The Mystery of God (Revelation 10:7) Has Long Been Finished


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and was adapted from our study of Revelation 10:

“…in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

Like so many of the visions and prophecies in the book of Revelation, this one has a rich background in the Old Testament. John was told that the finishing of “the mystery of God” had been foretold by “His servants the prophets.” For a long time, the prophets had been looking forward to what John was about to witness!

Before we examine verse 7 and the meaning of “the mystery of God,” let’s briefly consider the context of this verse. The first six trumpet judgments are featured in Revelation 8-9. (One earlier post discusses the third trumpet, Wormwood, and another discusses the fifth trumpet, the locust invasion.) Then in Revelation 10:

  • A mighty angel comes down from heaven, whose appearance (verse 1) is similar to that of Jesus in Revelation 1:15-16, and his behavior resembles that of “the man clothed in linen” who announces the shattering of the holy people in Daniel 12:7.
  • This mighty angel “sets his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land” (verses 2, 5).
  • He swears that, without any further delay (verse 6), the sounding of the seventh trumpet would bring about the completion of the mystery of God (verse 7).

The expression, “His servants the prophets” (verse 7), was commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to the prophets God sent to the nation of Israel (e.g. II Kings 9:7, Jeremiah 7:25, Zechariah 1:6, and especially Daniel 9:6). The expression, “the mystery of God,” should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the epistles written by Paul. He speaks of this mystery in Romans 16:25-26 (see also Rom. 11:25), but he covers this topic most thoroughly in his epistles to the Ephesians (1:7-10, 2:11-3:11, 5:31-32, 6:18-20) and to the Colossians (1:24-27, 2:1-4, 4:3-4).

Paul told the Ephesians that they could perceive his insight into “the mystery of Christ” which was not made known to previous generations as it had been revealed to the apostles and prophets in his day (3:4-5). Then in Ephesians 3:6, Paul explicitly defines this mystery, and this definition is most crucial to our understanding of Revelation 10:7.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Indeed, in the previous chapter, Paul had already declared that Jesus had “broken down the middle wall of division” between Jews and Gentiles, creating “one new man from the two” (Eph. 2:14-15). They were joined together “into a holy temple in the Lord” (verse 21) and were “being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (verse 22). This, of course, lines up with other New Testament declarations that, in Jesus, there is no difference, no favoritism, and no distinction between Jews and non-Jews (Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).

Here is one place where fulfilled eschatology and futurist eschatology can stand very far apart. Steve Gregg has edited an excellent book titled, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).” His book features parallel commentaries from four different viewpoints regarding the book of Revelation. We have already observed how “the mystery of God” is clearly defined throughout the New Testament. Notice, then, how this phrase in Revelation 10:7 is defined in vastly different ways by [1] futurists and [2] preterists in Gregg’s book:

Futurist Interpretations of Revelation 10:7
Preterist Interpretations of Revelation 10:7
“Everything will then be made plain. The mystery of retribution—the mystery of predestination—the mystery of the great struggle between light and darkness and good and evil—all will be explained then” (H.A. Ironside, pp. 209-211).
“This ‘Mystery’ is a major aspect of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians: the union of believing Jews and Gentiles in one church, without distinction” (David Chilton, p. 208).
“The reference to the mystery of God seems to mean truth concerning God Himself which has not been fully revealed. It is often overlooked, however, that the mystery is said to have been ‘declared to his servants the prophets’ (v. 7). The mystery of God which is declared as subject to fulfillment is unfolded therefore in the Old Testament in many passages which speak of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth” (John Walvoord, p. 209).
“The completion of the mystery of God (v. 7) refers to the fact that the ‘predominantly Jewish nature of the church was to be ended by the destruction of the temple, the distinctive feature in which it centered.’ The mystery itself, of course, is… ‘that the Gentiles should come into the church on an equal footing with the Jews, not first having to become Jews themselves…’” (Jay Adams, p. 208).
[The mystery of God is] the secret of His allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (that is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden underfoot)” [William Kelly, p. 209].
 
“How great has been that mystery! Evil had apparently triumphed; the heavens for so long have been silent. Satan had been permitted to be the god of this age deceiving the nations… And now the time has come when the mystery of God will be completed” (Arno C. Gaebelein, p. 209).
 

Each of these futurist interpretations of Revelation 10:7 completely miss Paul’s clear definition of the mystery of God. Perhaps, among futurists, there is a deliberate reluctance to compare Scripture with Scripture in this case, knowing that the first century transition from the old covenant to the new covenant (Hebrews 8:13) is easy to see here.

In this passage (Revelation 10:1-7), we can see the significance of the angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land (verses 2, 5). Numerous scholars have recognized a Scriptural pattern where “the sea” often represents Gentile nations and “the land” (or “the earth”) represents Israel. P.S. Desprez, for example, in his 1855 book, “The Apocalypse Fulfilled,” wrote the following concerning the expression “those who dwell on the earth” which appears often in Revelation:

“But the words in question are sometimes found qualified by governing considerations which define and determine their meaning, and this is always the case, when they are found in connection with the governing clauses ‘they that dwell’… Then they have, and can have, only one meaning; then they refer only to one land and to one people, and this land and this people must be the land and the people of Judea.”

My 3-part study on this pattern can be seen here (part 1, part 2, part 3).

So if the sea is interpreted as a reference to the Gentiles, and the land as a reference to Israel (i.e. the Jews, generally speaking), then the image of the angel with one foot on both suggests a bridging of the gap between the two. This is precisely what we see in Paul’s definition of the mystery of God and his teachings that, in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one. “Gentiles in the flesh” were once “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:11-12), but, in Christ, they were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens” (verse 19).

The picture of the angel bridging the gap between land and sea is a beautiful symbol of God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in Himself on an equal basis, having torn down the dividing wall by His work on the cross. This mystery was made complete in John’s day, in the first century. All delay soon came to an end (Rev. 10:6) and the temple in Jerusalem, the chief symbol of old covenant Judaism and Israel’s national pride, was brought down forever in 70 AD in favor of “a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22).

“…but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever! …Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple…” (Revelation 11:15-19).

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All of our studies on the book of Revelation can be seen here.

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The Shadows of the Old Covenant Can’t Be Restored


A Facebook friend, Larry Siegle, posted the following book excerpt the other day, and it’s excellent. It comes from a book written in 1972 by James D. Bales titled, “Prophecy and Premillennialism” (pp. 162-163):

“If we tried to go back to the Old Testament, it would not permit it. It would send us back to the New. The substance has arrived, so the shadow tells us to abide in the substance.

First, if we go back to Moses, he sends us to Christ. (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23).

Second, if we ask Moses to be our mediator, he sends us to Christ the mediator (Heb. 8:6; 12:24).

Third, if we go back to the Old Covenant, it sends us back to the New (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:5-13; 13:20).

Fourth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which its sacrifices were but a shadow (Heb. 10:1-4).

Fifth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which the animal blood typified (Heb. 9:15-27; 23-28; 13:20).

Sixth, if we go back to the Old Temple, the way to heaven is not made manifest (Heb. 9:6-12, 24, 25, 26); so it sends us to Christ who has opened and made manifest the way (Heb. 10:19-22).

Seventh, if we go to the Old Testament priests, they send us back to the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:5, 9).

Eighth, if we go back to the Jewish kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom which was being received in the first century (Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:18-28; 13:20).

Ninth, if we go back to the Old Testament kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28; 13:20).

Tenth, if we go back to the Old Testament Kings and High Priests, they send us to Christ the king and priest (Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 7:11-22, 28; 8:4).

Eleventh, if we go to Abraham, he sends us to his seed, Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-29).

We must not retreat from the substance to the shadow. Any system of the interpretation of prophecy which restores the shadow contradicts the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

James Bales (1915-1995) was “an influential Bible professor and administrator at Harding University (then Harding College) for almost 40 years.” Bales was an amillennialist (Wikipedia).

The New Testament Repeatedly Applies Isaiah 65-66 To This Present Age


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

This post serves as a follow-up to my last post, “We Now Live in the New Heavens and the New Earth” (which explored Matthew 5:17-18, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3:7-13, portions of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and more). There is one Scripture text on the subject of the old/new heaven and earth which I didn’t explore in that post: 

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God‘” (Revelation 21:1-3).

We do, however, have a detailed study on this text in our series on the book of Revelation. In that study we highlighted an excellent observation made by Steve Gregg in his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”  

Revelation 21:1

Isaiah 65-66 clearly provides a background to Revelation 21:1, most notably Isaiah 65:17-19 and 66:10-13, 22.

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. but be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isaiah 65:17-19).

“‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘so shall your descendants and your name remain‘” (Isaiah 66:22).

Gregg shows that this portion of Isaiah is not awaiting future fulfillment — not according to Jesus, Luke, John, and Paul. On page 489 of his book, Gregg writes,

“[The] specific promise of ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ found exclusively in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, fall within a portion of Isaiah which New Testament writers applied to the present age.”

On page 506, Gregg gives the following comparisons to illustrate what he is saying here:

[a] Isaiah 65:23 with I Cor. 15:58
[b] Isaiah 65:25 with Luke 10:19
[c] Isaiah 66:1f with I Tim. 3:15
[d] Isaiah 66:8 with Gal. 4:26
[e] Isaiah 66:11 with Matt. 5:6
[f] Isaiah 66:12 with John 14:27
[g] Isaiah 66:15f with Matt. 22:7
[h] Isaiah 66:18 with Matt. 8:11
[i] Isaiah 66:19 with Eph. 3:8 and Col. 1:27
[j] Isaiah 66:20 with Rom. 15:16

Let’s observe these comparisons in the form of a chart, and with these passages written out:

Passages from Isaiah 65 – 66
Corresponding New Testament Passages
“They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isaiah 65:23).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
“’The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1)
“…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
“…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).
“…that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isaiah 66:11).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees” (Isaiah 66:12).
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
“For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire” (Isaiah 66:15).
“But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7; see also Matt. 16:27-28, II Thess. 1:6-8, Jude 14-15).
“For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory” (Isaiah 66:18).
“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11; see also Acts 2:5-12).
 “I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles” (Isaiah 66:19).
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:8); “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
“’Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord, ‘as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 66:20).
“…that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

So we can see that Isaiah was given a vision of the coming new covenant age, the age in which we now live, and the fiery passing away of the old covenant age (I believe this occurred in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; see especially II Peter 3:7-13). Kenneth Gentry adds these thoughts on this subject:

“Isaiah’s prophecy clearly portrays the coming new covenant order established by Christ, which Paul calls a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; cp. Ephesians 2:10; 4:24… We know that Isaiah was not speaking of the consummate order, for he includes aspects of the present fallen order in his description: ‘No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed‘ (Isaiah 65:20). The eternal order will not include infants, death, aging, and curse.”

Kenneth Gentry, “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” GoodBirth Ministries: Fountain Inn, SC, 2009, p. 169.

Presbyterian Pastor David Lowman agrees, saying:

“[It] is best to understand the NHNE [new heavens and new earth] covenantally as a picture of the promised New Covenant that finds origination in the Old testament, institution in the Gospels, unfolding in the [book of] Acts and explanation in the rest of the New Testament.”

Revelation 21:2

In Revelation 21, John goes on to speak of New Jerusalem, “the holy city,” coming down out of heaven as Christ’s bride. Recall the promise that Jesus made to the first century church in Philadelphia:

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12).

The temple of which Christ spoke, of course, is the Church:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building (I Corinthians 3:9).

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (I Cor. 3:16-17).

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19)

“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people'” (II Cor. 6:16).

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-21).

The author of Hebrews not only speaks the heavenly Jerusalem as being a reality in the first century, but he also equates it with the new covenant:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Revelation 21:3

Before concluding, let’s look briefly at one more proof that Revelation 21 is speaking of this present age. In verse 3, God declared that His tabernacle would be with men, and that He would “dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” This promise was first given in Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11, but it was conditional, only to be true as long as the Israelites walked in His statutes and kept His commandments (Lev. 26:3). In Revelation 21:3, this promise is unconditional.

Revelation 21:3 mirrors the description of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and identical language is also used in Ezekiel 37:27-28, a passage connected to the new covenant promises in Ezekiel 36:24-28. In Ezekiel’s own vision of a holy city, he was told that this city would be the place where God would dwell with His people (Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35). As we already observed above, Paul quoted Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11 as a present reality for the Church in his own day (II Corinthians 6:16).

Conclusion

Revelation 21 applies Isaiah 65-66 to the present new covenant age in which we now live. However, it does not carry out this application alone. As we have seen, multiple New Testament authors have done the same. What a blessing it is to live under the new heavens and the new earth.

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Our study on the entire chapter of Revelation 21 can be seen here (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).

We Now Live in the New Heavens and the New Earth


The following study will examine:

  • Matthew 5:17-18
  • Matthew 24:35
  • How Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke of the old and new heavens & earth
  • II Peter 3:7-13 (compared with Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20)
  • Quotes from Eusebius (265 – 340 AD), Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675), John Owen (1721), Jonathan Edwards (1739), and Charles Spurgeon (1865) regarding “the heavens and the earth” as covenant language in Scripture.

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Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:34-35).

Jesus spoke these words to His 12 disciples around 30 AD. When He said “all these things,” He was of course speaking about everything He had just predicted in verses 1-33, from the temple being destroyed, to wars and rumors of wars, to famines and earthquakes, to false prophets and persecution, to the gospel being preached to all nations, to the abomination of desolation and people fleeing from Judea, to great tribulation, to the coming of the Son of Man, etc. Our Olivet Discourse series demonstrates how all these things were fulfilled by the time the temple fell in Jerusalem in 70 AD (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

Was Jesus also saying that heaven and earth would pass away in His own generation? Indeed, He was. We repeatedly saw in our study of the Olivet Discourse that the prophetic language of the Old Testament provides a background to much of what Jesus says in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The same is true for the expression “heaven and earth.” This is covenant language, and this is perhaps most evident in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah and Jeremiah: Zion/Israel Was the Old Heavens and Earth

Isaiah’s opening vision was concerned with Judah and Jerusalem, according to Isaiah 1:1. Notice the very first words of Isaiah: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:2). This is not unique to Isaiah, for heaven and earth were repeatedly called as witnesses against Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:18-19, 31:28, 32:1; Jeremiah 2:12, 6:19; Micah 6:2). In Isaiah 51, speaking to the people of Israel, God says:

I, I am He who comforts you; who are you that you…have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth…? …And I have put My words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are My people (verses 12-16).

The establishment of the heavens and the earth is thus linked directly to the establishment of Israel as God’s people at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6). Psalm 68:7-8 reiterates that the earth and the heavens were greatly affected when “God, the One of Sinai” marched through the wilderness before His people:

O God, when You went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, the earth shook; The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.”

This happened during the days of Moses. Judges 5:4-5 says the same thing. Jeremiah also spoke of Jerusalem’s pending destruction (in 586 BC) in a way that might seem as if he was talking about planet earth and the galaxies, if it weren’t for the context:

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war… I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light… For thus says the Lord, ‘The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark…’” (Jeremiah 4:19, 23, 27).

Jeremiah was in anguish over the collapse of the heavens and the earth (Zion) when Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. David Curtis, the pastor of Berean Bible Church (Virginia Beach), has this to say about Isaiah 51 (quoted above) and the Old Testament’s use of “heaven and earth” language in the context of judgment:

Notice [in Isaiah 51] that God is speaking to Israel. He says He gave them His law, the Old Covenant… Clearly God is not saying He gave the Old Covenant to Israel to create literal heaven and earth! Material creation existed long before Israel was ever given the Old Covenant.

The meaning of this verse is that God gave His covenant with Israel to create their world–a covenant world with God! God created Israel’s “heaven and earth” by giving them His Covenant. Now if He destroyed that Old Covenant heaven and earth and gave a New Covenant, would He not thereby be creating a New heaven and earth? This is precisely the thought in the New Covenant Scriptures!

This idea is seen more clearly as we look at other passages where mention is made of the destruction of a state and government using language which seems to set forth the end of the world, as the collapse of heaven and earth. In Isaiah 13:1-13, this is not an oracle against the universe or world, but against the nation of Babylon. Notice verse 13, “Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place.”

Now remember, He is speaking about the destruction of Babylon, but it sounds like world wide destruction… If you were a Babylonian and Babylon was destroyed would it seem like the world was destroyed? Yes! Your world would be destroyed.

This is an historical event that took place in 539 BC. When the Medes destroyed Babylon (Isaiah 13:17), the Babylonian world came to an end… The physical heaven and earth were still in tact, but for Babylon they had collapsed. This is apocalyptic language. This is the way the scripture discusses the fall of a nation (Source).

Curtis also points out how this “heaven and earth” language is used in these ways concerning Israel (Isaiah 24-27), Edom (Isaiah 34), Nineveh (Nahum 1), and Israel again (Hebrews 12). 

Isaiah didn’t only speak of the old heavens and earth. He also prophesied of “new heavens and a new earth,” and the creation of Jerusalem as a joy (Isaiah 65:17-19). This is covenant language, and this can be seen in the fact that the new heavens and new earth were to be marked by sin and death (verse 20), building and planting (verses 21-22), and the reproduction of children (verse 23).

When I was younger, I was taught that the new heavens and earth would be set up following a future Second Coming of Christ and a 1000 year “millennial reign” based in earthly Jerusalem, at which time sin and death would cease to exist. Isaiah’s description of the new heavens and earth, however, does not allow for this. Instead, his description speaks of present, earthly realities coinciding with new, glorious spiritual realities.

It also mirrors what we see in the New Testament. Paul told the Ephesians that God’s people are called to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He likewise told the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, a new temple/tabernacle had come (e.g. I Corinthians 3:16-17, I Cor. 6:19, II Cor. 6:16, Ephesians 2:21, Revelation 3:12), and the old temple/tabernacle had to go. During the one generation following the cross, all of the rituals attached to the temple in Jerusalem were worthless. By the end of that generation, that temple and those worthless rituals were gone.

Obituary of the Old Covenant

SOURCE: Cindye Coates

We would also do well to remember that Jesus had already made a very significant statement about the disappearance of (the old) heaven and earth in the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Is the Law 100% intact even now in the year 2014, and are we thus still under the old heavens and earth? Or did Jesus accomplish everything and fulfill the Law, so that we are now under the covenantal framework of the new heavens and earth? Matthew 5:17-18 is an all-or-nothing statement. If “heaven and earth” have not yet disappeared, neither then has even one trace of the Law of Moses.

The “heaven and earth” spoken of by Jesus here are connected to the temple worship and law keeping of the Jewish world. We know that Jerusalem, the temple, and the old covenant system passed away in a fiery blaze in 70 AD. Jesus, of course, predicted this (in Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16-17; Rev. 18:8-9, 17-18).

II Peter 3:7-13 also speaks of the heavens and earth of that time being “stored up for fire” (verse 7) and ready to “pass away with a roar” and be “burned up and dissolved” (verse 10), giving way to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (verse 13). That fire occurred in 70 AD when Jerusalem was burned by the Roman armies, as Jesus said would happen to the city of those who rejected His Father’s wedding invitation and murdered His servants: “And the king sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7).

Bishop John Lightfoot (1601-1675) made a key point in his Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 3, p. 452),

“Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26, Gal. 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing of the dispensation of Moses.”

Indeed, Galatians 4:9 and Colossians 2:20 make use of the same word translated as “elements” in II Peter 3:10. It’s clear that Paul spoke there, not of the cosmos, but of what was contained in the Law:

[1] “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10).

[2] “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” (Colossians 2:20-22).

In a 1721 sermon, the Puritan preacher John Owen said,

I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state… [A]nd then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.”

Jonathan Edwards (in 1739) said this in his work, “The Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath, Vol. 2”:

The Scriptures further teach us to call the gospel-restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth… The gospel state is everywhere spoken of as a renewed state of things, wherein old things are passed away, and all things become new… And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation.

C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon also had the same understanding. In a sermon delivered in 1865 (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vo. XXXVII, p. 354), he said:

Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.

We will conclude with a much older quote, a very intriguing statement made by the church father, Eusebius (265-340 AD), in one of his writings known as “the Theophania”:

All authorities concur in the declaration that “when all these things should have been done”, ‘The End’ should come: that “the mystery of God should be finished as he had declared to His servants the prophets“: it should be completed: time should now be no more: the End of all things (so foretold) should be at hand, and be fully brought to pass: in these days should be fulfilled all that had been spoken of Christ (and of His church) by the prophets: or, in other words, when the gospel should have been preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and the power of the Holy People be scattered (abroad), then should the End come, then should all these things be finished. I need now only say, all these things have been done: the old and elementary system passed away with a great noise; all these predicted empires have actually fallen, and the new kingdom, the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem–all of which were to descend from God, to be formed by His power, have been realised on earth; all these things have been done in the sight of all the nations; God’s holy arm has been made bare in their sight: His judgments have prevailed, and they remain for an everlasting testimony to the whole world. His kingdom has come, as it was foretold it should, and His will has, so far, been done; His purposes have been finished.

—————————————————————————————————–

The information in this post also appeared in our study of Matthew 24:35.

Also see Steve’s 3-part series on “The Biblical Heavens and Earth” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) which he posted here in June 2014.

Pre-1948 Advertisements by the Jewish Agency for Palestine


A small series of decades-old photo advertisements was posted recently in a Facebook group called “Christians United for Peace.” These interesting advertisements (see photos below) were created by the Jewish Agency for Palestine at some point prior to 1948, when the nation of Israel was founded. This organization “began as the Palestine Office…founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization.” Then in 1929 this organization was “renamed, restructured and officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland.” It took on the name “Jewish Agency for Israel” after Israel became a nation in 1948 (source).

These advertisements are not only interesting and historical, but they also reveal [1] the fact that there was a region known as Palestine and [2] the push for “a Jewish State” (despite only 7% of the people in Palestine being Jewish in 1914, 11% being Jewish in 1922, 17% being Jewish in 1931, and 30% being Jewish in 1942 - source).

To some, the first point might be a no-brainer, but a simple Google search will turn up all kinds of claims that there never was a Palestine and there never were people called Palestinians before Israel became a nation. Dean Obeidallah, whose father was born in Palestine in the 1930’s, recently published an article in The Daily Beast titled “Do Palestinians Really Exist?” According to Obeidallah, “People will tell me to my face that there has never been a Palestine and there are no such thing as Palestinians. To them, I guess Palestinians are simply holograms.” He notes that this claim contradicts the official summary of the United Nations in 1947 that “Palestine is the common country of both indigenous Arabs and Jews, that both these peoples have had an historic association with it.” Dean’s article is an interesting one, and his perspective is worth considering.

What do you think of the seven photos above?

Related post: The Land of Palestine from 1896 – 1948 (Two Videos)

Postal Stamp from 1850 (Photo Source); Khan Yunis is now a rapidly growing city in the south Gaza Strip, and was the site of a massacre in 1956

The Book of Revelation Written Before 70 AD: An Illustration


So far this year I’ve posted three prophecy charts created by Jonathan Welton, regarding [1] the fulfillment of Daniel 2, [2] Revelation’s focus on the land of Israel in the first century, and [3] the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy

Jonathan’s newest illustration deals with the date when the book of Revelation was written (if you click on the chart, it should open in a new tab/window and you’ll be able to click it again to zoom in and see the words more clearly):

Revelation (Welton)

Photo Source: Weebly and Pinterest

The internal evidence, i.e. evidence within Scripture itself, is more important than anyone’s opinion about when Revelation was written. I’ll never forget how the truth of point #2 in Jonathan’s illustration hit me between the eyes a few years ago. The apostle John made it very clear during which time period he was in Patmos recording his visions and prophecies: “There are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Revelation 17:10). Nero was the sixth king, as Jonathan Welton pointed out, and as this chart also shows (Source – Study on Revelation 17:7-18):

Order of Emperors Name of Emperor Length of Reign Notes/Details
#1 Julius Caesar October 49 BC – March 44 BC “Perpetual Dictator”
#2 Augustus January 27 BC – August 14 AD -time of Jesus’ birth
#3 Tiberius August 14 AD – March 37 AD -time of Jesus’ ascension
#4 Caligula March 37 AD – January 41 AD Murdered
#5 Claudius January 41 AD – October 54 AD Assassinated
#6 Nero October 54 AD – June 68 AD Committed suicide
#7 Galba June 68 AD – January 69 AD Murdered
#8 Otho January 69 AD – April 69 AD Committed suicide
#9 Vitellius April 69 AD – December 69AD Murdered
#10 Vespasian December 69 AD – June 79 AD Destroyed Jerusalem

For more information on the external and internal evidence that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, see these five posts:

[1] External Evidence for An Early Date
[2] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 1)
[3] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 2)
[4] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 3)
[5] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 4)

All of our posts on the book of Revelation, including chapter-by-chapter studies, can be found here.

Daniel 11:36-45 Fulfilled by Ancient Rome and the Caesars


The end of Daniel 11 has been a challenge to understand, for me and for a lot of others. I recently came across an article written by Daniel Morais at Revelation Revolution concerning the final 10 verses of Daniel 11, and I found his arguments very convincing for their fulfillment during the Julio-Claudian dynasty (covering the reigns of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero). It’s a long read, but an informative one:

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:35-45 Commentary: Summary and Highlights

In the following commentary on Daniel chapter 11, every prophecy is explained and found to be literally fulfilled and the identity of the willful king and the king of the north is revealed.   Modern scholars generally do not believe in miracles; therefore, the books of the Bible are often dated after all the alleged predictions had already come to pass.  This is not possible with the Book of Daniel.  Daniel was indisputably written long before the fulfillment of the predictions at the end of this chapter.  Throughout Daniel 11, the king of the Seleucids is the king of the north; the king of the Ptolemies is the king of the south; and the willful king is Caesar.  Caesar and Rome began to be worshipped in the imperial cult after the death of the first Caesar in fulfillment of Daniel 11:36: “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god . . .”  In Daniel 11:35-45, the king of the north is Anthony, and the king of the south is Cleopatra.  Anthony, the king of the north, and Cleopatra, the king of the south, united to fight the willful king, Caesar Augustus, with “chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships” in the Battle of Actium in fulfillment of Daniel 11:40.  After the Battle of Actium, Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon were delivered from Caesar Augustus’ hand; and Caesar Augustus, the willful king, subjugated Egypt and Libya and captured and enslaved the Nubians of Napata while bringing the wealth of Egypt to Rome in fulfillment of Daniel 11:41-43.  Years later in fulfillment of v. 44, both Israel to the east and Gaul to the north revolted against Rome.  Enraged, Caesar, the willful king, dispatched the Roman Legions.  As the Roman Army pitched its tents outside of Jerusalem, the beautiful holy mountain, Caesar, the willful king, was declared an enemy of the state and died with “no one [to] help him” in fulfillment of Daniel 11:44.  For a detailed explanation of the fulfillment of every verse see the following commentary on Daniel chapter 11:35-45.

the death of Caesar Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Who was the Willful King, and Who was the King of the North?

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11 Explained Intro: Modern Scholars generally do not believe in Miracles; therefore, the Books of the Bible are often dated after all the Alleged Predictions had come to pass. 

Many historians try to explain away the prophetic accuracy of the Book of Daniel by theorizing that this book must have been written during the second century B.C., a time in which most of Daniel’s prophecies had been fulfilled.  Daniel 11:2-35 lists a chronological sequence of events spanning 360 years from the sixth to the second century B.C.–without having made a single mistake.  In these verses, Daniel describes the rise of the Greek Empire, its subsequent partition into four parts, followed by a mysteriously accurate description of the foreign relations between two of its divisions: the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires of Syria and Egypt respectively.  In Daniel 11, the king of the Seleucids is labeled the king of the north, and the king of the Ptolemies is called the king of the south.  In this chapter, Daniel describes a chronological series of wars, treaties and marriages between these two warring empires.  Highlighting significant aspects of the reign of each king, the prophet proceeds with his chronology often without specifying the death of one king and the rise of another.  Each king and his successor are simply called the king of the north or the king of the south.   This lack of specificity has led to the notion that the willful king of vs. 36-43 is Antiochus Epiphanies, the king of the north, the same king described earlier in v. 32.

Antiochus Epipanes Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11 Explained Intro: Is the Willful King Antiochus Epiphanes, the King of the North?

From v. 21-32, Daniel’s description of Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of the north, is accurate by all accounts.  However, from v. 36 to the end of the chapter, the king known as the willful king mentioned here does not fit what is known of the king of the north.  This fact has led some historians to suggest that the Book of Daniel may have been written by an editor just prior to the death of Antiochus Epiphanes.  According to this theory, the author of the Book of Daniel recorded a history from v. 1-35 accounting for the accuracy of this portion of the text.  Then from v. 36 to the end of the chapter, the editor of the book attempted to accurately predict the fate of Antiochus Epiphanes and, as expected, failed.[i]  But what if the willful king of vs. 36-43 was never intended to be the king of the north?  In v. 35 the prophet writes:

35Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

Colosseum Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:35 Commentary: The Reference to the Time of the End in v. 35 implies a shift from Antiochus Epiphanes and the Greek Empire to Rome, the Final Empire of Daniel’s Visions.

This verse seems to imply a transition.  Does this verse suggest a shift between the struggle with Greece and the rise of Rome?  In Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, Daniel predicts four Gentile Empires would rule Israel before the establishment of the kingdom of God.  Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king and thus ruled during the third empire in Daniel’s visions.  The reference to the time of the end in the above verse implies a shift in focus away from the Greek Empire to Rome, the fourth and final Gentile Empire of Daniel’s visions.  Because Rome was the last kingdom to rule over Israel before the establishment of the kingdom of God, the rise of the Roman Empire is labeled “the time of the end.”  The NRSV says that the wise shall fall and be purified “until the time of the end, for there is still an interval until the time appointed.”  This translation explicitly indicates that there shall be an interval between v. 35 and v. 36.  There are approximately 130 years between the war with Antiochus and the rise of Rome.[ii]  During this time, Rome replaced Greece as the dominant world power.  This large a gap between verses is not without precedence.  There is a similar 130 year interval between vs. 2 and 3 corresponding with another shift in power, this time from Medo-Persia to Greece.

As stated earlier, throughout chapter 11, Daniel describes the life of a specific king and seamlessly moves on to that of his successor usually without ever having specified to his reader the passage of a scepter.  Thus it is not surprising that no explicit indication of a change in authority is made between vs. 35 and 36.  Though no unequivocal change in authority is specified in these two verses, there does seem to be an implicit transition in v. 35.  It is also interesting to note that nowhere throughout the remainder of the chapter is the willful king of v. 36 unambiguously called the king of the north.  But if this king was not Antiochus Epiphanes, then who was the willful king of v. 36?  In the next verse, Daniel begins to describe this king:

36“The king will do as he pleases.  He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.  He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed for what has been determined must take place.  37He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.

Caesar Augustus Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:36-37 Commentary: The Willful King is Caesar, the Beast of Revelation.

The willful king is the beast of Revelation.  As is discussed in detail Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary-The Antichrist Revealed!, the beast is a metaphor for Rome and its Caesars.  During the time of the end, Rome was ruled by a series of kings who in many ways were messianic doppelgangers.  There was a legend circulating throughout Rome that Augustus’ mother, after having fallen asleep in the temple of Apollo, had a dream of a serpent entering her womb.  Nine months after this vision, she gave birth to Augustus.  Years after Augustus’ “divine conception,” Roman coins were minted with an inscription etched around an image of Caesar reading, “Son of God.”[iii]  And like Christ, the Caesars were also given many of the same accolades including “Divine,” “Son of God,” “God,” “God from God,” “Redeemer,” “Liberator,” “Lord,” and “Savior of the World.”    They even had a cult dedicated to their divine worship.[iv]

Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north augustus coin

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:36 Commentary: “He [the Willful King] will exalt and magnify Himself above every God . . .”

Thus it is not surprising that in speaking of the beast, Daniel writes, “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.”   While the temple burned, the Roman army under Caesar Titus’ direction set up the ensigns on the eastern gate of the temple and offered sacrifices to them in an outward display of worship.  At this time, Caesar Titus was declared imperator; and according to Suetonius, many of his soldiers wanted to make him emperor.[v]  When his legions declared Titus emperor, Titus would have received all the divine praise normally directed toward his father.  Thus Titus would have been worshipped during this celebration as was customary in the imperial cult in fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”

burning of the temple Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:37 Commentary: “He [the Willful King] will show no regard for the God of His Fathers . . .”

Verse 37 states, “He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers . . .”  Verse 37 might also be rendered, “He will show no regard for the god of his fathers . . .”  Perhaps the god of his fathers is YHWH, the creator of heaven and earth?  Titus was not the only Caesar to blaspheme the God.  The early Caesars often seemed antagonistic to the God of Israel.  One such blasphemy against the God of heaven is recorded in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars.  Here Augustus, the second head of the beast, is recorded to have “praised his grandson Gaius for not offering prayers [to God] when he visited Jerusalem.”[vi]  The fourth head of the beast, Gaius ordered that a statue of himself be erected in the temple in Jerusalem in violation of the monotheistic beliefs of the Jewish people.  The sixth head of the beast, Nero found all religions contemptible:

He despised all religious cults except that of the Syrian Goddess, and showed one day, that he had changed his mind even about her, by urinating on the divine image.  He had come, instead, to rest a superstitious belief–the only one, as a matter of fact, to which he remained faithful—in the statuette of a girl sent him by an anonymous commoner as a charm against conspiracies.[vii]

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:37 Commentary: “Nor will He [the Willful King] regard any God, but will exalt Himself above Them All.”

Verse 37 also states that the willful king not “regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.”  The features of Caesar Augustus or his family members were often superimposed on those of the gods, such that Jupiter, the king of the gods, was crafted in the image of Augustus, the willful king.  Caesar Gaius even went so far as to have the heads of various temple statues of gods removed and replaced with his own.[viii]  Often appearing in public dressed as the Olympian gods, Caesar Gaius often referred to himself as a god when meeting with politicians and was called Jupiter, the king of the gods, in assorted public documents.[ix]  Gaius’ successor, Claudius, the fourth head of the beast is depicted to the right in a statue in the Vatican Museum as Jupiter, the king of the gods.

Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north claudius Caesar

38Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts.  39He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him.  He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:38-39 Commentary: Caesar, the Willful King, and Rome began to be worshipped in the Imperial Cult after the Death of the First Caesar.  Is the God of Fortresses in v. 38 Rome and its Emperor?

Mars, the god of war, was the founding deity of the Rome.[x]  That being said, could the beast, Rome and its emperor, be the foreign god of fortresses?[xi]  Julius Caesar was formally deified after death.  He was the first ruler of Rome believed by his people to be a god.[xii]  Therefore, Julius Caesar, the first head of the beast, was “a god unknown to his fathers.”  Rome adopted the practice of emperor worship from the Greeks, and this trend continued for many generations.   The early Caesars were worshiped in conjunction with Rome in the imperial cult.

Caesar Augustus coin Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:39 Commentary: “He [the Willful King]. . . will greatly honor those who acknowledge Him.  He will make them Rulers over many People and will distribute the Land at a Price.”

Julius Caesar was succeeded by Caesar Augustus, the second head of the beast.  In order to legitimize his claim to the throne, Augustus, the willful king, promoted the deification of his predecessor and fought a series of battles in order to bring his father’s murderers to justice.  After slaying these assassins, Augustus divided the responsibilities of government among his allies and the veterans of Augustus’ army were settled in municipal lands after having evicted the previous landowners in fulfillment of v. 39.[xiii]

Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north anthony and Octavius Coin

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:38-39 Commentary: “He [the Willful King] will Honor a God of Fortresses; a God unknown to His Fathers He will honor with Gold and Silver, with Precious Stones and Costly Gifts.  He will attack the Mightiest Fortresses with the help of a Foreign God.”

At the beginning of Augustus’ reign, the empire was divided into three parts led by Augustus, then known as Octavian, Antony and Lepidus.  Eventually conflict arose between Anthony and Augustus resulting in a major naval battle.  After defeating Anthony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium described in the following verses, Augustus honored the god of the sea, Neptune, and the god of war, Mars, with loot taken from Anthony’s fleet.[xiv]  This loot no doubt included gold, jewels and silver as indicated in v. 38.  Augustus, the willful king, also built a grand temple to Mars, the founding deity of Rome,[xv] in addition to beautifying ruined temples with gold, pearls and precious stones.[xvi]  This battle was said to occur “at the time of the end” because its outcome marked the rise of the Roman Empire, the fourth and final kingdom of Daniel’s visions.  In the next verse, Daniel is shown a vision of this battle:

40“At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships.  He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.

first century Rome mapExplain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:40 Commentary: The King of the North, Anthony, and the King of the South, Cleopatra, united to fight the Willful King, Caesar Augustus, with “Chariots and Cavalry and a Great Fleet of Ships” in the Battle of Actium.

As is the case throughout Daniel 11, the king of the south is the king of Egypt and the king of the north, the king of Syria.  The ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra, is the king of the south and the king of Syria, Anthony, is the king of the north.  Drawn together by love and mutual political ambition, the king of the north and south united to fight Augustus, the willful king, on the seas near Actium.  Anthony’s impressive army of chariots and horsemen stood by the shore while Augustus, the willful king, drew his enemies out to sea rendering Anthony’s superior ground force largely ineffectual.  “With a great fleet of ships” Augustus defeated his enemies’ armada.[xvii]  Shortly thereafter Anthony, the king of the north, and Cleopatra, the king of the south, took their own lives consolidating Augustus’ power.  With this decisive victory, Augustus became the first emperor of Rome; and upon his rise to power, Roman democracy died.  Thus began “the time of the end.”

Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north the battle of actium

41He will also invade the Beautiful Land.  Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand.

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:41 Commentary: After the Battle of Actium, Edom, Moab and the Leaders of Ammon were delivered from Caesar’s Hand.

Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north first century Israel

 

Approximate borders of Ammon, Edom and Moab around 830 B.C. Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

After Augustus, the willful king, defeated Cleopatra, the king of the south, at the Battle of Actium, the young emperor seized all her kingdom.  As a result, Augustus, the willful king, acquired full control over Israel, the Beautiful land.  Interestingly, with Israel conquered, Augustus, the willful king, never raised his mighty arm against Israel’s neighbors.

During the time of this prophecy, the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom were at the east and southeast borders of Israel.  However, after the Babylonian conquest many Edomites migrated north.  These people settled in southern Judea south of Hebron having been driven out of their ancestral territory to the south and east by the Nabateans.  The Nabateans also occupied the land of Moab; thus ancient Edom and Moab became Nabatea.  During Augustus’ reign, Nabatea remained a sovereign nation.  It had not become part of the Roman Empire until the reign of Trajan.  In 63 B.C. the former territory of Ammon, then called the Decapolis, was a group of ten cities that welcomed the Romans as their liberators from the oppression of the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom.  The Romans allowed these ten cities of the Decapolis some degree of political independence within the protective sphere of Rome.  Thus Daniel was right: The ancient territories of Edom and Moab had escaped the rule of the willful king while the leaders of Ammon had, in fact, retained their right to rule unmolested by Rome.

42He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape.  43He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians in submission.

Antony and Cleopatra Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:42-43 Commentary: After the Battle of Actium, Caesar Augustus, the Willful King, subjugated Egypt and Libya and captured and enslaved the Nubians of Napata.  Caesar Augustus, the Willful King, also brought the Wealth of Egypt to Rome.

After his victory at the Battle of Actium, Augustus, the willful king, extended his dominion over the land of his two conquered enemies.  Thus the willful king acquired Israel, Egypt and Libya from Cleopatra, the king of the south, while confiscating Greece and Syria from Anthony, the king of the north.  With Cleopatra defeated, the riches of Egypt were brought to Rome.  Regarding this transfer of wealth, Suetonius writes, “When he [Augustus, the willful king] brought the treasures of the Ptolemies [Egyptians] to Rome at his Alexandrian triumph, so much cash passed into private hands that the interest rate on loans dropped sharply, while real estate values soared.” [xviii]  Furthermore, with control over Egypt, Augustus dispatched the Roman General Petronius to Nubia.  Under his leadership, the Romans captured Napata.[xix]  With the city captured and the people of Napata enslaved, Nubia was forced into submission in fulfillment of v. 43.

44But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many.  45He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain.  Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

Every Prophecy Fulfilled! Daniel Chapter 11:44 Commentary: Both Israel to the East and Gaul to the North revolted against Rome.  Enraged, Caesar, the Willful King, dispatched the Roman Legions.  As the Roman Army pitched its Tents outside of Jerusalem, the Beautiful Holy Mountain, Caesar, the Willful King, was declared an Enemy of the State and died with “no one [to] help him.”

Jewish War Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

From v. 36 to the end of the chapter, Daniel describes Rome and its emperor.  In these two verses, Daniel turns his attention away from Augustus to another Caesar and willful king–the last in the Caesar family line.  Such an abrupt switch in focus from Caesar Augustus to one of his successors might initially seem peculiar; however, as stated earlier such a transition has repeated precedence.  Throughout chapter 11, Daniel traces hundreds of years of foreign relations between the kings of Syria, the king of the north, and Egypt, the king of the south.  Throughout this chronology, Daniel describes the actions of one king and immediately transitions to those of his successor often without ever indicating the death of one king and the rise of the next.  Each king is simply identified as the king of the north or the king of the south.  A similar transition is found here.  In the preceding verses, Daniel describes the events surrounding the rise of the Roman Empire and its first emperor, Caesar Augustus; then in v. 44, Daniel begins to describe the most infamous Caesar [or willful king] of all–Nero.

Nero fiddling around Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

The reign of Nero, the willful king, was dominated by tyranny and injustice.  Thus it was only a matter of time before the people revolted.  Just before Nero’s death, there were two major revolts: Israel in the east and Gaul in the north in fulfillment of v. 44: “[R]eports from the east and the north will alarm him.”[xx]  Enraged, Nero attacked Israel, the Beautiful land, destroying and annihilating many fulfilling the remainder of v. 44 “[A]nd he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many.”  During this war, a dispatch was brought to the willful king during dinner informing him of a revolt in Gaul.  Tearing up the message, he pushed over the dinner table in anger.[xxi]  Recording Nero’s murderous rage upon hearing of this treachery, Suetonius writes:

Thus, he [Nero] intended to depose all army commanders and provincial governors, and to execute them on a charge that they were all involved in a single conspiracy; and to dispatch all exiles everywhere, for fear they might join the rebels; and all Gallic residents at Rome, because they might be implicated in the rising.  He further considered giving the army free permission to pillage Gaul; poisoning the entire Senate at a banquet; and setting fire to the city again, but letting wild beasts loose in the streets to hinder the citizens from saving themselves. [xxii]

Nero on the throne Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

When the Roman army set-up camp during the war with Israel, Josephus says that the middle of the camp was “set apart for tents. . . .  [with] the tents of the commanders in the middle; but in the very midst of all is the general’s own tent, in the nature of a temple . . .”[xxiii]  As predicted in v. 45, while the Roman army made preparations to attack Jerusalem, “the beautiful holy mountain,” the infamous emperor died in fulfillment of v. 45: He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain.  Yet he will come to his end . . .”

Declared an enemy of the state by vote of the senate, Nero, the willful king, “had been abandoned by everybody”[xxiv] and preparations were made for his arrest.  His subjects now his enemies, Nero committed suicide having stabbed himself in the throat.  Thus the willful king had “come to his end” with no one to “help him.”

The Remorse of the Emperor Nero after the Murder of his Mother Explain Daniel 11, Daniel chapter 11 commentary, Daniel 11 prophecy fulfilled, the willful king, daniel king of the north

In the last year of Nero’s reign, a bolt of lightening “struck the Temple of the Caesars, decapitating all the statues at a stroke and dashed Augustus’s sceptre from his hands.”  Shortly thereafter the Caesar family line had come to an end.  But this was not the only miraculous sign witnessed toward the end of Nero’s reign.  In the next chapter, Daniel describes the rise of the Archangel Michael corresponding with perhaps the most unbelievable event in Roman history…


 

[i] This contention is weakened by v. 37.  If the author of Daniel intended to predict the future after having accurately recorded the past, why would he include an inaccurate description of Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of the north, in v. 37 if this was truly the man he intended to describe throughout the remainder of the chapter?  Antiochus Epiphanes was famously devoted to Zeus.  However, Daniel’s description of the willful king in v. 37 indicates that he will not regard any god.  If the editor of Daniel intended to predict that the willful king was Antiochus Epiphanes, why would he make such an egregious error regarding Antiochus’ religious beliefs?  One might assume that perhaps the editor of Daniel did not know Antiochus Epiphanes religious affiliation, however, this would be almost impossible since Antiochus Epiphanes tried to compel the Jews to worship Zeus, and this was largely the cause of the Maccabean Wars.

[ii] Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of the north, died in 164 B.C., and the rise of the Roman Empire is marked by the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C.

[iii] John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2007), 117.

[iv] Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 26, 32.

[v] Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.5.

[vi] Ibid., 2.93.

[vii] Ibid., 6.56.

[viii] Michael Farquhar, A Treasure of Royal Scandals (New York: Penguin Books, 2001), 209.

[ix] Philo of Alexandria On the Embassy to Gaius 11-15; Cassius Dio Roman History 59.26-28.

[x] Venus was also considered a founding deity of Rome.

[xi] The identity of this “god of fortresses” is uncertain.   In Joel 3:16, God is described as a fortress.

[xii] Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 1.88.

[xiii] Ibid., 2.13.

[xiv] Ibid., 2.18.

[xv] Ibid., 2.29.  Augustus was a title often appended to the name of gods including Mars.  Intended to honor the god, this title also seemed to infer that the deity and the emperor were one.  In Spain many dedications to Mars Augustus were presented by members of the priesthood called Augustales.  These vows were often fulfilled within a temple dedicated to the worship of the emperor or in a temple dedicated to Mars.  The Caesars were also often depicted in the form of Greek deities in statues and Roman currency.  The presentation of the Greek gods in the image of the emperor might be seen as a kind of foreign god, “a god unknown to his fathers.”  It is also worth noting that ancient Romans worshiped spiritual forces and powers.   Rome did not begin to worship a pantheon of anthropomorphic deities until it came into contact with Greek culture in the sixth century B.C.  After its first exposure to Greece, Rome slowly began to adopt and modify the Greek gods.  Interestingly the seeds of this transition began to be planted at approximately the same time in which Daniel is purported to have seen this vision.  As the Roman Empire expanded, it adopted the religions of the people it subjugated.  In addition to adopting the Greek gods, Rome later adopted the Greek practice of emperor worship.  In addition, Rome also adopted astrology from Babylon as well as several mystery religions including Mithraism from Persia.  The replacement of ancient Roman spirituality with foreign religions had taken firm hold before and during Augustus’ reign.  Consequently, Augustus would have probably been quite unfamiliar with the gods of his ancestors, those deities worshiped in Rome during Daniel’s composition.  So in this way, Augustus had shown “no regard for the gods of his fathers.”  Perhaps the gods in which this king had not honored were the ancient spiritual gods of Roman history?  In verse 37, the willful king is also said to have shown no regard for any god.  It would seem that the author of the Book of Daniel probably never intended to convey the idea that this king was truly atheistic since in the following verse, this king is said to have honored a god of fortresses.

[xvi] Ibid., 2.30.  One such donation to Jupiter included 16,000 pounds of gold in addition to pearls and precious stones worth 500,000 gold pieces.

[xvii] Plutarch Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans Marcus Antonius 61-62.

[xviii] Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 2.41.

[xix] The Nubians and Romans ultimately signed a peace treaty which remained in effect for three hundred years.

[xx] Cassius Dio Roman History 63.22.

[xxi] Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.47.

[xxii] Ibid., 6.43.

[xxiii] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.5.2.

[xxiv] Cassius Dio Roman History 63.26; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.47-49.

Benjamin L. Corey: Jesus Says Those “Left Behind” Are The Lucky Ones (the most ironic thing the movie won’t tell you)


This is an excellent article written by Benjamin L. Corey at Formerly Fundie (Patheos): 

In the lead up to the release of the remake of Left Behind hitting theaters in a few weeks, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie (or rapture believers) won’t tell you about getting “left behind.”

The basic premise of the theology is this: the world is going to get progressively worse as “the end” draws near. Before the worst period of time in world history (a seven year period called the “tribulation,” though there’s no verse in the Bible that discusses a seven year tribulation) believers in Jesus are suddenly snatched away during the second coming of Christ (which rapture believers argue is done in secret and without explanation, instead of the public second coming described in scripture).

The entire premise of the theology and the Left Behind movie is based on a passage from Matthew that you’ll see in the official Left Behind image included to your left. The passage states:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”

And this is where we get the term “left behind”… Jesus said “one shall be taken and the other left.”

Pretty simple, no? It appears from this passage that Jesus is describing an event where some people actually do “get taken” and the others are “left behind.” It must be a rapture then.

Or maybe not.

As I have explained before, the chapter of Matthew 24 is a chapter where Jesus describes the events that will lead up to the destruction of the temple which occurred in AD 70. That’s not so much my scholarly opinion as it is what Jesus plainly states in the first few verses of Matthew 24; it is a context pretty difficult to explain away since Jesus says “this temple will be destroyed” and his disciples ask, “please, tell us when this will happen.” The rest of the discourse is Jesus prophesying the events that will lead up to the temple’s destruction, which we know historically unfolded as Jesus had predicted. (As I have alluded to in What Jesus Talked About When He Talked About Hell and Don’t Worry The Tribulation Is In The Past, if one does not understand the significance of the destruction of the temple to ancient Judaism, one will have a very hard time understanding what Jesus talks about when he talks about “the end.”)

Anyhow, during the end of this discourse in Matthew we hit the “rapture” verse: “one will be taken and one will be left.” Surely, this part must be about the future, and Jesus MUST be describing a rapture. Since that’s what my childhood pastor taught me, it’s probably a good idea to stick with that.

Just one problem: Matthew 24 isn’t the only place where Jesus talks about “some being taken and some being left behind.” Jesus also discusses this in Luke 17 when he says:

 “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

Building a compelling case for the rapture yet? Not quite. Check this out: Jesus’ disciples in the Luke version of the discourse must have been interested in this left behind stuff, because they ask a critical followup question. However, they actually seem more concerned with those who were “taken” than those who were “left behind” and ask Jesus for a little more information on this whole getting taken away stuff.

“Where, Lord?” is the question of the disciples. Where did all of these people go??

If this were a passage about the “rapture” as depicted in the Left Behind movie, one would expect Jesus to answer something to the point of “they were taken to be with me to wait out the tribulation.” But, that’s not what Jesus says. Instead, Jesus gives them a blunt answer about those who were “taken”: “just look for the vultures, and you’ll find their bodies.” (v. 37)

That’s right. The ones who were “taken” were killed. Not exactly the blessed rapture.

The Roman occupation was brutal, and when they finally sacked the city and destroyed the temple in AD70, things got impressively bloody. To be “taken” as Jesus prophesied, was to be killed by the invading army. This is precisely why, in this passage and the Matthew version, Jesus gives all sorts of other advice that makes no sense if this is a verse about the rapture. Jesus warns that when this moment comes one should flee quickly– to not even go back into their house to gather their belongings– and laments that it will be an especially difficult event for pregnant and nursing mothers. He even goes on to warn them that if they respond to the army with resistance (the very thing that causes the mess in the lead-up to AD70), they’ll just get killed (“whoever seeks to save his life will lose it”). Jesus, it seems, wants his disciples to get it: when the Roman army comes, flee quickly or else you might not be left behind!

Surely, Jesus is not talking about a rapture. He’s not warning people to avoid missing the rapture because they went home to get their possessions… he’s talking about fleeing an advancing army and not doing anything stupid that will get them killed (v 30-34).

Very practical advice for his original audience and would have come in handy for those who wanted to avoid being “raptured” (slaughtered) by the Roman army.

And so my friends, this is the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie won’t tell you: in the original “left behind” story Jesus tells in the Gospels, the ones who are “left behind” are actually the lucky ones.

So the next time folks tell you that they don’t want to be “left behind,” you might want to tell them to be careful what they wish for.

In our study of Matthew 24:36-51, I also proposed that Jesus said it would be better to be “left behind” than to be “taken,” and noted that 2-3 centuries ago this was taught by John Gill (1746-1763) and Albert Barnes (1834). Benjamin Corey does an excellent job showing the revealing connection between what Jesus says in Luke 17 and what He says in the more frequently quoted Matthew 24:40. His article also comes at a good time, less than two weeks before the remake of the Left Behind movie hits the theaters on October 3rd. Hopefully the theology in this film will soon be left behind by many followers of Christ.

Israel’s 5-Month Locust Invasion In 70 AD (Revelation 9:1-11)


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 9:

In this study of the first half of Revelation 9, we will see that:

  • John’s vision of locusts tormenting men for five months is parallel to the length of time that Israel was prone to locust invasions throughout its history;
  • This also mirrors the length of the Roman siege in Jerusalem in 70 AD, leading to that city’s downfall;
  • The Roman siege even took place during the same months that locusts would typically invade Israel’s land;
  • Josephus spoke of men longing for death, just like John saw in his visions (Rev. 6:16, 9:6) and just like Jesus said would be the case for the “daughters of Jerusalem” and their children (Luke 23:27-30);
  • The name of this locust army’s leader, Apollyon, is remarkably similar to the 15th Roman legion, Apollinarus, that Titus led into Jerusalem in 70 AD (verse 11). This legion was named after the Greek god, Apollo.

In verses 1-2, the key to the bottomless pit was given to “a star [that had] fallen from heaven to earth.” John’s readers are not told explicitly who this star is, but some believe that it was Lucifer (see Luke 10:18 and Rev. 12:9-10). In “Days of Vengeance,” published in 1987David Chilton notes that “the bottomless pit” is referenced a total of seven times in the book Revelation (9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3). Chilton adds,

In Biblical symbolism, the Abyss is the farthest extreme from heaven (Genesis 49:25Deuteronomy 33:13) and from the high mountains (Psalm 36:6). It is used in Scripture as a reference to the deepest parts of the sea (Job 28:14; 38:16; Psalm 33:7) and to subterranean rivers and vaults of water (Deuteronomy 8:7; Job 36:16), whence the waters of the Flood came (Genesis 7:11; 8:2; Proverbs 3:20; 8:24), and which nourished the kingdom of Assyria (Ezekiel 31:4, 15). The Red Sea crossing of the covenant people is repeatedly likened to a passage through the Abyss (Psalm 77:16; 106:9; Isaiah 44:27; 51:10; 63:13). The prophet Ezekiel threatened Tyre with a great desolation of the land, in which God would bring up the Abyss to cover the city with a new Flood, bringing its people down to the pit in the lower parts of the earth (Ezekiel 26:19-21), and Jonah spoke of the Abyss in terms of excommunication from God’s presence, a banishment from the Temple (Jonah 2:5-6). The domain of the Dragon (Job 41:31;Psalm 148:7; Revelation 11:7; 17:8), the prison of the demons (Luke 8:31; Revelation 20:1-3; cf.2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), and the realm of the dead (Romans 10:7) are all called by the name Abyss.

St. John is thus warning his readers that hell is about to break loose upon the Land of Israel; as with Tyre of old, the Abyss is being dredged up to cover the Land with its unclean spirits. Apostate Israel is to be cast out of God’s presence, excommunicated from the Temple, and filled with demons. One of the central messages of Revelation is that the Church tabernacles in heaven (see Revelation 7:15; 12:12; 13:6); the corollary of this is that the false church tabernacles in hell (David Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 1987).

In verses 3-4, the locusts are seen coming “upon the earth.” The Greek word for “earth,” ge, can be and sometimes is also translated as “land.” As the Greek Lexicon reveals, this is not necessarily the entire planet, but may rather be just a region. Here in Revelation 9, and in numerous other cases in Revelation, there is good reason to see this term as referring to the land of Israel, i.e. the Promised Land. I have discussed this distinctive pattern in Revelation, particularly the oft-repeated phrase “those who dwell on the earth,” in much greater detail in an earlier 3-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).  

Question: In verse 4, we see that the locusts are told not to harm the grass, green plants, or trees, but only those without the seal of God on their foreheads. Is this seen elsewhere in Revelation?
Answer: It’s also seen in Revelation 7:1-4, where 144,000 believers are sealed before destruction begins.

In verse 5, John’s readers learn that the locusts are given authority to torment men for five months. Chilton notes that in Judea it was typical for locusts to appear in the land anytime between May and September, a period of five months. Here in Revelation 9, these locusts were allowed to attack relentlessly for five months. The Jewish historian, Josephus, as well as Roman historians, recorded that the Roman armies laid a siege upon Jerusalem in 70 AD which lasted for five months. Even more significantly, this siege began in mid-April of that year and lasted until late August/ early September, the very same period when locusts would normally appear in Judea. (It began around 14 April 70 AD, during the Passover Feast, in order to trap as many visitors as possible in Jerusalem).

John’s vision here is full of all kinds of significance for the people of ancient Israel. John’s vision, of course, calls to mind an older vision involving the same imagery. In Joel 1:2-7 and 2:1-11, God’s vine and His fig tree (1:7), Zion (2:1), is stripped bare and thrown away by a destroying army which is likened to locusts, because of Judah’s unfaithfulness (2:12-17, 3:1).

The “Models of Eschatology” site (moderated by a person identified as “wbdjr” for the United Christian Church in Richmond, Virginia) has this to say about the five month siege:

Five months is the time period that the Roman siege lasted around Jerusalem. During this time the Romans didn’t try to take the city, but let the work of the siege slowly weaken the city defenders and bring conditions upon them that could fit the definition of a great tribulation. During the siege the Zealots inside Jerusalem set fire to the foodstocks that were stored up thinking that without food the inhabitants would be more compelled to join them in fighting the Romans. As food disappeared people were compelled to eat leather from belts, shoes, and anywhere else it could be found.

Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 248) also states, quoting from F.F. Bruce (New Testament History, p. 382): “Titus began the siege of Jerusalem in April, 70. The defenders held out desperately for five months, but by the end of August the Temple area was occupied and the holy house burned down, and by the end of September all resistance in the city had come to an end.”

In verse 6, John’s readers are told that people would “seek death and…not find it” and “long to die, but death [would] flee from them.” Josephus records that during the height of the siege in 70 AD, surviving Jews “poured forth their congratulations on those whom death had hurried away from such heartrending scenes” as were seen during the siege. They were envious of the dead, Josephus says. Thousands were literally starved to death during those months. As I pointed out in a study on Revelation 6, Josephus also records that when the temple was burned in August 70 AD, many survivors retreated to Upper Jerusalem and longed for death. Josephus said in Wars 6.7.2 that “as they saw the city on fire, they appeared cheerful, and put on joyful countenances, in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries.” This is reminiscent of what Jesus said in Luke 23:27-30 would happen to the first century daughters of Jerusalem and their children (see also Revelation 6:16).

Kenneth Gentry sees verses 1-12 as speaking strictly of demonic activity, and verses 13-19 as speaking of the invasion of a physical army. In any case, his reference to Jesus’ words in Matthew is most compelling:

Revelation 9:1-12 clearly seems to speak of demons under the imagery of locusts (perhaps due to their destructive power and the gnawing agony they cause). A great many commentators agree that, stripped of the poetical imagery, the locusts are really demons and their sting is that of the pain and influence of demonic oppression. This seems to be quite clearly the case in light of their origin (the bottomless pit, 9:1-3), their task (they afflict only men, 9:4), and their ruler (“the angel of the abyss,” surely Satan, 9:11). Were this a reference to the Roman army (or some later army), their restriction from killing (Rev. 9:5, 10) would be inexplicable in that the Roman army actually did destroy thousands of Jews in its assault. But if these are demons, and the physical killing is left to the armies (which are seen later, Rev. 9:13ff), the picture begins to come into focus.

If demons are in view in this passage, this fits well with requirements of the early date [for the writing of the book of Revelation, i.e. before 70 AD] and the prophetic expectation of Christ inMatthew 12:38-45. There Christ teaches that during His earthly ministry He had cast out demons in Israel, but because of Israel’s resistance to His message, the demons will return in greater numbers within the “generation” (ibid, pp. 247-248)

While I agree that this text does not speak of literal locusts present during this judgment, I see the possibility that in addition to a picture of demonic activity there are also hints of attacks by a human army, i.e. both happening concurrently. In verse 7 it is said that they appeared as “horses prepared for battle.” Their faces were “like human faces” (verse 7b), they had “hair like women’s hair,” they had breastplates of iron, and the noise made by their “wings” was “like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle” (verse 9). There are enough references mixed in here to give a picture of 1st century-type warfare. Steve Gregg, editor of Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), has this to say (pp. 182, 184):

Though the locusts themselves are no doubt a portrayal of armies of demons that afflicted the whole society of the Jews during their conflicts with the Romans, the description is perhaps mingled with some features of the demonized zealots who made life so miserable for their fellow Jews during the siege. That they have hair like women’s hair [v. 8] may actually be a reference to their transvestitism, as Josephus describes:

“With their insatiable hunger for loot, they ransacked the houses of the wealthy, murdered men and violated women for sport; they drank their spoils with blood, and from mere satiety and shamelessness gave themselves up to effeminate practices, plaiting their hair and putting on women’s clothes, drenched themselves with perfumes and painting their eyelids to make themselves attractive. They copied not merely the dress, but also the passions of women, devising in their excess of licentiousness unlawful pleasures in which they wallowed as in a brothel. Thus they entirely polluted the city with their foul practices. Yet though they wore women’s faces, their hands were murderous. They would approach with mincing steps, then suddenly become fighting men, and, whipping out their swords from under their dyed cloaks, they would run through every passerby” (Wars, IV:9:10).

Regarding the appearance of this army, David Chilton adds,

The frightening description of the demon-locusts in Revelation 9:7-11 bears many similarities to the invading heathen armies mentioned in the prophets (Jeremiah 51:27; Joel 1:6; 2:4-10; cf.Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15, where the Hebrew word for demon is ‘hairy one’). This passage may also refer, in part, to the Satanic gangs of murderous Zealots that preyed on the citizens of Jerusalem, ransacking houses and committing murder and rape indiscriminately. Characteristically, these perverts dressed up as harlots in order to seduce unsuspecting men to their deaths. One particularly interesting point about the description of the demon army is St. John’s statement that “the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.” That is the same sound made by the wings of the angels in the Glory-Cloud (Ezekiel 1:24; 3:13; 2 Kings 7:5-7); the difference here is that the noise is made by fallen angels.

In verse 11, we learn that the king over this army was named “Abaddon” in Hebrew, but “Apollyon” in Greek. According to Livius, an online ancient history encyclopedia compiled by the Dutch historian, Jona Lendering, “Apollo” was the favorite god of the Roman emperor, Augustus. For this reason, the famous 15th Roman legion was called “Legio XV Apollinaris.” When the Jewish revolt against Rome began in 66 AD, this 15th legion, Apollinaris, was moved from Alexandria, Egypt, and called to advance toward Judea. In 67 AD this legion captured Josephus in Jotapata (in Galilee).

Emblem on the Shields of the Roman 15th Legion (Photo Source)

After Vespasian was named emperor in 69 AD, his son, Titus, led the 15th legion, Apollinarus, toward Jerusalem. After a 5-month siege, Titus and his legion overthrew Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and burned the city. It appears that Titus was the Apollyon of Revelation 9:11. 

Bowling Green, Ohio’s Black Swamp Arts Festival (with Pictures)


Bowling Green, Ohio, where my wife and I live, has a population of just over 30,000 people. Today (and for the next three days), however, that number is expected to balloon up to about 100,000 people. The Black Swamp Arts Festival has arrived.  

The Black Swamp Arts festival is a free three-day art and music festival in historic downtown Bowling Green, Ohio. Over 60,000 people attend to enjoy the art, music, and atmosphere. Downtown Main Street is lined with over 150 juried artist exhibits from across the country.  

The first Black Swamp Arts Festival was held in Downtown Bowling Green in the Fall of 1993. It was organized by a group of Downtown Business Owners and members of the community who had an interest in spotlighting the arts in Bowling Green. Each year, the Festival has grown: increased number of members who plan and organize Festival details, increased number of fine artists who display and sell their artwork, increased number of performing artists who entertain with all genres of music and stage performances, and an increased number of participants, both local and from out-of-town, who come to enjoy and support the arts.

Source: About Black Swamp Arts Festival, official page

Discover Ohio adds:

Historic Downtown Bowling Green is transformed into a vibrant three-day Music and Arts Festival. Each year new and exciting art work is presented by visual and performance artists… The Artists at Work booths are hands-on community art projects for adult visitors. Visual artists create on-site as visitors watch, and sometimes try their hand at the craft. Participating artists include water colorists, acrylics painters, sculptors, glass bead makers, woodworkers and potters who demonstrate, answer questions, and share their knowledge of how they take raw materials and turn them into art. Kids areas have music making and a multitude of  hands-on art projects to take home.

We moved here on August 23rd last year, only about two weeks before the festival began, so that Jasmine, my wife, could finish a degree she began here in Fall 2008. I had seen a sign indicating that a festival was coming, but it caught me by surprise anyway. The first day of the festival I tried to drive over to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get my new license plate tag and sticker. The next thing I knew I was helplessly stuck in traffic just outside of the city limits, surrounded by a woods on one side and a cornfield on the other. As soon as I got a chance, I turned around and drove back home, but we did walk downtown to the festival later that day. Here are a few pictures from our visit to the festival last year:

03

View of the festival entrance from the south side of downtown

08Some of the pop-up food tents (we enjoyed some Thai food from one of them)

06

Street preachers were determined to get their message out.

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02

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Why is the festival named after a Black Swamp? 

Northwest Ohio and part of eastern Indiana used to be covered by a massive swamp. Historic Perrysburg describes the Great Black Swamp as “an oozing mass of water, mud, snakes, wolves, wildcats, biting flies, and clouds of gnats and mosquitoes” that covered an area nearly the size of the state of Connecticut. It stretched “40 miles wide and 120 miles long” from Perrysburg, Ohio in the north to Findlay, Ohio in the south, and from Fort Wayne, Indiana in the west to Sandusky, Ohio (now home to Cedar Point) in the east.

(Bowling Green is located halfway between Toledo and Findlay, along I-75, and Perrysburg is located just south of Toledo. Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Historic Perrysburg goes on to describe the history of this swamp:

Water, often up to the belly of a horse, stood on the surface until it evaporated in the hot summer months. When it rained, or thawed in the winter, it was water and muck. Much of the swamp was covered with an almost impenetrable forest of giant oak, sycamore, hickory, walnut, ash, elm, maple and cottonwood trees, except in a few prairie areas where limestone just under the surface would not support timber growth.

Not even native Indians went into the swamp except to hunt, and unless you could follow a blazed trail, it was easy to become hopelessly lost since you could only see but a few yards ahead.

The swamp was created 20,000 years ago when the last glacier retreated.

The enormous weight of the mile-thick ice pack pressed down and scooped out the earth beneath it to create a depression about 10 feet lower south of where Perrysburg sits on the river bluff. Thereafter, until it was drained, water stood in the silted wetland and clay in the ground prevented it from soaking in. When water was standing and flooding conditions occurred, large fish from the Maumee River and other streams could swim all over areas now covered by corn and soybean fields…

There was no end to the variety of sicknesses and maladies spawned from the mosquito-infested swamp. There was cholera, typhoid and milk sickness, but chief among them were malarial fevers generally known as “ague” for which people kept quinine powder on the table, along with salt and pepper, to sprinkle on their food.

The fevers caused people to have chills, or the shakes, and according to a doctor of the time it took them from three to five years to get over it. The shakes occurred from about the first of July until the first frost. They took hold of people and literally shook them up. The doctor wrote that so violent were the chills and shaking that when they came on, the very bed and floor would rattle.

The Black Swamp was Ohio’s last frontier, and beginning in the 1840s, it took several generations of determined farmers to drain it and make it the rich, flat farmland of today… It took back-breaking labor and construction of one of the greatest underground drainage systems in the history of the world to create the productive farmland we now drive by and take for granted just outside of Perrysburg.

According to Wikipedia, in the mid-1850’s it was a resident of Bowling Green, James B. Hill, who “made the quick drainage of the Black Swamp possible with his invention of the Buckeye Traction Ditcher.”