something happening miles or even continents away from where you are. At the time John wrote about what he saw and for centuries afterward, it was unthinkable for people to be able to do such a thing. Today’s it’s commonplace.
But God isn’t finished with these two men yet. We’ll see what happens with them tomorrow. Meanwhile, though, I’d left off yesterday by saying that the Beast and False Prophet won’t be the only ones sentenced to eternal damnation.
In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches about the Final Judgment, making it crystal clear that being a Christian means being the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to others and living as Jesus would have you to. Those who don’t do these things may claim His Name, but they aren’t His children since He says to them, “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41b).
Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying? Are you serving others? Are you supporting a local church with your presence and finances? This is what true believers in Jesus Christ are to be doing. Your kids, grandkids, coworkers, friends and neighbors are all learning from your example. Is yours a good one to follow? Only those who truly know Him will be exempt from the Tribulation.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 9
Yesterday we read about the temple John was shown, a temple that didn’t exist in his time and doesn’t exist today, but rather a temple that will be built in the future on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. During the Tribulation, Jerusalem will be a high priority target and will be trampled “for 42 months” (Revelation 11:2b, NLT), the last half of the Tribulation period.
John continues: “I was told… ‘And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days’” (Revelation 11:1a, 3).
This is the first mention of these “two witnesses” in the Book of Revelation, but we are told quite a bit about them in the very first sentence:
(1) They will be given “power.” These two men – the original language clearly indicates they are both male and human – are specially empowered for their ministry.
(2) “…they will be clothed in burlap…” In Bible times, people wore burlap as a sign of repentance. Their own salvation is evidenced in the wearing of “burlap” – called “sackcloth” in some translations.
And (3) they “will prophecy during those 1,260 days,” the last three and a half years or “42 months” of the Tribulation.
“These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth” (Revelation 11:4).
If we look back into the Old Testament, we see a vision given to the prophet Zechariah concerning this future time. An angel appeared to Zechariah: “‘What do you see?’ he asked. ‘I see a solid gold lampstand,’ I replied, ‘with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven spouts to each of the lamps. There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’ Then I asked the angel, ‘What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?’ …he said, “These are the two anointed ones who are standing beside the Lord of all the earth’” (excerpted from Zechariah 4).
How is it that these two witnesses are human yet stand “beside the Lord of all the earth”? Many believe them to be Moses and Elijah sent for this special mission. Others speculate they could be Elijah and Enoch, since both were taken into heaven without experiencing physical death – see Genesis 5:24 and Second Kings 2:11. Whoever they are, they’re no ordinary humans.
But why two witnesses? In John 8:17, Jesus told the Pharisees, “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact.” And Hebrews 10:28 tells us that “…anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
So a minimum of two witnesses was required to issue a death penalty. These two special witnesses will primarily witness against the Beast and False Prophet, and you can be sure that both of these God-haters will receive the eternal death penalty – see Revelation 19:20.
Sadly, the Beast and False Prophet won’t be the only ones sentenced to eternal damnation. Tomorrow we’ll see who else is included.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 8
Chapter 10 of the Book of Revelation closes with John being told to “prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings” (Revelation 10:11, NLT). Next, John tells us:
“Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, ‘Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months’” (Revelation 11:1-2).
What “Temple of God” is this passage referring to? Not one in existence today and not one that was in existence in John’s day, but a temple that will be built in the future. This temple will be built on Mount Moriah, the same mountain on which Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac – see Genesis 22 – and the same location as the previous “Temple of God,” which stood on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount, and was destroyed in 70A.D. This is where, after Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the 7th Century A.D., the Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, was built in 691A.D. and still stands today, along with the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
There’s a lot of recent history concerning this area, so bear with me while I hit the highlights of all that. The Babylonians conquered Israel and Israel ceased to exist as an independent nation after 606B.C. – remember, in B.C. time (also called B.C.E. – “before the common era,” but I prefer B.C. – “before Christ”) 606 came after 691 because time is counted down rather than up until we get to A.D. (also called C.E. – the “common era”). It wasn’t until 1948A.D. – only 71 years ago as of this coming May 14th – that Israel was again recognized as an independent nation.
Back to our passage. John is told, “…count the number of worshipers.” What are these worshipers doing? When the temple that is planned is built, it will be a remake of the previous or original temple, including the altars and priests trained in the proper procedures for fulfilling the daily sacrifices. To continue to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people is to deny the once-and-for-all sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, so anyone worshiping at this temple will not believe that Jesus Christ was and is God. They may be worshiping, but just like the folks who’ll be next door at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they’ll be turning their backs on the Only One who can save them.
“But do not measure the outer courtyard…” While it was long believed that the Dome of the Rock was built directly on the site of the last temple, more recent archaeological studies indicate that the Dome of the Rock is actually located in what would be the “outer courtyard” of the temple, the area that was known as the Court of the Gentiles.
“…for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.” I know these flip-flops in time are very confusing, but hang with me and I’ll do my best to unravel this as we go along. I believe the Rapture of the Church will occur soon after the temple is rebuilt and the Jews who are left behind during the Tribulation will be an especially persecuted group. Jerusalem will be a high priority target and will be trampled “for 42 months,” the last half of the Tribulation period.
Tomorrow we’ll meet the “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:3) that will have a special purpose during this time.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 7
After the first six angels with trumpets came “another mighty angel” came, holding “in his hand… a small scroll that had been opened” (Revelation 10:1a, 2a, NLT). Next, John tells us:
“Then the voice from heaven spoke to me again: ‘Go and take the open scroll from the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. ‘Yes, take it and eat it,’ he said. ‘It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!’ So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings’” (Revelation 10:8-11).
John is told to ‘Go and take the open scroll… and eat it.” This isn’t as strange as it may sound – see Ezekiel 3. What was the scroll? God’s message. Why was John to “eat it”? Because a person can’t give out the Word unless he first takes in the Word, and John had been instructed to “prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”
But what happened when John ate the scroll? “It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach.”
The Word of God is sweet. Precious. But it can also be upsetting. Even terrifying. Although we’re never specifically told what the little scroll contained, it was surely more information concerning the Last Days.
For John, this had to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he was privileged with sharing God’s message and pointing more people to heaven. On the other hand, he was seeing the terrible events to come and the final outcome for those who chose to reject Jesus. And that had to be upsetting.
If it was upsetting for John, it certainly ought to be upsetting for us as well. How can we say we love anyone and neglect to warn them about what happens to people who die without knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior? The Bible isn’t a fairy tale. Revelation isn’t fiction. It’s real. It’s headed our way. And we need to be prepared and help to prepare others.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 6
We’ve seen what a God-forsaken world the Tribulation time will be on Earth. Six of the trumpeting angels have blown their trumpets. One more remains, but we won’t see him until the last half of Chapter 11.
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered. When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down’” (Revelation 10:1-4, NLT).
In Revelation 5, we saw the Lamb of God take a scroll which only He could open. This doesn’t appear to be the same scroll, since this one is described as “a small scroll.” And this isn’t Jesus, since this passage identifies him as “another mighty angel,” although not one of the seven angels with trumpets.
This powerful angel “stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.” His stance shows us that he represents God’s authority over all things. “And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered.” Whoever or whatever these “thunders” are or represent, John was forbidden from writing down their words.
Why? While the Lord chose to reveal through John much of what would happen during the Last Days, He certainly didn’t reveal everything. Our Creator owes us no explanations, but He is kind, loving and merciful and offers us a wealth of information in the form of His Word, the Bible, and through the whispers of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for every moment of our lives. We don’t need to know all the answers. What we do need is an unshakable trust in our Savior.
“Then the angel I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand toward heaven. He swore an oath in the Name of the One who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and everything in them, the earth and everything in it, and the sea and everything in it. He said, ‘There will be no more delay. When the seventh angel blows his trumpet, God’s mysterious plan will be fulfilled. It will happen just as He announced it to His servants the prophets’” (Revelation 10:5-7).
“…no more delay.” This lull or break in the blowing of the trumpets may be another opportunity for the unsaved inhabitants of Earth to repent and turn to Jesus. Because after “the seventh angel blows his trumpet,” time will be up.
And then “God’s mysterious plan will be fulfilled. It will happen just as He announced it to His servants the prophets.” God’s ways may be “mysterious,” but He has graciously provided with a road map of His plan from beginning to end. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible points us to Jesus. And in John 14:16b, Jesus promised us an “Advocate, who will never leave” us: His Holy Spirit.
Some translations use the word “Helper.” Others say “Comforter,” or “Counselor.” All are speaking of the Holy Spirit, who also teaches us as we study God’s Word and pray and seek His guidance. Revelation may be confusing, but we can glean enough from it to understand what lies ahead for the saved and the unsaved, and that should certainly produce in us an urgency to share what we know with others.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 5
Yesterday we read about “the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year [who] were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth” (Revelation 9:15, NLT). This demonic foursome brought with them an “army, which was 200 million mounted troops” (Revelation 9:16b).
John continues: “And in my vision, I saw the horses and the riders sitting on them. The riders wore armor that was fiery red and dark blue and yellow. The horses had heads like lions, and fire and smoke and burning sulfur billowed from their mouths” (Revelation 9:17).
As I said yesterday, it’s highly unlikely that this is a human army. More probably, it’s the vast horde of demons John previously described as “locusts” in Revelation 9:7. John goes on to describe the “fire and smoke and burning sulfur” as “plagues” inflicted on the people remaining on earth. (Remember, the 144,000 specially protected witnesses are still on Earth, but have God’s protection over them.)
“One-third of all the people on earth were killed by these three plagues – by the fire and smoke and burning sulfur that came from the mouths of the horses. Their power was in their mouths and in their tails. For their tails had heads like snakes, with the power to injure people” (Revelation 9:18-19).
The people remaining on Earth will have already been through mindboggling horror at this point. John tells us how they respond to this latest terror:
“But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood – idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20).
“…gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood…” I don’t believe this is simply referring to worshiping the false gods of other religions. I think this is also talking about stuff. Material things. Those who survive the slaughter go back to business as usual.
“And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:21). What a God-forsaken world it will be during the Tribulation! “Thefts” will take place on an unprecedented scale because people will take whatever they want from anyone they can overpower. “Murders” will be rampant because people will kill to get what they can’t simply steal. The weak, the sick, the elderly will become easy prey.
“Sexual immorality” will escalate to the point that no one will be safe. As terrible as sex crimes can be in this day and time, imagine living a world with absolutely no morals and demonic forces multiplied beyond our comprehension. Look at Genesis 19 and Judges 19; if immorality in that day can be that blatant, it’s absolutely nauseating to think of the sickos who’ll be on Earth during the Tribulation.
I left “witchcraft” for last because I believe what we’re seeing today is leading directly into the kind of rampant drug use that will be taking place during the Tribulation. What does one have to do with the other? The word “witchcraft” is translated directly from the same root word from which we get the word “pharmacy.” Drugs.
We see on the news and experience in our own families what lengths a drug addict will go to in order to get their next high. With thieves, murderers, drug addicts and perverts all over the Earth, no one will be safe. And no one in their right mind will want to be there.
“Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b). “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31a).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 4
“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the gold altar that stands in the presence of God. And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.’ Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth. I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops” (Revelation 9:13-16).
Who are these four angels? We aren’t told, so we can only speculate. They could be the same four angels mentioned in Chapter 7, but I don’t think so. After all, these four angels are said to be “bound.” A holy angel wouldn’t be chained or held back, so it’s a safe assumption that these four angels are demonic forces that have been restrained until this very moment.
Think about all the evil that’s already in this world and then realize how much the Lord is currently limiting Satan’s power. During the Tribulation, God will still be in control, but He will be using Satan and his forces to accomplish His own righteous judgment.
How is it that God uses evil to accomplish His purposes? Paul reminds us in Romans 9:17a that the Lord “told Pharaoh, ‘I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying My power…’” God doesn’t force anyone to be evil any more than He forces anyone to repent and live righteously. He gives us all choice. But He also knows our hearts and He knew that Pharaoh’s stubborn heart would refuse to release the Israelites until God’s mighty power forced him to do so.
Satan chose to rebel against God and one-third of heaven’s angels went along with him. But unlike humans, there is no forgiveness, no grace, no mercy for fallen angels. Why? (1) They lived in the very presence of God and still chose to turn against Him. And (2) they, unlike humans, aren’t created in God’s image.
Knowing how badly we mess up and still find forgiveness through our merciful Heavenly Father, no wonder the devil and his followers hate us so much! In spite of all our sins, God loves us and continues to forgive us and promise us a heavenly home. While Satan and his demons are spending forever in torment, we’ll be spending eternity where they once lived and will never live again. No wonder he’s eager to see humans meet the same eternal fate as he will.
Note what is said about these four angels: They’ve “been prepared for this hour and day and month and year.” Only God knows when this time will be, but He is perfect and His timing is perfect, so at the appointed time, these four angels will be “turned loose to kill.”
But as terrible as all this sounds, don’t overlook the constant mercy of God. These instruments of judgment are restrained by the hand of God so that they are only allowed to kill “one-third of all the people on earth.”
“I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops.” Never has there been an army of such proportions. While some speculate that this is a literal human army, it’s very possible that this entire force is made up of the demons John previously described as “locusts” in Revelation 9:7a: “The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle.”
“Terror, terror, terror” (Revelation 8:13b) beyond imagination will overwhelm those left behind. Please be ready to leave here when Jesus calls for His Church to come home.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 3
John has identified the leader of the demonic horde that rises from the bottomless pit to torture those left on earth: “Their king is the angel from the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon – the Destroyer” (Revelation 9:11, NLT). In other words, Satan.
But John warns us that there’s still worse to come: “The first terror is past, but look, two more terrors are coming!” (Revelation 9:12).
“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the gold altar that stands in the presence of God. And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.’ Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth. I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops” (Revelation 9:13-16).
“The four horns of the gold altar.” (1) This was the altar where incense was offered to the Lord and, as we read in Chapter 8, the prayers of God’s people are mingled with the incense and offered up to God. It is impossible to stress strongly enough the power of the prayers of God’s people.
(2) The blood of the sacrifice was placed on the four horns of the altar. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross paid the sin-debt for all who put their faith in Him. But Psalm 116:17 also speaks of the “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” which may also be alluded to here.
How can it be a sacrifice to praise the Lord? Years ago, I was listening to a broadcast of “Focus on the Family” and a woman was talking about her and her husband’s experience when they lost eight of their nine children in a terrible accident. She and her husband were both badly injured and, as the EMTs loaded her onto the stretcher, she kept quoting Job 13:15: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (KJV).
One of the paramedics turned to another one and said, “She’s delirious.” She immediately responded, “No, I’m not. I just know if I don’t praise Him now, I may never praise Him again.” In times of overwhelming sorrow, praise is indeed sacrifice.
For those who turn to Jesus during the Tribulation, things will be horrific, but as they offer their sacrifices of praise, He will sustain them until they are martyred and join Him in glory.
If you’re going through a rough patch, praise Him now. If you’ll let Him, I promise you He’ll wrap you in His arms of love and lift your spirits far above your situation.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY on APRIL 2
Yesterday we saw that these demonic spirits from the bottomless pit John described as “locusts came from the smoke… and were given power to sting like scorpions” (Revelation 9:3, NLT). Even though their stings will be incredibly painful, the people who are stung won’t die. Why? Because even in this judgment, God’s mercy will allow these people yet another opportunity to repent and believe on Jesus.
John continues his description: “The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. They had what looked like gold crowns on their heads, and their faces looked like human faces. They had hair like women’s hair and teeth like the teeth of a lion. They wore armor made of iron, and their wings roared like an army of chariots rushing into battle. They had tails that stung like scorpions, and for five months they had the power to torment people. Their king is the angel from the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon – the Destroyer” (Revelation 9:7-11).
I’ve heard all sorts of speculation about what is being described here. Some think the “human faces” are literal and the “gold crowns” are helmets worn by the occupants of helicopters or some other type of modern-day warcraft with “wings [that] roared like an army of chariots.” Maybe, maybe not. Whatever these are, they’re demonic and led by Satan himself, called “Abaddon” in Hebrew and “Apollyon” in Greek. Satan is the “Destroyer.”
Think for a moment about this. Satan as the Destroyer has one goal: to destroy the lives of everyone he can, not just temporarily but for eternity. He knows he’s fighting a battle he’s already lost, so his only pleasure is in taking with him as many humans – the only part of Creation made in the very image of God (see Genesis 1:27) – as he possibly can.
With God’s protection in place, Satan is allowed to inflict horrific suffering, but he isn’t allowed to kill. And only by killing a person who doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior does Satan find satisfaction. It isn’t enough to cause a person to suffer on this Earth. He wants human beings to join him in his eternal fate “in the eternal fire” Jesus warns us about in Matthew 25:41.
Imagine the anger and frustration of this demonic leader when everything he does still doesn’t result in death for these people. Which is why John warns us that what he’s described is bad, but there’s still worse to come: “The first terror is past, but look, two more terrors are coming!” (Revelation 9:12).
If you know Jesus, get busy telling others what’s coming. Print out these daily studies. Share them with people who want to know or understand more about the message in the Book of Revelation. And pray, pray, pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of those who aren’t prepared for the day when Jesus Christ calls His Bride, the Church, into glory.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for APRIL 1
This is the passage we covered yesterday: “Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. When he opened it, smoke poured out as though from a huge furnace, and the sunlight and air turned dark from the smoke” (Revelation 9:1-2, NLT).
Remember, the “star” referred to in this passage is not an actual star, but a person or being because the same passage says “he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.” But it’s not Satan because Satan isn’t in charge and the Lord would certainly not give him “the key to… the bottomless pit.” Whoever this being is - an actual fallen angel (demon) or a heavenly angel – God is the one in charge and He has given this being the authority to unlock the pit. What happened next?
“Then locusts came from the smoke and descended on the earth, and they were given power to sting like scorpions. They were told not to harm the grass or plants or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were told not to kill them but to torture them for five months with pain like the pain of a scorpion sting. In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!” (Revelation 9:3-6).
First, note that these so-called locusts aren’t locusts at all, but demons being released into the earth. While Satan has had some power on earth all along, with the Church no longer here, he is allowed to have far more power. Temporarily. The demons are “given power to sting like scorpions.” Whether these stings are literal or figurative, we can be certain that these demons will be sent out to inflict maximum pain by some means on the people remaining on Earth.
However, certain people are off limits: “They were told not to harm… the people who… have the seal of God on their foreheads.” As far as we're told thus far, the only people with “the seal of God on their foreheads” is the 144,000 special Jewish witnesses – see Revelation 7:3-4.
As for the rest of the people remaining on Earth, “They were told not to kill them but to torture them for five months with pain like the pain of a scorpion sting.” I’m only speculating here, but it is possible that even though the 144,000 are turning many people to faith in Jesus Christ, the people who repent and turn to Jesus are quickly martyred for their faith. Only the 144,000 “who… have the seal of God on their foreheads” have a special protection over them that enables them to survive throughout the Tribulation. Remember, this special group was saved after the Church was taken from Earth and remain on Earth as witnesses to lead others to Jesus.
“In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!” First, note that while God has allowed this demonic attack, He is also limiting it: “for five months.” Even in His righteous judgments, God shows great mercy.
Secondly, other than the 144,000 who are specially protected, the people of Earth “will seek death but will not find it.” Is God taking pleasure in their suffering? No. As with all the other horrors of the Tribulation, He is using evil to give those who don’t know Him a clear choice to repent and be saved.
If the people of Earth during this time were able to die from these demonic attacks, they would die forever condemned because of their unbelief. But not allowing these attacks to be fatal means that every living person remaining on Earth will have more opportunities to turn to Jesus.
Even as we see such great horror, we see even greater mercy. The people who have rejected the Lord time and again are still not without hope. Jesus Christ will still receive any person who turns to Him in repentance and faith. I pray everyone reading this has already made that commitment.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 31
The fourth angel has blown his trumpet and one-third of the sun, the stars and the moon have gone dark. The universe is crumbling and, along with it, the people who have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air, ‘Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets’” (Revelation 8:13, NLT).
As we saw yesterday, the only people who have anything to fear from all these disasters is “all who belong to this world.” And don’t miss what the eagle is crying: “Terror, terror, terror.” The number three, symbolizing completeness, tells us that the terrors of these events are full force.
But note what else we see in the disasters brought on by the trumpet blasts of these first four angels; only one-third of the world is being devastated at this time. Even in the midst of such horrific judgment, we see God’s mercy. One-third may be destroyed, but for now, two-thirds is spared. There is still time for many to repent, if only they will.
But what specific terror does the eagle speak of? “…what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets.” If you think what we’re reading about now is bad, there’s even worse to come.
“Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. When he opened it, smoke poured out as though from a huge furnace, and the sunlight and air turned dark from the smoke” (Revelation 9:1-2).
The “star” referred to in this passage is clearly not an actual star, but a person or being because the same passage says “he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.” No, this is not Satan. Satan isn’t in charge and the Lord is certainly not going to give him “the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.” But whether this is an actual fallen angel – a demon – or a heavenly angel, God is in charge and He is the one who has given this being the authority to unlock the pit.
And when the pit is opened, so much smoke and, undoubtedly, fire and heat, pour out that “the sunlight and air turned dark.” No horror movie can compare with what’s about to come out of that pit.
Let me stress again that every catastrophe we’re reading about in Revelation will happen, but only to those who are left here after Jesus has called His Church – all those who have truly committed their hearts and lives to Him – out of this world and into glory. If we’ll remember that, we’ll have no fear for ourselves, but a tremendous urgency to warn those who don’t know Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 30
Three of the seven angels John told us about in Revelation 8:6 have already blown their trumpets. The first trumpet blast sent a disaster that destroyed one-third of the Earth’s vegetation. The second took out “one-third of all things living in the sea…, and one-third of all the ships on the sea” (Revelation 8:9, NLT). The third ruined one-third of the world’s fresh waters, so that the water became so contaminated that people died from drinking any of it.
Now the fourth angel goes to work: “Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and one-third of the sun was struck, and one-third of the moon, and one-third of the stars, and they became dark. And one-third of the day was dark, and also one-third of the night” (Revelation 8:12).
This time, the sun itself is affected by whatever the Lord is orchestrating. With a one-third portion of all the celestial lights affected, Earth becomes a cold, dark, terrifying place. Night is, of course, darker than day, but what’s happening now is a darkness as black as the darkest cave.
Add to that the destruction of the vegetation, seas and fresh waters and it’s clearly a view of a crumbling planet filled with dying people. People who are not only dying physically, but also dying spiritually unless they repent and turn to the only One who can save them.
“Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air, ‘Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets’” (Revelation 8:13).
Who is in terror? “…all who belong to this world.” The apostle Peter reminds us, “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls” (I Peter 2:11).
The Israelites spent hundreds of years as slaves in Egypt. Even after being miraculously delivered from that place, they chose time and again to disobey and disrespect Jehovah. For generations, Egypt had been all they knew. This world is the only home we know. And like the Israelites, we find it so easy to forget that we are only “temporary residents and foreigners.” We struggle daily “to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against [our] very souls.”
Yet what does Jesus tell us? “I am not of this world” (John 8:23b, NIV). “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 8:36a). And if you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, this world is not your home, either.
In the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11, the writer reminds us that these saints of old “agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13b, 16).
Those “who belong to this world” end up with the same fate as “this world.” But for His own, God “has prepared a city.” Are you coming?
Hope you’ll take a moment to listen and worship as Jeremy Camp sings this beautiful song: https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WLG6WGNX
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 29
Jesus has opened all seven seals on the scroll He is holding. Now, one by one, seven angels have begun to blow their trumpets. With each trumpet blast, another of God’s judgments takes place upon the earth.
“The first angel blew his trumpet, and hail and fire mixed with blood were thrown down on the earth. One-third of the earth was set on fire, one-third of the trees were burned, and all the green grass was burned” (Revelation 8:7, NLT). Whether this is caused by a gigantic meteorite or nuclear warfare, one-third of the earth’s vegetation is destroyed.
“Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and a great mountain of fire was thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea became blood, one-third of all things living in the sea died, and one-third of all the ships on the sea were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9). The second angel’s trumpet blast unleashes a disaster that takes out “one-third of all things living in the sea…, and one-third of all the ships on the sea.”
“Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch. It fell on one-third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star was Bitterness. It made one-third of the water bitter, and many people died from drinking the bitter water” (Revelation 8:10-11).
This third trumpet blast brings about another horrible disaster, this time ruining one-third of the world’s fresh waters. The “great star” may actually be a star or some other type of meteorite. As I said yesterday, whatever is happening is causing irreversible ecological and geographical destruction. The water becomes so contaminated that people die from drinking these waters, which are said to be “bitter.”
The star itself is called “Bitterness,” or in some translations “Wormwood,” which is a very bitter herb. The word “wormwood” is used in Deuteronomy, Amos, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Proverbs as a reference to sorrow and bitterness.
The world has never seen the sorrow and bitterness that awaits those who are left behind after those who are committed to Jesus Christ are taken from this world. We’ve already seen one-third of the vegetation destroyed; one-third of the seas and everything in them destroyed, along with the ships, crews and passengers on the sea; and one-third of the rivers, springs and other fresh waters destroyed or contaminated to the point of being unable to sustain life for anything living in them or drinking from them.
We’ll look at the fourth trumpet blast tomorrow. All I can say is: people, get ready, get ready.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 28
The Lamb of God has opened all seven seals on the scroll He was holding, and after an explosion of praise, there came “silence throughout heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, NLT). After this, John saw “…the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:2).
But before we see what the seven angels with trumpets do, there came “another angel with a gold incense burner” (Revelation 8:3) who mixed the incense with the prayers of God’s people which then “ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out” (Revelation 8:4). This same angel then “filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake” (Revelation 8:5).
“Then the seven angels with the seven trumpets prepared to blow their mighty blasts” (Revelation 8:6). Here again, let me remind you that the occurrences in the book of Revelation are not necessarily in chronological order. These seven angels blowing their trumpets may or may not coincide with the opening of each of the seven seals, but at whatever point these trumpets are blown, each one brings more of God’s judgment upon the earth.
“The first angel blew his trumpet, and hail and fire mixed with blood were thrown down on the earth. One-third of the earth was set on fire, one-third of the trees were burned, and all the green grass was burned” (Revelation 8:7).
Whatever brings about what John describes as “hail and fire mixed with blood,” we can’t be sure. But whatever it is, it takes out one-third of the plants on Earth. Speculation runs the gamut from a gigantic meteorite to nuclear warfare. There are countless possible explanations. The important thing, though, is to: (A) plan on not being here when this happens; and (B) understand that however it takes place, this is God bringing judgment on a world that has rejected its own Creator.
“Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and a great mountain of fire was thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea became blood, one-third of all things living in the sea died, and one-third of all the ships on the sea were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9).
The Creator is turning Creation against those who have rejected Him. Whether this “great mountain of fire” that falls “into the sea” is another meteor or some other horrifying phenomenon, it destroys “one-third of all things living in the sea… and one-third of all the ships on the sea.”
And we’ve only looked at the first two trumpeters. Any way you want to explain or guess at what will be happening on Earth during this time, it’s safe to say there is irreversible ecological and geological destruction on an unheard-of scale. And it will only get worse.
Folks, I can’t stress it enough. Everything we’re reading about in Revelation is real. Every bit of this will take place after Jesus calls His Church – all those who have truly committed their hearts and lives to Him – to be with Him in glory. Every horror we read about will affect the people who are still here after the Church is taken up. Don’t be left behind and plead with others to make sure they won’t be, either.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 27
The Tribulation saints have been gathered into heaven. And now Jesus opens the seventh seal on the scroll: “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, NLT).
All creation had been shouting and praising Jesus. Now there comes a time of absolute silence. John says “for about half an hour.” What a contrast! And what does this mean?
In a place where loud sounds of worship are nonstop, this has to be a deafening silence. Ever been in a meeting when the speaker loses their place and there’s that awkward moment of hesitation or silence? In a matter of seconds, the whole room feels the discomfort.
Perhaps that’s what’s going on in heaven here. With the final seal removed, the scroll can now be opened and the judgments begun. This is the moment all Creation has been waiting for: the beginning of the end, when Christ will make all things right.
After the seventh seal is opened, John says, “I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:2). Jewish tradition says there are seven angels who stand in God’s presence. Here, we see these seven angels and they’ve been given seven trumpets because the time has come to sound the battle cry. With each trumpet blast, a judgment begins.
But even before that, some other things happen in heaven and on earth: “Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out. Then the angel filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake” (Revelation 8:3-4).
Like the incense offered to the Lord in the Temple, this angel blends heavenly incense with “the prayers of God’s people.” Just a thought here, but figuratively, this incense may represent the actions of Christ as “a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Ephesians 5:2b). As our “High Priest” (Hebrews 8:3), Jesus brings the prayers of the saints before the Father.
The incense having been poured out, the angel’s mission now changed. “…the angel filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake” (Revelation 8:5).
As I’ve said before, time isn’t necessarily chronological in Revelation, so each of the seven trumpets seem to coincide with the opening of each of the seven seals. Tomorrow we’ll start our look at what each trumpet brings.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 26
John saw “…a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10, NLT).
This is not the huge crowd John saw earlier. We saw this group for the first time yesterday. Who are they? “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white” (Revelation 7:14b). During the horrors of the Tribulation, countless people will surrender their hearts and lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
And as more and more people realize the truth of the Bible and turn to Jesus, they’ll tell others who’ll tell others – just like we’re to be doing now, but with far more urgency than most of us Christians today. Too, there’ll be the witness of the 144,000 Jewish believers who’ll have accepted Christ and will have special protection during the Tribulation, “the seal of God on the foreheads of His servants” (Revelation 7:3b).
The elder who identified the “vast crowd” for John now tells John why their jubilation is so effusive. They knew what horrors their salvation had rescued them from. If ever there was a time that could be described as hell on earth, the Tribulation comes as close as that will ever get. Even though these believers had suffered horribly and been killed for their faith in Christ, they understood the eternal terror they’d been saved from and they understood the great price paid for their salvation.
“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve Him day and night in His Temple. And He who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17).
Look back at the above passage. Based on what the elder tells John, we can surmise that these believers who were saved during the Tribulation endured many hardships, including having no shelter, no food and no water. In other words, they had nothing. The very basics of life had been denied them because of their commitment to Christ.
Now, though, these saints of God had no needs whatsoever. God Himself provided them with an eternal home; a seat at the banquet table of Christ; “life-giving water”; and a joyful eternity where none of them would ever shed another tear.
Why is it we most deeply appreciate the good things in our lives only after we’ve been through bad things? Whether you’ve had a life of ease or experienced a lot of hardships and heartaches, knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior guarantees you eternity with “no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4b).
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And if it sounds wonderful to you, it’ll sound just as wonderful to the people you share the Good News with.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 25
After the opening of the sixth seal in Chapter 6, we came to Chapter 7 where we sort of backed up to see that none of the four horsemen were allowed to begin their campaigns of chaos until the designated angels had “placed the seal of God on the foreheads of His servants” (Revelation 7:3b, NLT).
While all of the redeemed are sealed with the Holy Spirit – see Ephesians 1:13 – these 144,000 special servants were all Jews, from what appears to be 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel. As I said yesterday, there is no mention of Dan in this list. Why would Dan be left out? We can only speculate, but it could be because of their having been the first tribe to bring the practice of idolatry into Israel: “Then they set up the carved image” (Judges 18:30a).
But don’t count Dan out. Just because they aren’t mentioned in Revelation’s 144,000 as special witnesses for the Lord doesn’t mean the descendants of Dan are without hope. In Ezekiel’s great vision – see Ezekiel 40-48 – Dan is the first tribe mentioned after Ezekiel describes the river of healing flowing from the Temple of the Holy City – see Ezekiel 48:1. God’s forgiveness is beyond our comprehension. Before we count anybody out, we need to remember that.
And speaking of not counting people out, let’s see what John saw next in heaven: “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Here’s a brand new crowd, “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language,” added to the enormous celebration going on all over Creation. And who else was worshiping? “…all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen’” (Revelation 7:11-12).
“Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, ‘Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one who knows’” (Revelation 7:13-14a).
None of us can begin to imagine what John was feeling as he witnessed this scene and the many other wonders of heaven. But it’s important to realize that eternity is timeless, so what John sees isn’t necessarily in chronological order as we understand time. Now one of the elders tells John who this “vast crowd” is:
“Then he said to me, ‘These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white’” (Revelation 7:14b).
Wow! As horrible as the Tribulation will be, this will be a time when countless people surrender their hearts and lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Finally, in the midst of horrors this world has never seen before nor will ever see again, droves of people will figure out the Bible was telling the Absolute Truth from cover to cover.
As I said before, there won’t be an atheist left on Planet Earth. I pray everyone reading this is a committed believer. It grieves me beyond words to think of anyone being left behind to endure the Tribulation. But even for those who are, don’t count them out. God’s forgiveness is so much deeper and wider than anything we can even begin to imagine.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 24
Jesus has opened the sixth seal and its opening throws the universe into chaos. An earthquake rocks the entire planet. The sun stops shining and the moon looks like blood. The stars – monster-sized meteorites – fall to the earth. The sky seems to disappear and whole mountains are leveled even as islands sink beneath the ocean. Earth is doomed and all those who haven’t given their hearts and lives to Jesus are doomed right along with it.
And even as “everyone – the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person” (Revelation 6:15, NLT) cries out, begging for the rocks to fall on them, they do so because of their terror of “…the face of the one who sits on the throne and… the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16b). At this point, there are no atheists left on Planet Earth. Every person knows Who’s in charge and why all this is happening. Too late, they now realize that every word in the Bible is true.
“Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so they did not blow on the earth or the sea, or even on any tree. And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, ‘Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of His servants.’ And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God – 144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: from Judah, 12,000; from Reuben, 12,000; from Gad, 12,000; from Asher, 12,000; from Naphtali, 12,000; from Manasseh, 12,000; from Simeon, 12,000; from Levi, 12,000; from Issachar, 12,000; from Zebulun, 12,000; from Joseph, 12,000; from Benjamin, 12,000” (Revelation 7:1-8, NLT).
We’re wading in deep again, but this seems to be an event prior to the unleashing of the four horsemen, as “the four winds” are likely to also represent the same four horsemen. The catastrophes taking place on earth are held off until 144,000 special witnesses are sealed: “until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of His servants.”
Who are these 144,000 special witnesses? Jews. Jews who have believed on Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Jews who have a special assignment from God. What is it? We aren’t told any specifics, but they assuredly telling the world that Jesus is God. Who knows how many of the martyred souls we saw in yesterday’s passage came to Christ through these people’s testimonies.
Records showing who came from which tribe are long gone, but God knows everything about everyone. And these 144,000 are made of 12,000 from each of the listed tribes. But there’s something very interesting in this list: (1) the tribe of Dan isn’t listed; and (2) Joseph is listed, even though Joseph is actually the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. If you look back at the list, Manasseh has its own listing, but Ephraim doesn’t. So Joseph must be the listing for the tribe of Ephraim. Hope that makes sense.
So just to clarify before I wrap up for today, contrary to what some were once taught, there will assuredly be more than 144,000 people saved and going to heaven. Nobody has to beat out another person to get a spot in glory. Besides, since our right standing before the Lord is only because of the sacrifice of Christ, my standing before Him is just as solid as Billy Graham’s. And so is yours. Incredible, yes, but that’s the amazing God we have put our trust in.
We’ll take a deeper look into these 144,000 tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for MARCH 23
Jesus has opened the fifth seal on the scroll and we’ve seen “under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony” (Revelation 6:9, NLT). Many people will put their faith in Jesus during the Tribulation, but they will pay a great price for having waited until that time.
“I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.
Then everyone – the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person – all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?’” (Revelation 6:12-17).
The opening of the sixth seal throws the universe into utter chaos. An earthquake rocks the entire planet. The sun stops shining and the moon looks like blood. The stars – monster-sized meteorites – fall to the earth. The sky seems to disappear and whole mountains are leveled even as islands sink beneath the ocean. Earth is doomed and all those who haven’t given their hearts and lives to Jesus are doomed right along with it.
John’s depiction of what’s happening isn’t symbolic. It’s real. It’s his best possible description of a cataclysmic event like no one has ever seen. Thank God the Church won’t be here when it happens!
With the internet and Skype and instant communication worldwide, imagine reports coming in from all over the world of these horrific disasters. And then the lights go out. The satellites, like the sun, moon and stars go dark. No one knows what’s happening anywhere except right where they are, and all they see around them is absolute horror.
No wonder John says “everyone – the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person” cried out, begging for the rocks to fall on them. Never has there been the kind of terror the people left on Earth will experience during this time.
And out of all these horrors, what is it the people will fear the most? “…the face of the one who sits on the throne and… the wrath of the Lamb.” Too late now for repentance. Too late now for anything except the present and eternal suffering that awaits those who have rejected Jesus’ free offer of salvation.
And all this happens with every person fully aware of why it’s happening: Because “the great day of (the Lord’s) wrath has come.”
This is no fairy tale. This is no scary story. This is reality. And it’s a reality that every person living on Planet Earth will experience during the last days. Only the redeemed will escape this. Only the redeemed will have already been scooped up and taken to the eternal safety of the Father’s arms. Live like you believe this so that others will believe it too.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 22
Jesus has opened the first four seals on the scroll and we’ve seen all four of the horsemen and riders, but there are three more seals to be opened.
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters - their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred – had joined them” (Revelation 6:9-11, NLT).
“I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.” There are two different opinions on who these “souls” are. Some see it as all martyrs from all time. Others – and this is where I throw my hat in – see these as people who were saved on earth after the Rapture of the Church (during the Tribulation) and were killed because of their faithfulness and testimony to others.
Why are they “under the altar”? This was an understandable visual for John. Like the blood of the sacrifices in the Temple, these Tribulation saints had spilled their blood rather than deny the One they’d finally come to believe in.
And these martyrs cried out to the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” This wasn’t simply a cry of “Look what they did to us.” This is a cry for the Tribulation to be over and for the horrors of it to end. Undoubtedly, these “souls” weren’t the only ones saved during the Tribulation. They knew there were others who had become a part of the family of God, their brothers and sisters in Christ, who were enduring unthinkable torment at the hands of the AntiChrist and his followers.
This is further verified by the answer they received to their question: “rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters - their
fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred – had joined them.”
Many people will put their faith in Jesus during the Tribulation, but they will pay a great price for having waited until that time. As Second Corinthians 6:2b reminds us, “Today is the day of salvation.” Sadly, though, countless people won’t be saved when the Church is taken into heaven, and those who aren’t will be left behind to endure the reign of the AntiChrist.
For those who turn to Jesus even during those last days, their reward is heaven. But what a terrible way to get there! Don’t wait to commit your heart and life to Jesus. And don’t wait to tell others how much they need Him.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 21
Jesus has begun to open the seven seals on the scroll. Opening the first seal unleashed a white horse and rider who looked like Jesus, but was actually the AntiChrist. Satan is an imposter.
The opening of the second seal brings out a red horse and rider, War. As I said yesterday, with the Church removed from the earth, God’s judgment has begun. The Lord has given the earth every opportunity to repent and turn to Him. Now, with those who are His own having been taken up ino heaven, the end time horrors have begun.
And now the third seal is opened. “When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Revelation 6:5-6, NLT).
The black horse and its rider represent Famine. This rider’s purpose is to destroy the food supplies on earth. As food becomes more and more scarce, the prices increase until enough wheat or barley to barely keep a family alive for a few days costs a day’s wages.
“…do not damage the oil and the wine!” There are a couple of viewpoints on this. First, the wealthy will still be able to afford these, even though they’re luxury items. The second train of thought, which I agree with, is that these items will still be available, but who can live on only oil and wine? Oil was used in cooking and a very weak low-alcohol content wine was commonly drunk with meals. Bottom line, though, is that Famine will strike the entire earth and starvation will be rampant.
Next, Jesus opens the fourth seal and the last of the four horsemen makes his appearance. “When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:7-8).
The pale horse’s rider is immediately identified: Death. With the AntiChrist in power and war and famine happening all over the earth, bodies are piling up and disease (“plague”) is everywhere. Many of the dead and dying are devoured “by the wild beasts of the earth.” Next comes Hades, hell. The unsaved of earth leave earthly horror only to be swallowed up in eternal damnation.
We’ve seen all four of the horsemen and riders now, but there are three more seals to be opened. How we need to take to heart the advance warning John was allowed to give. This horrible time on earth is inescapable for those who aren’t taken up into heaven as part of the One True Church.
Talk to your family. Talk to your friends. Use every opportunity you have to talk about the end times. Make sure people understand the urgency to commit their lives to Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 20
Yesterday we saw the huge celebration that began in heaven and spread to “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea” (Revelation 5:13a, NLT). The Lamb of God had been declared worthy to open the scroll. That scroll, as we saw a while back, was sealed with seven seals. Now Jesus begins to open those seals.
“As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory” (Revelation 6:1-2).
We’re wading into some deep waters here, so let me stress that there are differing opinions on the identity of the rider of this first white horse. Some believe him to be Jesus. Others believe him to be the AntiChrist himself. I agree with the latter. Yes, we will see Jesus on a white horse later on, but this isn’t Him – see Revelation 19. So why don’t I believe this is Jesus?
First, Jesus is the one opening the seal. Second, I don’t see even one of the cherubim – “the four living beings” – ordering Jesus to “Come!” or to do anything else. Third, this figure rides “out to win many battles and gain the victory.” Jesus doesn’t need to “gain the victory.” It’s already His.
Fourth, once the Church (made up of all who have truly trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior) is removed from the world, the time will have come for the AntiChrist to have his brief period of power. This is when he will appear as the false messiah. My fifth and final point is what follows this white horse and its rider: three more riders, none of which bring anything good.
“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword” (Revelation 6:3-4).
If there was any doubt about the identity of the first rider, the riders who follow him should remove it. The red horse and its rider have one mission: “to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other.”
With the Church removed from the earth, God’s judgment has begun. The AntiChrist is given temporary authority on earth. The red horse and its rider represent war and he is only able “to take peace from the earth” because he “was given power to” do so. And who gave him that power? God. The Holy Trinity. God has given the earth every opportunity to repent and turn to Him. Now, with those who are His own out of the danger, the end time horrors have begun.
Folks, you’ve heard it said so many times, but it can’t be said enough. Jesus is going to call His people out from this earth and those who haven’t committed their hearts and lives to Him will be left behind to endure the horrors of the Tribulation. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Nor should you.
Make sure you’re ready to go and make sure you’re helping others prepare.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 19
Jesus, the Lamb of God was the only one worthy to take the scroll John saw in heaven. “And when He took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb… And they sang a new song” (Revelation 5:8a, 9a, NLT).
“Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered – to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing’” (Revelation 5:11-12).
There’s no way to even begin to imagine this scene. John is describing the indescribable in the best human terms possible. He sees and hears “the four living beings and the twenty-four elders” along with “thousands and millions of angels” singing praises to the Lamb. The Bible recounts many times when the appearance of one angel struck a person speechless in terror and awe. There’s no way to imagine the sight of “thousands and millions.”
And the party was only getting started! It expanded throughout the heavens and even onto the earth: “And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever’” (Revelation 5:13).
Psalm 96:13a declares, “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord” (NIV). Well, folks, here it is!
And as “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea” joined the celebration, “…the four living beings said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb” (Revelation 5:14).
“Amen!” In other words, so be it! Yes, a million times over! This is the moment “all creation” has been waiting for. And if you’re a part of the One True Church, all those who have truly committed their hearts and lives to Jesus, you’re going to be right there joining in this incredible celebration. Don’t you dare miss it!
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 18
The Lamb of God has taken the scroll and the heaven is celebrating: “When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood You purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them into a kingdom, priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth’” (Revelation 5:8-10).
We’re only hitting the highlights because it would take years to cover all this in-depth, but for now, take a look back at the “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
If we look back at Luke 1, we see Zechariah serving as priest. Verse 10 says, “While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying” (NET Bible).
In heaven, no believer is “outside” as the prayers of God’s people are being lifted up. The One True Church is in the very presence of God.
“And they sang a new song…” Commentary on this one statement could fill volumes, but here are some important points:
(1) Why is the song “new”? For the saints of the Old Testament, their long-awaited Deliverer had come.
(2) It was “new” to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul explains in Ephesians 1:13: “And in Him, having heard and believed the word of truth – the gospel of your salvation – you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Berean Study Bible).
(3) It was “new” to be “a royal priesthood,… God’s special possession” (I Peter 2:9, NIV), “priests to serve our God, and… reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10, NLT).
And all of this was possible because of Jesus’ great sacrifice. His “blood… purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9b). Who is the “those” this passage speaks of? Jesus, referring to Himself as “the gate,” said in John 10:9, “Those who come in through Me will be saved.”
One way, folks. In these last days, I’m hearing more and more people question that. More and more people are beginning to think there are multiple ways to heaven. Let me put it plainly: there ain’t. Speaking of Jesus in Acts 4:12, Peter declared, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
If you don’t know Jesus, you’ll never know heaven. If your friends and family don’t know Jesus, they’ll never know heaven. Time is short. Make sure you get the Word out.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 17
We’ve seen that only Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, “is worthy to open the scroll’” (from Revelation 5:5b, NLT).
“And He came and took the scroll from the right hand of the One seated on the throne” (Revelation 5:7). Hang with me here, but Jesus on the throne signifies His equality with God the Father. Jesus the Lamb shows Him as the God-Man who gave His life as a living sacrifice for our sins. And the seven eyes of the Lamb “represent the sevenfold Spirit of God” (Revelation 5:6b), the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is seen in this passage. I hope that clears up this confusing imagery a bit.
So Jesus takes “the scroll.” And all heaven breaks forth in celebration! We sometimes say, “Seems like I’ve waited an eternity for…” Heaven has been waiting that long!
“When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood You purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them into a kingdom, priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth’” (Revelation 5:8-10).
Yes, this is the passage that probably started the notion that every person who dies becomes an angel and flies around heaven strumming on a harp. So let me knock this myth out of the way right quick.
Angels are created beings, just as humans are created beings. Humans, however, are the only part of God’s creation made in His own image. Speaking as the Trinity, we read God’s words from Genesis 1:26a, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”
Angels, also created beings, have been around a lot longer than mankind. How do we know this? God says so in the Book of Job: “…when I laid the foundations of the earth… all the angels shouted for joy” (excerpted from Job 38:4, 7). And Psalm 103:21 speaks of the “armies of angels who serve Him and do His will!” Angels are servants of God.
So no human becomes an angel in heaven. And I assure you there’s a whole lot more going on in heaven than harp-strumming.
Lastly, before I wrap up for today, let me also remind you that Lucifer, or Satan, was also an angel. As we saw a few days ago, he was actually one of the cherubim, or as Ezekiel 28:14 describes him, “an anointed guardian cherub” (ESV).
Lucifer not only turned against the Lord, he led other angels to follow him in his rebellion against their Creator. Some nerve, huh? And because of their sin, they were cast out of heaven forever.
But wait a minute. Every time we disobey the Lord through ignoring His will or choosing to go against it, we too are rebelling against our Creator. For the fallen angels, there was no going back. But praise God, for us there’s grace. Forgiveness. Mercy. Aren’t you thankful?
“Without grace there is no hope, but with it there is no shortage.” (attributed to Barnabas)
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 16
Here are the highlights of what we looked at yesterday: “Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne… ‘Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. Then I began to weep… But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll’” (from Revelation 5:1-5, NLT).
But when John looks for the Lion, he insteads sees a Lamb, looking “…as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders” (Revelation 5:6a). “Between” is a hugely important word here. While the Lamb of God stands “among the twenty-four elders,” He also stands “between” them and “the throne.”
Christ, who died for all the redeemed, the One True Church (represented by the 24 elders), is our go-between, our Advocate, the one who speaks on our behalf to the Father and says, “This one is mine.” We are seen through the shed blood of Jesus and declared righteous because of His sacrifice. As Isaiah 61:10b declares, the Lord “has dressed (us) with the clothing of salvation and draped (us) in a robe of righteousness.”
John’s description of the Lamb of God continues: “He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth” (Revelation 5:6b).
“Horns” signify power and “eyes” signify understanding or wisdom. John sees the Lamb of God with seven of each, meaning absolute perfect power and wisdom. And John explains that these “Horns” and “eyes… represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.” All power, all wisdom belongs to Christ and He is God. He is the Holy Spirit. He is the Triune (three-in-one) God.
The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is God. It is no more appropriate to call the Holy Spirit “it” than it is to call Jesus Christ “it.” If we believe in the Three-in-One Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – it’s very important to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is another manifestation of Christ Himself, just as Christ is another manifestation of God Himself.
When Jesus Christ left this earth in His physical form, He remained with us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Long before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah 7:14b foretold it: “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us').”
God is still with us. The Holy Spirit lives inside each and every person who has truly committed their heart and life to Jesus Christ. He is calling to those who haven’t already accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is with us. Not “it.” He.
Thank Him for His presence. Acknowledging who He is is the first step toward a deeper understanding and walk with the Spirit.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 15
At last we come to Chapter 5: “Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: ‘Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.
Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals’” (Revelation 5:1-5, NLT).
Revelation gets a bit confusing because of all the symbolism, but hang with me and we’ll pick this apart and make it understandable. John’s focus in this passage is “a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne.” This scroll had “writing on the inside and the outside.” Normally a scroll only had writing on one side, but this scroll had writing on both sides of the paper. To say the least, that meant this scroll contained an unusual amount of information.
Notice something else unusual about this scroll. Instead of being sealed with one seal, it was sealed with seven. Typically, seven seals were used to seal a will, which seems totally appropriate considering that every word was the absolute will of God. In a human will, we are expressing our wish or will that certain things take place, as in our house going this person or money going to that person. In this scroll, the Eternal God’s will or plan is announced.
Who’s holding this scroll? The glorified Christ. Yet this powerful unidentified angel calls out, “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” And no one answers. Not even Jesus. And in that pause, John begins to cry because he senses the importance of the information contained within the scroll and wants to know what it says.
That’s when one of the 24 elders, the representatives of the One True Church of all ages, comforts John and tells him, “Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders” (Revelation 5:6a).
“The Lion of the tribe of Judah” is announced as “worthy to open the scroll” and yet when John looks, he sees “a Lamb.” A delicate, gentle Lamb. And it “looked as if it had been slaughtered.” The Lamb of God bore the scars of His sacrifice.
And look where the Lamb is: “standing... among the twenty-four elders.” Remember, the 24 elders represent the One True Church made up of all true believers of all time. Everything Jesus went through, He did it for the Church. His Bride. His children. His people.
“Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh how He loves you and me. He gave his life, what more could He give? Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how He loves me; Oh, how He loves you and me.” (Word Music, 1975)
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 14
As we saw yesterday, the four living beings, or cherubim, around the throne of the glorified Christ are constantly praising their Creator: “Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come’” (Revelation 4:8, NLT).
But that’s only the praise of the cherubim. Psalm 96:13a says, “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord…” (NIV). So what are the 24 elders on their thrones around the Savior doing?
“Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For You created all things, and they exist because You created what You pleased’” (Revelation 4:9-11, NLT).
They’re also worshiping Jesus! And don’t miss this: they “fall down and worship.” I realize a lot of folks are physically unable to kneel when praying or worshiping, but I highly recommend you try it if you’re still able. You’ll never see a Muslim worship Allah kicked back in his seat or standing. No, he’s on his face in worship. Surely the Lord Jesus Christ deserves this much honor and more.
Notice, too, that the elders “lay their crowns before the throne.” How’d they get those crowns? Paul has the answer in Second Timothy 4:8: “And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.”
The word for “crown” used in Second Timothy 4:8 and in Revelation 4:10 is the Greek word “stephanos.” This is the kind of crown that was given the winners in an athletic competition. This is a crown of victory. And by laying those crowns at the feet of Jesus, the redeemed are acknowledging that they didn’t earn those crowns, but that they were bestowed on them only because of what Jesus did on their behalf.
Laying their crowns at Jesus’ feet was an easily understandable image for those living in John’s day. A ruler would generally have a lot of lesser kings serving under him. Whenever these minor kings were called before the chief ruler or king, they would bow down and present their crowns to him. This was their way of saying, “Any authority we have is only because you allow us to have it.” The chief ruler would then return the crowns to the minor kings, letting them know that he appreciated their acknowledgement of his supreme authority and that he was again bestowing his own authority on them.
This is what’s happening with the elders we see around Christ’s throne. They are acknowledging that they earned nothing, but are there and crowned with Christ’s righteousness and none of their own.
Do you “eagerly look forward to His appearing”? If so, your “crown of righteousness” awaits!
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 13
“In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come’” (Revelation 4:6b-8, NLT).
“…four living beings” circle “around the throne” of the glorified Jesus Christ. Their descriptions include a lion, an ox, a human and an eagle. All of them, “Day after day and night after night… keep on saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.’” Reminds me of Psalm 96:13a, “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord” (NIV).
But there’s much more to these four very interesting figures. To see that, we first need to look at Ezekiel 1:5-24. I hope you’ll take time to read that entire passage, but in Ezekiel’s vision, he sees these same four beings and says that “each had four faces” (Ezekiel 1:6a, NLT). John sees these same beings and describes the four different faces each of the beings has.
It’s important to also note here that while the KJV refers to these “beings” as “beasts,” that’s a very poor translation. What are they? Cherubim, the plural of the word “cherub.” Instead of the chubby naked little winged angels we see in cartoons, the Bible describes cherubim as powerful and super-intelligent. Just how powerful and intelligent are we talking here? Ezekiel 28:14 tells us that Satan (Lucifer) was “an anointed guardian cherub” (ESV).
John also says “Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out.” Eyes indicate understanding, so these beings are a whole lot smarter than any human and see everything much more clearly than we do. Add to that the fact that they’re in the very presence of the glorified Lord and we realize just how important these “living beings” are.
And their faces? The lion is pretty easy to figure out, since Jesus is “the lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5a). In Numbers 2 we see where the 12 tribes were divided into 4 groups around the tabernacle during the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. The group headed by Judah had, of course, a lion as its emblem; Ephraim, an ox; Reuben, a man; and Dan, an eagle.
Another school of thought on these faces concerns the different Gospels and Jesus’ depiction in each. Most Bible scholars peg Matthew as the “lion” Gospel where Jesus is most seen as the Lion of Judah. In Mark, Jesus is shown to be the hard-working servant, the ox. In Luke, He’s shown to be fully God yet fully man. And in John, He’s the eagle, who came from and returned to the heavens.
Most importantly, we see the singular focus of these “four living beings.” They are in awe of Jesus. And so should we be.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 12
To review, let’s read the opening five verses of Revelation 4 and then move to our passage for today: “Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.’ And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled His throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded Him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God” (Revelation 4:1-5, NLT).
“In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal” (Revelation 4:6a).
In our passage for today, we see “a shiny sea of glass.” We see this sea again in Revelation 15:2. But there’s another passage in Revelation that speaks of an entirely different sea: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1, KJV).
The “sea of glass” is “in front of the throne” of the glorified Savior. The sea mentioned in Revelation 21 is the sea or waters of the world. In Biblical days, the sea was a place of terror and danger. Sudden storms arose that could take out the strongest of ships. Many men lost their lives working or voyaging on the sea. The new heaven and… earth” won’t be waterless. Instead, the waters will be beautiful and inviting, safe and serene. There will be no longer be any violent, dangerous waters.
But what of this “sea of glass”? John offers no explanation or details, but it seems to be reminiscent of the “sea of brass” we read about in First Kings 7:23-26. When King Solomon built the Temple, this laver, or wash basin, was made 18 feet in diameter and held 16,000 gallons of water. Huge. Its purpose was for the washing of the priests’ hands and feet in preparation for certain ceremonies or duties – see Exodus 30:18-21. So it’s safe to say the “sea of glass” is in some way related to cleansing.
The book of Jude closes with these two verses: “Now to Him who is able to preserve you without sin, and to present you spotless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, To the only God our Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory and magnificence, empire and power, before all ages, and now, and for all ages of ages. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25, Douay-Rheims Bible).
In this girl’s opinion, that “sea of glass” is representative of the cleansing of the believer. Each and every one of us will one day stand before Jesus, either in welcome into His Kingdom or in sentencing into eternal separation from Him. (The condemned will stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment – see Revelation 20:11-15.)
Those who have accepted His sacrifice and received Him as Lord and Savior will stand “spotless before the presence of His glory,” no doubt “with exceeding joy.” I pray everyone reading this will be among that number.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 11
“The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled His throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded Him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads” (Revelation 4:3-4, NLT).
We’re looking at Revelation 4 where John has been invited by the Lord Jesus into heaven where he will be allowed to see future events from a heavenly viewpoint. Already, John has seen Jesus on His throne and the 24 elders surrounding Him on their thrones. He continues his description: “From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God” (Revelation 4:5, NLT).
“…flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder.” In Exodus, we read where the Lord announced the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. He had told Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, Moses, so the people themselves can hear Me when I speak with you. Then they will always trust you” (Exodus 19:9). And as He spoke, lightning and thunder roared from the dark cloud that hid His glory.
And “When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear”(Exodus 20:18).
Now here’s John face-to-face with the glorified Savior and we can only imagine the awe of the scene before him. Along with the thunder and lightning, he saw that “…in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God.” As the Lord began giving the Revelation to John, this had been His opening statement: “Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before His throne” (Revelation 1:4).
“…the sevenfold Spirit before His throne” and the “seven torches with burning flames” were the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. No, we can’t see Him, but those who know Him can surely feel His presence, guidance and love. Everything Jesus is, everything God is, the Holy Spirit also is.
Our attitude toward the Holy Spirit reminds of the little girl who was afraid of the dark. Her mother told her, “Don’t be scared. The Holy Spirit is with you.” “I know,” the little girl responded, “but I want somebody with skin on ‘em.”
That’s us so much of the time. We have no problem believing that an image will appear on our TV screen when we press the power button. We believe our car will go when we press the accelerator and stop when we press the brake. And think of all we do with a cell phone without even thinking. Or the computer you may be reading this on. We don’t understand how a one of these things works and yet we have total confidence in every one of them.
We may not see the Holy Spirit, but He is much more real than any of the things I just named. And surely the God of the Universe deserves more of our confidence than a bunch of gadgets.
He is God. If you belong to Jesus, He is with you. Live like Jesus is in the room. Because He is.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 10
Either in the Spirit or even physically, too, John has entered heaven and seen the glorified Christ: “The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow” (Revelation 4:3, NLT).
The emerald or green arc or rainbow around Jesus signified the life and hope found only in Him. When Ezekiel was given a vision of the Lord, he described a very similar scene as did John. He saw “…something that looked like a throne made of blue lapis lazuli. And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a Man. From what appeared to be His waist up, He looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from His waist down, He looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around Him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me” (Ezekiel 1:26b-28a).
Jesus Christ is the glory of God. As the writer of Hebrews so clearly states, “The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God” (Hebrews 1:3a).
John’s description continues: “Twenty-four thrones surrounded Him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads” (Revelation 4:4).
Who were these “elders”? Here again there’s a debate among Bible scholars, but from the materials I’ve read, I choose to believe these 24 people are representative of all the people who belong to Christ: 12, being a number of completeness, represent the Old Testament believers, and 12 represent the New Testament believers all the way into today. In other words, the One True Church surrounds the throne of God.
Three things we’re told about these “elders”:
(1) They’re “clothed in white.” Take a look at the words of Isaiah: “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). Jesus Himself clothes His people in His own righteousness.
(2) They’re wearing “gold crowns on their heads.” Some passages in the Bible show us angels robed in white, but you’ll never read where an angel is wearing a crown. A crown indicates authority. Jesus’ people will share His authority. As Second Timothy 2:12 reminds us, true believers “will reign with Him.”
(3) Which is why we see these “elders” sitting on “thrones.” Ephesians 3:6a says, “And this is God's plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God's children.” Jesus Christ has one people, made up of all who believed in the promise of the Messiah and all who believed in Him after His death, burial and resurrection.
Robed in white. Crowned with His glory. Ruling and reigning with Jesus. The privileges of the redeemed are astounding. Don’t miss out.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 9
We’ve just begun our look at Revelation 4 and Jesus has extended the amazing invitation to John to join Him in heaven and see the end time events from a heavenly perspective: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
From this point forward, the church is no longer mentioned because, in my and many far more learned Bible scholars’ opinions, the Church – all those who are truly committed to Jesus Christ and not merely names on a church roll – have been taken out of the world and won’t experience the things Jesus is about to reveal. But before we see the view from heaven to earth, we get an astounding look at the glorified Christ, seated on His throne:
“The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow” (Revelation 4:3, NLT).
Remember, John is doing his best to describe the indescribable. Any descriptions we read in Revelation are far less than what is actually seen – John simply had no better words with which to describe what he saw.
John has zero words to describe Jesus Himself, so he tells us of the brilliant light emanating from the glorified Christ – “jasper,” like a diamond. Pure white. And “carnelian,” a blood red. Here we see the purity of Jesus and the precious price He paid for all who will believe in Him.
The light around the throne formed an arc John calls “a rainbow,” but it’s a single color: green, glowing “like an emerald.” The color green signifies life. Hope. And the arc or rainbow shape reminds us of God’s promise spoken to Noah in Genesis 9:12-16 after the flood:
“I am giving you a sign of My covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed My rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of My covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember My covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.”
Jesus on His throne is the Ultimate Authority. He has All Power. And yet everything John sees lets him know that this glorified Christ is the same Promise Keeper whom John knew in His earthly body. What did Jesus say in John 10:10b? “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (KJV).
Judgment is necessary. The final destruction of all evil is necessary. But what joy awaits those who have repented of evil and live for Jesus! Want a life of real abundance? Live for Jesus.
We’ll see a bit more of heaven tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 8
Revelation 4 opens with John telling us of Jesus’ invitation for him to see the end time events from a heavenly perspective: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
From this point forward, there is no more mention of the church. Why? Most Bible scholars – and plain ol’ me – believe that the church has been taken out of the world at this point. In other words, the Rapture has occurred. Those who have truly committed their hearts and lives to Jesus will have been removed from Planet Earth before the things John is about to describe take place.
Remember Jesus’ words to the faithful believers of Philadelphia? “Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world” (Revelation 3:10). This is His promise to all who belong to Jesus: they will miss out on “the great time of testing,” also known as the Tribulation.
Then John does his best to describe his first glimpse of heaven. But everything he sees is beyond the scope of human imagining, far greater than mere human words can express. As Paul put it after his own experience, he “heard things that can't be expressed in words, things that humans cannot put into words” (2 Corinthians 12:4). But John tries his best to share with us what he experienced. For now, we’ll only look at the latter half of verse 2:
“I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it” (Revelation 4:2b).
The first thing John sees is “a throne.” What’s significant about “a throne”? It’s the place of supreme authority, but it’s more than that: it’s the resting place of supreme authority.
Mark 16:19 tells us that after Jesus met with the disciples and gave them the Great Commission, He “was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor…” Why is it so important that Jesus “sat down”? Because His work was finished, just as He said from the cross – see John 19:30.
So our view of heaven opens with “a throne.” But not just any throne. It’s an occupied throne. The Supreme Authority has completed His work “and sat down in the place of honor…”
Which brings us to an important fact: every person has someone or something enthroned as their object of worship. For some, it’s worldly wealth. Material possessions. Prestige. Even self. For others, the most important thing in their lives may be their spouses or children or grandchildren. Whatever is most important to you sits enthroned over your life. And for every believer, that place should belong to Jesus. Nothing nor no one should ever take a higher place of importance than the Lord Jesus.
If you can’t truly say Jesus has first place in your life, it’s time to change your priorities. By putting Christ above all else – including your spouse, kids, grandkids, self, or even your parents – you’ll become a better spouse or parent or grandparent or son or daughter. You’ll become a better everything.
Tomorrow we’ll get into John’s description of the glorified Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 7
We’ve just completed a look at the seven letters Jesus dictated to John that were to be delivered to seven churches in Asia Minor. In addition to addressing problems and praising the positives within those churches, Jesus’ messages are intended for all churches in all ages, including today.
And now we move from an earthly viewpoint to a heavenly one. Remember, Jesus had told John to “Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19, NLT). John’s next words show us the transition:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
“After this…” After what? After writing down all seven of Jesus’ letters to the churches. Then John says “I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” John not only saw an open doorway into heaven, he says he also heard once again “the voice I had first heard.” What voice? When? At the beginning of John’s vision: “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast” (Revelation 1:10, NLT).
Who does that voice belong to? He’s already identified Himself: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God. ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One.’” (Revelation 1:8).
Jesus Himself is speaking and Jesus Himself is extending this amazing invitation: “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” From this point forward, John sees a heavenly perspective of future events.
“And instantly I was in the Spirit…” (Revelation 4:2a). As we saw at the beginning of the Revelation, John has already said he was “worshiping in the Spirit.” John may have been “worshiping in the Spirit,” but physically, he was still on the Isle of Patmos.
But when Jesus tells John to “Come up here,” John was transported either in spirit or possibly even physically into the realms of heaven. Remember Paul’s experience? In Second Corinthians 12:2, he says “I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know – only God knows.”
However Paul’s or John’s experience took place, it was amazing! And John begins to see what takes place when he, as a member of the body of Christ – which is the church – is taken out of this world and into heaven. Yep, Revelation 4:1 marks the point at which all true believers are removed from this world in what we call the Rapture. What happens after that are end time events after the church (made up of all true believers, not everyone with their name on a church roll) is removed from Planet Earth.
Fasten your seat belts. We’re headed for an exciting journey!
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 6
So as we saw yesterday, the people of the church of Laodicea were phonies. While they grouped together and called themselves a church, their teachings had strayed completely away from the Gospel and Jesus was nowhere to be found within their congregation. He was outside, standing at the door and knocking – see Revelation 3:20a.
So if the professing Christians of Laodicea weren’t members of God’s family, why does He include this church among His letters? To warn them and to warn congregations in all ages, including today.
So many churches today are churches in name only. As I said a couple of days ago, Laodicea’s erroneous teachings had made it not a church, but a cult that denied the true Gospel and merely sprinkled in a little of this and that. There are a lot of Laodicean churches out there today.
What do I mean? I could give plenty of examples, but one of the biggest is the “feel-good” church. Their “gospel” is that God wants everybody to be healthy and wealthy. Folks, that’s a lie. I’ve been in legal and illegal churches in China and I’ve met some of the most dedicated Christians you’ll ever meet. Poor as can be. Under constant danger of arrest or worse. Yet their joy overflows.
What did the apostle Paul say about the churches in Macedonia? “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor” (2 Corinthians 8:2a, NLT). The Kingdom of God is not about being trouble-free, pain-free or loaded with money and material things. If you’re listening to a name-it-and-claim-it preacher, cut it out. He or she is leading you away from the teachings of the Bible.
God forbid that anyone reading this is part of a Laodicean church. Those churches will still be here when Jesus calls His people out of this world. This is the church that will lead countless numbers into hell and will survive and even thrive during the Tribulation.
Let me say it one more time before we move from these letters into the next part of the Revelation. Church membership gets no one into heaven. And there is no action any person can take on behalf of someone else that will give a person passage into heaven. And there is only one action a person can take for himself that will give him passage into heaven: personally and sincerely confessing his need for a Savior and surrendering his life wholly to Jesus Christ. That and only that will get a person into heaven.
Want to miss out on the Tribulation? Serve Jesus now.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 5
In His seventh and final letter to the churches, Jesus has already told the church at Laodicea that their lukewarmness made Him want to vomit. He continues to speak the truth to this bunch of phony believers:
“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17, NLT).
Laodicea was a wealthy city. They were known for the production of fancy textiles and their medical school which was associated with the temple of the healing god Asklepios. They were a proud and confident people. But the Lord let them know their material possessions meant nothing in the Kingdom of God. He saw them as they really were: “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
Which is why He tells them: “So I advise you to buy gold from Me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from Me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see” (Revelation 3:18).
Money and fancy clothes didn’t hide the fact that these professing Christians were, as my friend Gwen’s mama would have said, as naked as picked birds when it came to anything in God’s Kingdom. They, like the “blind Pharisee” Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:26, may have put on the appearance of being a church, but the fact was, they were as lost as proverbial ducks in the desert. They all needed Jesus. Which is why this is where we read:
“Look! I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20a). Jesus wasn’t in that church. Jesus wasn’t in the hearts of these professing believers. They, like the Pharisees Jesus had chastised, did not belong to the Kingdom. But He didn’t want to leave them in their lost state. He told them:
“If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:20b-21).
Jesus died for all: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16a, KJV). But He loves us enough to give us freedom of choice. His Holy Spirit will knock and knock on the doors of our hearts, but He won’t force us to let Him in. We must choose to open our hearts to Him.
And when any person welcomes Jesus Christ into their heart, that person is welcomed into the Kingdom. He becomes “victorious.” He has a home in heaven.
Do you know where your eternal home will be? Are you serious about serving Jesus? Time is short. Don’t waste it.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 4
The city of Laodicea had no local water source. Its water was supplied through a six-mile long series of pipes or troughs that began at a hot springs in Hierapolis. This channel then depended on gravity for the water to flow into Laodicea. This system was called an aqueduct – “aque” as in “water,” and “duct” which comes from the same root word as our modern word “conduct.” In other words, the aqueduct conducted or channeled the water from the springs into the city of Laodicea.
And when it got there, boy, was it tasty! Imagine water from a hot springs that has traveled far enough to cool down, but still be pretty warm. Lukewarm. No wonder Jesus spoke as He did to the Laodiceans. They completely understood what He meant when He said, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!”
When it comes to drinking water, there are times when a nice cold drink sure hits the spot, but there are also occasions when hot water comes in handy. But lukewarm? Uh-uh. Nobody likes lukewarm. Not even Jesus. So He tells them, “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth!”
Laodicea’s water had to be tough to stomach. The behavior of the church at Laodicea was equally disgusting. This was the church who had gone so far from the teachings of the Word of God that even though His name may have been invoked on occasion, the true Lord Jesus Christ had no place whatsoever within it. Its erroneous teachings had made it not a church, but a cult that denied the true Gospel and sprinkled in a little of this and that. This was the church that made Jesus want to throw up.
“I will spit you out of My mouth!” The original language here is so descriptive. Jesus isn’t saying, “You make me want to gag.” He’s saying in modern-day language, “You make me want to spew.” The word for “spit” denotes the image of projectile vomiting. Jesus didn’t have or want any part of that lukewarm congregation.
His opinion on lukewarmness hasn’t changed. He still despises lukewarmness. Yet how many of us are best described as “lukewarm”? We’re not all excited about loving Jesus and serving Him and others. But we’re not ice cold, either. We’re just plugging along, with no thought for our own spiritual state or the condition of anyone else. Even though all seven of Jesus’ letters to the churches are directed at all churches in all ages right up to today, I think the Laodiceans sure describe the majority of Christians today. And I can’t be honest without saying I fall right in with them on many occasions.
How would Jesus describe you – hot, cold or lukewarm?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 3
At last we come to the seventh and final letter of Jesus’ letters to the churches, this one to the church in Laodicea. We’ll look at this entire letter and then get into the details:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:
I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from Me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from Me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with Me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22, NLT).
Look how Jesus identifies Himself in this letter to the church in Laodicea: “the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation.” He calls Himself “the faithful and true witness” because He intends to show the contrast between His faithfulness and the believers or professing believers of Laodicea who were anything but “faithful and true.”
And what about “the beginning of God’s new creation”? There is nothing “new” about Jesus. He is “the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come” (Revelation 4:8b, NLT). He is the Great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14).
As the Berean Study Bible words Revelation 3:14, Jesus is “the Originator of God’s creation.” I think this is the best and clearest translation of all. It’s important to realize Jesus is not a created being – He is the Creator.
As John described Him in his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3).
And He has a lot to say to the church of Laodicea. And that same message is for us today. Jesus wants us to be like Him: “faithful and true.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR MARCH 2
“All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God – the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My new name” (Revelation 3:12, NLT).
Good News! Good News! The faithful believers in the church in Philadelphia were commended by the Lord and promised deliverance “from the great time of testing” (Revelation 3:10) that would be coming on the world. As we’ve already seen, this message was not only for the Philadelphian church, but for all true believers from then until right this very minute. Jesus promises to keep us “from the great time of testing” by removing all His people from this world prior to the Great Tribulation.
But there’s more Good News for believers. We’ll have a permanent new home: “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it.” We’ll “be citizens in the city of My God – the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God.”
What else? We’ll be permanent members of the family of God: “And I will write on them the name of My God… And I will also write on them My new name.”
When the Lord takes us out of this world, we’re going to know Him as He knows us. Completely. Totally. We will come into a full understanding of “the mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16b). Talk about amazing grace!
As with the other messages to the churches, Jesus closes Philadelphia’s letter with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:13, NLT).
There is a tremendous urgency in these messages: Be prepared! Be ready! Are you? And are you helping others prepare for His coming?
Judy Woodward Bates
We’re looking at the sixth letter of Jesus in the Book of Revelation. He tells John to write to the church in Philadelphia. Remember, all seven of the letters John is instructed to write are to churches in Asia Minor. All of these churches are within a few days’ journey from the coastline off which the island of Patmos lies where John says he was “…exiled… for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus” (Revelation 1:9, NLT).
The believers in the church at Philadelphia, even under tough circumstances, had remained faithful, so Jesus gives them this promise: “Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world” (Revelation 3:10).
As we’ve already learned, although some Bible scholars see the seven letters to the churches as representative of different church ages, the majority of scholars believe – and I concur – that these letters encompass Jesus’ message to the entire church of the Living Christ – each and every true believer who is living now and those who have already gone on before us. From that viewpoint, it’s easy to figure out what “great time of testing” Jesus was talking about.
At a point coming up soon in Jesus’ Revelation, the entire church – every true believer – will be removed from this world and taken to be with Jesus. At that time, the Tribulation will begin and will include the most horrific persecution of God’s people. But if God’s people are taken away in the Rapture, how can God’s people be the ones being persecuted during the Tribulation? Here’s how Jesus explains it the book of Luke:
“Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. ...two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Luke 17:30, 34-35).
Don’t misunderstand this passage. Jesus, “the Son of Man,” isn’t going to choose one person to take and leave another behind. At whatever point Jesus returns for His Church, those decisions will have already been made by each person’s individual choice. Those who committed their lives to Jesus will be taken in the Rapture. Those who have not will be left behind. I can’t stress it enough, y’all: church membership is not a ticket to heaven. Only a genuine sold-out commitment to Jesus Christ will get you there.
The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, warns, “In all history there has never been such a time of terror” (Jeremiah 30:7a). This is what Jesus told the church at Philadelphia they would miss out on. This is what He tells the faithful today that they will miss out on.
So what purpose will this terrible time serve? It “will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Anyone who hasn’t committed their life to Jesus belongs “to this world.” And this horrible time will be those people’s last opportunity to turn to Jesus.
If He returned today, would you be ready? If He returned today, who among your family and friends would be going with Jesus? If you haven’t already committed your life to Jesus, do it now. And if you’ve already done that, talk to your friends and family about the importance and urgency to make that same commitment.
“…now is the time time seek the Lord…” (Hosea 10:12b).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 28
How does Jesus identify Himself to the church at Philadelphia? “This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open” (Revelation 3:7b, NLT).
“This is the message from the one who is holy and true...” Who is “holy”? God and God alone. Jesus is identifying Himself as God. And not just any “god.” The God. The True God. The One and Only.
“…the one who has the key of David.” Jesus is quoting from Isaiah: “I will give him the key to the house of David – the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them” (Isaiah 22:22). The Christians in Philadelphia were undoubtedly familiar with this passage and would understand the tremendous significance of this passage as Jesus’ identity. Why?
Because look at Jesus’ very next words to Philadelphia: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me” (Revelation 3:8).
Even under tough circumstances, the Philadelphian Christians had remained faithful. And because of their faithfulness, the Lord told them He had “opened a door… that no one can close.” Their opportunities to witness for the Lord and expand His Kingdom were wide open.
Ever seen one of those shows or been to one of those “locked room” adventures where a person has to find his way out of what seems to be a completely sealed room? This may be how the Philadelphians felt. Their “little strength” may not have seemed like much. They may have looked around their pagan god-filled city and failed to see the opportunities before them. But Jesus said to look more closely because He had “opened a door… that no one can close.”
I know I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating. While in the checkout line at a department store, I began to pray for an opportunity to witness to the cashier, who was clearly having a very bad day. I just hoped to cheer her up a bit. I didn’t expect the wide open door that the Lord gave me.
When I simply asked, “How are you?” she looked me straight in the face and said, “You want to know the truth? I want to die.” The condensed version of what happened after that is that she took her break and told me that her husband had left her and that she was suicidal. I told her about a Man I could prove to her in writing would “never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, HCSB). And because of a simple “How are you?” a new member was added to the family of God and a hopeless woman came to know Real Hope.
Like the church at Philadelphia, the opportunities may not be staring you in the face, but especially in these last days, the Lord has swung wide the doors of evangelism. Through Facebook, Twitter, email, TV, radio, books, ebooks, phones and more, ways and means of telling others about Jesus are everywhere. Even face-to-face and eyeball-to-eyeball.
Look for and pray for your own opportunities to tell about Jesus. Show His love in the way you talk and act toward others. Even a “little strength” is battle-winning power when it’s entrusted to the mighty hands of Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 27
Philadelphia is the sixth of the seven churches to which Jesus instructed John to write. Let’s take a look at the entire letter before expounding on any of its content:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia: This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open:
I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue- those liars who say they are Jews but are not – to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.
Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God – the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My new name.
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:7-13, NLT).
The church at Philadelphia, like the church of Ephesus, was doing everything right. They were doing good, steering clear of evil and making sure no false doctrines crept in. But where the Ephesians failed to grow in love for Christ and others, the Philadelphians abounded in it. And because of their faithfulness, Jesus told them, “I have opened a door for you that no one can close” (Revelation 3:8b). They were a healthy congregation, feeding the flock within and reaching outside the church with the love and Good News of Jesus.
What a blessing-filled promise Jesus makes to the church of Philadelphia! He tells these faithful servants: “What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.”
Are you a faithful servant of Jesus Christ? If so, this promise is for you. More on this passage tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 26
Yesterday we waded into some very deep waters in looking at Jesus’ message to the faithful in the church at Sardis. He told most of the church members, “…you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead. Go back to what you heard and believed at first…” (Revelation 3:1b, 3a, NLT). But to the faithful few He said: “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:4b-5).
I made the statement that Jesus doesn’t “pencil” anyone’s name into the Book of Life. The names of born-again believers are permanently written in the blood of Christ. And then I used Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds as my example. In it, Jesus talks about seeds (representing the Gospel) that the farmer (representing Himself) sowed which fell on all different types of ground. Some, He said, “sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died” (Matthew 13:5b-6).
Jesus then gives this explanation: “The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away…” (Matthew 13:20-21a).
I ended yesterday’s study with Jesus’ concluding words from the Parable of the Weeds: “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:28b-30).
So can a truly saved person be lost? Some say they can and some say they can’t. David messed up big-time, and the child produced by David and Bathsheeba’s adulterous relationship died while still an infant. Moses took credit for God’s miracle of water from the rock at Meribah, even hitting the rock twice with his rod when God had instructed him to simply speak to the rock – see Numbers 20. Moses got to see the Promised Land, but wasn’t allowed to enter it because of his disobedience. Both of these occurrences, though, were pre-grace. Pre-cross. Pre-resurrection.
Yet there are many New Testament scriptures that leave you wondering. Take for example when Jesus refers to Himself as “the Vine” (John 15:5a) and people as “the branches” (John 15:5b). He says, “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you” (John 15:4a).
This is by no means all-encompassing, but here are the three main schools of thought regarding salvation: (1) You are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Once you’re adopted into the Kingdom, Jesus will never kick you out of His family. (2) You are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and adopted into His family; however, some actions warrant being booted out of the family, thus losing your salvation. (3) You are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and adopted into His family. However, you may one day decide you just don’t believe any of that Jesus stuff any more and choose to denounce Him, thus giving up your salvation. In other words, no one can or will take away your salvation, but you can make the choice to give it up.
I’m not about to say that any of those viewpoints are right or wrong. My thought is, if you’re serious about living for Jesus, you’re not going to be looking for loopholes in your contract! The Bible makes it clear that some people come into the church “disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matthew 7:15b). These are unquestionably impostors. Fake Christians who are intent upon destroying the harmony within the church body and pulling real believers away from the truth.
I suggest we don’t waste time looking for loopholes or trying to figure out who’s real and who isn’t. That time can be much better spent doing the work of the Kingdom. As we saw yesterday, Jesus is prepared to sort everyone out at the Final Judgment: “Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:30b). Get out there and be wheat for the Bread of Life.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 25
We’ve seen the letters to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira, and now we’re finishing up our look at the church in Sardis. This was the church whose routine had been going on for so long that Jesus told them, “…you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead. Go back to what you heard and believed at first…” (Revelation 3:1b, 3a, NLT).
As I said yesterday, the majority of that church may have been “dead,” but there was still a remnant who were faithful. To these Jesus promised: “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:4b-5).
The members of the church in Sardis whose names weren’t in “the Book of Life” weren’t erased out of the Book because of their sinful behavior; if a name wasn’t there, it was because it’d never been written in the Book in the first place. This is so important, y’all: Jesus doesn’t “pencil in” anybody. The names of born-again believers are permanently written in the blood of Christ.
Jesus taught about this in the Parable of the Weeds. In that lesson, He talked about a farmer who planted seeds which fell on all different sorts of ground. Note what He says about some of these seeds: “Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died” (Matthew 13:5-6).
Did you get that? “…since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.” The farmer, representing Jesus, plants the seeds of the Gospel. But each person makes his own choice as to how they respond. As Jesus explained it, “The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Like the siblings of my friend I mentioned a few days ago, these folks were all excited about Jesus for a short time. But there had been no conversion. What they had was nothing but surface transformation, not heart transplants.
I can’t stress it enough, folks. God has no eraser for the Book of Life. Your name’s either in it or not. And the only way to get your name in that Book is through a complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.
So what about all these people who say they’re saved and then wander off into evil? I’m not their judge and you aren’t, either. But I can guarantee you two things: (1) God will do whatever it takes to get His child’s attention, even if that means taking him home rather than letting him continue to embarrass the name of his Father; and (2) God doesn’t spank the devil’s children. Unless they repent and are adopted into God’s family, He will leave their punishment until the Final Judgment.
Just as there were weeds among the good seed in Sardis, there are weeds among the good seed in today’s churches. And Jesus plainly tells us what that means: “The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil” (Matthew 13:39a). The lost sit in church right alongside the saved. Be the very best example of Jesus you can possibly be. Others who may not even know Him are watching you at church and everywhere else you go.
“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:28b-30). Keep your own doorstep swept clean. Live for Jesus and don’t waste time judging others. God will sort us all out when the time comes.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 24
“Overconfidence and failure to watch” (quoted from John Walvoord’s statement about Sardis) had caused Sardis’ defeat two times in history and now the church in that city had developed the same foolish attitude. The church at Sardis was a dead church: “…you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1b, NLT).
As John Macarthur describes it, the church at Sardis represents the church where “someone cuts the grass, paints the walls, prints the bulletin, and stands in the pulpit. But that church isn’t alive; it’s dead.” Sardis was like the Pharisees Jesus referred to as “whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones…” (Matthew 23:27b).
And Jesus said, “I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of My God” (Revelation 3:2b). Jesus wants to see far more routine activity in a believer’s life. He wants to see the fire and passion of commitment, a burning desire to please Him and reach others with the Good News of Jesus. But that’s not what the church at Sardis was doing.
Which is why Jesus told them, “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to Me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief” (Revelation 3:3). Whether the Lord was warning of His intention to bring judgment on the church at Sardis itself or of His appearance in the Rapture, we can’t be sure. Either way, though, He was letting the church at Sardis know what they needed to do: “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to Me again.”
But as always, Jesus didn’t lump the congregants of the church of Sardis into one mold. Even though sin was rampant in that church, He still knew each person’s heart and said, “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil” (Revelation 3:4a).
The majority of that church may have been “dead,” but there was still a remnant who were faithful. To these Jesus promised: “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:4b-5).
To those who have truly surrendered to His Lordship, Jesus says, “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” Believers are covered by the righteousness of Christ, making them “worthy” and “victorious” because of His atoning sacrifice.
And here’s another huge promise He makes to true believers: “I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine.” In other words, the members of the church in Sardis whose names weren’t in “the Book of Life” weren’t erased out of the Book because of their sinful behavior; if a name wasn’t there, it was because it’d never been written in the Book in the first place. Jesus doesn’t “pencil in” anybody. The names of His saints are permanently written in blood.
How about your name? Is it written in “the Book of Life”? If it is, you can look forward to the day when you’ll hear your Savior announce to His Father, “This one’s Mine.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 23
We’ve seen the letters to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira. Now we come to Sardis. As in every letter, the Lord begins by instructing John to “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger or pastor) of the church…” (Revelation 3:1a, NLT), in this case, “in Sardis.” And then in His introduction He makes a specific identifying statement for the believers of Sardis: “This is the message from the One who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars…” (Revelation 3:1b).
“…the One who has the sevenfold Spirit of God…” Jesus Christ has and is the fullness of the Holy Spirit, or “Spirit of God” – “sevenfold,” meaning seven times, which signifies perfection or completion. He is the Triune God, the three in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“…the One who has… the seven stars…” And as we’ve already seen earlier in the Revelation, “the seven stars” are the seven churches to whom the letters in Revelation 2-3 are written, with the number seven again representing completion, meaning that these seven churches are representative of the entire body of Christ made up of all true believers of all time.
Jesus’ introduction is followed by His message to the church in Sardis: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead” (Revelation 3:1c-2a).
Jesus told the Sardis church: “I know all the things you do…” As with each of us, nothing is hidden from God. So even though the church at Sardis had “a reputation for being alive,” the Lord knew better. He said, “…you are dead.” What did He mean?
The church at Sardis wasn’t undergoing persecution. They were going along and getting along just fine. The church was active and even busy, but it was fitting into its surrounding society so well that the devil had no reason to bother it.
Which is why Jesus included the warning: Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead.”
John Walvoord served as president of Dallas Theological Seminary for over 30 years. Speaking of Sardis, he described it as a city “…ideal for defense, as it… was surrounded by deep cliffs almost impossible to scale…” Even so, Sardis had been conquered twice – once in 549BC and again in 214BC. How? Again, I quote Walvoord as the answer: “… because of overconfidence and failure to watch.”
“Overconfidence and failure to watch” had caused Sardis’ defeat two times in history and yet here was God’s people making those same foolish mistakes. When Christians begin to rely on past victories or past actions, they’re either “dead” or “almost dead.” Every day believers need a fresh anointing, a fresh word, a fresh enthusiasm for serving the Lord. Sardis had lost this, and the Lord wasn’t pleased. How fresh is your commitment to Jesus?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 22
The Lord had given the false prophetess within the church at Thyatira “time to repent” (Revelation 2:21a, NLT), but she had continued doing evil and pulling others along with her. And the Lord said enough was enough. She and those who’d taken up with her were about to “suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds” (Revelation 2:22b).
But look closely at what else Jesus had to say to the church at Thyatira. He wasn’t going to inflict punishment on the whole congregation: But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them – depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:24-25).
“I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.” The Lord had already told the rest of the Thyatiran congregation, “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things” (Revelation 2:19).
The Lord always knows everything going on everywhere, and apparently the majority of the believers at Thyatira were sticking to the truth and not only living by it, but growing in it. Which is why Jesus’ word to them was to simply keep on doing what they were doing.
“To all who are victorious, who obey Me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from My Father, and I will also give them the morning star!” (Revelation 2:26-28).
Jesus promises victory to all “who obey Me to the very end.” I remember witnessing to a neighbor of mine who had grown up in a church where there was enormous emphasis placed on outward emotion. All her siblings had been on fire for the Lord one minute and living like the devil the next. Over and over and over. When I tried to talk to her about my faith, she stopped me in my tracks, saying, “Don’t tell me. Show me.” It was at least 20 years before I saw her and her husband surrender their hearts and lives to the Lordship of Jesus, but when they did, they were sold-out believers.
In verses 27-28 above, Jesus is quoting from Psalm 2:8-9. No doubt the sinful behavior of the prophetess and her followers was terribly distressing to the faithful at Thyatira. But the Lord sent them a message of hope and comfort: they would one day reign and rule with Him, Christ, the Morning Star.
Jesus closes His message to the church at Thyatira with, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.” Church, are you listening? There’s victory for all “who obey… to the very end.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 21
Nahum 1:3a reminds us: “The Lord is powerful, yet patient” (CEV). The Lord had given the false prophetess within in the church at Thyatira “time to repent” (NLT), but she had continued doing evil and pulling others along with her. And the Lord said He’d seen and had enough. She and those who’d taken up with her were about to “suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.”
How would this so-called “Jezebel” suffer? “I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve” (Revelation 2:23).
Who were this false prophetess’ “children”? Those who followed her teaching. And “unless they (chose to) repent and turn away from her evil deeds,” they and the prophetess herself would “suffer greatly,” possibly in physical death, but also in “the second death,” as we looked at a while back: “This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14b-15).
Can a truly born-again believer be drawn into such evil? If you followed the link I posted in yesterday’s study, you see an entire church drawn into it. And whether I think all those people are hell-bound or not, I’m not their judge. God is. And He and He alone knows who’s stumbled off the right pathway and who’s never been on it in the first place.
A pastor I’ll call Wally was drawn into a relationship with a married woman at his church. This woman actually wrote sermons for him. He eventually left his wife and family and the woman left hers with plans to begin their own ministry. When I tried to talk to Wally, he told me, “I know this sounds crazy, but I know this is God’s will.”
Nope, it was never God’s will. Wally lost everything. This woman lost everything. No “ministry” transpired and the pair grew to loathe each other. After a very long time, Wally repented and was forgiven by a loving wife and family. More importantly, he was forgiven by God. That’s when Wally told me about the red flags. He said, “The Holy Spirit put up red flag after red flag in my spirit when that woman started sending me little notes and dropping by my office. I ignored every one of them.”
Nobody “gets away with” sin. As Jesus plainly warned the Thyatirans, “I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.”
I don’t know about you, but when I think of how often I have failed Him in the past and still continue to fail Him, the thoughts of getting what I deserve is terrifying. All the more reason to stay ‘fessed up and prayed up and busy for the Kingdom.
Is that what you’re doing?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 20
So far, we’ve looked at Jesus’ letters to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna and the Pergamum. Now we come to Thyatira. Jesus has included a specific statement in both the opening and closing of each of the seven letters. To the church at Thyatira, He identifies Himself as “the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze” (Revelation 2:18b, NLT).
This identification is significant for the Thyatirans because of what Jesus is going to speak them about. First, He declares His deity: “the Son of God.” He’s not a god. He’s The God. The One and Only.
Next, Jesus says His “eyes are like flames of fire.” This description speaks of His penetrating gaze of judgment. Nothing is hidden from Him. Everything good and evil is laid bare before Him.
And then He says His “feet are like polished bronze.” Here we see purity, strength and permanence. As Jesus identified Himself to John at the beginning of the Revelation, Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end… the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One” (Revelation 1:8). He’s always been and always will be.
Jesus then commends some of the people in the church at Thyatira: “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things” (Revelation 2:19). Not only did the church at Thyatira have “love,… faith,… service, and… patient endurance,” they were growing in these positive attributes. But there was still a big ugly problem.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman – that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet – to lead My servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols” (Revelation 2:20).
Right there in the midst of the church was a woman who had been accepted as a prophetess, someone to be looked up to and respected, and this woman was leading church members into all the things the pagan religions were promoting. Unlike Pergamum who had members dabbling in both places, this woman was apparently teaching inside the church – and some of the congregation were joining in with her immoral beliefs and behavior.
How can such a thing be allowed inside a church not merely professing to serve Jesus, but growing in “love,… faith,… service, and… patient endurance”? Where there are sheep, there are wolves. As unbelievable as it may seem, this recent article link is about a supposedly Christian church with nude worship: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2556548/And-naked-not-ashamed-Church-allows-nude-worship.html.
The Lord will not allow His people to continue in sin. Not me. Not you. Not anyone who belongs to His family. Tomorrow we’ll see how He will deal with Thyatira.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 19
Jesus ends His message to the church at Pergamum with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17, NLT).
“Anyone with ears” should heed the message and warning to the church at Pergamum. Remember, it’s not just for the people of that church or that time period.
“To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.” The Bread of Life promises heaven “To everyone who is victorious.” The sheep and the goats will be sorted – and until that time, only the Lord will know for certain which is which. The goats, those who are merely playing at being Christian, will not leave this life in victory. But the sheep, those who are truly born again through faith in Jesus Christ, will be “victorious.”
And it is those born-again believers who will be given “a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” What’s the significance of “a white stone”? Back in John’s day, public games or competitions were hugely popular. The champion in such a contest would be rewarded with a white stone, and that person’s name would be inscribed on that stone. Ownership of that stone meant that person never had to pay a dime for anything. He had free admission to anywhere he wanted to go; free food wherever he wanted to eat; free everything.
For the believer, that “white stone” represents Christ’s promise to eternally welcome and care for that member of the family of God. And the “new name”? I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that there won’t be two people with the same name in heaven. No one’s going to confuse John the Apostle with John the Baptist. Everyone will have a “new name” and the Lord Himself will give that “new name” to each believer.
And how will it be “a name that no one understands except the one who receives it”? I believe God’s love for each believer is so intimate that He will give each one of us a name based on something so specific and personal to our own relationship with Him that only that one person and the Lord Himself will know and understand why that name was chosen.
This “white stone” and “new name” was Jesus’ promise to the faithful in Pergamum, and it’s His promise to true believers today.
“And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth” (Isaiah 62:2b).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 18
As we looked at yesterday, Jesus’ third letter was a message to the church in Pergamum. Even though there were many who were sincere in their faith and walk with the Lord, others were merely using it as a social gathering place, and the church leaders were doing nothing to stop this.
Some of the believers in Pergamum were not only attending church services, but also participating in the disgusting religious practices of some the surrounding pagan temples. Compromise was killing the witness of the church in Pergamum, which is why Jesus concluded His letter with: “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16, NLT).
Note the exact wording of Jesus’ warning: “I will come to YOU suddenly and fight against THEM…” Jesus’ displeasure wasn’t with the entire church of Pergamum – after all, a church is simply a body of believers, and some of Pergamum’s believers had become filthy with sin. Jesus said He would “come… suddenly,” or unexpectedly. But He was specifically coming to deal with “them.” Who’s “them”? The churchgoers who were also joining in pagan practices. These believers were living like hell itself outside the church and then coming into church expecting the Lord to bless them for simply showing up.
But that’s not the only “them” I believe the Lord was addressing. He was also speaking of those who were in positions of authority within the church who were knowingly allowing these embarrassments to the name of Christ to continue unchecked within their fellowship.
It isn’t every believer’s job to point out the faults or sins of other believers. Even when a church member is absolutely certain of a serious problem within the church, there’s an appropriate way to handle it. The concerned church member should take their information to the pastor or another person in authority within the congregation. That person should not share that information with anyone else within the congregation and certainly not outside it. Above all, that person should pray for the involved party or parties to repent.
When any Christian is more concerned about how they look to other people than how they look to Christ, that Christian is compromising. And compromising is sin. We must keep our focus where it matters, and look to and live for Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 17
Jesus’ letters to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna have been examined and we have five more to cover, with the church at Pergamum coming up next. Again, let me remind you that; (1) all seven of these letters were to be read before the entire congregations of all the churches; and (2) these letters are for all the True Church today just as it was for those at the time John was given the Revelation.
To review, Ephesus was a busy church, but without the initial love for the Lord and for others that had been and should be the movitation behind every ministry. Smyrna is the only one of the seven churches who is given a clean bill of health. This church was under great persecution but was standing firm.
What about Pergamum? Jesus opens His address to the church in Pergamum with a stern reminder: “This is the message from the One with the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12b, NLT). The word translated “sword” is again the word “rhomphaia,” a broad, long sword, far-reaching and capable of horrific destruction. Jesus’ message continues:
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin” (Revelation 2:13-15).
The Christians of Pergamum were surrounded by people who worshiped false gods, religions which in many instances included making use of shrine prostitutes as part of their practices. Roman culture in general was “if it feels good, do it.” Christians were considered really weird because they didn’t follow this same self-indulgent philosophy.
With all that went on around them, the majority of those within the church at Pergamum had “remained loyal,” including a believer named Antipas who was killed because of his faithful witness. But that same church also allowed people to stay in their congregation, fully aware that these people were following the practices of the goings-on at the other places of worship, “eating food offered to idols and… committing sexual sin.”
“Eating food offered to idols” may not sound like a big deal until you realize that these people weren’t simply buying leftover ceremonial meat in the marketplace. They were attending the functions of these pagan places of worship and taking part in the ceremonies, which included not only eating the food, but “committing sexual sin.”
Pergamum had become a country club church. Even though there were many who were sincere in their faith and walk with the Lord, others were using it as a social gathering place where they simply came to see and be seen. And the church leaders were doing nothing to stop this. How did Pergamum begin its downhill slide? Compromise. And Jesus warned He would not tolerate it: “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16).
In other words, clean up your own church or I will come and do it for you. He has the same message for any disobedient individual who is a part of the True Church. God won’t spank the devil’s children, but He’ll flat-out tan the hide of one of His own who refuses to repent and obey Him. Stay on the right track. The Father never likes taking a child to the woodshed, but He loves each one of us too much to let us continue wrongdoing.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 16
Today let’s wrap up our look at the church in Smyrna. Remember, the first letter was to the church in Ephesus. It was a busy church, doing all the right things, but without their initial love for the Lord and for others.
The church of Smyrna was faithfully serving the Lord in spite of tremendous persecution. Is there persecution in the church today? In many countries, setting foot in a church is putting your life at risk. In America, look at the recent shootings that have occurred in churches.
According to a study done by the Center for Homicide Research, there were 139 shootings on church property between 1980 and 2005, resulting in the deaths of 185 people. And bear in mind these murders were long before the more recent shootings like the ones at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina which took the lives of nine people and First Baptist in Southerland Springs, Texas where 26 people died. Christians have been and still are objects of hatred to many.
As with each of the seven letters, the Lord closes with: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:11a). This is followed by Jesus’ specific statement for the believers of Smyrna: “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b).
What is this “second death”? The Revelation leaves no doubt of its meaning: “The lake of fire is the second death” (Revelation 20:14b). And who should fear the “second death”? “…cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars – their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
I wish I had time to expound on this particular list, but suffice it to say that everything listed here along with the word “unbelievers” are lifestyles that in no way reflect faith in Jesus Christ. And as Peter states emphatically in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” The way to heaven is through a total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
And for those who’ve made that commitment? The book of Revelation has a message of assurance: “…the second death holds no power…” (Revelation 20:6b), and as we’ve already looked at in the Lord’s message to Smyrna: “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b).
The Bible leaves no doubt that Jesus truly died for all: “He died for everyone” (II Corinthians 5:15a), but not all accept His free gift of salvation. And Jesus plainly states the final destination of those who don’t: “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41b).
It is not nor ever has been God’s will for a person to spend eternity in hell. Hell wasn’t created for humankind, but “for the devil and his demons.” But there is no fence to straddle. It’s Jesus or Satan, and each person must choose. Choose Jesus, and you’ve chosen eternity in heaven; reject Him, and you’ve chosen eternal damnation. We need to be busy explaining this.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 15
Jesus begins His instructions to John concerning each of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor with: “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger, as in pastor) of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). He follows this statement with a specific word for each church, with Smryna’s letter saying, “These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life” (Revelation 2:8b). Yesterday I said these words were very important for the Christians of Smyrna. Why?
They were under tremendous persecution. If the latter timeline for the writing of the Revelation is correct – and I personally believe it is – then Domitian would have been the ruling emperor (81-96AD). He was the ruler who demanded the title of of “dominus et deus,” meaning “lord and god.” Like many religions today, tacking on one more “god” to worship wasn’t a problem for many of the people in Smryna, but for the Christians, it was completely unacceptable, and that meant facing the wrath of Domitian.
Among Domitian’s favorite forms of torture were boiling people alive in oil, and his favorite targets were Christians. No wonder Jesus began His letter by identifying Himself as “the First and the Last, who died and returned to life.” The faithful saints of God at Smyrna may have suffered horribly, but they did so knowing Christ’s promise as Paul announced to King Agrippa: “…the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead...”
Many of the Smyrna believers may have lost their lives under Domitian’s reign of terror, but they did so fully confident that Jesus, “…the first to rise from the dead,” would “raise them up” (Jesus speaking, John 6:44b) into His eternal kingdom just as He promised.
Look again at Jesus’ message to the church at Smyrna: Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you… Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Remember again, every one of these letters is for the entire True Church. Christians are outcasts in many countries around the world today. They suffer untold horrors while we in America, for the most part, sit back and decide whether we want to take an hour or so out of our day for “church” or make a day of it at the lake or flea market or golf course.
The church in Smyrna is the only one of the seven churches who gets a clean bill of health. Folks, suffering changes us. It changes our focus. The person battling cancer isn’t concerned about that new car or house or trip to Hawaii. And if that person knows the end is near, their focus is one of two places: faith or fear. They’re either ready to meet their Maker, or terrified of what comes next.
The people of Smyrna met their suffering with faith. None of us will get out this world alive – unless we’re here when the Rapture takes place. Even if we are privileged to peacefully leave this world in our sleep, none of us will get to that point without enduring some form of suffering. I pray each one of us will allow whatever hardships come our way to increase of faith and love for the Lord, because “perfect love expels all fear” (I John 4:18b) and “God is love” (I John 4:16b).
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 14
We’re looking at the second of Jesus’ seven letters to the churchs found in Revelation 2 and 3. As we’ve already learned, each letter is preceded with the command of Jesus to John: “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger, as in pastor) of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT).
In all seven letters, the instruction to “write” is followed by a different statement. In the case of the church of Smyrna, Jesus says, “These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life” (Revelation 2:8b). How important are those words to the Christians of Smyrna in light of His message to these believers.
“I know your affliction and your poverty – though you are rich! And I am aware of the slander of those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are in fact a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:9-10).
It’s going to take a while to pick all this apart, so I hope you’ll bear with me, but first we see Jesus telling them, “I know your affliction and your poverty…” Smyrna was a wealthy city, yet the Christians lived in extreme poverty, the poorest of the poor. Why? People didn’t want to hire Christians. People didn’t want anything to do with Christians. To profess Jesus as Lord was to be shunned in society, and that included in ways to make a living.
“…though you are rich!” The strong faith it took to stand for Jesus Christ in the face of such discrimination and cruelty didn’t go unnoticed. Nor would it go unrewarded. John Trapp, a 15th century theologian, referred to Smyrna as “the poorest but purest of the seven.” Contrary to what this world teaches, what we have here on earth matters little. What’s important is to “Store your treasure in heaven” (Matthew 6:20a). Which is exactly what the Smyrna Christians were doing.
“And I am aware of the slander of those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are in fact a synagogue of Satan.” Smyrna included a large Jewish community, but those Jews were vehement opponents of anyone who professed to be a follower of Jesus. Paul had dealt with their kind many times, his life often threatened by Jews who refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. And the cold, unyielding hearts of these Jews in Smyrna prompted Jesus to call them what they’d become: “…a synagogue of Satan.”
We may not experience persecution like the believers of Smyrna, but we definitely live in frightening times. Yet the Church still stands and Jesus promises “all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18b). So stand firm, believers! God is on our side.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 13
Jesus’ first letter was to the church in Ephesus. His second letter begins: “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write…” (Revelation 2:8a). Just what sort of city was Smyrna?
It was a riverfront community with a burgeoning import/export trade via its harbor. And all that commercialization made Smyrna a wealthy city. It also brought in people from all sorts of cultures, plus many of its own citizens traveled and experienced other cultures. And other cultures meant other religions. These were introduced into Smyrna and received with open arms, with temples of Apollo, Cybele and Zeus worship among many others.
But all these worship centers fizzled into the background when in 196 B.C. Smryna built the first temple to “Dea Roma” – “dea” being the female form of the word “god,” signifying a goddess, and “Roma” meaning Rome. The Goddess of Rome became Smyrna’s trendiest deity and her temple the most popular place to worship.
But bear in mind the message of Revelation wasn’t written until A.D. and most Bible scholars date it somewhere between the years 70 and 96. The later date seems more feasible because historical records point to Domitian as the Emperor who sentenced John to exile on Patmos, and Domitian was Emperior from 81 to 96 A.D.
And by the time of the Revelation, the worship of the Goddess of Rome had changed to the worship of the Roman Emperor himself. Domitian was particularly cruel to Christians, considering himself a god and demanding the title of “dominus et deus,” meaning “lord and god.”
Which didn’t make it easy for Christians in Smyrna, and which came as no surprise to Jesus. After all, He’d told His disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33b).
But He also said, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33c). Good News for Smyrna and Good News for us living today.
Judy Woodward Bates
Jesus closes His message to the Ephesian church as well as the other six churches with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a, 11a, 17a, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, NLT). Just as He followed “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14) each location with a distinct statement, Jesus concludes the Ephesian letter and the other six letters with distinct statements.
To Ephesus, He says: “To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b).
What was Jesus wanting the church at Ephesus to be “victorious” over? Their lack of love for Him and others. Love doesn’t rekindle itself. We have to consciously seek to rebuild it.
When a marriage vow is broken, it takes a heap of work to keep that marriage together and reconnect the trust and love that should be there. Easy? No. But I know couples who’ve been through major storms but refused to give up on each other – and let me say right here that I am totally aware that it takes two willing parties to save a marriage.
And speaking of marriage, every believer is a part of the Bride of Christ. No matter how unfaithful you or I have been to our Bridegroom, He still loves us. He’ll still forgive us. He won’t give up on us. He wants our love for Him to grow and mature, just as He wanted to see the church at Ephesus continue to not only do all the right things, but to get back to doing them in love. And He wanted to see that love turn from declining to increasing.
“I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” Where was “the tree of life”? Eden, man’s original “paradise.” But “the paradise of God”? This was the dwelling place of our Creator. What did Jesus say to the repentant thief on the cross? “…today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43b).
This is such a significant promise, and remember: it wasn’t merely for the people of the church of Ephesus who heeded Jesus’ words – it’s also for every believer today who will listen and obey. Jesus’ promise is for here and the hereafter.
We can eat of the “fruit from the tree of life” not only in “the paradise of God,” but we can eat of the spiritual “fruit from the tree of life” right now IF we’re putting God first – see Matthew 6:33. Meaning what exactly? When we’re fully committed to Jesus Christ, we miss out on many of the effects of the curse – see Genesis 3.
Will our lives be worry-free? No. The Bible makes it clear we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. But I can promise you this: when you put God first, you position yourself for blessings. Materially? Maybe. Spiritually? Most definitely. And when you do reach “the paradise of God,” you’ll be astounded to learn all the negative things that were kept from your life because of your faithfulness.
Judy Woodward Bates
As I mentioned yesterday, before Jesus dictates each of the seven letters to the churches, He instructs John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). As we’ve already seen, the word translated “angel” is also translated as “messenger,” making it likely that these letters were addressed to the human “messenger,” as in the pastor of each congregation.
But after instructing John to “Write this letter…,” Jesus opens each letter with a distinct statement. In the case of the church of Ephesus, Jesus says, “This is the message from the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven gold lampstands” (Revelation 2:1b). In Revelation 1:20b, Jesus had already explained the meaning of the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands”: “The seven stars are the angels [or messengers] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
So Jesus told John to write to the churches. How was he to get those messages to the churches? After all, he was exiled on an island. Well, there are a couple probable explanations:
(1) Boats came and went from the island, bringing supplies and other prisoners. John could have sent the messages by boat. Possible, yes, but my money’s on the second possibility.
(2) Historical records indicate John was released from prison shortly after he wrote down Jesus’ Revelation message. Ephesus was a coastal city and only a short boat trip from Patmos. John could have hand-delivered the message. The other six churches were all within a reasonable distance from Ephesus, so John may possibly have personally delivered the message to all seven churches.
According to all available information, John appears to be the only apostle who lived to a very old age and apparently died of natural causes. Being the last of the original 12 disciples who walked and talked with Jesus, we can only imagine the excitement of having John walk into the church at Ephesus or any of the other six churches. Too, this final message of Jesus Christ would be held in high regard and copies of the entire Revelation made and distributed to not only the seven churches, but to all the churches.
So even though seven specific churches were designated as recipients and the specific goings-on – both good and bad – within those churches are addressed, the message is for all churches in all ages, including today. Seven, signifying completion, encompasses the entire true Church, which may be why Jesus chose to begin the first of His letters, the one to Ephesus, identifying Himself as the One with the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands.” I pray each person reading this is a part of the One True Church.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 10
We’re in Revelation, chapter 2. Before we wrap up our look at the church in Ephesus, I want to touch on two different lines of thinking about what is represented by the seven churches to whom Jesus instructed John to write.
Some Bible scholars believe each church represents a church age, or time period. Most don’t agree with that viewpoint, including John Macarthur, who says of the letters to the seven churches that “when Christ speaks to those churches, He is speaking to all the churches of all time... There is tremendous prophetic importance in those churches because their messages represent the total message to the total church."
In other words, folks, we need to listen up because all of these messages are for the church of today just as they were for the church of John’s day and every time period between then and now. And let me reiterate that the Church is not a denomination, but is composed of all true believers worldwide.
Two important things we need to note here and take a look at over the next few days:
(1) Before Jesus dictates each of the seven letters to the churches, He instructs John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). As we’ve already seen, the word translated “angel” is also translated as “messenger.” An angel of God assuredly watches over the Church, but the letter was to be read aloud to the entire congregation, making it likely that these letters were addressed to the human “messenger,” as in the pastor of each congregation.
(2) Jesus closes His message to the Ephesian church as well as the other six churches with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a, 11a, 17a, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). You can sit in church every Sunday and “hear” the sermon, but unless you also “understand,” it becomes very easy to leave church having gotten nothing out of the service and having put nothing into it. Just as with reading the Bible, God doesn’t want us to merely read the words; He wants us to “understand” and apply them.
Have you ever sat in church and thought, “I wish So-and-So were here because this message is sure for her!” I’ll put my hand up and admit I’ve done that. Reminds me of a humorous yet serious quote by the great theologian Henry Ward Beecher: “The churches of the land are sprinkled all over with bald-headed old sinners whose hair has been worn off by the constant friction of countless sermons that have been aimed at them and glanced off and hit the man in the pew behind.”
May all us “bald-headed sinners become “the man in the pew behind.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 9
We’re looking at Jesus’ letter to the church in Ephesus, the first of the seven letters He instructs John to write. He commends them for what they’re doing right, but then adds: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4, NLT). He saw this bunch of believers doing all the right things, but without the love for Him or others as they’d had at the beginning of their commitment to Him.
This church was busy, doing good, steering clear of all the evil that surrounded them in their goddess-worshiping city and making sure no false teachers or “apostles” sneaked into their congregation. But even with all that, Jesus said to them: “Look how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:5a).
A marriage with a love that isn’t nurtured can become more of an institution than a commitment. This is what Jesus was saying to the church in Ephesus. They still met regularly; they still did good deeds; they avoided all wrongdoing; but their love had dwindled rather than grown. In a marriage, a couple can get so busy going through day-to-day routines that they forget to consciously seek to grow in love for each other. This is what had happened in the church of Ephesus.
So Jesus warns them: “Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:5b).
The church who was doing everything right needed to repent. Why? Because of what they weren’t doing. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 to the Pharisees, those pious worshipers who kept every letter of the Mosaic Law: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
To break a commandment of God is to sin. And the Ephesian church was in sin because of their diminishing love for Christ and, subsequently, for others. Which is why Jesus went on to say, “If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches” (Revelation 2:5c).
Jesus didn’t and doesn’t want a band of robots going through the motions of the Christian lifestyle. After all, He doesn’t need us, period. He does, however, love us, and that alone is beyond comprehension when we look at our own lives and the priorities we put in front of Him.
How would Jesus “come and remove” the “lampstand,” representing the church at Ephesus, “from its place among the churches”? The church might keep the doors open and continue to do business as usual, but the favor of God would no longer be on that congregation.
Likewise with an individual Christian’s life. If a person wants the approval of God and the favor of God, then he or she must obey “the greatest commandment” and “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 8
Jesus instructed John to write “to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11b, NLT). With Ephesus first in line, what did Jesus have to say to the Ephesian Christians?
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for Me without quitting” (Revelation 2:2-3).
First, we see a statement Jesus says to each and every believer: “I know all the things you do.” The Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself, indwells every true believer and He indeeds knows everything about us.
Jesus then commends the Ephesian believers for their “hard work and… patient endurance.” The church at Ephesus was hard at it for the Kingdom of God and they didn’t put up with false “apostles” who tried to infiltrate their congregation and lead them away from the truth.
Despite all that, though, Jesus goes on to say: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4). On the surface, everything at the First Church of Ephesus looked great. But when Jesus took a peek below their carefully plastered façade, He saw a people who went through all the right motions, but without the love they’d started out with.
Newlyweds may be absolutely giddy about their new life and love together, but after a while that giddiness settles down. If that marriage is healthy, though, the love continues to grow and mature. It may not be as flamboyant as it was in the beginning, but the depth of that love assuredly increases.
Likewise a Christian’s love for the Lord and for his fellow believers. When that love is diminishing rather than growing, a Christian is simply going through the motions rather than seriously pursuing a deeper walk with the Savior. “God is love,” (I John 4:8 and 16) and no one can grow closer to Him without loving Him more and loving others more too.
How long have you been a believer? Can you honestly say you love Jesus Christ more today than you did the day you committed your heart and life to Him? If you do, how do you show it in your prayer life? Bible study? Church attendance? Financial giving? Treatment of others?
The Lord has more to say to the Ephesians and more to say to us through this letter. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 7
The second chapter of the Revelation opens with these instructions from the Lord Jesus Christ to the apostle John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus” (Revelation 2:1a, NLT).
As we’ve already looked at, the word translated “angel” in the NLT and many translations is also translated as “messenger” or “minister” in others. While an angel of the Lord certainly watches over His Church, this message was directed to the leader or pastor of the church at Ephesus who would then share the letter with the entire congregation.
Remember, the epistles, such as the book of Romans, are simply letters written to specific churches, with Romans being the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, and Ephesians being his letter to the church in Ephesus.
The New Testament contains 13 epistles, or letters, from Paul: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Eight more epistles are in the New Testament: First, Second and Third John; First and Second Peter; James; Jude; and Hebrews.
One of these days we’ll look into these epistles, or letters, but for now let’s find out about the city of Ephesus. It was a prominent city, being the capital of the province of Asia as well as the location of the temple of the Roman goddess Diana, who was known to the Greeks as Artemis.
If you read Acts 19, you’ll see that Paul spent at least two years teaching in Ephesus and many people put their faith in Jesus Christ during that time. This infuriated the silversmith tradesmen because a huge part of their income came from the making of household-sized images of Diana.
Like so many pagan religions, the worship of Diana involved sexual immorality, with temple prostitutes a part of the rites of this belief. Imagine having been a part of such a perverted form of worship, then learning about Jesus, repenting and walking away from all that! The Christians of Ephesus had come out of an empty and immoral lifestyle which continued to be a thriving part of the Ephesian culture.
We like to blame the internet and television and all sorts of modern-day media and behavior for how hard it is to live a moral lifestyle today. “There’s just so much temptation out there!” News flash: that ain’t news. Temptation has been around since the Garden of Eden.
It’s up to each and every Christian to be 100 percent genuine in their commitment to Christ. God’s Word reminds us now just as it did then: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 6
“And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man… And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13a, 16b, NLT).
So many Bible passages come to mind when I read this description of the glorified Jesus. Think about the shepherds to whom Jesus’ birth was announced: “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them” (Luke 2:9a). Because that angel (and the “vast host” of angels who appeared soon after the first angel – see Luke 2:13) had been in the presence of God, he shone with “the radiance of the Lord’s glory.”
And in the Old Testament, Moses’ “face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord” (Exodus 34:29b), even though Moses had only had a glimpse of his Creator. Hebrews 1:3a declares, “The Son radiates God’s own glory…” Psalm 50:2b says, “…God shines in glorious radiance.”
Even before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, John, along with Peter and James, were allowed to see His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration: “…Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2b).
The light of the Savior reveals everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Our darkest secrets are exposed. Anything false within us is laid bare. Understanding this truth should create in each of us a tremendous sense of urgency to live for Christ and to tell others about Him.
Jesus then instructs John to “Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen" (Revelation 1:19). This sentence gives us the three-part breakdown of the Revelation: (1) Chapter 1: “…what you have seen”; (2) Chapters 2-3: “…the things that are now happening”; and (3) Chapters 3-22: “…the things that will happen."
Chapters 2 and 3 contain the letters to the seven churches, all of which were “in the province of Asia” (Revelation 1:4). As we’ve already seen, “Asia” didn’t refer to the entire continent of Asia, but to a part of what is now the country of Turkey. We’ll begin our look at the churches tomorrow. I hope you’ll go ahead and read Chapters 2 and 3.
Judy Woodward Bates
We’re continuing our look at the glorified Jesus: “…His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth” (Revelation 1:15b-16a, NLT).
“His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.” Jesus spoke with His powerful voice of authority and “held seven stars in His right hand.” What were these “seven stars”? The leaders of the seven churches (seven being the number of completion) with whom John was instructed to share this message: “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11).
If we look on down to Revelation 1:20, we see the words of Jesus clearly explaining the stars and lampstands: “This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The word written as “angels” in most translations is written as “messengers” or “ministers” in some translations. Jesus upholds His godly messengers, be they human or angelic, and Jesus upholds His Church.
“…and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth.” You may be thinking you’ve read a similar passage in Hebrews: “For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12a). However, there’s a difference in the two words translated as “two-edged sword” in the Revelation and Hebrews passages.
In the Hebrews passage, “two-edged sword” is translated from the Greek word “machairan” while in Revelation the “two-edged sword” is a translation of the word “rhomphaia.” In the first word, we see more of a double-edged knife, something used in up-close warfare, “…cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12b). The sword in Revelation is a broad, long sword, far-reaching and capable of horrific destruction.
Both swords represent “the Word of God,” which “exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Names on church rolls won’t fool Jesus when He calls out His Church. Only those who have truly received Him as Lord and Savior are a part of the One True Church. And only those have the believer’s single offensive weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
So did John actually see a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus? I don’t know. What I am sure of is that the “Word of God” came from Him. And should also come from us as His children. No earthly weapon can help us fight our battles – see Ephesians 6:12 – but the “Word of God” will always bring defeat to the enemy. Know it and use it.
Judy Woodward Bates
“…standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13-16, NLT).
Yesterday we saw that “the lampstands” represented the Church. In the very midst of the Church we see “the Son of Man.” Jesus. Daniel also sees the glorified Christ and describes Him in Daniel 7:13b-14: “I saw someone like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal – it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”
Jesus is “wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest.” Here is a picture of Jesus as our High Priest. Part of the job of a priest in the temple was to tend the lamps, making sure they were clean and filled with oil. Jesus, as our Eternal High Priest, watches over His Church to encourage the Church and to inspect it. Remember: each and every believer is a part of the Church, the body of Christ.
“His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow.” White hair was a sign of old age and wisdom. Unlike the disregard for the elderly we see in our culture today, many cultures still have great respect for the aged. To see the Risen Savior with “hair… white as snow” pointed to His wisdom and His eternality. Jesus Christ is “the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come” (Revelation 4:8b) and “His kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:33b).
“…His eyes were like flames of fire.” The penetrating gaze of Jesus was as “flames of fire,” seeing into the very hearts of men and judging each one accordingly.
“His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace…” Bronze indicated strength and permanence. If you look in Exodus 27 at the description of the altar in the temple, you’ll see that the entire altar was covered in bronze. Jesus Christ became our Living Sacrifice, placing Himself on the altar of the cross as the One Perfect Sacrifice that would pay mankind’s sin-debt for all time.
And the cost to me and you? “Only believe” (Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50b, HCSB). Do you?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 3
John takes one look at the glorified Jesus and what happens? “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead” (Revelation 1:17a, NLT). But Jesus immediately reassured Him: “Don’t be afraid!” (Revelation 1:17b).
But it was hard not to be. Revelation 1:12-16 describe the scene that’s taking place: “When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.”
John sees “seven gold lampstands.” A lampstand serves one purpose: to hold a lamp. And a lamp serves one purpose: to bring light into a place that would otherwise be in darkness. Jesus said in John 9:5, “…while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
But look at Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. He said of those who would believe in Him, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a). The Holy Spirit, Christ Himself, indwells every true believer, making each one a “Light… in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4a).
And what is the church but a body of believers? “Light… in the darkness.” Seven, being the number of perfection or completion in the Bible, points us to the Church, the body of Christ, as represented by the “seven gold lampstands.” The lampstand has no ability to produce light, but it can hold the light forth so that others can see it.
That’s the church, folks. Jesus never designated nor intended His body to be broken into factions of this and that denomination. He is the Head of the Church, regardless of what denominational name – or lack thereof – is on the sign outside.
But as I said, the Church is made up of believers. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are the Church. I am the Church. Are we shining forth His light? In this age of darkness, we sure better be.
Copyright 2019Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 2
“This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. It said, ‘Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea’” (Revelation 1:4, 10b-11, NLT).
“…the province of Asia…” At the time John received this Revelation from Jesus Christ, “Asia” was part of the Roman Empire. John wasn’t talking about the entire continent of Asia, but a part of what is now the country of Turkey, and he was instructed to write down this message and share it with a select group of “seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
Who is this “loud voice like a trumpet blast”? He has already identified Himself in the previous verses. In verse 8, He says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end… I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One.” Only the Lord Jesus Christ holds this title, so it is Jesus Himself speaking to John at this point in the Revelation. If you read a red-letter Bible, you’ll see this passage and more in red, since Jesus is speaking.
“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen’” (Revelation 1:17-19). Jesus is not only speaking directly to John, but John is seeing Him! Can you even imagine?
We’re going to begin a look at the glorified Jesus tomorrow. But for now, let me ask you: do you want to see Jesus? A much younger John began his Gospel with: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Living Word inhabits every page of the Bible. Read it and you’ll grow to know Him better and better.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR FEBRUARY 1
Yesterday we kicked off our look
at the book of Revelation, noting first and foremost that the apostle John is
only the recorder – the Revelation is “from Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1,
NLT). I also pointed out what a tough job John had ahead of him since he was
describing: (1) future earthly things he’d never seen before; and (2) heavenly
things he’d never seen before. The apostle John not only recorded this “revelation from Jesus Christ,” (Revelation
1:1), he also wrote the Gospel of John, as well as the books of First, Second
and Third John.
The Book of Revelation opens with the offer of a special blessing: “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (Revelation 1:3, HCSB).
But in order to understand Revelation, you have to know the rest of your Bible as well. It’s important to make Bible study a daily practice. Not merely reading, but using a good study Bible or reliable commentary to help you understand as you read.
Psalm 49:20 speaks of “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding…” (NASB). There is little benefit to reading the Bible unless we understand what we’re reading. James 4:2 reminds us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (BSB). As you begin this study and as you read your Bible, pray and ask the Lord for understanding.
If you’re a KJV person, consider reading a New King James Version (NKJV). As incentive, I highly recommend you compare the KJV and other translations of First Kings 16:11 and First Samuel 25:34 to see how drastically language has changed over the centuries.
All that said, where was John when he received this “revelation from Jesus Christ”? John tells us, “I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. It was the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:9b-10a, NLT).
John, now an elderly man, had been brought to this island prison “for preaching the word of God.” He’d been telling people “about Jesus.” And for that, the Romans took away his freedom. Or so they thought. But John knew the truth of Jesus’ own words as he recorded them in John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (KJV). John’s body may have been trapped on a tiny, isolated island, but his spirit was “free indeed.”
I hope you’ll go ahead and read at least the first chapter of Revelation. And please invite others to this study. “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (Revelation 1:3, HCSB).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY FOR JANUARY 31
“This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to His servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1-2, NLT).
Yep, we’re diving into Revelation. Note it’s a single revelation, not plural as you often hear said: Revelations. The word translated as “revelation” comes from the ancient Greek word “apokalupsis,” meaning “apocalypse,” or a revealing or unveiling.
This “revelation” was given to John the apostle, not John the Baptist. If you look back at Mark 6, you’ll see that John the Baptist was beheaded long before John the apostle was given this divine revelation. And this isn’t John’s revelation – it’s a “revelation from Jesus Christ.”
About what? “…the events that must soon take place.” It’s been 2,000 years and these events still haven’t “taken place.” Is the Bible in error? Never. The word translated “soon” is another ancient Greek phrase, “en tachei,” meaning suddenly happening. It doesn’t mean these things will take place soon after the Revelation has been given, but that at whatever time they take place, they will begin suddenly. (“Tachei” refers to speed or rapidity, which is why its Greek root word is the basis for our word “tachometer.”)
And what’s the purpose of the message of Revelation? “…to show His servants…” the future. For many years, preachers and teachers steered clear of Revelation because of its confusing symbolism and its dire warning: “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book” (Revelation 22:18). But the Revelation has been given and shouldn’t be ignored.
As we begin this look, remember: (1) In many places, John is describing things of the future, things he’s never laid eyes on before. Imagine someone from 2,000 years ago trying to describe TVs and cell phones, trying to explain hearing and seeing pictures that appear seemingly right out of thin air! John’s mission is not an easy one. (2) John has a second difficult task: to describe things he is privileged to see in heaven. The apostle Paul notes one occasion when he was given a glimpse of heaven:
“I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know – only God knows. …I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4).
So there’s a bit of starter under our belts. I hope you’ll hang with me for this study and invite others to join us.
Judy Woodward Bates