What happens when we die? This question has haunted the human race since we began thinking about such things. Perhaps it has scared or concerned you as well. Today's episode of "Pictures of the End" investigates the Biblical evidence about what happens when we die. You may be surprised to discover that the answer is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Current events. Bible prophecy. Ancient history. How does it all fit together? Listen to Pictures of the End, a new radio show and podcast produced by Pathway to Paradise Ministries. Join host Tim Rumsey each week and discover the Bible's message for you today!
The story is told of the famous sculptor Michelangelo. One day an apprentice asked him, “How do you create such beautiful, life-like works of art? It doesn’t seem possible!” Michelangelo turned to the young man and told him, “I simply look at the block of marble, see the finished sculpture, and then chip away everything that doesn’t belong!” The key, for Michelangelo, was to see a mental picture of the final work of art. That, in essence, is what we try to do each week on Pictures of the End. Bible prophecy paints a very clear picture of our world today, but the challenge is to clear away “everything that doesn’t belong.” Fortunately, the Bible is such a clear teacher that understanding its pictures of the end is both possible and rewarding.
Our topic today is Revelation’s false revival. The book of Revelation predicts that two great spiritual revivals will take place on earth shortly before the second coming of Jesus Christ. One will be sent from heaven, and the other will ascend from the abyss, Revelation’s word for the home of demons. One revival will be sent by God, the other will be a counterfeit sent from Satan. Those that participate in the true revival from heaven will spend eternity in heaven; Revelation refers to these people as “the saints.” Those, however, that get caught up in the false revival and refuse to let God free them from it, will eventually perish and miss out on eternal life.
I want to interject a thought here before we go on. Many people believe that the book of Revelation cannot be understood. Maybe they have heard this from their pastor—and there are pastors that say this—or maybe they’ve had friends express these kinds of thoughts. Sometimes people beginning reading the book of Revelation and give up because there are so many symbols—beasts, and horns, and trumpets, and seals, and locusts, and scorpions. Revelation is full of symbols, and it can be a challenge to study them, but this does not mean that the book of Revelation cannot be understood. In fact, it is pretty clear from the text itself that God expects us to not only read the book of Revelation, but to understand it as well.
In Revelation 1:3 we read, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” The Bible says that we are to read, and hear, and keep, the things revealed in the book of Revelation. You can’t “keep” the book of Revelation without understanding it, so clearly God expects us to not only read and listen to the prophecies in Revelation, but to understand them as well. Also, the very word “Revelation,” or Apocalypses in the original Greek, literally means “the unveiling,” or “the revealing.” The very name of the book indicates that we can understand what is contained in it!
OK, let’s open up the book of Revelation now and see what it says about these two revivals. The revival from heaven, the true revival, is found in Revelation 18:1-4. This is part of the final message given by God to fallen humanity. It is an invitation to participate in heaven’s revival, and also to avoid the counterfeit revival. Let’s read verse 1.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
Here is a picture of God’s end-time revival. The angel coming down from heaven indicates that this revival is from God—it is the real deal, the genuine, and the authentic revival at the end of time. The angel has great power, which means that God’s end-time revival will have great power. In fact, it will be so full of power that the entire world will hear God’s final message. The verse refers to this when it says, “and the earth was lightened with his glory.” This is a message that every living person will hear.
What is the angel’s message? Let’s continue reading in verse 2:
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Now there is a lot packed into these verses. First is the reference to “Babylon,” something that we will look at in just a minute. Notice that this false revival is full of devils, foul spirits, and every “unclean and hateful bird.” These are all different ways of saying that the world be awash with fallen angels and demonic power at the end of time. This shouldn’t surprise us, since Revelation 12 describes Satan and his angels being cast to earth after loosing the war in heaven. Never forget this: Satan is a looser; he has already lost the war. He is much more powerful than human beings, but he is no match for God, or for people that have entrusted their lives to God!
This false revival is also worldwide in scope, because the verse says, “all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of [Babylon’s] fornication.” In other words, the false message, the false gospel, the false spirit that fuels the counterfeit revival is also very strong and appealing, and much of the world will be taken in by it.
Finally, the angel’s message concludes with a call by God to “come out” of Babylon’s false revival, so that they will not partake of her sins and share in her plagues. Justice is often hard to see in this world, and far too often justice is not served. Many times it seems like those that reject God enjoy all the good things in life, while those that serve Him faithfully only suffer trial and persecution and hardship. This happens because, even though Satan has lost the war against God, we are still living and fighting on enemy territory. The earth still lies under Satan’s influence, and just like Jesus Christ was not immune from Satan’s attacks while He lived on earth, Christians today are also susceptible to the fury of the devil. However, Jesus promised in John 14:3, “I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” The Christian’s home is in heaven, and Jesus has promised to return and take His people there. God’s end-time revival is really His final work of preparation so that they will be ready to live in heaven. This is a pretty good reason to make sure that you participate in heaven’s revival, and avoid Revelation’s false revival!
Let’s take a closer look at this mysterious “Babylon” reference in Revelation 18:2. Understanding what the Bible means by its reference to Babylon is very important to understanding God’s warning message in Revelation 18. Like many of the symbols and passages of Revelation, the concept of “Babylon” is drawn from an earlier Biblical source. Its precursor is the tower of Babel in Genesis. Babel was the first of four cities built by Nimrod, a hunter and “mighty one in the earth” (Genesis 10:8, 9). Nimrod was a great-grandson of Noah and a grandson of Ham, whose descendants were cursed by Noah after Ham’s disgraceful treatment of his drunken father.
Two things distinguished the tower builders at Babel. First, their building effort represented a direct assault on God’s authority, and second, they were fully united in their rebellion. The Bible says “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech” (Genesis 11:1), and the greatest fear of the tower builders was that they would “be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (verse 4). Although the people shared a common language, the true mark of their unity was a shared mindset of rebellion against God. “And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (verse 6, emphasis supplied).
“The men of Babel had determined to establish a government that should be independent of God…the people were fully united in their Heaven-daring undertaking. Had they gone on unchecked, they would have demoralized the world in its infancy. Their confederacy was founded in rebellion; a kingdom established for self-exaltation, but in which God was to have no rule or honor. Had this confederacy been permitted, a mighty power would have borne sway to banish righteousness—and with it peace, happiness, and security—from the earth. For the divine statutes, which are “holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12), men were endeavoring to substitute laws to suit the purpose of their own selfish and cruel hearts.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 123.
It is significant that the Bible’s first and last uses of the word kingdom are in reference to Babel and Babylon. In Genesis 10:10 we read, “And the beginning of [Nimrod’s] kingdom was Babel.” In Revelation 17, the nations of earth “have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast…For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (verses 13 and 17). From beginning to end, the Bible depicts human kingdoms and the uniting of humanity as synonymous with Babel’s spirit of rebellion and self-sufficiency. End-time Babylon represents the final fruition of the Babel-builders’ dream—a single world empire, a single earthly kingdom, controlled by man.
Revelation predicts that Babylon will eventually control the world’s political and military powers, its great corporations and businesses. This end-time tower of Babel will also unite the religious world under a false system of worship that appears righteous on the outside. On the inside, however, it will be full of “devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Revelation 18:2). According to the Bible, the more closely humanity presses together, the more completely it falls under satanic control. Another passage from Revelation describes it this way:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:13-14).
At the end of time the world may appear deeply religious, but it won’t be the Bible-based Christianity that your grandparents and parents tried to teach you. The world may share spiritual slogans, but you won’t hear hymns about “power in the blood.” The revival and worship and unity promoted by mystery Babylon at the end of time will be ruled and controlled by demons.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be part of the false revival! Fortunately, the Bible gives us several clues to help us recognize the counterfeit revival. The first picture is found in Revelation 16:13-14. This is another passage that predicts Revelation’s false revival that sweeps the entire world. Here’s what it says:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
Revelation 12:7-9 clearly identifies the dragon as Satan himself. According to this passage, something very strange comes out of the mouth of Satan and his two accomplices—unclean spirits that look like frogs! These “frogs” work miracles and finally succeed in gathering the “kings of the earth,” or the nations of the world, to fight against God. This is the lead-up to the battle of Armageddon, which is mentioned two verses later. Notice that spiritual deception and false spirits are the power behind the battle of Armageddon. There are many sincere Christians that believe the battle of Armageddon will be a physical battle fought somewhere in the Middle East. While I admire these Christian’s convictions and interest in prophecy, I cannot agree with this view of Armageddon. The Bible is very clear that spiritual deception, complete with false miracles and false spirits are the primary focus of the battle of Armageddon. This battle may include physical fighting, but it is primarily a spiritual battle fought in the hearts and minds of people. How do I know that?
There are three “frogs” in this passage that carry a message to the entire world, and the result is that the world unites against God. Now I happen to be an expert on frogs. You see, I live in the country, and our soil is extremely heavy clay—so heavy, in fact, that water does not percolate through the soil at all. It just sits on the ground. When we first moved here we dug several large tree holes (three feet deep and three feet wide) but didn’t get the trees in before the spring rains hit. Water sat in those holes all summer long and through the fall. It never drained out. Finally I had to pump the holes dry and fill them in with dirt. All of this is to explain that our septic system empties into what we affectionately call our “potty pond.” Now we don’t care for the potty pond, but there are creatures that do. Frogs! In the summer you can hear dozens, maybe hundreds, of frogs sitting at the edge of the potty pond water, croaking their happy little song. Here’s the point: Frogs like sewage; they are attracted to it, and they croak out their message so that other frogs can join them.
In Revelation, three frogs croak out a message that is, in reality, dirtier and more dangerous than the water coming out of our septic tank. Their three-fold message comes out of the mouth the Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. According to the Bible, those that accept the frogs’ message are headed down a one-way path to destruction. That sounds strong, but it’s what the Bible says. Revelation 19:20-21 says, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him…[and they] were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” The next chapter says that the dragon, or the devil, receives the same fate. Unfortunately, those that participate in the false revival and refuse to come out of it will share the same fate. Revelation 20:15 says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The battle of Armageddon is primarily spiritual, friends, and there is a satanic message carried by three “frogs,” actually demons, that unites the world into the muck and filth and sewage of a false gospel that keeps people from being written in the book of life.
What message do these three frogs take to the world? What message is it that unites end-time Babylon in opposition to God? This message comes out of the mouth of the dragon, or Satan, so let’s look at another picture where a deceptive and destructive message comes from the mouth of Satan. This picture is found in Genesis 3—it’s the story of Adam and Eve’s first sin. If you know the story, you remember that when God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He warned them to avoid the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The penalty for eating from this tree was death, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” said God (Revelation 2:17). One day Eve finds herself standing under this tree, when a snake begins talking to her. This seemed like a miracle, for snakes do not talk. Of course, it was Satan speaking through the snake. Eve should have run, but the miracle grabbed her attention and she stayed to listen to what the snake had to say. Notice the parallel with Revelation’s false revival. Nobody would normally listen to frogs croak about their love of sewage, but when miracles are worked the world listen to the frogs’ message.
Eve does the same, and Satan, through the serpent, begins croaking the same message that the frogs deliver to the world at the end of time. What does Satan say? First he asks a question that causes Eve to doubt God’s word of warning, “Has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). When Eve repeats God’s warning that if she eats from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil she will die, Satan replies, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Satan’s great deception was to get Eve to doubt God’s word, and at the end of time the issue is exactly the same. In Revelation’s false revival, the dragon’s greatest deception will be to get people to doubt God’s word.
Jesus said in John 12:48, “He that rejects me and does not receive my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day.” The great standard of truth, the only thing that enables human beings to discern between right and wrong, is the Bible. The only thing that will enable you to recognize Revelation’s false revival is God’s word, and this is why Satan and his three frogs work so hard to cast doubt on the Bible. The battle of Armageddon and the false revival that leads up to it is first and foremost a battle over the Bible. It is a battle where Satan does everything he can to make people doubt and question the clear teachings and warnings of the word of God.
This is the great distinguishing line between God’s end-time revival and Satan’s end-time revival. Both will have power. Both will sweep the world. Both will unite people together. But one will uphold the Bible as heaven’s roadmap to life, while the other will subtly push it aside and label it as outdated, incomprehensible, exclusive, or simply unimportant. Those participating in God’s end-time revival will do everything they can to order their lives according to the Bible’s teachings, while those that get caught up in the false revival will eventually disregard all that the Bible teaches. It really is that simple.
At the end of time, spiritual Babylon will attack and do its best to destroy biblical Christianity. It will do this by casting doubt on God’s word and leading people to disregard things that God clearly teaches in the Bible. At the same time, a false revival full of demonic power will unite people and make them think that they are experiencing a true revival from heaven. So, is this false revival here today?
The Huffington Post published a fascinating article by Steve McSwain in 2012. McSwain is Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions, and his article was titled, “Why Christianity Is Dying While Spirituality Is Thriving.” The article identifies five ways in which the “new spirituality” differs from historical Christianity. I’m going to focus on three of them:
1. This new, emerging church is made up of people who are desperately seeking ways of understanding, and in many cases, rewriting Christian theology. It needs to be rewritten. For decades now, the church has sought to survive on a doctrine of salvation that depended on the shedding of innocent blood…It is not what Jesus taught. And as a consequence, it is more pagan than it is Christian.
Actually, Jesus did teach that He, an innocent Sacrifice, had to die in order that we might have life. He said in John 12:24, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” This was Jesus’ way of saying that He must die so that we can live. However, according to McSwain, there is a religious revival sweeping the world right now that is founded on a denial of this most central teaching of the Bible. How else does this revival differ from historical, biblical Christianity? McSwain continues with his second point:
2. These new churches have a healthier view of their sacred text known as the Bible. They revere the Bible without making a god of it. Instead [of] worshipping the Bible as a kind of “Constitution,” …they interpret the Bible for what it is: an inspired book, capable of providing inspiration, wisdom and spiritual direction, not a textbook on science or morality or answer-book preachers might use for “Stump the Preacher” talk-shows.
This is pretty clear. The new revival is simply putting the entire Bible aside as an absolute source of truth, and regards it only as an inspirational book. I’m going to skip McSwain’s next two points and go to his fifth and last description of the revival he sees going on.
5. Finally, …this emerging new Christianity no longer interprets Christian “hope” as some “pie-in-the-sky” future paradise that they alone will enjoy, along with those who agree with their theology, their eschatology and their exclusivist beliefs.
So this revival is also casting doubt on what the Bible says about the second coming, how the world will end, and heaven. There is no promise repeated more often in the Bible than the promise about Christ’s second coming; something like one out of every 25 verses in the New Testament is about the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, the spiritual revival sweeping the world right now is calling all of these promises rubbish.
What we are looking at is Babylon’s emerging global religion, fueled by Revelation’s false revival. It attacks the Bible and casts doubt on the word of God. It discards the atoning death of Jesus Christ, the divinely inspired authority of the Bible, and all the promises about the second coming of Jesus Christ. Like the rebellious builders at the tower of Babel, end-time Babylon is trampling on God’s word and then attempting to build a monument to human wisdom and power. Listen to how McSwain’s article ends. This is what he understands the goal of the new spirituality to be:
“[A] world wherein peace and justice and plenty for everyone exists in the here and now; a world that reflects “God’s will on earth just as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10); a world where all people are treated equally, cared for, respected, fed and nurtured for the wonderful creations of God that they are; a world where all people regardless of color, sex, race, religion, political party, nationality or sexual orientation have a voice and a place; a world where people and nations, as the Prophet Isaiah put it, “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; where nation no longer takes up sword against nation; where war is no longer learned” (Isaiah 2:1-5).
This sounds great, but the problem is that the goal of this perfect world is being built by ignoring God’s word. Revelation’s false revival promises a better world, but “devils” and “the spirit of devils, working miracles”, will control it. In the end, Babylon will burn. This is why the mighty angel from heaven calls God’s people to “come out” of Babylon, and order their lives according to God’s word. If we do this, we will avoid Revelation’s false revival, and take part in the true revival from heaven. That is our picture of the end for this week. Thank you for listening!
On January 26, 2017, six days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reset their symbolic “doomsday clock” to its closest time to midnight in 64 years. The clock reflects the group's assessment of the combined nuclear, environmental, and political threats that face humanity. A spokesperson for the Bulletin stated, "The board takes the unprecedented step, the first time in its history, of moving the clock hand 30 seconds closer to midnight. Today we move the clock a half-minute closer to midnight; it is now two-and-a-half minutes to midnight."
Lawrence Krauss, the bulletin's chair, told a news conference in Washington, “The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than it's ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room.” Its hands were moved from three minutes to midnight to two minutes and 30 seconds to midnight. The bulletin cited nuclear volatility, especially between the United States and Russia, climate change, and cyber threats as significant contributing factors to the change of the doomsday clock.
How—and when—will the world end? Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word don’t have to worry about the world ending due to catastrophic climate change, collapse of the world’s computer systems, or a nuclear holocaust. These and other threats may very well wreck havoc on this world in the future, but according to the Bible, the world will end when Jesus Christ returns at the second coming. In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus said,
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Christ’s return will prove to be the true “doomsday” for this world. According to 2 Peter 3:10, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
Today we are going to look at the Biblical evidence that God has hidden a “doomsday clock” in the very fabric of creation. We are going to look at several prophecies and stories that act as “pictures of the end.” Understood together, they paint a very clear picture about how close the world really is to midnight and the end of human history.
Jesus warned against the temptation to try and determine the exact time of His second coming. He said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” So we are not attempting to set a specific time for Christ’s return. However, Jesus also predicted that a time would come when His disciples must recognize that His return is imminent, “even at the doors.” In His discourse on end-time events and the signs of His coming, Jesus said, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matt. 24:33). While we cannot and should not try to know the exact day of Christ’s return, we can and should know when it is near.
Is there an appointed time for Jesus to return? Yes, but the exact day is known only to God. In Mark 13:32 Jesus said, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). The Bible does not reveal the exact time of Christ’s return, but it does reveal a general prophetic clock that points to the completion of the work of salvation. Romans 1:20 reveals where we can find the Bible’s hidden “doomsday clock.”
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” (Romans 1:20).
God’s visible work of creation reveals important principles of His invisible work of salvation. The length of time allotted to sin before the work of salvation is accomplished is one of the things revealed by creation week. During creation week, God worked for six days, completed His work at the end of the sixth day, and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 1:31-2:3). For hundreds, even thousands, of years, people have understood that the seven days of creation reveal a seven-thousand year limit that God has placed on sin here on earth. This is sometimes referred to as the “great week of time.” The basic premise is this: There will be six thousand years between creation and the second coming of Christ, and the earth will lie in chaos during the seventh and last thousand year period.
The general validity of the six-thousand year timeframe between creation and the second coming of Christ has been understood for centuries. Many ancient Jews and early Christians believed that, on the basis of creation week, the world would last six thousand years and be in chaos during the seventh thousand years. Consider the following statements from their writings:
Does the Bible really support the idea of a “great week of time”? Does it really predict that Jesus Christ will return six thousand years after creation? Let’s dive into the Bible and look for some answers.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening, and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).
God created Earth in six days, “And on the seventh day God ended his work…and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:2). The seventh-day Sabbath stands unique in God’s Word, for God calls it “my holy day” (Isa. 58:13). The seventh-day Sabbath, or the “day of the Lord,” is the day that God reserves for Himself.
Throughout the Old Testament the “day of the Lord” is consistently associated with judgment, retribution, and destruction for God’s enemies. It represents the day of judgment. Consider Isaiah 13:6, “Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.” Joel 1:15 also associates the day of the Lord with the day of judgment and destruction: “Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.”
The epistle of Jude expands on these Old Testament verses and tells us who is judged during the day of the Lord. Verse 6 speaks of the “angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” and are now “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6, emphasis supplied). It is the fallen angels that are judged during the day of the Lord! Now here is the incredible part: God’s redeemed people will, with Christ, judge these fallen angels. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”
So, according to the Bible, the seven days of creation week are a model, or prophecy, of the length of time that God will allot for the work of salvation. That length of time is 6,000 years of “work,” followed by a seventh thousand years that parallel the seventh and last day of creation week. The seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, is the “day of the Lord,” and the Bible reveals that God’s judgment of fallen angels takes place on this day.
“…and I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them…and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
During the one thousand years, or millennium, the saints reign and judge with Christ in heaven. Referring to this same time period and other events associated with the final destruction of sin, Peter advises us to “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The Biblical evidence is clear: God “hath appointed a day” of 1,000 years “in the which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). The work of salvation, patiently and mercifully carried out since Adam’s fall, will conclude on the “day of the Lord.” The antitypical Sabbath, while it brings blessings, peace, and rest to those who serve God, also signifies a time of judgment and destruction for God’s enemies.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
The second coming of Christ, when the resurrection of the righteous dead takes place, marks the start of the “day of the Lord” or the day of judgment. Paul made this clear in 1 Corinthians 4:5. He wrote, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.” According to Paul, this judgment of God’s begins when Jesus Christ returns. So when is the second coming? That is the question that has held Christians captive for 2,000 years. Many attempts to guess or figure out the time…Jesus said no man knows the day or the hour…We are not attempting to set a time for the second coming! But we should be able to know when it is near.
We have discovered that serious Bible students for centuries have understood that the six days of creation actually represent six one-thousand-year periods of time between creation and the second coming. The seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, is referred to in the Bible as “the Lord’s day” and it is a type, or symbol, of a final one-thousand year period after the second coming during which the fallen angels will be judged. There are three stories, two in the Old Testament and one in the New, that paint pictures of this “great week of time.” Let’s take a look at each of them.
According to these “pictures of the end,” Christ’s second coming will happen at the end of the sixth day, or at the end of 6,000 years after creation. The second coming also marks the beginning of the final thousand-year period of time often referred to as the “millennium.” What happens during this seventh day, or this seventh thousand-year period of time?
“…and I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them…and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
Beginning at the second coming of Christ, the saints will live and reign with Jesus in heaven for a thousand years, and the Bible indicates that during this time they will sit on thrones of judgment with Him. We have already seen that the Bible says the fallen angels are judged during the millennium, the thousand-year long “day of the Lord.” This judgment takes place in heaven as the earth lies in ruins after Christ’s second coming.
According to Revelation chapter 20, the Earth will be cleansed with fire at the conclusion of the millennium, the thousand-year long day of judgment in heaven. Revelation 20 says:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth…to gather them together to battle...And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them…And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death an d hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
What a picture of the end of sin on this earth! A lake, or sea, of fire will destroy every trace of sin and cleanse the world of this terrible curse. According to Revelation, this cleansing will occur at the end of the “great week of time,” after seven-thousand years of sin on this planet.
The story of Noah’s flood paints a powerful picture of this final cleansing from sin after the thousand-year millennium. According to Genesis, Noah preached and built the ark for 120 years, and then he and his family entered the ark. Genesis 7:10 says, “And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.” Peter states that the flood is a type of Earth’s cleansing by fire at the conclusion of the millennium (2 Peter 3:5-7).
“By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
Immediately after drawing this parallel Peter states that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (verse 8). At the conclusion of God’s great week of time with seven “days” of one-thousand years each, Earth will be cleansed with fire and sin will be forever destroyed.
A careful chronology of Bible history indicates that it has been about 6,000 years, or six “days,” since Creation and the fall of Adam. Johannes Kepler, Gerhard Hasel, James Ussher, and Isaac Newton are among the Bible scholars who have placed creation and the fall of Adam at about the year 4,000 BC. We are nearly at the end of the sixth “day” allotted by God to this sinful world. We don’t know exactly when creation was, so we can’t know exactly when the six thousand years end. But we can know that it is near, even at the door. The seventh day Sabbath, or “day of the Lord,” of God’s great week of time is about to begin!
“For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Romans 9:28).
The Bible indicates that Jesus will cut short the time allotted for sin by finishing His work of “righteousness” before the end of 6,000 years. He is more anxious than we are to bring an end to sin and suffering.
“…the Lord…shall suddenly come to his temple, …and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:1, 3).
It is through Christ’s work in the sanctuary that He gives sinners the gift of righteousness. In the Hebrew religious year, it was on the annual Day of Atonement that the guilt of the previous year’s sins was removed from the earthly sanctuary. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Lev. 16:30).
“In the typical system, which was a shadow of the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ, the cleansing of the sanctuary was the last service performed by the high priest in the yearly round of ministration. It was the closing work of the atonement—a removal or putting away of sin from Israel. It prefigured the closing work in the ministration of our High Priest in heaven, in the removal or blotting out of the sins of His people, which are registered in the heavenly records. This service involves a work of investigation, a work of judgment; and it immediately precedes the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; for when He comes, every case has been decided. Says Jesus: ‘My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.’ Revelation 22:12.” (E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 352)
The final act of the yearly religious services in the earthly sanctuary was to cleanse the sanctuary of sin, and this was an annual picture of Christ’s last work in heaven before returning to Earth. His last work in heaven will be to “cleanse the sanctuary,” or cleanse His people, of sin. The Bible contains many promises about how Christ will cleanse his people from sin and prepare them for His second coming. One of these is found in Ephesians chapter 5, where Christ promises that He will “sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27).
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation closer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11).
The Bible reveals that before God does anything significant in salvation history, He always sets up a prophetic clock. For example, Christ’s first advent occurred exactly on schedule, at the time when God’s prophetic clock pointed to the Messiah’s appearance. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” What time was “full” when the Messiah appeared? It was a prophecy given over 500 years earlier to the prophet Daniel, who predicted the very year that the Messiah would appear.
At other critical points in history, God has expected His people to recognize what “time” it is, prophetically, and to act accordingly. For example, in Noah’s day God gave the world 120 years before it would be destroyed by water. At the end of that time period, God expected people to do something very specific, get in the ark. Their lives depended on the decision they made.
Another example is the 400 years that God told Abraham his descendants would be in bondage in Egypt. Exodus 12:41 records that at the end of that time period, “even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41). Again, God expected His people to recognize when it was time to leave Egypt, and their future life as part of the nation of Israel depended on their understanding of the prophetic times, and their willingness to act accordingly.
A final example is the Jews’ return to Jerusalem after 70 years in captivity. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God had predicted that He would bring them home after 70 years in captivity. When the prophetic clock struck zero and King Cyrus made it possible for the Jews to return, God expected His people to recognize the time and act accordingly. Many did return, but many did not, and missed out on the blessings of being part of Israel’s remnant that rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple.
God gave these time prophecies because He wanted His people to understand the “prophetic times” and to act accordingly. Time and again, people’s salvation has depended on understanding and acting in accordance with God’s prophetic clock. The same is true today. God is about to end His work of salvation and Jesus Christ is about to return. God’s doomsday clock is ticking, and while we don’t know exactly when Jesus will return, we can know that it is near, “even at the doors.”
The Bible describes those who will be prepared for Christ’s return. Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Make the decision today and every day to trust your life to Jesus, and to obey God’s commandments! If you do, when God’s doomsday clock strikes zero, you will be prepared to welcome your Savior and your Lord.
On February 6, 2017, a delegation of German Protestant leaders extended a historic invitation to Pope Francis by inviting the pope to visit Germany, the nation where the Reformation began. Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairperson of the German Council of the Evangelical Church, told the pope, “It is sometimes a painful reality in families [that] couples who share children, grandchildren and friends are divided at the Lord’s table.” The Protestant delegation made it clear that “our churches feel a special responsibility to develop ecumenism further, since the divisions started with us in Germany.”
The invitation is part of a worldwide celebration throughout the year 2017 to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In 2016 Pope Francis participated in a joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden, but many people see this invitation from the German Council of the Evangelical Church as even more significant, since it comes from the birthplace of the Reformation.
The February 6 invitation from Germany occurred just days after the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Vatican. This year’s ecumenical event, which concluded on January 25, included churches from the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist, and Mennonite traditions, among others. Introductory statements made in the summit’s handbook made it clear that this year’s week of prayer was focused on ending the division within Christianity brought by the Protestant Reformation. The handbook stated, “the Reformation was marked by painful division, …[and] after centuries of mutual condemnations and vilification, in 2017 Lutheran and Catholic Christians will for the first time commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation.” The conference materials went on to state that “division [is] due to our sin.”
This idea—that it is sinful to not participate in the movement for visible unity—is being repeated a lot. In 2014 Pope Francis and his friend Bishop Anthony Palmer produced a video that suggested it is sinful to not participate in the push for visible unity among all Christians. In that video Palmer said,
“Our sin, common to all, is that we do not allow our unity in Christ to be visible to those around us…When we prohibit the unity of Christians, we are rejecting the work of the cross…We need not to continue in the sins of our fathers. If we want, we can stop any time we want. And I’m asking, I’m challenging by the Spirit of God, that we as non-Roman Catholics, we stop continuing in the sin of separation.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHbEWw7l_Ek)
Shortly before this video was produced, Palmer and the pope had appeared in another video that went viral on the internet. In this video, Palmer was speaking to a large gathering of evangelical leaders in the United States, and stated bluntly that the Protestant Reformation is over.
“I’ve come to understand that diversity is divine; it’s division that’s diabolic…Division destroys our credibility…Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over—is yours? …If there is no more protest, how can there be a Protestant church?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrS4IDTLavQ)
Immediately after Palmer made these comments he played an iPhone video, recorded at the Vatican, in which the pope urged evangelicals to come back home and unite with the Roman Catholic Church.
An underlying premise in the push for visible unity across all of Christendom is that God will not and cannot bless the Christian church with revival until it achieves this unity. According to the argument, any group refusing to participate in this visible unity fosters division, and this division prevents the revival that Christianity needs.
And revival within Christianity is desperately needed, especially in the western world. Church attendance in nearly all churches in North America and western Europe has been slowly and steadily eroding for decades. Several recent studies conducted in North America illustrate the seriousness of the church’s decline. A study released in November 2015 by the Pew Research Center reported that in the seven years between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of Americans that said they “believe in God with absolute certainty” slipped from 71 to 63 percent. That is an eight percent drop in only seven years! The same study also reported that during the same time period, those that say they don’t believe in God rose from five to nine percent of the adult population. A September 2015 study by the Barna Group suggests that less than one-third of U.S. adults are “practicing Christians,” and that as many as forty-eight percent are “post-Christian.”
The argument is simple: Christianity needs a revival, and the reason God has not sent a revival is because division has prevented so far prevented the visible unity of churches. According to an article from the Catholic News Agency on August 27, 2014, Pope Francis said, “Division is one of the most serious sins, because it does not allow God to act…Sins against unity are not only schisms, but also the most common weeds of our communities.” It’s hard to miss the allusion to a gardener plucking up weeds that prevent growth, and health, and life.
So, is division sinful? Is division preventing God from acting? Is it preventing God from bringing revival and new life on a withering and dying Christianity? To find the answer, we are going to look at a picture of the end from Genesis, the first book in the Bible.
The first two chapters of Genesis record how God created life on this world, and we will see that how He created life in the physical realm reveals exactly how He creates life in the spiritual realm. Romans 1:20 expresses this principle this way: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” According to this verse, God’s invisible work of creating new spiritual life within a person, or a church, is revealed through the visible things of nature. To state it differently, the visible things of creation, and the written record we have of that event, reveal how God creates new life in the invisible spiritual realm.
According to Genesis, before God began His work of creation, the earth was “without form, and void” (Genesis 1:2), and covered in darkness. The ancient Hebrew translators used the Greek word abyssos in this verse, which means a desert, or a wasteland, a place with no life. In many ways this word could describe the current state of Christianity. How does God create new life and bring a revival out of this kind of wasteland?
According to the creation account, He began a work of division. On the first day, He “divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4). On the second day, He “divide[d] the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament” (verse 7). On the third day He divided the land from the water and then created an abundance of plant life that was divided “according to its kind” (verse 11). On the fourth day God created the sun, moon, and stars to “divide the day from the night” (verse 14) and to “divide the light from the darkness” (verse 18). On the fifth day the fish and the birds were created and divided “according to their kind” (verse 21), and on the sixth day every species of land animal was likewise divided “according to its kind” (verse 24).
As the end of the sixth day of creation approached, God performed another work of division. He knelt down and “formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7), and divided Adam from the dust. When Adam realized that he had no mate, God “caused a deep sleep to fall on [him], and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place” (verse 21). Eve, too, was created through division.
During the first six days of creation, all God did was to divide! The emergence of life occurred only through God’s work of division. Prior to creation week, all the building blocks of life and all the elements of nature were unified in a chaotic sea of darkness that was “without form, and void” of life. The spiritual application is critically important to understand: God creates spiritual life in the same way, by dividing people from a world swimming in the chaos of sin. He creates spiritual life by dividing people from spiritual darkness and bringing them into the light of His truth.
What was it that God used to divide nature during creation week? His word! Every day begins with, “And God said…” God’s word was the active agent in the work of division that created life. His word performs the same function in the creation of new spiritual life. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). The Christian world today is looking for a badly needed revival. It is looking for badly needed unity. But if it sets aside God’s word, the Bible, and ignores truths that sometimes do bring division, then it is casting aside the one thing, the only thing, that can create new life and revival.
There is one final thing that God divided during Creation. On the seventh day He divided time itself, “and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:2). God blessed and sanctified this 24-hour unit of time divided from the other six days. At the foundation of the world He established the seventh day as a memorial of His work of division. And just like the first six days of creation, it was God’s word that divided and established the seventh day as holy. Unlike the year, month, and day, there is no astronomical explanation for the seven-day weekly cycle. The seventh day Sabbath exists only on the authority of God’s word.
God did perform one work of unification during creation week. Late on the sixth day, after life had been created through a continual and repeated process of division, God united Adam and Eve in marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (verse 24). The unity happened, but only after six days of division!
In John 17 Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers. As Judas and the mob from Jerusalem made their way slowly toward the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus poured out a prayer for the unity of His disciples, and for all Christians until the end of time.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:20-23).
This prayer is quoted frequently by many that desire to see a visible unity among all Christians, and even between Christians and those of other faiths. But notice what Jesus prayed for first, before He prayed for unity. He prayed that God’s word would sanctify and divide the disciples from the world. Look at the verses that immediately precede Christ’s prayer for unity.
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:14-17).
Jesus prayed that God would separate His disciples from the world! And He said that this must be accomplished through the power of God’s Word! Christ’s message was first and foremost a message of division. He knew that His straight testimony would cause division, and He warned His disciples that to follow Him would inevitably cause division. Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). Christ’s prayer for unity will be answered, but God’s people must first separate and divide themselves from anything that is not in agreement with the Bible.
A second picture of the end today is found in the book of Matthew chapter 26. In this chapter Jesus Christ is about to be crucified, and we are going to pick up the story after His last supper with the disciples. Jesus enters into the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples, and a great cloud of darkness begins to descend on Him. In verse 38 Jesus says, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus was quoting from a prophecy in Isaiah chapter 53, verses 11 and 12: “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
This is a prophecy predicting the moment that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would have the sins of the world placed upon Him. This would be a terrible moment for Him, because the Bible says that the Messiah would be sinless. Imagine living your entire life with perfect vision, perfect hearing, and a perfect sense of smell. Then suddenly, one morning you wake up blind, deaf, and without the ability to smell anything. You would be completely cut off, or divided, from the life you had known before. This is what happened to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, only to a much greater degree, because He took on Himself the sins and guilt of the entire world that night. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.”
The prophecy in Isaiah 53 continues in verse 12:
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
This prophecy reveals that at the moment Jesus took the guilt of our sins onto Himself, He would be numbered with the transgressors and pour out His soul unto death. More than that, He would be divided from the life He had known before. The lesson is powerful—according to the Bible, salvation and redemption and new life in Jesus is possible only because He separated and divided Himself from the life He had known before.
And the life that Jesus had known up until this moment was perfect unity with the Heavenly Father. Jesus had said earlier in His ministry that He did nothing and said nothing except as God commanded Him to. Now there was division between them. As Jesus took on the sins of the world, the guilt of those sins separated Him from the Father. Isaiah 59:2 says,
[Y]our iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
This is precisely what Jesus was referring to when He cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
There’s an insightful passage in the book Desire of Ages that describes the division that Christ experienced in Gethsemane.
Throughout His life on earth [Jesus] had walked in the light of God’s presence…But now He seemed to be shut out from the light of God’s sustaining presence. Now He was numbered with the transgressors. The guilt of fallen humanity He must bear. Upon Him who knew no sin must be laid the iniquity of us all…He felt that by sin He was being separated from His Father.”
Now it is true that in this experience, sin was dividing Jesus from the Father. But that does not mean that all division is sinful. Jesus was exactly fulfilling God’s will in taking sin upon Himself. He was exactly fulfilling God’s will in undergoing this separation and division. In fact, the Bible says that it was through this experience that Jesus was “made perfect.” Hebrews 5:7-9 says,
[Jesus], in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
According to the Bible, Christ’s division from the Father made Him the perfect Sacrifice. That division is what brings us the promise of forgiveness and cleansing from sin. It’s that division that makes revival and new life possible.
And we can’t miss why Jesus allowed Himself to be divided from the Father. It wasn’t because He wanted to go through this painful experience. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus fell on the ground and prayed three times that if any other way could be found to save the human race, He would rather not be divided from the Father. But Jesus had to go through this separation and division because the Word of God had declared that He must.
We already looked at the prophecy in Isaiah 53 that said the Messiah must be “cut off” and “divided” because of sin. Another prophecy in Zechariah 13:7 predicted the same thing.
Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,
Says the LORD of hosts.
Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.
A sword had to be brought against Jesus Christ, the Man who was God’s Companion. In the Bible a sword represents the Word of God. Remember what Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The word of God had predicted that the Messiah must undergo a process of separation and division, and in submission Jesus obeyed.
God, through His word, has always called people out of the world. He has always asked them to separate and divide from the world. He called Abraham out of a comfortable home to live in a tent for the rest of his life. He led Moses out of a privileged life in the courts of Egypt to a rugged life as a shepherd. He called the Jews out of Babylon after their 70 years of captivity to build a new life once again in the promised land. The New Testament says that God has called Christians out of darkness into the light of truth. And what is truth? Jesus gave the answer in John 17:17. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
Division based on the Word of God is God’s chosen method of separating His people from the world. Division based on the Word of God is God’s chosen method of creating life. And the Bible says clearly that division based on the Word of God is God’s chosen method today for reviving Christianity and bringing new life and revival to the church. In 2 Corinthians 6:17 God says, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”
God wants His people unified, but that unity must come after separation and after division from anything that does not conform to the Word of God. In Isaiah 8 verse 16 God predicts that His people—His church—will have unity, and He specifies what the conditions of that unity will be: “Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples” (Isaiah 8:16). God will unite His people based on the truths of the Bible and the commandments of His holy law. A few verses later God repeats Himself, just so we don’t miss His point. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
The church needs unity, and the church needs revival. The Bible promises that it will happen. In Revelation 12 God’s united people are shown in vision to John, and he gives the secret to their unity. In verse 17 he writes, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” God’s united church will keep the commandments of God—it will have divided itself from the world based on the Word of God. Revelation 14 verse 12 says the same thing: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
Is the push for visible unity amongst Christians good or bad? Is it sinful or not? That depends. If God’s word, the plain teachings of the Bible, and the law of God are upheld by this converging Christianity, then God’s people can safely participate. But if truth is sacrificed, ignored, brushed aside, stepped on, or substituted for the teachings of men or for doctrines that are only acceptable to everybody, then the only safe thing to do will be to separate and divide.
On July 16, 1945, several hundred people watched the world’s first nuclear explosion at a test site located 210 miles south of Los Alamos on the barren plains of the Alamogordo Bombing Range. Hoisted atop a 150-foot tower, the plutonium device, or Gadget, detonated at precisely 5:30 a.m. over the New Mexico desert, releasing 18.6 kilotons of power, instantly vaporizing the tower, and turning the surrounding asphalt and sand into green glass. Seconds after the explosion came an enormous blast, sending searing heat across the desert and knocking observers to the ground. The success of the test meant that an atomic bomb using plutonium could be readied for use by the U.S. military. Several weeks later the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, ending World War II in the Pacific.
What makes an atomic bomb work? When a single free neutron strikes the nucleus of an atom of radioactive material, it knocks two or three more neutrons free. Energy is released when those neutrons split off from the nucleus, and the newly released neutrons strike other nuclei, splitting them in the same way, releasing more energy and more neutrons. This chain reaction spreads almost instantaneously. The atomic bomb used the power released by the splitting of atomic nuclei.
Do you know what the American military code-named that first experimental atomic bomb? Trinity. Perhaps they realized that dividing the atom would release an explosion of energy and power that was super-human, even god-like. And this is exactly what God’s church and God’s people need today. We need an explosion of energy and power that is super-human. We need a new life and a new experience that is fueled not by superficial unity, but by obedience to God’s Word and His law. When this happens, God will send a revival and reformation that truly unites His people.
The mark of the beast is one of those topics in Bible prophecy that has made its way into popular culture. Magazines, books, movies, and other forms of mainstream entertainment frequently make reference to this super-scary end-time curse. Many ideas exist about the identification of the mark of the beast. Some say it’s a barcode or a tattoo, others suggest that it is a computer chip implanted in the skin, or even a super-computer somewhere in Europe. The good news for today is that the Bible explains exactly what the issues are with the mark of the beast. We will look at three Old Testament stories that paint a very clear picture of what the mark of the beast is all about.
The mark of the beast appears in the very final chapters of the Bible – Revelation chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16, to be exact. It is definitely an “end-time” subject. And according to the Bible, it is a test, or mark, of some sort, that every living human being on Earth will have to make a decision about. Isaiah chapter 46 verse 10 says that God “declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.” In other words, many of the Bible’s stories in the Old Testament contain clues and keys that enable us to understand prophetic events that have not yet happened.
The technical word for this is typology. For instance, every lamb that was slain in the Old Testament Hebrew sanctuary and temple was a type, or symbol, of the death of Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist saw Jesus walking near the Jordan river, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world.” The true sacrificial Lamb was Jesus. The Bible uses this principle of typology a lot. Other examples include the earthly city of Jerusalem as a type of the heavenly New Jerusalem and the Old Testament city of Babylon as a symbol of what the Bible calls “mystery Babylon” in Revelation.
Today we are going to use the principle of typology as we look at three Old Testament stories that explain the issues behind the mark of the beast. First, let’s read a few verses from Revelation about the mark of the beast. The first one is found in Revelation chapter 14 verses nine and ten. Here an angel from heaven gives God’s warning against receiving the mark of the beast. It’s a very solemn message. Revelation 14:9 says,
“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
Obviously God seems very serious about people not receiving the mark of the beast. There’s a good reason for that—those that receive this deadly mark are doomed to destruction.
Revelation chapter 13 gives us quite a bit of detail about the mark of the beast. We won’t unpack every detail and symbol in this chapter, but we’ll identify five primary points, and then look for those five points in three Old Testament stories. First, there are two beasts in this chapter—a beast out of the sea and a beast out of the earth. In Bible prophecy, especially apocalyptic, or end-time prophecy—beasts represent nations, kingdoms, empires, or other kinds of political powers. Daniel, the Old Testament companion book to the New Testament book of Revelation, makes this very clear. In Daniel 7, the prophet sees four beasts rise out of the sea, and the angel later tells him that “Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth” (Daniel 7:17). A few verses later the angel clarifies that the four beasts represent not just individual kings, but kingdoms. “The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth” (Daniel 7:23). So, we know that in Revelation 13 the two beasts that work together to enforce the mark of the beast are really two kingdoms, or two political powers.
Second, the Bible also says that worship is a central issue in the mark of the beast. Revelation 13 verse 12 says, “And [the second beast] exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” Again in verse 15 the Bible says, “[The second beast] was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” So worship, obviously a central aspect of religion, plays a huge part in the enforcement of the mark of the beast.
Third, there is an image involved in the false worship. The verse we just read said that the second beast was granted power to give breath to the “image of the beast.” It makes sense that an image is connected with false worship. In the Ten Commandments God warned against worshipping images, or idols. In Exodus 20 verse four the second commandment says “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” So the mark of the beast also involves idolatry and the worship of an image.
Fourth, the mark of the beast is placed on the hand or on the forehead. Revelation 13:16-17 say, “[The second beast] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” So, the mark of the beast is placed on one of two locations—on the right hand or on the forehead.
Finally, the mark of the beast involves the number 666. This is probably the most well-known aspect of the mark of the beast. Revelation 13 verse 18 says, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” People talk, and joke, and dread about the number 666, often without understanding what it symbolizes. Remember, the Bible says that 666 “is the number of a man.” This is important!
So there are the five points from Revelation chapter 13 about the mark of the beast.
Now we are ready to dive into our first “picture” of the end-time mark of the beast! It is a story found in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 3. This is that famous story about Daniel’s three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who were thrown into the fiery furnace and lived to tell about it. These three young Hebrews were captives, as was Daniel, in the land of Babylon after the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem and taken many people back to Babylon.
In this story, King Nebuchadnezzar decides to build a giant image and force everyone in his kingdom to worship it. Daniel 3:1 says, “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” Don’t miss the details in this verse! Nebuchadnezzar makes a giant golden image, and the proportions of that image are all based on the number 6, just like the number 666. The king’s image is 60 cubits tall and six cubits wide. After he has built this idol, the king calls all the important people of his kingdom to the plain of Dura, where the image is set up, and commands them to bow down and worship the image when the royal symphony orchestra begins playing. In Daniel 3:5-6 the assembled crowd is told, when you hear the sound of music, “you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
The parallels between this story in Daniel 3 and the mark of the beast in Revelation 13 are hard to miss. Both involve a political power, or kingdom, that attempts to enforce false worship of an idol, or image. In both passages, the penalty for refusing to obey the command is death. Talk about being in a tight spot, between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”! The penalty for not participating in false worship is death, yet God clearly warns in Revelation 14 that those who do engage in this false worship will face eternal death. Those who choose to serve God have often found themselves in this kind of situation, with no clear answer, and no clear way of escape. The good news is that this is the kind of situation that God specializes in delivering people from. True, He doesn’t always choose to work a miracle and save people, but when we make a choice and commit to serve God rather than man, God will honor that choice, whether we see the reward in this life or in the next. Jesus once said, “[W]hoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down to the image, and in a fit of rage King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace. In this case, God chose to honor their loyalty to Him immediately, and preserved them from the flames. As the king watched in anticipation to see the rebels charred to a crisp, he suddenly cried out, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25). Jesus Christ Himself joined those three young faithful men and walked with them in the fire. We have the same promise today. If you commit and choose to stand for God, even when disobedience to him is mandated and enforced by law, He will walk with you through the flames of trial, and your reward in heaven will be great.
We are going to focus now on the two political powers, or kingdoms, that work together to place the mark on the hand or on the forehead. There are two Old Testament stories that provide pictures of this end-time event.
The first is found in 2 Chronicles 26. Uzziah, also known as Azariah, became king of Judah at 16 years of age, and the Bible says that “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chonicles 26:4). He reigned for 52 years, and as “long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (verse 5). Uzziah was given victory over his enemies, his army was feared, his fame spread in many directions, and he pursued an aggressive building campaign that greatly strengthened the defenses of Israel.
However, Uzziah eventually forgot God. The Bible says, “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (2 Chronicles 26:16). This has always been a danger for those whom God blesses. Proverbs 16:18 says that “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride led Peter to rely on himself, and to eventually deny Jesus. It set up King David for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the endless train of sorrow that resulted. Uzziah’s father, Amaziah, also began his career as a faithful servant of God but turned his back from God due to pride. The Bible says that pride was the primary sin that turned Lucifer, a highly exalted angel in heaven, into Satan, the enemy of God and man. Isaiah 14:13-14 reveals Lucifer’s thoughts:
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Pride also led to Uzziah’s ruin, and the Bible tells us what this once-obedient and humble king did that was so offensive in God’s eyes. 2 Chronicles 26:16 says, “he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.”
When God first gave the sanctuary and its services to Israel, He specified very clearly that only the ordained priests were to offer sacrifices and burn incense. And God was very specific that these ordained priests were to be only from the tribe of Levi and the descendants Moses’ brother Aaron. In Numbers 18:7 God said to Aaron, “Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” Notice two things about this passage: the priests were set aside for service “at the altar,” and anyone else who attempted to perform the duties of the priests “shall be put to death.”
In our postmodern culture of no absolute truths and “anything goes,” it is hard to accept that God might still be this specific and serious about how He is worshipped. But Revelation 13 reveals that it does matter to God how and why we worship Him. The mark of the beast, remember, deals with false worship. In the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s image and the fiery furnace, the king tried to mandate worship and threatened the noncompliant with death. The same penalty is predicted for those who receive to participate in the false worship promoted by the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth. These beasts represent political powers, or kingdoms, and their meddling in religious affairs results in false worship and the enforcement of the mark of the beast. This false worship is a big deal with God; we’ve already read in Revelation 14 the third angel’s fearsome warning against receiving this mark, which is really a mark, or sign, of rebellion against God.
When King Uzziah attempted to enter the sanctuary and burn incense at the altar, he was combining the powers of church and state, something God had clearly intended to remain separate. The priests working at the temple recognized this, and the Bible says that they bravely “withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God” (2 Chronicles 26:18).
How did Uzziah respond to this rebuke? Verse 19 says, “Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar.” Don’t miss what happens! When the king attempts to combine the powers of church and state, he receives a mark of leprosy on his forehead—exactly the same place that the mark of the beast is placed. For a king that started off so well, Uzziah suffered a tragic end. He remained a leper the rest of his life and was “a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:21). What a graphic and tragic picture of the end-time mark of the beast!
The final of the mark of the beast comes from King Jeroboam of Israel, and it’s found in 1 Kings chapter 12. When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam foolishly promised to tax and work the people even harder than his father had. In anger the 10 northern tribes split off from the two southern tribes, and Jeroboam became king of the northern tribes while Solomon’s son Rehoboam continued as king of the southern kingdom. Jerusalem was in the south, and Jeroboam soon became worried that as long as his subjects travelled to Jerusalem to worship, there was a danger that they would eventually reunite with the southern kingdom and he would be ousted. Jeroboam’s worries are recorded in 1 Kings 12:27. “If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
To prevent this, King Jeroboam came up with a plan—he made two golden calves and set them up in two northern cities so that the people could worship there instead of in Jerusalem. You will immediately notice the parallel with the mark of the beast. Both involve idolatry and false worship. But Jeroboam didn’t stop there. His next move was even more destructive. The Bible says that “he made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:31). Don’t miss this—Jeroboam set up a false priesthood! Remember that God had chosen the Levites, Aaron’s descendants, to be the priests. Now, in connection with idolatry and false worship, Jeroboam also set up a false priesthood, and the Bible indicates that he completely ignored God’s guidelines and regulations regarding who should be a priest.
Jeroboam’s sin didn’t stop there, however. The Bible says that he next “ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar” (1 Kings 12:32). God had given the nation of Israel a series of annual feasts in which they were to come together at Jerusalem, offer sacrifices, and worship God. These included Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Atonement, among others. The seventh and last of these annual feasts was the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurred every year on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated the forgiveness and blotting out of sins that had occurred five days earlier during the Day of Atonement. It provided individuals, families, and the entire nation an opportunity to thank God for His mercy. The Feast of Tabernacles also was to be a reminder of the way God had led Israel out of Egypt and brought them safely through the wilderness into Canaan. For this reason, the people set up booths, or tents, and lived in them during the eight-day feast.
This was the feast that King Jeroboam created a counterfeit of. The Bible says that Jeroboam “made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense” (1 Kings 12:33). In addition to setting up two golden calves and introducing idol worship, and in addition to setting up a false priesthood, Jeroboam created a false day of worship that he had devised in his own heart! After he had done all this, he, the king, entered into the temple to burn incense. Like King Uzziah, Jeroboam combined the powers of church and state.
What happened next is amazing. While King Jeroboam was standing at the altar to burn incense, a prophet of God appeared and rebuked him, and pronounced a curse against the altar. “Surely the altar shall split apart,” the prophet said, “and the ashes on it shall be poured out” (1 Kings 13:2). The altar represented the king’s attempt to combine the powers of church and state, and the curse against the altar was really a curse against Jeroboam. It was a curse against the false place of worship, the false priesthood, and the false day of worship that he had set up.
In rage, King Jeroboam stretched out his arm toward the prophet and yelled, “Arrest him!” (1 Kings 13:4). The prophet faced certain death. But suddenly the king’s hand withered, “so that he could not pull it back to himself.” A mark was placed on the king’s hand, exactly where the mark of the beast is placed! Like King Uzziah, Jeroboam had combined the powers of church and state and had set up a form of false worship. As a result both men received a mark—Uzziah on the forehead, and Jeroboam on the hand.
These Old Testament pictures of the end speak clearly and loudly to us today—the end-time mark of the beast will involve false worship. More specifically, it will involve false worship enforced by the combination of church and state powers. The Bible predicts that worship laws will eventually be passed, requiring everyone to participate in false worship. These worship laws will be global, for the Bible says that “all the world marveled and followed the beast” (Revelation 13:3). Will you make the decision today to serve and obey God no matter what man may attempt to make you do? Our decision must be the same as that made by the three Hebrew captives who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
“[O]ur God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
God promises to protect His faithful people today, just as He did so many years ago.
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