Zechariah 4:1-5:11, Revelations 14:1-20, Psalms 142:1-7, Proverbs 30:21-23
Today is the 23rd day of December, which makes this Christmas eve, eve. And it’s also the eve of a brand-new week. So, here we are. It’s Christmas time and we’re at the end of another of our weeks together. And we only have a week and today left in this year. So, let’s make it count and let’s finish strong. We’ve been reading from the Names of God Bible all of this week, so that’s what will do today. Zechariah chapter 4 verse 1 through 5 verse 11.
Okay. So, in the book of Revelation, we should be noticing by now that there are things that are happening in the earthly realm and there are things that are happening in the heavenly realm and the book of Revelation is showing us both. So, we see a series of things happening on the earth and then we will have a pause and we’ll see what’s happening in heaven, probably simultaneously. And, so, we’re moving between these realms while also looking at, you know, what is literal and what is allegorical, what is symbolic and what is not, and discovering how the tensions around this book arise from the different ways of reading this book. So, as we read from the 14th chapter of Revelation today, we can kind of see things happening in both the earthly realm and the heavenly realm pretty clearly. The lamb, so Jesus standing on Mount Zion, so this is the earthly realm, unless there’s another Mount Zion in the spiritual realm, or unless this is a symbol itself. The lamb is standing on Mount Zion. It’s 144,000 people with him that have been sealed with the name of God on their foreheads. But then John says he hears a sound from heaven, so we’re kind of like in both places, and this sound is like raging water and it’s super loud like thunder, and it turns out it’s music coming from heaven. There’s a new song being sung, a new one, in front of the throne of God and only the 144,000 people who are with the lamb at Mount Zion are able to learn this heavenly song. And this 144,000 people are pure, like virgins, and they follow the Lamb wherever he goes and they were bought from among humanity as the first fruits offered to God. So, immediately, we see the contrast between the beasts that we saw yesterday and what we’re looking at now. So, we’re seeing a very, very clear delineation between the forces of darkness, who are trying to claim sovereignty and make it look like they are supreme, and God who is sovereign and who is supreme and doesn’t need to make it look that way, it just is that way. So, we’re seeing a clear delineation between the two sides here. There are scholars who think that this picture is a heavenly picture because the lamb referred to in the book of Revelation is only ever spoken of as being in heaven, while others would say, no, this is this for real, this is really, really going down and it’s happening on earth at Mount Zion. The Messiah has come, he will defeat the foe, this is the end of time, this is the final consummation. While still other scholars would say, no, not quite that. This Mount Zion that’s being referred to here is a reference to this new Jerusalem. And, so, it will all come down out of heaven and become a part of the new creation as this old one is passing away. The 144,000 people, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen 144,000 people. And, so we’ve already spent some time talking about whether we should look at this literally or allegorically. But we’re looking at literally, then it’s 144,000 people with the lamb on Mount Zion on planet Earth. If we’re looking at allegorically then 144,000 is a number that represents completeness. This is the complete family of God who are being born into the new creation. They have stayed true, they have kept their light burning, they haven’t fallen into idolatry, they haven’t compromised, they have been pure, they’ve been virginal, which probably doesn’t refer to human sexuality, but more of the purity of their heart to God, their faithfulness to God throughout anything that comes their way. The picture here is of a people who follow the lamb wherever he goes. And we know that Jesus went to the cross. So, these people are so in love with Jesus, so passionate for Him, and pure in their motivations toward Him that, like Him, they’re not holding onto their life, there human life isn’t the end of anything and they know it, so they will follow Jesus wherever He goes. And then the book of Revelation begins to turn us toward imagery of a final harvest. We have harvest imagery. An angel flies overhead speaking the good news to every nation, tribe, language and people. And the angel’s telling the earth, fear God, give Him glory, the time is come. So, in other words, this is about to happen. This is the final harvest and judgment. And, so the call goes out to worship the one who made the heaven and earth. Then another angel, a second one, comes and declares that Babylon has fallen. So, if Babylon the great has fallen is a literal thing, then that happened. It just happened to happen more than five centuries before Jesus was born. If Babylon is a metaphor, which it has been used in other Old Testament prophecies, then Babylon was an ancient world empire that led the children of Israel into captivity. In John’s time, when the book of Revelation was written, this would correspond to the Roman empire. Babylon attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the first Temple and lead God’s people into exile. The Roman empire destroyed the second Temple and all of Jerusalem, forcing them into exile. And, so, the two have been linked for centuries. So, symbolically, Babylon is any ungodly system on earth that dominates the social and economic and political systems that control people and move them toward idolatry. And, of course, idolatry is a big deal in the whole Bible, including the book of Revelation. And it doesn’t just mean bowing down in front of an idol or a false god, rather, it represents anything that we are willing to give our hearts to in hopes of life in return. So, this second angel is declaring that that is over. There will be no more deceptions. This is the actual end of all of that. And then there is a third angel who also has a message that spoken in a loud voice. ‘Whoever worships the beast or it’s statue, whoever is branded on his forehead or his hand will drink the wine of God’s fury which has been poured unmixed into the cup of God’s anger. Then he will be tortured by fiery sulfur in the presence of the holy Angels and the lamb. The smoke from their torture will go up forever and ever. There will be no rest, day or night, for those who worship the beast or its statue or for anyone branded with its name.’ And, so here is where we begin to step into some theological quicksand because what exactly eternal punishment is going to look like has been up for debate for a long time. And the debate rages on and it gets very contentious. But entire theological understandings and worldviews and dogmas come out of spout passages like this. And so, what I’m doing here, in taking us through the book of Revelation this year like this, isn’t intended to tell you here’s the right way, here’s what you should believe. That would be me trying to interpret this for you so that you then don’t have to think about it. What I try to do when we get to hotly debated portions of Scripture is to approach it from a scholarly perspective with the intention of trying to get behind everything that we’ve heard and find out where it came from, how these conclusions were arrived at. So, we’ve got this third angel, basically, with this last and final warning declaring that anyone who has aligned themselves with this world system, or figuratively, those who are worshiping the beast and the serpent who gave the beast its power, will find themselves in torment. So, let’s look at, what I think are, the two major schools of thought regarding this torment, from which all of the debate arises. On the one hand, you have those would say, okay, human beings can only live so long, like, they didn’t live forever in their physicality in their human body, that’s maybe in 100 years or less. So, if this punishment is actually eternal then it’s probably not in the human body, which pulls us immediately into the spiritual realm, which also naturally pulls us toward symbolic understanding. So, looking at it that way, the torment is a spiritual thing, a psychological suffering. And, according to the book of Revelation, this is going to happen in front of Jesus and the holy angels. So, yes then, those who have thrown in their lot with the beast. Right? Those who have put their faith in a world system that is demanding worship will certainly experience a great amount of torment as they have to stand before the lamb and his holy angels and acknowledge him even as they realize that they will be separated from him. And in this way of thinking, the fire that we’re talking about here is a figurative thing because, throughout the book of Revelation and throughout the Bible, fire is a figurative term for judgment and suffering, especially the suffering that results from judgment. And part of the reason that there is even this line of thought is because of the fact that this passage seems to be taken from Isaiah, from the 34th chapter of Isaiah, in which God is describing judgment that he is going to place on Edom. And he says, ‘her valleys will be turned into pitch, and her land into brimstone, and her land will be as pitch burning night and day, and it will never be quenched, and her smoke will go up, it will be made desolate throughout her generations.’ So, in this case, the readers of the time and everyone since wouldn’t say, okay, this was a judgment on the land of Edom and, wow, it came true because Edom is still smoldering. And it’s kind of one of the wonders of the world. People go there to see the smoldering of Edom because it will go on forever. The point was that Edom would never rise again. And, so, this is where the idea of annihilation comes from, because this passage is based on the passage in Isaiah, and Isaiah is speaking of the historical annihilation of Edom because of its sin, and because he used figurative language of smoldering or burning going on forever, because it’s agreed-upon that this is figurative, then the absolute and complete destruction of Edom parallels the absolute and complete destruction of these people that stand before the lamb for their judgment. And following this line of thought, then they simply cease to exist at all. Now the other line of thinking is very different. For the most part, scholars agree that the whole line of thinking that I just told you is a possibility, but later in Revelation, the devil, the beast, and the false prophet are judged, and they are banished to the lake of fire and brimstone where they will be tormented day and night forever. And we haven’t gotten to that in the book of Revelation yet but we will, but it comes into play here, because it doesn’t seem to be indicating that they would just cease to exist at their judgment, that they would be annihilated. It seems to be that they will be tormented day and night forever. And because there are so many parallels between the path of good and the path of evil in the book of Revelation, it is argued that God’s people, ultimately, will receive eternal rest and shalom, while those who are not God’s people will, at the same time, be receiving eternal damnation. And that is because this word, torment, that’s used in Revelation, or for that matter in the Bible, doesn’t seem to indicate a person’s ceasing to exist. So, many scholars have argued that God’s punishment involves real, ongoing, forever, eternal, conscious torment, while acknowledging that where the lake of fire is or when the lake of fire is is unknown. So, following that line of thinking then, the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, which isn’t just a picture of a past judgment or present judgment, but of an ongoing one. The smoke of torment isn‘t the smoke of complete destruction, it’s the smoke of their torment contrasted with the welcoming rest that God’s people receive. So, those in torment would see annihilation as a relief, but they get no rest. So, from there, from these kinds of lines of thinking, begin to branch out and be reinforced with all kinds of things. And, so, there are many ways of looking at it through different lenses. The book of Revelation gets it right as it comments on that scene. ‘In this situation God’s holy people who obey his commands and keep their faith in Jesus need endurance’, which would seem to be a superior stance to theological warfare against each other. So, after that, there’s a white cloud and someone who looks like the Son of Man sat on the cloud. He’s got a crown on his head, sharp sickle in his hand, and an angel comes out of the temple. So, out of the temple of God, we’re talking spiritually here, before the throne of God, and he cries out to swing the sickle and gather the harvest. The time has come. This is the end. The harvest is overripe. So, the Son of Man does this, and we can assume this is Jesus, although there are scholars who argue, very persuasively, that this is an angel, but, nevertheless the harvest was completed. Then another angel comes out and he’s got a sharp sickle and there’s, like, one more pass. Some scholars would argue, persuasively, that this is the last ingathering on the earth of those who belong to God, while others would argue, very persuasively, that this entire scene, where the cloud and the Son of Man, and the Angels in the harvest, and the sickles, this is all a picture of a final judgment on earth. And that’s where we end today. And this is where it’s important for us to zoom out a little bit and remember that what we’re talking about here is the absolute and utter overthrow of evil which results in all things being made new. And it happens when God ordains it. And however this judgment that we read about today happens, whatever it ends up looking like, it descends upon those who have had every opportunity to avoid it. So, rather than zooming in on people, we need to zoom out and see that this is the overthrow of evil, period, final and complete. This is not meant for those who have the seal of God on their forehead. Right? So, this is not meant for those who have stayed true no matter what. And what would an existence without the existence of evil even be like? Well, we’re going to find out. We’re going to find out in the book of Revelation. And were going to find out for ourselves one day.
Father, we thank You for this glimpse. It’s definitely a situation where we are seeing through a glass darkly. But one thing that is very clear to us is that You are good, You are holy, You are righteous, and evil has no place with You, nor does it ultimately have any place with us. So, come Holy Spirit. We look forward to the day that all things are made new and we intend to keep the fire burning. We love You Lord. So, continue to plant Your word into our lives, transforming us into Your image. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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And it was a happy day to announce the launch of the new Daily Audio Bible mobile app yesterday. And I’m excited to get as many of us migrated over to the new app as quickly as possible. In part, so that you can start using and taking advantage of all that’s been built to continue to unite us together in community, but also to give us a real broad wide range of experiences to help us stress the system as we get ready to go into the new year. So, if you haven’t gotten the new Daily Audio Bible mobile app yet, go to your app store and get it. It’s completely free. Just search for ‘Daily Audio Bible mobile app’ and find that. If it says that that’s the one you’re looking for, because we also have that the older one that we’ve had for several years still in existence. So, search for ‘Daily Audio Bible mobile app’ at either your Google play store or your Apple App store and download the new app and start using it. It’s beautiful and a lot of planning and blood and sweat and tears went into this. So, be sure to get the new app and you can certainly tell anyone you want to about it now that it has been released. It is completely free to download and to use and to jump into community.
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And that’s it for today. I’m Brian I love you and I’ll be waiting for you here tomorrow.
Community Prayer Requests and Praise Reports:
Hi beautiful family. This is Pastor Gene from Bradenton Florida. I want to say hi to all of you. I missed the opportunity to record in our online DAB Christmas party and I just want to wish everybody a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas. May God bless each and every one of us into a renewed relationship with our Savior and a stronger walk with God. And I also want to glorify the Lord today because my husband and I celebrate our 19th year anniversary and it wasn’t always cookies and cream. 9-½ years ago we walked into a Christian counselor office thinking that we had probably allowed the marriage to deteriorate too much. One of the most important things that she told me was, Gene you can be right and win or you can save your relationship. I don’t think you’re going to be able to do both off them. And since I love God with all of my heart and I did not want to preach into the gospel. I have to be honest, that that was my first motivation. I decided that I would lose the argument. My husband did exactly the same. And together we started rebuilding into what has become a wonderful marriage. Not perfect. We still have fights, we still have disagreements, we still hurt one another, but we are a lot more aware of how Satan can use one another to hurt each other and we are a lot more vigilant about our relationship. And, so, I use this testimony to encourage everybody that is married, whether their marriage is very happy or whether their marriage is on the rocks for each and every one of us to stay vigilant and to fight for the gift that God has given us in one another. I love you family, very, very much. Continue to pray us. We continue to rejoice in your victories and morn with you too. In His mighty name. This is pastor Gene from Bradenton Florida.
Good morning DAB family. My name is Sachem and I’m Gia. About a month ago my father asked you all to lift my sister and I up in prayer and we just wanted to take a quick moment to thank you all, specifically, Joyful Noise, for your prayers. We’ve been able to both feel them and witness them at work. I am professional soccer player and missionary in Europe. And though the harvest is plentiful the workers are few. I’m now home for Christmas. Yahweh has opened doors for the gospel to be shared with my teammates, for seeds to be planted with my coaches, fans, and opponents, and even for one player to give his life to Christ. So, while I was back I wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to share what the Lord was doing overseas. Please continue to pray for courage, open doors, and humility as I and the rest of Yeshewa’s servants in Europe seek to till the land for the kingdom. And as we would say over there, ___. Thank you and God bless you. Merry Christmas.
DABbers. This is Sue. I’m going to read you a poem. I’ve always loved the night
before Christmas poem and recited it to all of my younger brothers and sisters
with my daughter. Here’s my version for you.
It was the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse
The DABbers were waiting for Brian to start reading us __ and a smile no doubt
Saying fondly, it’s great to be here with you
While DABbers wonder what’s next in today’s rendezvous
Jill arrives with her special coffee cup in hand
down next to Brian for a chat with some friends
When out from afar comes a loud cheerful noise
Ezekiel’s here to spread Christmas joys
Get off the phone get the family Zekey is here
Bring cookies and enjoy the Christmas party cheer
The greetings from DABbers from all over the world
Express love for our Lord and for each other
The words whirl and swirl and rise like a dove
From those who listen and share Gods words of love
Praise and thanks from DABbers to God above
God’s gift to us on Christmas day is Jesus Christ His only son
We’re so grateful for this perfect gift
Oh God our dear Father now our journey has begun
Please hear our prayer and keep us strong to share the good news all year long
To sing and dance and help the lost find the peace and joy You offer
To all who accept you as our Lord and Savior
Love and Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night
From Sue C., Bakersfield, California
DABbers, hey, It’s Keith from New Hampshire. Listen, about 2 or 3 years ago I called up asking for prayer for son Asher. He was in a youth group at church, but he definitely was not walking with God and at the time, you know, I think I said he was a typical teen ager. He was really struggling, you know, caught up in the world and all of its attractions. And he got invited to go on a mission trip to Haiti. And he went with his youth group and I asked for prayers about that. Well, how times and things have changed. He’s 21 years old now. The Lord’s got a hold of his heart. He’s a converted man. He’s planning to go to seminary. He’s engaged to be married in May to a Godly woman. But he’s also working as an EMT. And I’m calling for prayer, more for him today. Last Saturday he got called on a call. And a little boy that he knows, that he saw on a daily basis in this town, was sledding and sled into the road and got run over by a car and was killed and Asher was one of the first on the scene, just performing CPR and trying to save him and he didn’t make it. And I saw Asher last night and he’s just really sad and really down. I’m worried about him because he’s relatively new in his faith. He’s got a strong faith, but I know that these types of things really can…the enemy can use them to really test us and try us. I just ask my community, please pay for Asher. Help him to see clearly that the Father of all has everything in His hands and He knows well beyond what we can fathom…the whys…and all the things that happen. So, please pray for Asher as we enter into a new year and he gets prepared for his wedding day and embarks on the life. And I thank you so much for the prayers before because I think he’s where he is today because of the DABber community for praying for him when I asked you to. Thanks so much. God bless.