Revelation 7:4 | Satan’s Counterfeit Mark

When you purchase something at the store and it has a premium price you want to know if it is the genuine item. There are watermarks or engravings or other telling signs that you are looking at the genuine item. For example, collegiate sports have a shiny reflective logo “officially licensed”.  Sometimes expensive things have a letter of authenticity. Trading memorabilia can be graded and confirmed as genuine. Knock off designer items are common place so it is always best to educate yourself on what is real and what is fake.

Now take that same idea and move it into the spiritual realm. How does God know who his people are? How do we know who is of God and who is not? There is an interesting Biblical narrative that speaks to this throughout the history and future of creation.

Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: Revelation 7:2-4 ESV

The end time vision recorded by the Disciple John, tells us that there will be 144,000 Jewish men who are sealed on their foreheads to go and proclaim the good news of salvation during the tribulation years. They are marked by God so that Satan and the end of world destruction will not be able to kill them. God does not want them harmed because their sole purpose is to tell the lost and dying people that they can be saved if they trust God. Now we can contrast this seal with the mark that the envoy of Satan will hand out. Satan will be given power on earth to command nations that require a physical mark in order to participate in the public square.

16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. Revelation 13:16-17 ESV

Both God and Satan are “sealing” people. They are marking as genuine people that they claim. God is a creator and Satan is a counterfeiting liar. This means that God’s mark of genuine goes beyond a simple copy of some certification. God’s mark is intrinsic. Stated another way, God’s seal gives the person marked value as belonging to God the creator of the universe. The seal of God is so powerful that Angels give way. Satan’s mark is a cheap copy that carries no value. Satan is always looking to “mark” or scar people forcibly. Satan wants to destroy and his mark carries a heavy toll. Drugs abuse, physical mutilation, self-destructive actions are the easy public results for many… But other marks like at the end will seem the wise thing to do. Satan corners and isolates people to force them to do harmful things. God’s seal brings life, redemption, and relationship.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Since we are not currently in the end times where things are as obviously for or against God who has a seal of the God most high? And how does one come by this seal?

Anyone that accepts Jesus as savior will be “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee” of our future hope. Hear this dear reader… Through Jesus we average, ordinary, unloved, passed over, abused, poor, and even evil people can be claimed by God and given intrinsic worth as his child. God has proven over and over again that he loves his creation and that through Jesus we can be reconciled.

You dear reader can be a genuine article that is given unmistakable provenance into the kingdom of God. The next step is yours.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

Revelation 19:21 | Everyone Will Know When Jesus Returns

Discussions of end times, Jesus and his second coming, have always disturbed my soul. When I was a child and even as an adult, I have not reacted well at what is on the horizon. The Book of Revelation is a murky and dark survey of war, death, plagues, and judgments. Also, there are people who are obsessed with the topic and are trying to read the tea leaves to predict when it all comes about. Seems like a waste of time to me. Because of that I have avoided the end times conversations altogether just teaching the edges and being content with the knowing that I trust God and he will do what is right.

That said this is one of those times when I need to understand and teach about the Second coming of Christ. There is nothing more end times than when Jesus returns as shown to us by John in the Book of Revelation.

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Revelation 19:11-21 ESV

There is so much in this yet to occur image presented to us by John. I have written about Jesus the King who holds authority over all governments here but today I want to dwell on the spectacular nature of this second coming of Christ. This seems like one of those events where no one alive is going to miss what is happening.

The tribulation period at the end of days is one final intervention by God where his glory will be revealed. Everything that happens in this period will be amazing and terrifying. People will die and suffering will be great. Our understanding of the laws of science will be upended as the miraculous becomes routine. But one thing this return of Jesus will not be is hidden or unseen. When Jesus returns God’s glory will be on display like never in Creation’s short history.

22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:22-27 ESV

In Revelation 19 we see the heavenly view of the King on a white horse coming to wage war. And then in Matthew 24 we see Jesus warning people what it will look like from an earthly perspective. As lightning flashing from the sky so will we all see Jesus. This event will be spectacular. God placing himself on display in heavenly fashion. Jesus came as a human child in humble circumstances in order to draw the poor in spirit to God. Jesus will not return this way the next time. The second time is God intervening in history to end the evil, to end the suffering, and to end the abomination of Satan. And it will be glorious.

Now one confusing thing that is hard to understand is where does the church stand in this? Jesus said above in Matthew 24 that the days were cut short for the elect. But John’s book of Revelation does not speak of the church of Jesus. It speaks of Israel and the Hebrew people God’s chosen people. This is where one must understand the rapture.

8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. Revelation 3:8-11 ESV

Jesus tells the church that they will not be part of the trail that is coming to the world in the tribulation period. In other places the Church is described as a bride being prepared for the King. But in this case I like the description of the church as the diplomatic ambassadors of the King in a foreign land. We are here on earth a lawless evil land to proclaim grace, mercy, and reconciliation to the rightful King.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV

Reconciliation is no longer the objective of a conquering king. In a run up to war diplomacy is broken off. Ambassadors are called home. The tribulation is Satan’s big push to corrupt everything God has made and God’s time of grace, mercy, and reconciliation have ended. God being loving and just will still have compassion on the people and many will be saved in this tribulation period but the church as we know it now will be removed.

41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:41-44 ESV

When the church is recalled and returned to God. When the church’s compassion, mercy, and grace which overflows from God in a harsh world has ended its season then is when we enter the end times and the clock for Christ’s spectacular return is set. All of those seven years of tribulation will point in spectacular ways to the glory of God. He is our rightful king and we will accept his rule either willingly or in judgement.

I shudder at what comes because I want all to be reconciled to the King of Kings. You dear reader live in the time of the church where God has extended diplomacy and mercy. Who is an ambassador of Jesus in your life? Go and speak to this person and seek God’s grace. His love knows no bounds. He is trustworthy. Do not delay.

Revelation 3:10 |The Earth can’t be Saved

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Climate change, famine, asteroids, president Trump, and the Zombie Apocalypse are obsessions in this secular age of ways the world could end. For Christians the second coming of Jesus, the tribulation, the end of days, and the eventual destruction of the world are topics that we try to avoid. It seems to be in our DNA the idea that everything will end badly. And our instinct on this topic is right. We can’t save the Earth anymore than we can prevent our own death.

While the end of the world topics may be over dramatic and made for popular entertainment the current and future breakdown society is all true to a degree. This world is not going to last forever. America will not last forever. We know deep down that none of this even our own lives will last and for me I am thankful to God that the evil in this world has an expiration date also.

10 You followed my command to endure patiently. So I will keep you from the time of trouble that will come to the world—a time that will test everyone living on earth. 11 “I am coming soon. Hold on to the faith you have, so that no one can take away your crown. Revelation 3:10-11 ESV

Thank God because injustice and death in this world will end. God has a plan to restore what was lost from the start of creation. In the beginning God saw all that He made and it was “good”. Now after rebellion and a curse God sees his creation as something that must be created new. Lost was the perfection of God’s design. Cursed is this universe and the people living in it. So, thank you God for setting into motion a plan to undo the evil we brought forth. Revelation is an unnerving look at how we get from here, a moment of grace and mercy, to the start of a new creation. Below is a high-level outline of those steps.

Rapture of the church (the saints)

51 But listen, I tell you this secret: We will not all die, but we will all be changed. 52 It will only take the time of a second. We will be changed as quickly as an eye blinks. This will happen when the last trumpet blows. The trumpet will blow and those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we will all be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ESV

Christians both dead and alive will be changed in the blink of an eye and will meet with Jesus. This moment in time is called the Rapture. This supernatural event, at an unknown and unpredictable moment, will take everyone by surprise. The church will no longer inhabit this planet.

Judgement Seat of God for believers (a moment to see what has been done that glorifies God)

Around the time of the Rapture will be the event of the Judgment seat of God. This judgment is for those raptured Christians but it is not a condemnatory judgment but an account of life to see how the person has glorified God. Christians are saved by grace it is at this point we will understand in detail that how we lived and what we did matters.

Seven Year Tribulation

The Tribulation period is an accelerated moment of time where God gives those remaining a chance to repent. Few will do so and life for everyone remaining will be short and painful.

Second Coming of Christ

11 Then I saw heaven open. There before me was a white horse. The rider on the horse was called Faithful and True, because he is right in his judging and in making war. Revelation 19:11 ESV

Jesus days before his death, burial, and resurrection triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus at that time came to bring peace and grace. Kings promising peace would enter on a donkey. Kings bringing war would enter on a horse. Salvation is available to all who would trust him. Embrace the good tidings of Christmas and accept the gift that Jesus brings. We are living in that moment of peace and grace. Do not miss this opportunity. Because when Jesus comes the second time he comes on the horse of war and his judgment is righteous.

Kingdom Age 1,000 year rule Millennium

I saw an angel coming down out of heaven. The angel had the key to the bottomless pit. The angel also held a large chain in his hand. 2 The angel grabbed the dragon, that old snake, also known as the devil or Satan. The angel tied the dragon with the chain for 1000 years. 3 Then the angel threw the dragon into the bottomless pit and closed it. The angel locked it over the dragon. The angel did this so that the dragon could not trick the people of the earth until the 1000 years were ended. After 1000 years the dragon must be made free for a short time. Revelation 20:1-3 ESV

Now that the king has arrived Jesus will rule for a millennium on earth fulfilling the remaining prophecy of the Old Testament Jews. At the end of this rule is a final war between Satan and God.

Great White Throne Judgment

11 Then I saw a large white throne. I saw the one who was sitting on the throne. Earth and sky ran away from him and disappeared. 12 And I saw those who had died, great and small, standing before the throne. Some books were opened. And another book was opened—the book of life. The people were judged by what they had done, which is written in the books. Revelation 20:11-12 ESV

This judgment throne is the one for those who have not been saved by Jesus. These people will be taking on the wages of their sin on their own. They have rejected God and now stand apart from him. God’s judgment is righteous and perfect.

New Creation

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared. Now there was no sea…The one who was sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.” Revelation 21:1;5 ESV

Conclusion

What does this mean to me right here right now. If you are saved by Christ it means live life knowing that at any moment the end of days could be upon us. Are our affairs in order? Are we focused on the right things… eternal things? For those that are not saved and have rejected Christ this is a reminder that Jesus comes to us now in peace and mercy. Salvation is at hand for anyone who believes. That moment of grace and mercy will not last forever.

Peter urged the church to think of the end this way.

10 But the day when the Lord comes again will surprise everyone like the coming of a thief. The sky will disappear with a loud noise. Everything in the sky will be destroyed with fire. And the earth and everything in it will be burned up. 11 Everything will be destroyed in this way. So what kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and devoted to God. 12 You should be looking forward to the day of God, wanting more than anything else for it to come soon. When it comes, the sky will be destroyed with fire, and everything in the sky will melt with heat. 13 But God made a promise to us. And we are waiting for what he promised—a new sky and a new earth. That will be the place where goodness lives. 2 Peter 3:10-13 ESV

Jesus Brings a Sword

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Churches should be compassionate and that compassion follows from the example of Jesus who is the head of the church. Jesus came to save the lost and show compassion to those in need. Likewise the Church must be suffering servants of the community. Showing grace through acts of kindness and service to those in need. Most understand this and are rightfully quick to criticize churches that fail in this duty.

On the flip side is Government. Many want Government to replace the church. They want Government to be compassionate and serving the community. The problem however is that Government has a unique authority to bring wrath and Governments have always had the authority to kill and to imprison. Try not paying your taxes and you will by force of the sword be made to pay. Just look to the example of actor Wesley Snipes if there is any doubt. Putting men in charge of compassion through the arm of government will never end well.

The only authority that has the moral right to kill is Government. The death penalty through a court system and also in war are two examples where Governments can take life legally and morally. No Church, citizen, or individual has that right. Jesus while familiar to many as a compassionate Church leader is much less familiar as Jesus the just King wielding the authority of death. Jesus is a King and ruler of a government entity of which we are all subjects. Jesus has the right to wage war and execute a death penalty as His perfect justice sees fit. Jesus welding a sword is a shocking realization to many but this idea is introduced in the Old Testament and then continued by John in his apocalypse vision of the returning Jesus. John writes…

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

John’s vision of Jesus may be shocking to the modern reader but not to those at the time John wrote this apocalypse. The Jewish elite were afraid Jesus had come overthrow Rome, and thereby overthrow their power. That is the reason they had him killed. The Disciples hoped that Jesus had come to overthrow Rome and set up each of the Disciples as rulers in this new kingdom. But Jesus told them that his time to rule had not arrived. Upon realizing that Jesus would not make the Disciples powerful rulers in this current life Judas walked away and betrayed Jesus for silver. Jesus had come not as king but as priest to testify to the truth of God and to reconcile men to God. Jesus came to save the lost to provide a window, a window we live in right now, of mercy and grace to submit to the Creator. However that window will close at some unknown date in the near future. At that time Jesus will return and the name will be written on him “King of Kings”. This vision that John has prophesied was also revealed to others. King David writes in song…

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand” Psalms 110:1a ESV

David is the king of all Israel. How odd it would be for him to say the “The Lord says to my Lord” when David is the king and lord of an earthly kingdom. David answered to none other than God so who would this other Lord be that David called Lord? David answers the question just a few verses later.

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Psalms 110:4 ESV

Melchizedek is a mysterious figure that is revealed in Genesis. Abraham the kingly patriarch of the promised nation of Israel interacted with Melchizedek. Abraham a man like David who answered to no one but God pays tribute to another Lord at the successful conclusion of a battle.

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:18-20 ESV

Abraham is the chosen of God to be the father of a priestly nation call Israel. Abraham encounters a man named Melchizedek who is described as “priest of God Most High”. King David tells us that this Lord of Lords sitting at the right hand of God will also be a priest modeled after this mysterious high priest of God. This Lord of Lords will also be High Priest. David is singing about a King who is also a Priest.

Jesus with his sword of Government is coming. We already have witnessed and are living in the opportunity to embrace the Priestly Refuge of this King but when he comes to establish the Kingdom where will we stand?

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalms 2:10-12 ESV

Are you president of the United States? Are you a czar of Russia? CEO of a corporate entity? Master of your home? It does not matter “Kiss the Son” and “rejoice with trembling” all will bow before this Lord and this king. David sings that this Lord is “a priest forever”. His compassion is never ending for those who are saved. He has the authority to both save and kill. Take hold of this promise today while you can and draw near to the perfect Lord of Lords and Intercessory Priest of God.

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:22-25 ESV