Challenges to A Short Course on Revelation Part 3
by Osmer Harris
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You challenged the concept of the tribulation being judgment, referring back to the seals and the plagues of Revelation as if they were some separate entity. You also told me that you spend little to no time reading the old testament, so here is the underlying problem.
I think an attempt at establishing what this time we call the tribulation is, is in order.
Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
Without a comparative look at the Old Testament we might not have any understanding of what Jacob’s troubles is. A clear aspect of the passage is “that day”. I believe the reference is to “the day of the Lord.” This day plays a significant role in our understanding of Jacob’s troubles. The fact that Jacob is associated with the beginnings of Israel is a huge clue.
The passage also states that “he shall be saved out of it.” Who then is the “he” referring to since Jacob is long since passed? God seems to not be looking for a singular man, but more toward an entity or perhaps a nation; the nation Israel. Why would there be a reference to being saved out of something when Israel is experiencing an unprecedented peace now? Perhaps we are ignoring the obvious signs, given by prophecy of a time when there will be a tremendous outcry for peace.
Without an understanding of scripture how would you know that “that day” will come at a time when people are saying “peace, peace”. There is always an alternative possibility that requires some thought. What if this is a scenario where the people are crying out for peace because they need it? Think about the situation in Israel, as you read this. Iran is crying out for the absolute destruction of Israel and they are building the assets that would enable them to do something like that. Scripture tells that the damage will be great at some point with a two-thirds loss of Israel’s population, but that will not happen tomorrow. It will only happen after some ruler makes a peace treaty with Israel for a seven-year period, which he will break half way through the time period. At that time Israel will be attacked from every flank. There will be horror in the streets like you never thought possible.
John MacArthur’s commentary states: time of Jacob's trouble. This period of unprecedented difficulty for Israel, as the verse defines, is set in a context of Israel's final restoration. It is best equated with the time of tribulation (cf. Jer_30:8-9) just before Christ's second advent, mentioned elsewhere (Dan_12:1; Mat_24:21-22) and described in detail (Rev. 6-19).
Dan 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
Michael, the Angel, steps up in behalf of “the children of thy people”, the Children of Israel. References to “a nation” and “thy people” are clear references to Israel.
Matthew 24:21-22 KJV For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (22) And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Again I quote from John MacArthur: great tribulation. The words "has not been" and "nor ever shall be"—along with the description that follows—identify this as the yet-future time in which God's wrath shall be poured out on the earth (see note on Rev_7:14). Jesus' descriptions of the cataclysms that follow closely resemble the outpouring of divine wrath described in the bowl judgments of Revelation 16 and His subsequent appearing in Revelation 19 (see note on Mat_24:30).
The entire chapter of Matthew 24 is talking about the end, but there is a context to Matthew 24 and it lies in the question that the disciples ask Jesus.
Matthew 24:3 KJV And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
The sign of his coming (one of the many references to “the day of the Lord”) is at the end of the 7 year period, and it is definitively the time when Jesus shall return physically to the earth. Realistically, if you consider all the events that scripture defines will happen, then perhaps they are all signs of his coming.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck states,
“To what “time of trouble” was Jeremiah referring? Some have felt that he was pointing to the coming fall of Judah to Babylon or to the later fall of Babylon to Medo-Persia. However, in both of these periods the Northern Kingdom of Israel was not affected. It had already gone into captivity (in 722 b.c.). A better solution is to see Jeremiah referring to the still-future Tribulation period when the remnant of Israel and Judah will experience a time of unparalleled persecution (Dan_9:27; Dan_12:1; Mat_24:15-22). The period will end when Christ appears to rescue His elect (Rom_11:26) and establish His kingdom (Mat_24:30-31; Mat_25:31-46; Rev_19:11-21; Rev_20:4-6).”
While there are some clear time frames involved, many contend that the “day of the Lord” is the entire seven-year period. Others make assertions that the great tribulation arrives at the mid point and only lasts three and one half years. If you invest some time looking into this mid-point aspect it is clear that persecution escalates from then on, making the idea that no one would survive a much more realistic scenario.
Look at this passage from the NT.
2 Thessalonians 2:2 (DRC)(The Holy Bible Translated From The Latin Vulgate) That you be not easily moved from your sense, nor be terrified, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand.
The Thessalonian church was asking because it feared that the day of the Lord had come already. If they were talking about the time of destruction that so many references to “the day of Lord” refer to, then I believe the discussion might have taken a completely different turn, but Paul reassured them that for them, it had not come, therefore they could rest in the hope that they would meet him in the air, on that day; another day altogether.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 KJV Paul tells the church, and us, (51) Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
If you try to make this correlate with the trumpets of Revelation then you will only provoke your confusion, for the trumpets of Revelation are part of the judgment period. Ask yourself as you increase in knowledge of end times events, how many raptures are recorded? The answer is two, and they both happen after the end of the seven-year period.
The first rapture is of those slain for their testimony during this horrible time. God calls them saints and they get to reign with him during the thousand-years. The second resurrection of the dead is at the end of the thousand-year reign. None of these should be considered to be in Christ, for if they had been they would have been caught up to be with him in the air, and that did not happen. These are the one that have died outside of a firm acceptance of God as Lord and his son Jesus Christ. They are brought before the Great White throne and judged. Although we often speak of these people as doomed to hell, if you spend some time studying this out you will find that even in this God still shows mercy to many.
Ezekiel 30:3 KJV For the day is near, even the day of the LORD is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen.
Joel chapter 2 is one that I heard often in my pentecostal circles where prophetic speakers would come and share what God laid upon their hearts.
Joel 2:28-29 KJV And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (29) And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
If you spend anytime reading Joel you will find it filled with encouragement, and gloom.
Joel 2:1-2 KJV Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD comes, for it is nigh at hand; (2) A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
You have to find the distinction as to when this “day of the Lord” comes. I believe that this points to the physical manifestation of the Lord upon the earth at the end of the seven-year period. It is not going to be a pretty day, and I believe the effects of his coming will be seen globally. You cannot forget that this is a Jewish oriented book, whether you wish to accept that fact or not is irrelevant. The Jew reads something like “blow the trumpet in Zion” and there is an immediate recognition of the sound of the shofar giving out a call.
If you do as I did, and merely pursue the word judgment through the simple concordance at the back of most bibles, you will taken to Isaiah 66 as I was. God, through Isaiah contrasts the humble and contrite with the what ever the opposite is. Though what to call the opposite is not made distinct in the NIV, it is safe to presume the selfish, manipulative, and those who refuse to follow God’s commands. Webster’s dictionary describes the humble as being submissive, or penitent, in complete opposition to the selfish and manipulative.
What are God’s commands for the NT believer? Few considering we live in an age of grace and mercy. We are to believe in the Name of Jesus, and his redeeming work on the cross that brought us forgiveness for sins, but what does that mean to us? It means we have a hope; the same message that Paul brought to the Thessalonian church when they struggled over the possibility that they had missed the rapture. If your sins have been forgiven and you believe in the Son, then you have a hope for the future with Him in Heaven, just as he said.
Isaiah 66 starting at verse 3 describes those in opposition to God, how they operate, and what will happen to them.
Isaiah 66:3-4 NIV But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations; (4) so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring on them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me."
Why? For when I called, no one answered; When I spoke, no one listened.
Perhaps the question to ask, like some nightmarish movie, is what do you dread? Israel is about the same size as New Jersey and all of their neighbors are hostile toward them. Put yourself in their shoes, especially now, then tell me what your greatest fear would be.
Here is that word you seem to have so much trouble with, judgment.
Isaiah 66:14-16 NIV When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes. (15) See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. (16) For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment on all people, and many will be those slain by the LORD.
Jeremiah 25:29 NIV See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword on all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty.'
Another harsh example, but in this case he clearly deems it punishment.
Judgment, I suppose would be the sentence prescribed, punishment is the carrying out of the act. People, in a civilized world, do not get punished for no reason. God has already spelled out the sentence for us.
Jeremiah 46:10 NIV But that day belongs to the Lord, the LORD Almighty-- a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes. The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood. For the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will offer sacrifice in the land of the north by the River Euphrates.
Ezekiel 30:2-3 NIV "Son of man, prophesy and say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "'Wail and say, "Alas for that day!" (3) For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near-- a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.
Joel 3:2 NIV I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.
Joel’s prophecy should stand out for God states clearly that he, “will put them on trial for what they did”. That sounds like judgment to me.
Isaiah 13:6 NIV Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
Isaiah 13:9 NIV See, the day of the LORD is coming --a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.
Isaiah 13:11-13 NIV I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. (12) I will make people scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. (13) Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.
Look at verse 13 above. “ I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.” Hardly anyone hears of the events that occur in Revelation, whether they fall under the classification of seals, plagues, or trumpets considers them a pleasant affair. I think it is safe to say that everyone perceives the events of Revelation as terror, and no one cares to distinguish between the beginning from the end, it is all calamitous with death permeating every event. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks of what is to come as anything less than punishment, the result of judgment.
I have been at this for several days now. Not only trying to give clarity, but build a reasonable argument. Yes, it takes me a while, and yes, I am basically lazy, not so willing at times to do the research necessary.
I had not been sleeping well due to a recent back injury and during one of my bouts of restless sleep God spoke to me and gave me some clarity on this subject of judgment upon the earth. I was reminded of what Jesus said, it will be as in the days of Noah. Luke recorded that Jesus spoke of Lot. Peter added some clarity by speaking of Lot as well.
Matthew 24:36-39 KJV But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (37) But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (38) For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, (39) And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Jesus warned that a time would come when people would no longer be paying attention. That means they were not expecting Jesus anymore today than yesterday, and life was just continuing to happen, because there are things to do and life to live.
When you break down the Noah scenario what are the aspects?
1. Noah, a righteous man in an unrighteous world, is following God’s odd command to build a massive boat. Noah, and probably his sons, take a tremendous amount of flack over this boat, partly because it takes him 100 years to build it. During this entire time people ask questions, mock him, and, if they are kind, merely walk away. Life continues, children are born, the oldest being 100 by the time the flood hits, and these have the same opportunity to walk in righteousness as Noah because Noah preached the right way to them, but did they? No way. Man only did what he wanted.
2. God sees all of this, for nothing escapes him, and when the time is right he brings JUDGMENT. We do not have to call it anything else, trumpets, bowls, seals, it is nothing less than destruction of godless man upon the earth.
How many righteous men were there at this time? Apparently only one, but unlike Lot’s family Noah’s came along. I do not think people pick up on the mercy of God in this story. One of Noah’s sons does something horrible to his father not long after the flood and receives a curse upon his family line for it. We really know little about the sons and their wives prior to the flood.
3. Clearly, because righteousness continues in some people today, the responsibility lies on Noah’s sons to pass on that heritage. The fact that the world is filled with believers is testimony to that.
4. The ark is complete. God gives the command to the animals to come and fill the boat. Scripture tells us that when the animals were secured that the flooding began. The earth began to open up as well as the skies, and water began rushing out from every direction. Flooding takes some time unless you live below a dam when it breaks, and then you have only seconds. As the earth began to flood God put Noah, and his family in the boat. Destruction came and God removes his righteous man from that destruction.
Warnings were given; judgment came, and God rescued those that were his before the all-encompassing destruction touched Noah.
Now consider Lot for a moment.
1. Lot tried bargaining with God to save at least his home and family, I am not sure what else he was bargaining for. It is possible that Lot knew the extent of the perversion, I believe he did. Scripture backs that idea up for you see an odd comment from the town folk in verse 19.
Genesis 19:9 KJV And they (the angels) said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.
The men of town said that Lot needed to stop judging them.
2. God has the Angels pull Lot, his wife and daughters out of the town, and then destruction came. There is such an attraction to the world left behind that the wife looks back and dies, and the daughters, in short order, pull an odd stunt by having sexual intercourse with their father. What God wants us to see as the result is a righteous man, Lot.
Once again, like Noah, God has rescued his righteous from judgment, or shall we say, destruction. There is no precursor, no mid-tribulation period, no great tribulation; it is merely judgment for the rejection of God.
A little clarity and insight as to why I write. I used to hang out with a group of men at the hamburger stand. We would talk about the bible. One of the men, claimed to have been a pastor at one time, and seemed to enjoy taking a domineering role at these meetings. They had asked me to join them, and I did for many months. Although we have had some clashes, this leader and I, I think we worked through them, but I disagree with him frequently. I told the group that I write commentaries and thoughts on scripture, and post them on the internet. I was asked to share some of these with the group.
This last time was odd for a couple of reasons: The “pastor” is on a seven-year mission to make the Revelation clear and understandable (Yes, that was an allusion to Star Trek, and no it is not literally a seven-year mission, but he pursuing minute details and never gaining any ground. Therefore it will take him seven years, at least). Problem is everything he said was confusing when he would speak about it. I decided, because I too had always had a wish to understand Revelation that I would write a short synopsis of the book. I called it “A Short Course on Revelation” and posted it on the internet. I took a couple of copies to the bible study and handed it exclusively to one of the men there (this man I gave it to seems to enjoy reading them and he is extremely knowledgeable in Greek).
The “pastor” took that copy from him to glance at and kept it. The following week he handed it back to me with his arguments scribbled on it, and an addendum indicating that he really wanted to talk about this in-depth, and that he was open to understanding, and willing to change if someone could convince him he was wrong. Here is the problem with that, no one can convince him he is wrong. We have pointed things out in scriptures that are in opposition to his assertions and yet he would continue to sit there arguing by saying we are misunderstanding the passage. I cannot change anyone, only God can, and I learned long ago that you cannot argue with a closed mind.
The “pastor” also let us know that he did not spend anytime at all in the old testament, and really could see no great reason too since our lives as believers is solely based in the new testament. I find that a pathetically odd and uneducated approach, especially since this man was a chief financial officer for a corporation at one time.
To choose to ignore statements Jesus made that are clearly taken from the old testament, and not have some desire to understand their context puzzles me. I also found the old testament to be filled with people who like me, desired to understand God and still live in this tumultuous world we are stuck in. Reading the old testament gives me insight into how they did it.
The book of Revelation is deeply entrenched in the old testament and deserves our study, and a serious, in-depth study will begin to make much of it come clear, as many parts of the revelation are direct quotes from the various prophetic books.
And lastly, we seem to forget that this book we call the Bible was primarily a Jewish oriented book until Paul the Apostle came along. It has not changed in it’s heart for Israel and the Jews, nor has the prophetic scheme changed. Having an understanding that to the Jew prophecy is pattern makes the book of Revelation suddenly come alive, for God saw fit to show those patterns over and over through the prophets and in the Revelation itself.
I tried to convey that on this part of the paper the pastor seemed to be distraught over the idea that God was bringing judgment. He kept trying to come back to the exact terminology that Revelation uses as though pain cares where it inflicts you. Whether they be called seals, bowls, or trumpets is somewhat irrelevant, for they all bring death and judgment to those still on earth.
Ezekiel 7:19 KJV They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumbling block of their iniquity.
John 5:26-27 KJV For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; (27) And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
Romans 2:5 KJV But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasures up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Revelation 6:17 KJV For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Jude 1:6 KJV And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Pastor, after having read these last few passages, I have concluded that in your present state, you are one of the false shepherds that scriptures speak of, for you have not pointed any towards our hope that we should have with your lack of understanding and false teachings. And even if you were honest in your efforts, your lack of understanding would have, at the least, caused those that listen to you to only see through muddied water, at which point they have learned nothing.
I exhort you to dig into God’s word; find the Son of God in all his glory awaiting you there with open arms, and run to him. Allow him free rein in your life by accepting him for who he is; he is God and he loves you with an everlasting love. He knew you, everything about you, and still he longs for your companionship. An everlasting glory and life with the Father awaits you when you come. Wait no longer, just come.
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