Monday, September 21, 2015

The Revelation: Part 3

John Sees Destruction

To put what John saw in context, he begins by describing the epochs or “seals” led by a prophet.  This helps the reader to understand that what he is about to describe occurs in the seventh seal which prepares the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Very briefly,  the first epoch is described as a man on a white horse. One interpretation is that this prophet is Enoch.  The second epoch is described as a man on a red horse.  This prophet is Noah.  The third epoch is described as a man on a black horse.  This prophet is Abraham.  Next, a pale horse symbolizes Moses’ epoch.  Then the martyrs are mentioned referring to the epoch when Jesus Christ walked among men.  Lastly, the sixth seal is a day of preparation when people of all the tribes of Israel are gathered and arrayed in white robes. The  gathering of Israel is an oft-mentioned theme in the Old Testament. The seventh seal begins with destruction in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  The first six epochs are described in Rev 6-7 and Zech 6:1-8 gives additional insight.

First I want to summarize briefly what John saw happening in the seventh seal.  He saw seven angels orchestrate the powers of heaven and earth to cause disasters that would humble all people and call them to repentance.  After this first set of disasters, a separation occurs.  Zion, or the believers gather in opposition to Babylon or the remaining unrighteous unbelievers.  Amidst the believers a special rescue force of 144,000 is prepared.  They help believers gather to safety.  A second set of seven angels orchestrates a second wave of disasters.  This time, the disasters target Babylon who represents all those who chose not to gather to safety.  The power of the global government of Babylon is described.  A last call goes out for any remaining “people” who may not be believers but who want to gather to safety.  A group of ten kings topple the global government of Babylon but many people remain who do not repent.  Jesus Christ, riding a white horse, and accompanied by a heavenly army captures the False Prophet and fights the final battle with Babylon.  With the forces of evil in a state of impotence due to the strength of believers to resist all temptations, the the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ commences.  A few events happen on Earth after the Millennium, most notably the Battle of Gog and Magog, after which the Earth is renewed and receives a state of glory suitable to be the habitation of and location of the throne of Jesus Christ.  This is a summary of Rev 8-22.

The Revelation gives a lot of information on the descriptive characteristics and actions of Babylon so that it will be recognized for what it is.  The Revelation does not describe proprietary information on the divine rescue plan of God to protect and promote Zion or the believers while all the destruction is going on.  Wouldn’t God want people to recognize Zion and get to safety?  He does plan to save Zion but he isn’t telling his plan of action because that would allow others to thwart it.  Believers have been taught all through the Bible how to listen and recognize his voice and in this time their ability to do that will be a matter of life and death.  However, death as an outcome is not necessarily bad for believers because if they die in Christ they will be ok.

So, with that summary, lets go into detail on the first set of disasters found in Revelation 8-10.  These disasters may have a physical and a spiritual fulfillment.  I cannot interpret these words, but I can summarize what is found there and you can ponder it.  

First Disaster:  hail, fire mingled with blood and a third part of trees and green grass is burnt up.  I found that Isaiah mentioned grass being burnt in Isa 40:5-8.  He said all flesh is grass.  So if this were physically fulfilled as written trees and grass would burn.  If it were spiritually fulfilled maybe the burning is like a refiner’s fire which is mentioned multiple times in the Bible.

Second Disaster: a great mountain burning with fire and a third part of sea creatures and ships die. I think that only a volcano would burn with fire but a volcano would be a physical fulfillment. One other reference to a volcano is in Isa 34:9. The idea of a third may have something to do with purification as referenced in Numbers 19:12.  It’s mentioned in the first, second and third, fourth and sixth disasters.  I don’t know if it is literal.  One other Old Testament prophet spoke of a destruction by thirds in Ezekiel 5:2.

Third Disaster:  a great star turns all the water bitter via Wormwood/Artemisia.  There are a few references to Wormwood in scripture but the one that struck me was in Lamentations 3:18-20 where the bitter water was such a potent reminder of God’s power that just the memory of it humbled the prophet.

Fourth Disaster: a third part of the sun, moon and stars was darkened.  This idea is repeated in many Last Days prophecies.  If it were fulfilled physically there would be darkness covering the daylight.  I have thought about this prophecy and my personal interpretation is more symbolic.  I think the sun is like first world countries, the moon like second world countries and the stars are all the other countries.  I think this verse could be fulfilled by an economic disaster that shuts down trade in many but not all countries.

Fifth Disaster:  a star falls and a key is given to the “bottomless pit” or heaven.  In this disaster a creature like a locust torments men for five months.  A physical fulfillment would be actual locusts infesting the land.  A spiritual fulfillment might be that tanks reminiscent of locusts cause destruction through warfare.

Sixth Disaster:  four angels are loosed to kill a third part of men by fire, smoke and brimstone. I don’t know how this will be fulfilled but Isaiah used the idea of brimstone to talk about a day of vengeance in Isa 34. When I see the word brimstone used in scripture I usually think of nuclear bombs but that is my own interpretation.

Seventh Disaster:  this "Mystery" disaster is divided into three “woes.”  The first woe is that two witnesses will prophesy for 3.5 years.  They will be killed and their bodies lie in the streets until they are spontaneously resurrected.  The second woe is a great earthquake.  The third woe is lightening, thunder, an earthquake and great hail.

What is the reason for these disasters and the second set of disasters John saw?  When I read The Revelation, I see that they are followed by a call to separate from Babylon.  The disasters motivate people to put aside their pride and unite against evil. The disasters motivate people to repent of sins they would otherwise not acknowledge.  There will always be some who won’t repent. Jeremiah says that dishonesty before God is one of the biggest reasons people will be destroyed.  They won’t acknowledge their sins, or the effects of their sins on others and they “hold fast to deceit and refuse to return.” Jer 8:5

Read The Revelation: Part 1
or The Revelation: Part 2

Interesting news items:
Did you know that there are 1,700 seed banks in the world to preserve seed in case of widespread disaster?  LINK

If you liked this post you might like Last Days Parables

Image credit:  The Pale Horse by Gustave Dore - Flickr/Waiting For the Word

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Revelation: Part 2

John Sees Believers

John depicted with a Church leader
In my last post, I explained how John the Revelator saw God and the glory of Heaven.  This post will cover the part of John’s vision concerning the variety of believers at the time of global destruction before the second coming of Jesus Christ.  What he saw is hard to understand because he spoke of the believers using geography words reflective of the church in his day.  Today believers are sprinkled among every nation.  Some live in poverty under the thumb of a ruthless dictator.  Some live in freedom.  While John did not judge believers based on what he saw, his vision shows that God is aware of the many who believe and the circumstances in which they live.

This post is only about the believers John saw. I’m going to assume that most are Christians.  However, based on the words in this chapter, I think Jews are considered believers even though they only believe half of the Christian Bible.

The first group of believers John names “Ephesus.”  You can substitute any nation, creed or minority group.  I won’t speculate on who John saw.  This group has leaders who have lied to them.  These believer have not fainted but they are weak.  They have left their “first love.”  I’m going to take a guess at what their first love was:  The Bible.  In taking that guess, I’m assuming that these believers are in an area that was founded on Biblical principles and virtues making it their “first love” or founding principles.

The second group of believers John names “Smyrna.”  This group has corrupt leaders.  John calls them Jews.  My guess is that they are Jews.  They live in poverty and tribulation.  John counsels them to fear not the suffering of the body because the “second death” or suffering of the soul after the final judgement is worse.

The third group of believers John names “Pergamos.”  These believer live “where Satan’s seat is.”  The clues to these believers circumstances are in the doctrine of Balaam expounded in 2 Peter 2:10-22 and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.  The Nicolaitans were a mafia-like group.  In some countries this looks more like a drug cartel.

The fourth group of believers John names “Thyatira.”  These believers are full of good works, faith and charity.  That’s good!  However, they have allowed adultery to continue among them unchecked.  John foretells great tribulation and death among them in the last days.

The fifth group of believers John names “Sardis.”  These believers are spiritually dead.  To understand what he means by “spiritually dead” I found a few other contemporaries who used similar language.  James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)  Paul says, “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14) I wonder if being spiritually dead means that faith is dead, works are dead or both faith and works are dead among these believers.  John counsels this group to strengthen the believers who “remain.”  This leads me to suppose that many of these believers no longer believe.

The sixth group of believers John names “Philadelphia.”  These believers have the Key of David.  They are weak but they are promised protection in the hour of tribulation.  The Key of David is a heaven-bestowed priesthood authority to act in God’s name.  These believers are the Latter-day Saints because we definitely have the Key of David.

The seventh group of believers John names “Laodiceans.”  These believers are neither hot nor cold.  They are rich in terms of money but poor in terms of spirituality.  John counsels them to buy “gold tried in the fire” and to overcome their spiritual blindness.

All groups of believers will go through the Last Days.  John sees that the believers in all categories who “overcome” or endure the destruction with their faith intact will be blessed in the next life. John counsels us all to “hold fast” to that truth which you have.  If what John saw is all fulfilled, and I think it will be, we’re in for a rough ride.

This post references the Revelation of John chapters 2-3  In my next post I will discuss the destructions John saw before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Read The Revelation: Part 1 here

Image credit: Flickr/psyberartist

The Revelation: Part 1

John Sees Heavenly Glory

I have not seen heaven, but John did.  When I read John’s Revelation, I see many interesting details about heaven.

First there is a description of a glorified being who is later identified as Jesus Christ.  He has white hair, bright eyes, and a bright countenance.  The number one characteristic mentioned is light.  He has no darkness in him.  We learn that he is the “first begotten of the dead” which means he is the first to overcome death and be resurrected.  He “washed us from our sins in his blood” which means that his blood was spilt to ransom us from the just effects of our sinful actions.  He will come again to this Earth in glory. (Revelation 1)

John describes a throne (presumably God’s). (Rev 4:2-5,10)  Around the throne are seated 24 elders.  In front of the throne is a “sea of glass,” and an altar where the prayers of sins rise like incense before God’s face. (Rev 4:6, 8:3)  Many angels are around the throne worshiping God.  (Rev 5:11-12) Heaven is also filled with many people of all nations and peoples dressed in white robes. (Rev 7:9)  They serve God day and night in a heavenly temple.  (Rev 7:15)

While John’s Revelation gives more details than any other prophet on the beauty of heaven, he was not the only one to see this realm.  Every age has had a prophet to lead them who was given a vision of God and a mission to convey that knowledge to others.  Adam led his children with the knowledge of God he had from the Garden of Eden.  Enoch led his people and their faith was so great that their city was taken to heaven.  Noah led his children after the flood to believe in God.  Abraham and Moses both recorded part of their great visions of God.  The age known as the “meridian of time” was when Jesus Christ himself walked among men and taught them of God, our Father.  After Christ’s death, believers were hunted and killed, which led them to “hide in the wilderness.” (Rev 12:6) As leaders of nations became more tolerant, Christians worshiped more openly while continuing to suffer persecution at the hands of others during the Middle Ages in Europe.

In 1820, a boy named Joseph Smith, received a vision of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ when he knelt in prayer to ask what church he should join.  His vision included a mission to convey his knowledge of God to others in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ.  He began to tell people about what he had seen and was immediately reproached.  During his life he was taught incrementally what God wanted him to do and how to organize a body of saints.  He was killed by opponents while imprisoned in a jail on false charges.  For more: click here.  Joseph is the prophet called to lead people in this the last dispensation before the second coming of Jesus Christ. If you are ever in New York, you can stop by his home and see the forest where he had his first vision. There is a holiness about that forest to this day.

Joseph’s visions of heavenly glory are recorded here:

John in his Revelation describes many events of the “last days” before the second coming.  His witness warns all who read his words of the destructions planned and promises the eventual return the Jesus Christ.  In my next post, I will explain the part of John’s vision where he saw the believers.

Image credit:  painting by Carlo Innocenzo Carloni

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Identify Yourself

This post is about identity, resilience, and where the power to deflect attacks comes from

Racial issues always seem to ruffle feathers.  I acknowledge the pain that accompanies questions of my value in society.  The picked-on victim mentality can be adopted by anyone and makes us especially sensitive to even the slightest insult.

The power to deflect the darts deflating personal worth comes from God’s word, the family and our choice to identify with the truth.
Who Am I?
Identity in God’s Word
  • Moses said, “Behold, I am a son of God in the similitude of his Only Begotten…” (Mos 1:13)
  • Genesis says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  (Gen 1:27)
  • And “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10)

Each of these verses describe the human being as valuable, in appearance like God and of a divine parentage.  With this knowledge, the comparison of skin colors or ethnic backgrounds are moot.  Male and female humans are infinitely beautiful in all their varieties.

We are social creatures.  Our happiness comes from connection with others.  When connection is withheld based on race or any qualifier, we are pained.  It is human.  The beginning of all connection and social interaction happens in the family.  It is to the family that we must look for the answers to identity questions.

Sheri Dew says, “the family should be a place 
  • of security and safety
  • where we may safely retreat
  • where love and acceptance are the undergirding and prevailing sentiments
  • where we hear many more positive messages than negative ones
  • where we can safely be vulnerable
  • to develop our resilience
  • to replenish our emotional supply
  • where we are reminded on a daily basis what is important and good
  • where happiness really comes from 
(Dew, Sheri. No One Can Take Your Place. pp 173-174)

I know that family doesn’t measure up to this definition very often but I want to begin with the ideal.  People who are resilient are able to connect with others in difficult times.  Often they draw strength from their family narrative.

As a youth, I chose to emphasize my connections with friends.  I thought friendship would last forever.  While I’ve had some deep and beautiful friendships over the years, they have not lasted like family.  You just can’t shake family.  They are connected to you by definition and whether you turn to them or not, they are always around.

It is amazing to note that those who deflect identity crises the most gracefully have someone in their family where they find a sense of security.  The power is even present in the family history stories from the past.  The narrative of strength, perseverance and faith may not be clear in the immediate family but visible in ancestors who fought bravely in battle, persevered in times of drought or stood up to injustice.  

Ultimately we choose to identify with the truth of our value as God’s creation, as an integral link in a family and as a part of the human family narrative.  The God and Father of our souls valued us so highly that he gave his son Jesus Christ as a ransom for our broken and corrupted souls. (John 3:16)

Image source: DeanDraws