Immediately after the unveiling
of the fourth trumpet, there is the announcement of three woes. These
woes draw attention to the events of the final three trumpets. “Woe”
is an exclamation that expresses grief. Since the woes are directed at
earth’s residence, it is they who are called to grieve. That call to grief
is not because of an unavoidable coming disaster, but because of
their present condition: they are earth dwellers. God's desire was and
is that we be seated with Christ in the heavenlies.(Eph.2:6) Our residents
determines our outlook and experiences in life. Earth dweelers focus on
the things of this world rather than our life in Christ. As we have seen
in the breaking of the seals, such a focus is unhealthy. So to the Church
the woes say: Beware! Be on Guard! Be understanding and watchful!
Don’t allow the things of this world to become your focus and reference
Satan's intention is to keep the Church from being effective and fruitful in her relationship with Jesus Christ. However God’s desire for the Church is that she be an “overcomer”.(Rev. 2&3) She is to defeat Satan and rendered him powerless in this world. (Eph. 3:9-11) So the Church is a key player in bringing the millennium kingdom to fruition on this earth. To do that she must have a heavenly focus and vision. The trumpets let her know in what areas she has been out off focus. Therefore understanding the woes strengthens the Church for her battle against Satan, and her advancement of the kingdom of God.
Dispensational theology insists that the transition into the millennium kingdom will be marked by God removing the Church from the earth. After this removal God allows Satan to temporarily take over in this world. This period of time is held to be seven years long, and is referred to as the tribulation. During this period the earth and its people are subjected to a holocaust like the world has never experienced. This holocaust is, among other things, seen as God’s punishment of humanity for their sin. If that is true then we must concur that the sacrifice of the Lamb was not sufficient nor able to appease God. So then God is still angry with the sinner. However if the sacrifice of Jesus didn’t appease God, will a seven year tribulation do so? Scripture is clear about the matter: Jesus Christ is the one and only sacrifice for sin that God accepts. No one and nothing else can atone for sin. It is only the Lamb’s atonement and propitiation for sin that God accepts. Because of the Lamb, God is at peace with the world. So it is not God that has a problem, we do! Our problem is that we haven't accepted God's Lamb who made peace, and therefore we are not at peace with God or ourselves.
So it is possible that dispensational theologies scenario of Revelation is exegetically incorrect. It is then entirely possible that the transition from the present age to the millennium age may be like the transition from the Old Testament age to the New Testament age. If that is the case then our theology must be brought into sync with God's purpose and plan. When we have an improper theology it is not God who is the loser, we are. With an improper theology we set ourselves up for rejecting truth, like the Jews of Jesus day. So as we study the three woes lets pay attention to the words of the text, and exegete it correctly. Not to do so allows us to read whatever we wish into the text.
In Revelation 9:1 John
reports: "I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was
given the key to the bottomless pit." It is obvious that this is parabolic
language, for the star is spoken of in terms of gender. Not only is the
star referred to in terms of gender, the star acts as a person. This
person who is pictured as a star releases evil from the bottomless pit.
Because he does so we are forced to see this star as an evil individual.
Given scriptures parabolic use of the term “star” would suggest that Satan
is that individual. Isaiah 14:12 tells us that Lucifer; son of the morning;
- i.e. the morning star – fell from heaven. So John gives us an accounting
of Satan’s actions on earth after his fall from heaven.
Satan falls to earth and is given the key to the bottomless pit. That being the case, we need to ask a vitally important question: Who gives Satan that key? If you believe God does so, then let me ask a few more questions: Didn’t God send Jesus to destroy the works of Satan? (1 John 3:8) Does God’s Sovereignty allow Him to network with Satan? If so what does that say about God's Holiness? James 1:13 declares God tempts no one with evil. If God gives Satan a key whereby he releases evil on this earth, would that not be tempting us with evil? Does God work against Himself and what He sent Jesus to do? Does God use Satan as a hit man against us? Does God network with Satan? If He does, that would make God's kingdom a divided kingdom. According to Matthew 12:25 such a kingdom will collapse. Would a God that loves the world so much that He gave His own Son to die for that world also give Satan the power to release evil into that world? Tell me would such action be love or abuse?
In my opinion a theology that holds to the idea that God uses Satan to reek havoc on this earth, is a distorted theology. Such a theology illustrates the truth presented by the fourth trumpet. It is a theology whose light is diminished by one third. Such a theology reveals how we like Adam blame God for our circumstances instead of taking responsibility for our actions, or lack of action. (That statement will become clearer as we look at who gives Satan the key to the bottomless pit.)
The Greek text suggests that Satan is given the key on earth, not in heaven. A literal rendering of the phrase is: “and I saw a star out of heaven fallen to the earth.” John’s words indicate that the star had already fallen to earth when he receives the key. So the text suggests that someone on earth gives Satan that key.
To fully understand who gave Satan the key we must look at the Churches position in Jesus Christ. In Christ we are made both kings and priests. (Rev. 5:10) We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17 see also Gal.3:29; Titus 3:7) It is the distinct teaching of Paul in Galatians 4:1-7 that this is our inheritance with the advent of Jesus Christ. For in Christ God no longer looks upon us as servants but sons. Because we are sons we are heirs with Christ.
In seminary these passages would generate lively discussions concerning "realized eschatology".
“Surely Paul wasn't concluding that we are heirs in the here and now?"
“Is Paul suggesting that God's kingdom is already here?"
“Do we have a kingdom without The King?”
The usual explanation was that Paul wrote as if it were so, because he saw it as real.
However Paul's "realized eschatology" is in fact presented as such because that is the true and rightful position of the Church. We are heirs here and now, if we aren't heirs right now then we aren't sons, and if we aren't sons then Jesus was not the Christ! The point of the gospels is that the kingdom came with the coming of Jesus Christ. Yes He came as the Lamb of God, and it is because He came as the Lamb that He has prevailed as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. (Rev. 5:5) Thus it is the Lamb that makes the kingdom of God reality on earth. His work as the Lamb, caused God to declare Him to be both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
To understand the significance of the Churches position, we must understand the significance of the term “Christ”! (Kenneth Copeland has some good teaching on this subject: <www.kcm.org>) “Christ” means to be anointed. Paul’s theme in Ephesians explicitly declares that we are "in Christ" i.e. we are in the anointed, and the anointing is in us. 1 John 4:17 speaks about being made perfect in love in order that we might have boldness in the day of judgement. Then John tells us why we can and should have that boldness: "Because as He is, so are we in this world."
That statement is one of the most profound and powerful statements of the New Testament. John makes the statement in the third person. However if you believe in verbal inspiration it should be understood in the first person. So Jesus tells us: “As I AM so are you in this world” Jesus couldn’t spell it out any clearer. Church you are the “I am” on this earth. Let me state it another way: Jesus is King and He has given us the authority of kings on this earth. Revelation 19:16 speaks of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. The truth of that declaration is that we are to be the kings, and lords that He is coming to be King over. The Church is designated to have the authority to bind or to loose on this earth. We have the keys to the kingdom. (Matt. 16:18,19; 18:18 - 20 and Mark 16:17,18) According to Acts 2:36 Jesus was made both Lord and Christ by the act of the resurrection. It then follows that the Churches position as joint heir with Christ took effect at that same time. (Heb.9:16&17) Therefore our position as heirs with Christ makes us the designated anointed ones on this earth. That designation gives us a far superior position to Adam.
What did we do with that position and authority? Like Adam we allowed Satan to deceive us and keep us from exercising that authority. The unveiling of the seals and the first four trumpets show us just how Satan was allowed to spoil and divert the Churches vision. So it was the Church – those who are to be followers and imitators of Christ - who allowed Satan to deceive and rob her of her rights, privileges and authority. By doing so the Church gave Satan the key to the bottomless pit.
From this pit Satan releases every evil imaginable. John sees this evil as the smoke from a great furnace. Out of this smoke come locusts, which have scorpion like abilities. They are commanded not to hurt the grass, nor any green thing, nor any tree. They are however given the right to hurt the men who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads. The duration of this hurting is said to be five months. The pain inflicted is like a scorpions sting, and it causes men to seek death, but death will not be found.
To better understand what John is describing let us investigate some of the details that John gives. Notice that John's description of these locusts uses the words "as" or "like" repeatedly. Their shape is like horses, with heads that seemed to have crowns of gold, their faces are like men’s faces, they have hair like women, teeth like lions, breastplates like iron, and the sound of their wings is like chariots and horses rushing into battle. Very obviously these aren’t literal locusts. The only word that accurately encapsulates their description is the word ‘distortion”.
They have a king over them, he is "the angel of the bottomless pit." This king is given a name in both Greek and Hebrew, which means Destroyer. Since the king of the locusts is called destroyer, we know the intention of the hurting stings. The hurt these locusts inflict causes torment. A torment that causes those inflicted to want to die. They seek death instead of life, the ultimate distortion.
What is the venom that men are inflicted with that would cause them to seek death instead of life? We can identify the venom by identifying the creature that injects it. Since the only word that accurately describes the locusts is: “Distortion”; it follows that the venom injected is distortion. Satan is the master of distortion: the father of lies, and he will always endeavor to distort the truth. He did so in the garden by suggesting to Eve that the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil would be beneficial to her. But for man to experience both good and evil is deadly. With the release of the locusts from the bottomless pit, Satan brings man into experiencing the ultimate distortions of good and evil. What did Satan use to bring about this ultimate distortion?
In the mid 1700's an industrial revolution began in England and spread outward to the world. After 150 years, (5 months times 30 days in a month = 150 days, remember; one day equals a year, thus 150 years.) the attitudes and thinking developed during this revolution was firmly entrenched in society. Some historians see it as good, others see many of the aspects of the revolution as evil.
The industrial revolution brought the world into a new era of riches. Manufacturing left the personable domestic surroundings of the family operated business, and moved into the huge impersonal factories. This gave society access to products and goods that a few years previous were only a dream. So how could something that gave society such great material wealth also be seen as evil?
John specifically notes that the locusts torment was limited to the men of the earth, those who did not have the seal of God. The locusts were commanded not to hurt the trees, grass, or any greenery. So nationalism, and all of societies industrial advances were not under attack. Only individuals that did not have Gods protection were under attack. During the 150 years of the industrial revolution man came into a new era of creativeness, and productivity. Satan did not attack this creativeness or the productivity, instead he tormented individuals in the area of their interpersonal relations. He distorted their faith in each other and in God. A distortion that took society down the path of spiritual death.
The small domestic family businesses of the previous era perpetuated personal relationships. The huge factories played down the personal relationships between employer and employee. As a result the employer did not take a personal interest in the needs of his employees. Factory owners became wealthy while their employees where often taken advantage of. Long hours of work and low wages were the order of the day. The factory owners usurped the rights of the laborer who was deemed to have no rights. Thus in spite of the blessings of new goods and services, the industrial revolution allowed and supported the exploitation of man by man. Such exploitation is destructive.
Even worse was the use of forced child labor, and slave labor to drive the wheels of this revolution. These were the practices of a civilized, so called Christian society. The creations of wood, hay and stubble, and the system that maintained them; became all important. Man became dispensable, and secondary to the structures of wood, hay and stubble. Society had been stung. The pursuit of material wealth was a venom that devastated deep spiritual relationships like nothing else ever had.
John tells us that torment drove man to seek death. Contemporary with this industrial revolution came new ideas in all the fields of human endeavor. The arts, sciences, humanities and theology exploded with a search for the new and different. In the field of science Darwin's suggestion that man was not created by God, gained wide acceptance. Of course this affected theological thinking and led to a loss of faith. Spiritually many theologians allowed their faith to die, and actively proclaimed it from their pulpits. A persons worth, status, and position in life was now determined by their job, what they could produce for their employer. God's view and value of the individual as His created being was ignored. Interpersonal relations where spiralling downward. Spiritual well being was also at a decline. In seemed like the destroyer was winning. Society actively sought for death, but John said "death shall flee from them”.
God's desire and purpose is to redeem, so He will not allow the mistakes we have made to do us in. God is continuing to send us repeated revival movements in this sixth seal period. Death is being forced to flee from us. Many may proclaim that "God is dead" but where such a philosophy abounds: God's grace abounds even more, and will continue to intensify, because we live in the period of the passion of the Lamb.
Yes, with the second woe things get worse. However God's intention for the Church was that she be victorious. She began seated on a white horse, she was given a crown and a bow, and was sent forth to conquer. She will conquer and be victorious. The gates of hell shall not prevail against her. God predestinated you to be part of that victorious Church. Now is the time for you to fulfil your mission and for the Church to fulfill her mandate.
The second woe
We find the second woe in
Revelation 9:13-21. It is also the sixth trumpet and it describes military
activity. Dispensational theology sees this as military activity
yet to come, and projects it to be the battle of Armageddon. As we study
the text we will see it as activity which has already taken place. More
importantly the text also tells us exactly how Jesus views societies military
activity. Nevertheless, that activity is the result of being stung by the
scorpions of distortion. Let us examine the words of John.
John tells us that when the sixth angel sounded there was a voice from the golden altar which told the sixth angel to loose four angels which were bound in the great river Euphrates.
The voice from the altar would indicate that this has something to do with what man desires. For according to Revelation 8:3 the golden altar is where the prays of the saints are offered up to God. Combining this with Hebrews 1:14, which tells us that angels are our ministers, would indicate that this seventh angel is releasing to man what he desires. The angel releases four messengers bound in the Euphrates river. The Euphrates river stands for civilization. The four messengers released from this river are the four messengers of modern civilization. These messengers can be named as: education, industry, commerce, and technology. All brought to the fore by the industrial revolution.
We have already seen from the opening of the first four seals that societies four major disciplines did not glorify God. Society rejected the burning mountain - the gospel. As a result she opened herself to the locusts of distortion. With such a platform, and track record, what kind of a society will these messengers of civilization develop?
John says the messengers were "prepared for an hour, a day, a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men". It is the ultimate irony: the messengers of civilization where used by society to deliberately and methodically develop a means of global destruction. Obviously the venom from the scorpions of distortion was taking effect. Society was being driven by the destroyer. Humanities planned and methodical self inflicted destruction is pin pointed by John to be "an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year." Modern civilizations military battles carry these very distinctions. The most destructive weapon of modern civilizations making is so marked: August 6, 1945 at 8:16 a.m. the first atomic bomb obliterated Hiroshima. Three days later Nagasaki was demolished by the same type of weapon.
The weapons used by modern civilization demand preparation. They require all the messengers of civilization to manufacture, as well as to use them. However we didn’t stop there. We appealed to the major disciplines to justify their use. For example we employed our theological discipline to bring ourselves to the place of using them against our fellow man. Without the misuse of our disciplines it would have been impossible for man to develop and use the self destructive weapons that he had produced. Then we blame God for not stopping the atrocities we inflict on each other. Is God responsible and to blame for how we use the angels of civilization and the four major disciplines? Is it possible that there is someone else behind our desire to destroy ourselves? We will answer those questions shortly. But first let us consider what else John tells us about our methods of modern warfare.
John hears the number of the army as being two hundred million. Dispensational theology looks for one particular nation that could field such an army. The assumption being that there is one nation out there that is evil and wicked beyond any other. However scripture clearly states: “we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) So our enemy is not anyone of the human race. To look for one nation to field such an army will not help us to understand this scripture. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. So in Revelation He addresses society on a global level.
We have viewed certain nations or races as pagan, evil, and barbaric, while assuming that our own nation is righteous and civilized. Such a position of judgement causes us to justify our actions against the nation or people that we see as evil. Since they are thus judged we see our actions against them as righteous. We thus consider the destruction of such a person, people or race as fulfilling the purpose of God. This is the very premise that has given us as humans a theological excuse for using the weapons we developed. Undoubtedly such thinking is the result of being stung by the locusts of distortion.
Revelation does not support such a position. Killing people in order to curb evil only perpetuates evil. Scripture concludes that we are all to blame for the evils of the world: " All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way". (Isa. 53:6) Paul’s theology is clear: both Jews and Gentiles – a nation chosen by God as well as all other nations - are under sin. (Rom. 3:9) "There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." (Rom. 3:10,11) Go ahead read Romans 3 verses 12 to 20; there is no getting around it, we must conclude with Paul: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23)
Now it is because of this condition, that God sent His Son to die for the sins of the world. But as we have seen in the opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets society rejected God's provision and went their own way. Since we did so Jesus presents us with a portrait of ourselves, from His perspective. That picture is of the world – globally - in military conflict with a fielded army of two hundred million soldiers. World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 20, estimates the number of mobilized men of World Wars One and Two at over one hundred and fifty million. If you added to that the soldiers of the Korean conflict and Desert Storm, would that bring it to two hundred million? I think the point is indisputable: so called civilized society used the four disciplines and the messengers of civilization to field an army of 200 million. Then that same society used that army for mass destruction. Ironically we justified that destruction as right and proper, after all without it we wouldn't enjoy our present freedom.
John's description of the horses of battle must be abstract; for it is the fire, smoke and brimstone that issues from their mouth which kills. By this John indicates that it is the machinery of war that produces the wide spread death. Never having seen a rifle fired, a mortar launched, or the blast of an atomic bomb, John's description couldn't be more accurate of present day warfare. John calls the fire, smoke, and brimstone, plaques. Only those of us living in the aftermath of two world wars, and especially the use of atomic bombs, know how accurate John's description is.
In verse 19 John states: "For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt." It is of interest that John speaks of the horses tails as being like serpents, then specifies that they had heads with which they hurt. The word hurt is the same word as in Revelation 7:2. If you recall the word means to do wrong; morally, socially and physically. Thus this verse along with verse 20 clearly spells out where man's own messengers of civilization, and his major disciplines have taken him. Our manufacture and use of war machinery is serpent like. Its use does not bless us, it hurts us, morally, socially, and physically. By using those weapons we have sided with the Destroyer.
Verse 20 gives us Jesus' indictment of our war crazed society. In spite of the vast multitudes that have been killed by warfare, those of us who have remained alive have not repented of our works. Note it: warfare is not of God: it is a work of “our hands”. Warfare is how we as humans think we solve problems. However warfare doesn't solve our problems - it only increases them; because warfare hurts us in the full meaning of that word. Remember: the abused becomes an abuser!
Not only does the text tell us warfare is a work of our hands, it is also the worship of devils. Mark it and note it, it is not God's will or desire for us to be involved in modern warfare. To be so involved is to worship devils, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood. The Lamb showed us how much God values humanity, but we have turned away from God’s view and values. Have you ever heard a war vet talk about the glorious blessings of warfare? Yet we continue to propagate such action and in fact proclaim that it is God ordained.
In light of this verse what do we do with our present theological position on war? I grew up being taught the futuristic view of Revelation, which holds that Revelation predicts "The Battle of Armageddon". Dispensational theology proclaimes this battle to be in God's plan, and by it He will end all battles. Sounds a bit like our World War propaganda "the war to end all wars!" (Can you bring war to an end with a war?) Let us be realistic! If war is the worship of devils, that statement could rightfully be restated as "the worship of devils to end the worship of devils". It doesn't take a genius to realize that the statement is self contradictory. War can't end war! Would God use devil worship to end devil worship? I ask the question to point out the absurdity of our theology concerning the battle of Armageddon.
John has made it clear that warfare serves the Devil, not God. God's kingdom does not network with Satan. If there is a World War Three be assured it is not of God, nor will it serve God's purposes. All military battles on this earth exploit mans inhumanity to man. Exploitation that John names as the worship of devils, and the attending idols of gold, and silver.
The time has come for the Church to repent! We have no right to propagate warfare under any circumstances, even “just war tradition”. Revelation 9:21 is clear, to endorse war is to endorse murders, sorcery, fornication and thefts. Arguing for a just war is to be in league with these acts of evil. By arguing for just war we fornicate the truth.
The kind of God that we worship is the kind of people we become. The very fact that we entertain just war tradition, in theological circles, indicates what kind of a God we believe in. So our theology is an indictment against us. We are literally trying to destroy ourselves. And we are using the messengers of civilization as well as our four major disciplines to justify our action. Let us never forget: it wasn't a so called pagan civilization that produced and used the Atomic bomb! Did we repent? Obviously not! For we went to war again. Desert Storm, and the resent NATO bombing of Kosovo are the most resent examples of our not having repented.
Now those are strong words but it needs to be said. However in spite of our ills, God is not against us. For God is Love. God is for us and that is why He sent us Jesus. Jesus is not only an example of Love to the world, but He became the ultimate sacrifice of Love in His death for all of us. Our rejection of that provision and example put us on a path that led away from God and life. True the messengers of civilization brought us into unprecedented accomplishments. However those same messengers prepared the way for the worship of the Devil and his idols. Instead of calling us to repentance, our theology helped us excuse our actions. Our acts of inhumanity to man are perceived and excused as necessary for the survival of nationalism and our cultural freedoms.
So it’s not God that promotes war, we do! We choose our actions and conduct according to what we believe - our philosophies of life. Never once do we stop to think that our philosophies are distorted! Given the opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets, shows us that our belief systems need drastic changes if we are going to survive. We had better pay attention to what Jesus Christ has revealed to us in Revelation. Our survival depends on it. This sixth angel calls all of us to repentance. Remember: it is not the ones with the sophisticated military hardware that inherit the earth, it is the meek that inherit the earth. (Matt.5:5)