Jairus means "God gives light" or "Receiving light". In Mark Chapter 5, Jesus heals his daughter. Jesus told him "Do not be afraid -- only believe." What an encouragement! Jairus Bible World Ministry is birthed in the heart of God to heal the sick and share the pain of the world and preach Gospel of Jesus to the lost and share the light in the Word of God to help Christians to grow in life as well.
Friday Aug 04, 2023
Friday Aug 04, 2023
Friday Aug 04, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus - Revelation 12
The Body of Christ Matures
Revelation 12 depicts a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, being crowned with twelve stars (12:1). This represents the body of Christ, the mature bride. This woman is the wife of the Lamb and represents the New Jerusalem (21:9-10).
When the Bible depicts God in anthropomorphic terms, it mentions that heaven is his throne, and earth is his footstool (Isaiah 66:1). This is a description of God's greatness and His magnificent stature. In Revelation 12, the body of Christ (the bride) has grown into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 ESV) and is mature enough to open heaven, enter God’s heavenly temple, usher in the exaltation of the heavenly ark, and bring about the judgment of God (Revelation 11:19). In chapter 12, the body of Christ (represented by the woman) gives birth to a male child (overcoming believers) who will further judge Satan and evil spirits on behalf of the church. Chapter 12 thus becomes an important turning point in the book of Revelation.
This chapter is important for several reasons. First, Satan is so angry that he tries to devour the boy and persecute the rest of the woman's children, which ushers in the apocalypse of the last three and a half years of Revelation. Second, as the bride continues to mature, the labor pains of the rebirth of the universe continue to intensify, birthing the first fruits (the male child). This means the creation and construction of God's new universe (new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem) will soon be complete, and Satan's ultimate failure will soon come to pass. Just as the Israelites exterminated and judged the Amorites after their sinfulness reached its full measure, the church will judge Satan on God’s behalf once his sins reach their full measure. Just as the body of Christ grows into Christ who is the Head, Satan and his followers will grow into their full measure of sin.
The great red dragon mentioned in this chapter is the ancient serpent who constantly drinks the blood of the saints. Riding the red dragon is the great prostitute, also known as Babylon the Great, who is also drunk on the blood of the saints and of Jesus' witnesses. Babylon the great is the mother of prostitutes and earth’s abominations (17:5-6), while the mother of the saints is the heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26), and this new Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9). Satan is the father of sinners (John 8:44), and God is our heavenly Father. The union between sinners and evil spirits, who take Satan as their life, produces Babylon the Great, who becomes the mother of earth’s abominations. On the other hand, the union between God and men who take the life of Christ produces the body of Christ and the bride, who becomes the spiritual mother of all new creation.
After a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, the pupa no longer exists and the cocoon loses its value. In the same way, the whole creation awaits the manifestation of God's sons (Romans 8:19) so it can be freed from its bondage to corruption and obtain the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:20). Once these birth pains are over (Matthew 24:8) and a new creation is born, the old creation shall pass away. This new creation consists of:
- Christ being the head and the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15)
- Christ's church being the bride and His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23)
- All things reaching freedom and unity with Christ who is the Head.
- God being all in all. "When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28). “… one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).
The Iniquity of the Amorites Mirrors Satan’s Iniquity
The story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and conquering the Canaanites in the Promised Land can help us understand the Book of Revelation. God revealed to Abraham that his descendants would live in slavery in Egypt for 400 years (Genesis 15). Why? Even though God had promised to give Abraham the land of Canaan, there were a few reasons why they could not yet occupy it. First, God explicitly told Abraham that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). God was giving the Amorites an opportunity to repent. Second, God was giving the Israelites the opportunity to multiply in Egypt so that they could grow in strength, maturity, productivity, and rest. When Simeon and Levi killed the people of Shechem, Jacob said that they were outnumbered and that they would be exterminated by the Canaanites. It seems they were not yet strong enough to destroy the Canaanites. When Abraham’s family moved to Egypt, there were only seventy Israelites. But in Egypt, they grew in number and in strength. By the time they left Egypt, the population of Israelites has grown to three million.
Although God gave the Amorites opportunities to repent, God knew that Satan would not repent, even when given time. Yet God still allowed Satan’s iniquity to reach its full measure before he was punished. For Satan, the evil spirits, and the sinners who follow them, a time will come when their iniquities reach full measure.
Satan is full of sin and bloodshed. The Lord Jesus says that Satan is a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) and that "the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). Satan's hands are stained with the blood of saints and mankind. The same goes for the evil spirits and sinners who follow Him. At the end of Revelation 14, angels harvest grapes with sickles and throw them into the great winepress of God's wrath, and blood actually flows from the winepress, as high as the horses’ bridles for 300 kilometers (Revelation 14:19-20). This indicates how many they have killed. Babylon the Great is also filled with the blood of the saints (Revelation 17:6). These passages prove Satan’s wickedness.
Just as God uses the Israelites to judge the seven tribes of Canaan, God will use us to judge evil spirits. Strictly speaking, we are not the judge. God is the judge, and we just carry out the judgment. In order to carry out God's judgment, we must be mature enough, just as the Israelites had to grow in strength before they could carry out God's judgment on the Canaanites. Christ’s body must mature in order to ultimately carry out God's judgment on Satan and the evil spirits.
But is today’s church mature enough to carry out the final judgment on Satan and evil spirits? Can we even cast out the demons that live among believers? Or are we like the seven sons of the Jewish priest Sceva? When they tried to cast out demons, the demons said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" (Acts 19:15) The demons then attacked and wounded the sons of Sceva. Many modern-day churches cannot drive out demons because they are possessed by them. Many people in the world are possessed by demons, yet the church is powerless to help.
In the Bible, Jesus’ disciples tried to cast out a mute spirit, but they couldn’t. When they asked Jesus why it was so difficult, he said that this type of demon could not be cast out except through fasting and prayer. Only mature believers can cast out evil spirits. If the church today can't even cast out demons, how can we be mature enough to judge Satan and evil spirits? The church’s judgment on Satan and the evil spirits will be a large-scale exorcism. This means the church must increase in spiritual authority as we grow into Christ who is the Head. Only then will we be able to carry out God’s judgment.
We must learn from the Israelites' experience in Egypt and the wilderness. This will not only help us grow and multiply, but also help us learn the lessons of faith. Like Israel in Egypt, we must grow and multiply through suffering as we become firmly rooted in Christ. Like Israel in the wilderness, we must receive spiritual provision (manna) and draw near to the presence of God (the Ark of the Covenant). Just like the Israelites needed to break free from Egyptian influences and stop yearning for chives, garlic, green onions, cucumbers and watermelons, and fish, we must break free from past influences. In addition, we need to learn the lessons of faith. The first generation of Israelites was destroyed in the wilderness for their disbelief and disobedience, but the second generation entered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership and defeated the enemy. In the same way, the church today must overcome sin (foreshadowed by Egypt), and the world (foreshadowed by the wilderness), so it can enter the triumph of the spiritual life (foreshadowed by the conquest of the land of Canaan). As it goes through this three-step process, it will mature enough to judge Satan, angels, and demons.
Satan often tries to incite us to do things we are not yet prepared for. Satan will provoke us to come fight him when it is not yet time. This was the case with Moses. God did call Moses to be the leader of the Israelites and to save them from slavery. But he fell for Satan’s tricks and took action before it was God’s time. He acted prematurely and killed an Egyptian in his flesh. Because of this, Moses was forced to flee to the wilderness, where he herded sheep for 40 years. It was while shepherding in the wilderness that he encountered the burning bush, which was the manifestation of God’s presence. God’s presence took root in his life.
We must learn from Israel’s 400 years in Egypt and Moses’ 40 years in the desert. During these times of exile, we must take the opportunity to root ourselves deeply in Christ, draw from his strength and nourishment, grow into the temple of the Lord, and grow into Christ who is the Head. The church must mature in grace, power, life, and authority so it can finally carry out God’s judgment on Satan.
In summary, we are waiting for the Lord to come back. But Jesus is also waiting for our lives to mature so he can return.
A Woman Clothed with the Sun, With the Moon Under Her Feet, and on Her Head a Crown of Twelve Stars
Who is this woman? Some say it is Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. Some say that it is the bride of Christ (Revelation 19) and the wife of the Lamb (Revelation 21). First, let us examine the idea that the woman is Mary and the male child she gives birth to is Christ. This explanation seems to make sense. The passage seems to portray what was happening in the spiritual world when Jesus Christ was born. But there are some flaws with this explanation. After the boy is born, he is caught up to the throne of God (12:5). But the woman flees to the wilderness, where she is fed for 1,260 days, or three and a half years. The concept of three and a half years is a prophetic period of time mentioned throughout Revelation and Daniel.
- Revelation 13 mentions that the first beast is allowed to do whatever he pleases for forty-two months (13:5), or three and a half years.
- Revelation 11 says the outside court would be trampled by Gentiles for 42 months (11:2).
- The two witnesses prophesy for 1260 days, which is three and a half years.
- Daniel mentions seventy sevens: “Know therefore and understand thatfrom the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again…" (Daniel 9:25)
- "And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shallbe cut off…" (9:26)
- Daniel speaks of the Antichrist and says, "And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering." (9:27).
In other words, these passages all mention three and a half years, which are the first half of the last seven years prophesied by Daniel, while the three mentioned earlier are the latter half. So the three and a half years that this woman is in the wilderness must refer to the end times. If this woman refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the wilderness she flees to refers to Egypt, then why does it reference the three and a half years, which are part of the last seven years during the end times of human history? Besides, if the boy is Christ, how can we explain that the woman flees into the wilderness after the boy is caught up to the throne of God (Revelation 12:4)? Although the dragon's attempt to devour the child can be interpreted as Satan seeking to kill the infant Christ, Joseph and Mary didn’t flee to Egypt after Jesus ascended to God’s throne after his resurrection. They fled when he was an infant.
The Bible talks about three stages of Satan’s rebellion. First, he and one-third of his rebellious followers were driven out of heaven by God. They went from the third heaven to the second heaven. Second, Lord Jesus speaks of Satan falling like lightning (Luke 10:18). Again, the Scripture says that Satan’s “tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth…" (12:4). It also says that " the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it" (12:4). "Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus…" (12:17). If the woman is Mary, then the dragon should be fighting with James and Jacob, the brothers of the Lord Jesus. But that is not the case. The rest of the woman's children are those who keep God's commandments and the testimony of Jesus. This indicates that the male child also keeps God's commandments and testimony of Jesus, which means he is not Jesus himself. Perhaps the boy represents the overcomers, martyrs, or raptured saints. In any case, they are the first fruits of overcomers.
Our Mother, the Heavenly Jerusalem
In any case, I believe the woman in the passage is not Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, but a spiritual mother who gives birth to many children. Paul makes it clear that our mother is the heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26). Paul compares the heavenly Jerusalem to Abraham’s wife Sarah and believers to Isaac. But he compares the earthly Jerusalem to Hagar, who "is in slavery with her children" (Galatians 4:25). Paul compares these two women to the Old and New Testaments. Hagar represents the Old Testament and the law that enslaves humankind. We as believers must go through the process of maturing. The law was a guardian for underage children (Galatians 3:24) who were guarded by the law because the gospel of faith had not yet come (Galatians 4:25). When God’s people were children, they were not yet free. Paul says, "The heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything" (Galatians 4:1). But God sent Christ to "… send the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God" (Galatians 4:6–7). God wants the church to mature into the glorious freedom of Jesus Christ, so that the glory of God's sons may be revealed. Then the entire creation will be set free (Romans 8:21). It is a process of being born again, growing up, and maturing.
Romans 8:16-17 says, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” The Bible uses four Greek words for God’s “children” that depict different levels of spiritual maturity.
- The first one is "Nepios,” which depicts an infant. The infant child of a king cannot take the throne immediately; he must first grow up to maturity.
- The second word is "paidion," which means a young child or a toddler. Toddlers also need to grow up.
- The third one is “teknon,” which is used in Romans 8:17 for “children”. It means “teenager or a young adult.”
- The last one is “huios,” which is the word “sons” in Romans 8:14. This verse says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
These four Greek words show the growth curve of children of God from infants (Nepios) to toddlers (paidion) to young adults (teknon) to fully mature sons (huios). God desires the body of Christ to grow to its full maturity so all creation can be liberated from its bondage. This is exactly what is happening in Revelation 12.
Revelation 12 is the turning point in the book of Revelation. Before long, God will do away with the old creation and welcome a new heaven and a new earth. I don’t believe this passage is talking about Christ being born, but about God’s sons being glorified. The birth, death, and resurrection of Christ are complete, but His body, the church, is still going through the process of maturing. Their birth, suffering, and rebirth mirror Christ’s suffering and usher in the rebirth of the universe that Jesus refers to in Matthew 24. And the bride of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem, will be the mother of the new creation.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
The Spiritual Warfare Behind the Closedown of GTV
“What? Are you crazy?” I replied with anger and puzzlement when my wife told me she wanted to “invest” a large amount of money in the GTV Group and other entities. This happened one night in early 2021 or late 2020. The GTV Group and other entities were promoted by Miles Guo and the Whistleblower Movement he started in 2017.
“Isn’t it obvious it’s a scam?” I said in my heart. Later, I asked my wife the same question. In my mind, there were many reasons not to pursue this investment. First, I had encountered many financial scams in China that claimed a large and quick return on investment but later turned out to be scams. My parents and one of my aunts were personally affected by these scams. Second, as a journalist, I had reported on many stories of scams and frauds. Third, I was busy with my Doctor of Ministry studies at United Theological Seminary, where I was preparing myself for the ministry God had called me to. God had revealed to me through many prophetic dreams that a great revival was coming to China, and he had called me to be a part of this greatest revival on earth. I didn’t want to be a part of any political movements or controversial movements that might hinder me from traveling freely back to China to participate in this movement.
But even though I saw many reasons to avoid this investment, my wife was adamant that we should move ahead. She even threatened to do it on her own if I refused. Through years of experience in marriage, I knew if she wanted to do something, I should pay attention. It may be something very important. I am a naturally stubborn person, but I had learned that God often speaks to us through people in our lives—our friends, our neighbors, and especially our wives. While I was taking my Christian Prophetic Certification Program (CPCP) at Global Awakening, a ministry founded by Randy Clark, one of the prophetic teachers emphasized this very point. He jokingly said that he had read a book titled, I Heard the Holy Spirit, But it Sounded like My Wife. So I had learned the importance of listening to my wife. From experience, I realized that God often stirred my wife’s heart to do something I did not yet understand.
So now, as I contemplated investing in GTV, I decided to ask God directly. As a “humble” servant of God, I asked God, “Am I wrong? Or is she deceived by Mile Guo and his movement?” My wife had been following Miles Guo’s movement for some months, but I had not been paying any attention to the movement. Guo is a controversial person and I had heard rumors about him. I’d heard that his live interview at VOA was shut down in 2017, as well as other rumors. But I paid very little attention to him, even though God gave me two prophetic dreams about Miles Guo in 2017 and 2019. In the first dream in 2017, I was a reporter who was reporting on a news story related to him. In the second dream in 2019, God gave me a book with Miles Guo’s picture on the cover. I wrote these prophetic dreams in my journal but never paid attention to these dreams.
God’s Providence For My Calling in Gospel
My argument with my wife grew even more intense. She was so adamant and refused to change. When I brought the question to God, I knelt to pray for God’s leading. “Am I wrong or is she deceived?” I asked. That night, or soon after, I had this prophetic dream.
I was taken to Miles Guo’s library, and I was led to read a comic book telling about how people will get to heaven. It was a vivid comic book with details about different individuals arriving in heaven. As I scanned through it, I heard a voice saying, “Your wife has read some pages of this book and you haven’t read it.”
In another dream, I was riding an airplane with Miles Guo to beautiful gold mines. In a different dream, I was conversing with this mystery man and realized God was writing a book with Miles Guo’s picture on the cover, as I mentioned earlier. In this dream, I clearly saw the name of this book, Heaven’s Quest (天问). I had the strong impression that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit had decided to write a new book about China.
After praying over these dreams, I finally got it. God was telling me He was behind this political movement and that this political movement would give Christians a platform for preaching the gospel to China. Gospel preaching would then produce better citizens in China, which would eventually help this political movement establish a democracy in China. At last, I decided to join this movement. I started to utilize the platforms this movement provided to preach the gospel to these democracy-loving people inside and outside of China.
God Revealed to Me that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Is Coming Down
In March 2020, I was given another vision. This was the most vivid, three-dimensional vision I had ever had. In it, I saw a great revival taking place in China. The revival was bursting out everywhere! People were dancing, celebrating, and worshiping God all over the streets of China.
In the next scene, I was brought into a heavenly meeting where many saints in glory, including Chinese and Westerners, were meeting. There was a Chinese lady who gave me a tour of the place and she specifically told me that this revival was something she had never seen when she was on Earth.
In the end, the angels bound an evil political spirit. I realized that after the great revival, a great political change would come to China. China would become a democratic nation and they would worship God.
In that dream, I was so surprised to see the evil political spirit bound. I asked the angel in great surprise, “Is this the CCP?” The angel told me, “Yes.” Now, I don’t quite know when this will happen in the present physical world, but I believe it is a reality in the spiritual realm. I’ve talked to a friend who believes that the CCP will be taken down very soon. However, in this dream, I first saw a great revival bursting forth with people dancing on the street. Only then was the evil spirit bound.
God’s Revival vs. Satan’s Plan to Stop It
Even though I didn’t know many details about GTV Group and how it was run, I agreed to invest in it since God had revealed to me that this movement was of Him and could become a platform for me to preach the Gospel. So I uploaded all my preaching and sermons onto this platform. But soon afterward, GTV was suddenly closed down. I didn’t know why it was shut down and continued hoping that a new version of GTV would be released shortly. But it never was. As a result, I gradually moved my preaching onto the Gettr platform. I began to preach and volunteer on other shows including News Talk.
In the meantime, one of my close friends at church showed genuine concern that I had joined the Whistleblower Movement (New Federal State of China). He asked me to pray more and consider whether I had been misled. So I once again asked for God’s confirmation. As I prayed, God gave me another prophetic dream. In this dream, I was clearly shown that many Chinese officials will be converted via our broadcasts. In the dream, these officials held a large tent meeting to celebrate their conversion and show appreciation to Jesus Christ who saved them. As I walked into various tents, I marveled at the size of these tents and the number of people inside them. They were all like the tax collector Matthew in the Bible, full of gratitude for their salvation!
Through countless prophetic encounters with God, I became convinced that the Whistleblower Movement is of God and that platforms such as GTV exist for the purpose of taking down the CCP and spreading the gospel. So I believe there is a spiritual battle behind the closedown of GTV. Outwardly, it may involve compliance with regulations, but spiritually it is about the regime change and the revival coming to China. Satan is trying to utilize some Americans who do not understand this to stop the revival coming to China. I urge the Christian brothers and sisters in America to pray and ask God for guidance on this. I urge them to help the Chinese people to receive the Gospel. In the past, missionaries from the West traveled all the way to China to reach people with the good news of the gospel. But now God has raised up a generation of Chinese Christians that he is using to turn China upside down. Like any movement in history, it may be controversial. But God clearly showed me he is behind this. People in this movement may not be perfect, but God will use imperfect people and even non-believers to carry out His perfect plan.
Please check out my website jbwm.org for more stories on God’s revelation to me regarding the revival of China. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I urge you to help us to awaken the American people for the right cause!
Your dear brother,
 Please check my testimonies and prophetic dreams at www.jbwm.org.
 Please see my prophetic dream, https://jbwm.org/dreams-about-china/.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 10
The Mighty Angel Strengthens Churches that Go Through Birth Pangs
After the sixth seal judgment, God sends an encouraging vision to those who have endured the six seal judgments. The encouraging vision helps them see the positive things God is doing in the spiritual world, including the mass salvation of the Jews and Gentiles. Similarly, God sent an encouraging vision after the sixth trumpet judgment, before the seventh judgment. Again, the vision helped people see the positive things God was doing in the world. This vision included a mighty angel that gave John a little scroll, which he ate. Since the judgments and trials were extremely harsh, God mercifully gave John two encouraging visions to share with others.
The number seven is a number of completion, foreshadowing God's complete plans. God created the world in six days, and on the seventh, he rested. When six days are over, the seventh brings in a new phase of peace. In the West, Sunday is the first day of the week. Jewish people observed the seventh day, Saturday, as their day of rest. Similarly, the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet each ushered in a new stage of God’s work. After the seventh seal, God's judgment of the church was complete, and He pivoted to judging the world with the seven trumpets. With the seventh trumpet, God completed his judgment of the world and began to judge evil spirits. God accomplished the phases of his plan one at a time, leading to the finale, the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.
The vision right before the seventh trumpet reveals an important proclamation from the angel: “…there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7). What is God’s mystery? It is to unite the Jews and Gentiles into a unified bride of Christ. Revelation 19 clearly states that Christ and His bride will have a wedding feast. Revelation 12 tells how the bride gives birth to a newborn male child who eventually will judge evil spirits.
The angel “swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it” (10:6). This verse proves that the purpose of the seventh trumpet is to judge the world and everything in it. When the seventh trumpet judgment arrives, the focus of God's judgment at this time will turn to the evil spirits. He will judge them through the bowl judgments. Now that the bride has been created and her male child has been born, they will judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3). The judges must take their places. This is why God gives John the little scroll to eat, so he can “prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” He is calling the bride of Christ to take her place so that the male child may be born and the evil spirits may be judged. God's judgment on the church (as revealed in the seven letters to the churches and the seven seals) and on the world (as revealed in the seven trumpets) will usher in God's judgment on the evil spirits (as revealed in the seven bowl judgments). Then the dragon will appear in Revelation 12, and the beast in Chapter 13. They will deceive people to continue rebelling against God. However, this is their last struggle. God will judge all evil spirits, including them.
The Holy Spirit Judges the Church, the World, and the Evil Spirits.
As I have said before, it’s important to look at the overarching ideas in Revelation, not just the details. For example, in Revelation 10, many people pay attention to the details: the mighty angel, the seven thunders, and the mysteries that the seven thunders utter. God tells John not to record the words of the seven thunders, but to seal them. This makes people even more curious. In addition, scholars have different interpretations of the seven thunders. What exactly are they? Some say they are the sounds of God's wrath; some say they are the voice of God that sounds like thunders; some people say the seven thunders are angels. We don't know. We have no clue what the seven thunders are or what they sounded like. But that's not the point here. The point is that God's judgment on the world is almost complete, and the next stage is about to begin. The next stage will usher in the birth of the male child. This child, who represents the overcomers birthed by Christ’s bride, will judge the evil spirits.
God’s judgment starts with the house of God. The letters to the seven churches are God’s judgment on His church. When the judgment is over, heaven opens and God starts to take action from His throne, revealing the seven seals. The seven seals continue to cleanse the church as well as the world. These judgments intertwine with one another, and their target is the church. The vision that takes place after the sixth seal describes the Jews being sealed and the Gentiles being saved. After the seven seals, the seven trumpets come along, continuing the judgment on the church. At the same time, the evil spirits (and the beast from the bottomless pit) show up to kill prophets (Revelation 11). The main target of the seven trumpets is the world. A massive wave of evil spirits comes out in Revelation 12 when the male child is about to be born. A great dragon (12:3), a beast (13:1), and another beast (13:11) come into the picture one by one. The male child by this time has been born and caught up to God and His throne (12:5). A war breaks out and the great dragon is thrown down (12:9). Why is the dragon not thrown down after the child is caught up, and not at another time? Because the overcomers are judging Satan. The church will judge the evil spirits, and the angels will carry out the judgments. Satan becomes even angrier when he is thrown to the ground, and he persecutes the woman and the rest of her children (12:17). This event begins a three-and-a-half-year tribulation.
All these events are allowed by God, for God specifically says that the outer court “is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (11:2). Instead of measuring this court, John is asked to “measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (11:1). This reveals the three stages of God's judgment that we have just mentioned. The three stages of God's judgment target the church, the world, and the evil spirits. In the same way, the measurement of the temple has three stages: first the temple and altar of God, and then those who worship in the temple. When John measures the temple, he most likely measures the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place (or sanctuary). But the Outer Court is not to be measured yet, because it has been given to the Gentiles. Measurement represents judgment and sanctification; God's judgment brings sanctification. The church is judged first, just as the temple is to be measured first. Next comes the judgment on the world, during which time some people in the world are saved. The evil spirits are the last to be judged, and more people repent and are sanctified during this time. But those who follow evil spirits and refuse to repent will be judged in the same way as the rebellious evil spirits. Finally, heaven and earth are cleansed, which is symbolized by the cleansing of the last courtyard.
The same principle applies to our personal spiritual experience. God first sanctifies and regenerates our spirits (John 3:16). He continues to renew our hearts and change our minds throughout our whole life (Romans 12:1). In the end our bodies are sanctified as well (Romans 8:23). This spiritual principle is clearly present in the structure of the book of Revelation. God's judgment begins with the house of God. Then comes the cleansing of the world, which includes heaven, earth, and the people in it. Finally, the evil spirits are judged, along with the old heaven and earth. Yet throughout the process, people are being saved because God shows His mercy at every step.
The Mystery of God Will No Longer Be Delayed
If we are clear about the structure above, it will be very easy to understand the vision in Revelation 10 and 11. The mighty angel in chapter 10, “wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire” (10:1), “had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land” (10:2). He then “called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring” (10:3). I was taught that this mighty angel was Jesus. But I’ve recently rethought what I’ve been taught. The Bible never says this angel is Jesus Christ. I personally believe this is just an angel whose job is to deliver a message announcing God's judgment and work!
God's judgment of the world has yielded considerable results. Just like a little chick pecking through its eggshell, the judgments have prepared the world for birth. The man-child will soon be born, and the universe will be reborn. Labor pains have been going on for some time, and as birth becomes imminent, the labor pains intensify. So the mighty angel comes to strengthen the church during such a difficult time. Angels appeared to Jesus several times during his earthly ministry, such as during his temptation in the wilderness and during his painful struggle in Gethsemane. “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). Similarly, this mighty angel has come to strengthen and encourage the church that is about to go through the most difficult labor pains of childbirth. When my wife gave birth to my daughter, she was in a lot of pain. I stood next to her and held her hand tightly. I constantly encouraged her and provided moral support. Similarly, this angel appears at just the right moment to encourage the church. He roars at the enemy like a lion. The church, Christ’s bride, will soon experience the fiercest attack of all (the three-and-a-half-year tribulation) so God sends a mighty angel to strengthen His church.
The seven thunders speak, but God does not allow John to write down their words. We can only speculate about what the seven thunders are saying. My guess is that the seven thunders are more disasters that will follow the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. However, it is not yet God’s time to send these seven thunder judgments. The man-child must first be born so God can judge evil spirits and cleanse the entire universe. After the seventh trumpet is blown, God’s wrath falls on the earth (Revelation 11:18). As the heavenly temple opens, the ark of the covenant appears, and there are earthquakes, thunder, and hail (11:19). Perhaps the thunder in this chapter is related to the seven thunders. But of course, this is just my speculation.
John is not allowed to record the words of the seven thunders, but he does record what the mighty angel says. The angel swears “by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay” (10:6). This oath is very interesting, especially because it is made between the sixth and seventh trumpet, when the labor pains and childbirth are about to begin. The entire universe is waiting in expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19). It’s as if the universe is expecting a baby! The church has matured to a stage where its birth can no longer be delayed. The mighty angel comes to support the bride in her pain, and he reports to God that the birth process is moving along productively. In addition, the mighty angel reports the good news to humans: “In the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7). After reporting the good news to God, the angel speaks words of encouragement to people.
John Eats the Scroll, Prophesies, and Summons the Bride to Judge Evil Spirits
Prophecies are words of encouragement. Paul says, “The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3). John also writes down the words of another angel: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). The spirit of prophecy is to bear witness for Jesus. In John’s vision, in addition to strengthening the church through the mighty angel, God Himself speaks words of comfort and encouragement.
John hears a voice from heaven that asks him to take the little scroll from the angel who is standing on the earth and the sea. John does so. The angel said, “It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey”. Why would the scroll be sweet in the mouth but bitter in the stomach? While people have different interpretations of this passage, my understanding is that prophetic words are sweet because they come from God's good will. But the process of fulfilling the prophecies is difficult because it involves birth pain and spiritual battles.
Let me give an example from my own life. In January 2016, I received a prophecy telling me that I would have a child that year. I had been praying for a child for ten years before I received this prophecy. When I returned to China in February, I told my family about this prophecy. Everyone laughed at me. After getting back to the United States, the struggle continued. On May 12, God again told me in a dream that I would conceive my child within the next month. After I told my wife and other friends about it, I was strongly attacked by Satan. My wife argued with me and refused to speak with me for two weeks. On May 28, my wife found out that she was miraculously pregnant, and we finally reconciled. The beautiful prophecies I received were sweet, but the birth difficulties and labor pains brought misery.
This is exactly what is happening in Revelation 10. The promises are sweet, but the process is difficult. The birth pangs that Christ's body will experience are much greater than what I went through. This is why the book in John's mouth was as sweet as honey, but it turned bitter in his stomach. The visual imagery describes the sweetness of hope and the bitterness of waiting for that hope to come to fruition.
This chapter concludes by saying, “And I was told, ‘You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings’” (10:11). Who gave John this message? Was it an angel? Once before, an angel has been said to speak from heaven. If the voice from heaven is the voice of the angel, then this interpretation is acceptable. But if the voice from heaven is the voice of God, then God and this mighty angel were the ones who gave John the message.
In any case, the point here is that John is going to prophesy. Just as Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones and they became a great army, John would prophesy to God's chosen people, especially the overcomers. His prophecy would call forth two great prophets (11:3-12), as well as other believers who would glorify God after the seven thousand deaths in the earthquake (11:13). When the seventh angel officially blows the trumpet, all heaven declares, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (11:15). This prophecy will directly prompt the birth of the male child in Revelation 12, which is a major turning point in the book of Revelation.
God's judgment in the world has produced positive results. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of Christ. The next step is for the bride and the overcomer to judge evil spirits on behalf of the church. Then God will cleanse the entire universe.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 11
The Maturity of the Church Opens up the Heavenly Temple and the Ark of the Covenant
Revelation 11 talks about John measuring the temple, the altar, and the worshipers. He does not measure the outer court, because it has been given to the Gentiles to trample for three-and-a-half years. The chapter also mentions two witnesses prophesying for three-and-a-half years. Are these two facts related? The three-and-a-half years in which the Gentiles trample the outer court are the last three-and-a-half years of the seven-year tribulation mentioned by Daniel in his vision. However, the three-and-a-half years when the two witnesses prophesy may be the first three-and-a-half years of the tribulation. What is the purpose of the first three-and-a-half years? To prepare for the disasters that will come during the last three-and-a-half years. The last three-and-a-half years of the tribulation are the ultimate judgment of mankind. They are the final labor pains of the universe before it gives birth to a new creation. The birth of the male child in Revelation 12 represents this new creation and initiates one of the greatest transitions in Revelation. When the bride of Christ gave birth to a baby boy (representing the overcomers mentioned throughout the book of Revelation), Satan and his evil angels recognize that these overcomers will judge the evil spirits. Satan and the evil spirits are so furious that they begin to destroy the world. Their anger lasts three-and-a-half years. They persecute the world and resist God's judgment on themselves, which will be carried out through the church. However, their fate cannot be changed. At the end of the book of Revelation, the evil spirits are judged, and Satan and his followers are thrown into the lake of fire.
As we studied last time, God’s judgment falls onto the house of God first, then on the world, and finally on the evil spirits. The house of God was judged through the admonitions in the letters to the seven churches, and through the seven seal judgments. The world is judged during the seven trumpet judgments. After the seventh trumpet, the focus of God's judgment turns to evil spirits.
We can see the positive outcome of God’s judgment on the world by looking at the encouraging vision inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). The kingdom of God was born long ago in the hearts of his children; the Morning Star rose in the hearts of his followers (2 Peter 1:19). This internal experience mirrors the experience of worshipers in the Holy of Holies. But the kingdom of God has continued to manifest itself outwardly until the outward, earthly kingdom has also become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ. God’s presence has moved outward to the Holy Place.
Finally, after the seventh trumpet sounds, God reclaims the outer court. Although the outer court is temporarily trampled by the Gentiles (the Gentiles are the tools used by evil spirits) for three-and-a-half years, God purges and purifies all of creation and brings in a new heaven and new earth. God’s presence moves from an inward kingdom that regenerates people’s souls (John 3:16) to an outward kingdom that transforms people’s lives (Romans 12:1) to eventually a victorious kingdom that redeems all of creation (Romans 8:23). As the church matures and becomes victorious, God’s victory spreads to all of creation, and the temple of God and the Ark of the Covenant are opened.
The Significance of John’s Measurement
Why is John given a reed (NKJV) to measure the temple? Perhaps the reed is a living tool that is used to measure the living temple of God built out of living stones (believers). Measurement represents judgment and sanctification. Things that are measured by God have been judged and sanctified by Him. As we mentioned above, John measures the temple, altar, and worshipers, but not the outer court. This shows that God's judgment starts first with the house of God. The temple and the church (the worshipers) will be judged and sanctified first. Secondly, God judges the world, including people who have come to faith but are still deeply trapped in the world. God's judgment on the world will free these people from the domination of the world. Finally, God judges evil spirits. This judgment allows repentant people to be liberated from the domination of evil spirits so they can receive salvation. Those who refuse to repent are thrown into the lake of fire along with the evil spirits. These are God's three steps of judgment and sanctification.
The three courts of the temple also remind us of God’s salvation of the soul. God first cleanses the Holy of Holies, which represents the inner sanctuary of our spirits which have been saved by God. He then cleanses the Holy Place, which reminds us of the renewal of our souls. Finally, he cleanses the outer court, which reminds us of the redemption of our bodies.
In this phase, John only measures the temple, the altar, and the worshipers because the time of final redemption of all creation has not yet arrived. At this point, the outer court has been given to the Gentiles to be trampled on for 42 months. These 42 months are the last three-and-a-half years of the seven-year tribulation that Daniel speaks about, also mentioned in Revelation. During this time, the Antichrist will break the covenant and ruin the worship of God (Daniel 9:27). But God will eventually judge all evil spirits and unrepentant sinners.
Perhaps the measurements are also intended to preserve and protect. Perhaps those who have already been judged and sanctified will be protected in the coming tribulation. Although there is much debate in the church about whether Christians will be raptured before or after the tribulation, the Lord Jesus tells overcoming believers in Philadelphia, "Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). It is clear that some overcoming believers will be protected from suffering. Additionally, in the fifth trumpet judgment, the locust can only harm “those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads" (9:4). From these passages, it is evident that God protects those who have marks on their foreheads. At every step of God's judgment, some people will be shielded from suffering. Some Christians live their lives in the Spirit, while others are trapped in the world, and still others are deeply drowning in the flesh and sin. At each stage of the tribulation, some will repent and be saved. I believe that when God judges the outer court, some Christians who are deeply involved in the realm of evil spirits (the outer court) will be judged severely so they can repent and be saved. But other Christians may be protected by God from these calamities.
The Significance of the Two Witnesses Who Prophesy for Three-and-a-half Years
While there is debate about whether Christians go through the Great Tribulation, many agree on this fact: Even during the final judgment, God will graciously provide opportunities for people to repent. The appearance of these two prophets is the proof of this fact. Although there are different understandings of who these two prophets are, we know that they will prophesy and testify for God and for Jesus. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). The purpose of their testimony is to bring people to repentance.
These two witnesses, dressed in linen, prophesy for 1260 days. Linen represents righteous deeds. Revelation 19 says that the Lamb’s Bride “clothe[s] herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (19:8). The two prophets are dressed in righteous deeds. They are the first-fruits and manifestation of the Bride of Christ. They prophesy and testify for three-and-a-half years, encouraging people to repent before the last three-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation. In symbolic terms, they are the olive trees, lampstands, and oil of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
These two men have the authority to stop rain from falling from the sky, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (11:6). But in the end, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will kill them (11:7). People who dwell on the earth will celebrate the death of the two prophets because they have been a torment (11:10). How hardened people’s hearts have become! They refuse to repent. Later, God raises the prophets from the dead. There is an earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapses, killing 7,000 people (11:12-13). Only then do people repent. The Bible says, "The rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (11:13).
Sometimes, God allows people to die in order to bring others to Himself. God did not hesitate to put Jesus Christ on the cross in order to save his lost sheep. Throughout the ages, God has allowed countless martyrs to bear witness for the Lord, all in order to save sinners. The two prophets here are also martyrs, and the story of their death and resurrection will bring many people to repentance and salvation.
The Seventh Trumpet Brings the Transformation of the Era
The visions inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets give us a glimpse of God's work in the spiritual world. There seems to have been some sort of delay in God's work before the seventh trumpet is sounded, because Revelation 10:6 specifically mentions that "there would be no more delay but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets" (10:7). Sure enough, "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’" (11:15). This was a major turning point.
At least four times, the Bible mentions the twenty-four elders who worshiped before God's throne. The first mention is when the church is being judged. John sees a vision of heaven being opened. He sees twenty-four elders bowing down before God’s throne and saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4:11). During this stage, the elders are saying that God deserves all the praise, even if many people on earth are not yet praising Him.
The second reference to the twenty-four elders is when the Lamb opens the book. The Bible says, "The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (5:8). Here, the twenty-four elders offer the prayers of the saints to God. These prayers advance the work of God.
The third time occurs in chapter 11. When the seventh trumpet is sounded, "the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign’" (11:16-17). This vision of the twenty-four elders allows us to see that God's work has reached a new stage. At this stage, "The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth" (11:18). God was judging the Gentiles, the demons, and the wicked ones who destroyed the earth, also known as Babylon the Great.
The fourth time occurs after the judgment of Babylon the Great (Revelation 18). "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’” (19:4) At this point, God's work is nearly complete, and the chant of the twenty-four elders is full of pure praise.
These four accounts of twenty-four elders reflect the progress of God's work. This is the first time that I noticed this unique progression.
God Opens the Heavenly Temple to Prompt the Final Judgment on Evil Spirits
The last verse of this chapter states, "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail" (11:19). The Ark of the Covenant is often associated with battles. In the Old Testament, the Israelites sometimes took the Ark of the Covenant into battle. Numbers 10:35 says, "And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you'". The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s exaltation and victory over his enemies.
We talked earlier about the three steps of God's judgment (the judgment of the church, of the world, and of the evil spirits). In order to judge evil spirits, the overcoming believers must arrive on the scene. This is represented by the birth of the male child in Revelation 12. God has promised that the church will judge angels, but in order to do so, it must mature. The overcoming believers (represented by the male child) will judge evil spirits on behalf of the church. I believe that the moment when the temple opens in heaven marks the beginning of the judgment on evil spirits. On the one hand, God is helping the church in its battle against the enemy by sending lightning, thunder, earthquakes, and hailstones. On the other hand, God is demonstrating that the church has matured sufficiently to approach the Holy of Holies, where it can begin to judge evil spirits on God’s behalf.
Hebrews 4 tells us that we can enter the Holy of Holies through Christ. Jesus, our great high priest, can sympathize with our weaknesses (4:14-15). Because of this, "let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (4:16). This is a spiritual reality, yet not all believers have accessed the reality of entering the Holy of Holies. Just like God's Tabernacle consisted of three parts (outer court, sanctuary, and Holy of Holies), we each possess a body, soul, and spirit. Even though God has given us access to the Holy of Holies, we often live at a distance from him in the outer court. It is as if we are living far from the Promised land, in Egypt. This represents the flesh. If we draw a little closer to him, we draw near to him in our soul, which represents the sanctuary. It is as if we are wandering in the wilderness, getting closer to the Promised Land. Finally, sometimes we are able to draw near to God in our spirits. We enter the Promised Land and the Holy of Holies. We need to leave the flesh and the world and enter the fullness of spiritual life. Believers must collectively be built into a unified, mature body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12) "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
Just like Jesus Christ’s victory could open the scroll in God's right hand, the maturity and victory of the church can open the temple of God. Then the Ark of the Covenant will appear, and God will send lightning, rumblings, thunder, earthquakes, and hailstones. We have said many times that the prayers of the saints advance the work of God from his throne. And the maturity of the church can prompt God's final judgment on evil spirits.
Some people spend their time guessing when the Lord Jesus will return. Others become lukewarm and apathetic as the Lord continues to delay. However, there is no need to speculate about when the Lord will return. We are not the ones who are waiting for Him to come. He is the one who is waiting for our lives to mature! Only when the church matures enough to open God's temple will God’s final judgment on evil be unleashed. That's why Jesus said He would come soon, but not yet. He longs to return at any time, but the maturity of church is delaying His return.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Bible Study With Jairus - Revelation 9
God's Great Love for the Lost, Hidden Within the End-Times Plagues
As God unveils the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments in Revelation 9, the plagues are becoming increasingly serious. In the fifth trumpet judgment, locusts torment people on Earth for five months. The pain is so severe that people wish for death, yet death flees from them. In the sixth trumpet judgment, after the angels are released from the River Euphrates, they kill a third of the human race. But people still do not repent of their idolatry and other sins.
Anyone in their right mind would feel that these plagues were very cruel, and may even wonder why God is so “cruel.” But in fact, hidden within these disasters is God's great love for the lost. Jesus said that the Father loves us just as a shepherd loves his sheep. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (Luke 15:3-6). Jesus said, "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (15:7).
The purpose of these judgments is to get the attention of sinners! Many people repent and come to know the Lord as a result of hard times. Revelation 9:20-21 indicates that God’s purpose in sending the judgment was that people would repent. Therefore, we need to look at the trumpet judgments from the perspective of love. God wanted to wake up sinners, show them their sins, and help the lost sheep return home. This is why he hits them so hard. He spares no effort to get their attention, hoping his lost sheep will return to their heavenly home.
The Angel's Trumpet Brings the Jews Back to the Fold
Currently, most Jews do not trust in Jesus. Their eyes are not open to Jesus as their Messiah, and they have fallen into sin and worldliness. But the Bible promises that in the last days, His chosen people will return to Him from all four corners of the earth. In Matthew 24, when speaking to a Jewish audience about the end times, Jesus said the sun would be darkened, the moon would not give its light, the stars would fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens would be "shaken" (24:29). These are the same disasters described in the fourth trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:12). In Matthew 24:31, Jesus goes on to say, "He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other.”
After the trumpet is sounded, will God’s chosen people return all at once? Or will the Israelites, who have been scattered all over the world, return gradually to God? I believe that this will be a gradual process.
No one wants to leave their native land, and people have a strong sense of loyalty to their birthplace. I grew up in China, and Chinese people have a strong sense of locality. Many Chinese people would rather die than leave their hometown. In the same way, the Israelites have gotten used to living far from the Promised Land, and are unwilling to leave the places where they live. During World War II, the tragic and brutal suffering that the Jews endured nonetheless motivated many Jews to return to the Land of Israel. In the last days, the final return of the remaining remnant of Israel may take place under similar circumstances during the seventh trumpet judgment. Between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments, we read about a vision in which many Jews were sealed. Then the seventh trumpet judgment takes place. The plagues’ increasing intensity forces the scattered Jews to leave their temporary homes and return to Israel. This is the work of God's hand. I believe these disasters motivate the Jews to continue to return. They also motivate the lost sheep of the Gentiles to repent.
My eldest aunt lives in a village near my home. The village lies next to a river, so it has a long sandy beach. Sandy soil is perfect for growing peanuts. During harvest, it was impossible to harvest every last peanut. Some peanuts remained in the sandy soil, and others were accidentally dropped on the sand. People in the neighboring villages who did not have the conditions to grow peanuts would arrive to gather the leftover peanuts after the owner had already finished harvesting. Because the owners had already finished their harvest, they did not care about the remaining peanuts. Meanwhile, as the gleaners dug through the sand to harvest the remaining peanuts, they helped plow and aerate the soil. This benefited the farmers, and they were happy for the gleaners’ help. When I was young, I went there with my aunt and some others to gather peanuts. The countless people on the river beach looked like a swarm of locusts. Each of them took a shovel and a bag, turned over a shovelful of sandy soil, and picked up the peanuts left behind on the beach. After a day’s work, my aunt and I filled a large bag with peanuts. I still remember this scene vividly.
I believe the fifth plague is a “gleaning” like I described above. The firstfruits have already been harvested (sealed Jews and a large number of saved Gentiles). However, in God’s love and mercy, he continues to search for the remaining unbelievers. He gathers those who are still left behind. These locusts from the bottomless pit—whether they are evil spirits or fallen angels—are instruments in God’s hands to bring in the harvest. We cannot look at the book of Revelation simply from the perspective of punishment and disaster; we must look at Revelation from the perspective of harvest.
Chapter 13 of Matthew specifically says, "The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels" (13:39). Perhaps the reapers are not only the good angels, but also the evil "locusts" of the fifth trumpet judgment. Because all things work together for good for those who love God (Romans 8:28), God could even use evil angels to accomplish his purposes. The plague of "locusts" will continue God’s harvest and bring back the remaining lost sheep of Israel, as well as the lost sheep of the Gentile nations.
God Continues to Harvest After Revelation 10
Since locusts are used for God's harvest, the purpose of their painful stings is to motivate people to seek God and repent of their sins. Though this purpose is not explicitly mentioned in this plague, it is mentioned during another plague in this chapter. During the plague of the horseman, God specifically says that "the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts" (9:20-21). God wants to save those who have not yet repented. He hopes that his severe judgment and discipline will motivate them to return to him in repentance. For this reason, his judgment continues to increase in intensity.
At the beginning of chapter 9, the Bible says, "The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come" (9:12). The first woe refers to the fifth trumpet. The locusts will torment men for five months, and men will seek death and not find it. The other two plagues refer to the sixth trumpet, in which a horseman killed one-third of mankind, and the seventh trumpet, which unlocks the seven bowls. Between the sixth and seventh trumpets, God gives John a vision to encourage His people (10:1-6). At the beginning of the seventh trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled (10:7). This mystery is the gospel that God announced to His servants the prophets (10:7). This gospel is that Jesus Christ will become the salvation of mankind and bring about the restoration of all things. John is given a small scroll and a prophecy (10:11) and he measures the temple (11:1-2). Then two witnesses rise up and fight the beast that rises up from the bottomless pit, and the beast conquers and killed them. But God raises them up, and this resurrection demonstrates the truth and the power of God. In addition, the earthquake kills 7,000 people, and "the rest were terrified, and gave glory to the God of heaven" (11:3-13). Through these events, God continues to harvest souls for his heavenly kingdom. The earthquake is the second woe, and the third woe is coming soon (11:14). A voice from heaven says, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever" (11:15). Why? The woman in Revelation 12 is about to give birth to a male child. The male child typifies the overcomers, who are the body and bride of Christ. It is God’s will for believers to become His bride. So the male child is caught up to God and to His throne (12:6), and the devil and his angels are cast down from heaven (12:9). This is the prelude to the plagues of the last three and a half years of the tribulation. This is the turning point of Revelation. Harvest and judgment are two themes that run through the book of Revelation. God’s work in the book of Revelation is a process of continuous harvest and judgment, and the purpose of judgment is to harvest more souls.
Are the Locusts and Horsemen Really Locusts and Horsemen or Evil Spirits?
We know that Revelation is full of pictorial symbols and eschatological types. This raises a valid question: Are these locusts and horsemen really locusts and horsemen, or do they represent evil spirits? These locusts are certainly not ordinary locusts, because they are not allowed to harm grass, green things, or trees of any kind, but only those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4). They are not like the locusts we see on earth. Instead, they are unique locusts that come up from the bottomless pit during this plague. And the horses in this passage are not ordinary horses, either. They have power in their mouths and tails; their tails are like serpents with heads; their tails can inflict wounds (9:19). Even if these are real horses with human riders, they are certainly not normal horses and normal humans.
This reminds me of the contest between Yahweh and the false Egyptian gods and between Moses and the magicians. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, Aaron's rod turned into a snake. The magicians could also turn their rods into snakes, but Aaron's rod swallowed their rods. Just like the contest between the snakes represented the contest between God and the false gods, these locusts may represent evil spirits fighting against God. The red dragon in Revelation 12 and the two beasts in Chapter 13 represent a similar contest between Satan and God. I personally believe that the locusts and the horses are not ordinary locusts and horses, and the horsemen are not necessarily human. I don't rule out the possibility that the horsemen are human beings, but I know for sure that they are not ordinary people.
As we work to understand these symbolic images, we must have a supernatural perspective. As the end times approach, both righteous and evil people on earth will draw on the supernatural power of their deity, either God or Satan, to give them strength to fight their enemies. Even though this may seem fantastical, we must believe it by faith. Although we did not personally witness Aaron's rod turn into a snake and swallow the snakes that the Egyptian magicians’ rods turned into, we still believe that the biblical record is correct. Similarly, in the last days, believers will gain supernatural powers, and the wicked will also gain supernatural powers. The two witnesses in Revelation 11, and the male child in Chapter 12 who is caught up to God and to His throne to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, both have supernatural powers. The two witnesses even have the authority to shut up the sky so that no rain may fall. They also have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague (Revelation 11:6). The mention of turning water into blood reminds us again of the ten plagues in Exodus.
The events of Revelation must be understood through the lens of the supernatural. The things that happen in Revelation are things we have never seen before. We will only truly understand them when they happen in the future. We should not make assumptions based on our present understanding. We should not conclude that the 200 million horsemen represent China just because China is in the east and has a large population. Many Bible scholars in history have said this, but I think this is incorrect. God is raising up a great revival work in China. God has revealed to me on many occasions that China’s revival and evangelization will have a huge impact on the world. I firmly believe that China will become a Christian country full of sheep, not goats. If this happens, China will not become the birthplace of the 200 million future horsemen.
God's Principles of Dealing with Man
We cannot fully understand the many things that will happen in the future. But this does not keep us from understanding God's principles of dealing with mankind which are revealed through these events. If we recall how God dealt with Pharaoh, we see an important principle: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he could multiply His signs and wonders (Exodus 7:3), so that His power would be manifested, and so His name would be proclaimed in all the earth (9:16). This principle also appears in Revelation 9. Despite seeing God’s powerful and devastating signs, the people are still hard-hearted and refuse to repent. Why is this? Because even though God has judged the evil spirits in their lives, they have not received Jesus’s Holy Spirit to replace the evil in their hearts. As a result, they are filled with even worse evil spirits.
The Lord Jesus Himself gave a good example to illustrate this principle. The Lord Jesus told a story in Matthew 12. He said, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation”(Matthew 12:45).
When we were studying Deliverance Ministries, our teachers often told us that if a person is not willing to accept Jesus Christ as Lord, it is best not to carry out deliverance on him. If we temporarily drive out evil spirits from a person who is not filled with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the spirits may return. I have personally witnessed some people accepting Jesus Christ and repenting of their sins when they received deliverance, and when we prayed for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we could actually see the spirits coming out of them. The first time I saw a spirit cast out of a sister in Christ, I was amazed. She kept coughing, and then we prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill her, and she was eventually filled with the Holy Spirit and fell to the ground.
The plagues in the book of Revelation are like a large-scale deliverance. God is judging evil spirits and demons through the various plagues, and judging those who to a certain degree are possessed by these evil spirits and demons. His purpose is that they would repent of their sins and accept the salvation of Jesus Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit. If men repent of their sins and accept salvation, demons will be cast out of them permanently. If they refuse to repent, the demons will return, bringing worse spirits with them.
This principle reveals how God works in people’s hearts, and how He deals with evil spirits. Is God the one who is sending worse evil spirits to torment people? Or is it men’s unrepentance that is providing opportunities for evil spirits to torment them even more? God is good (Mark 10:18), and God does not tempt (James 1:13). It is man’s lack of repentance that is making things worse. Now we can better understand why the Lord said that He hardened Pharaoh's heart. It’s not just that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. If Pharaoh had repented, God's mercy would have fallen upon him. But when Pharaoh refused to repent, it brought an even harsher judgment from God. This is the same principle at work in the judgment of the last days.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus - John 21
When God Establishes Us and Deepens our Spiritual Life, We Can Witness His Resurrection
As John wraps up his gospel in chapter 21, he acknowledges that his account of Jesus’ life is not comprehensive. He says that if he had written down every event in Jesus’ life, “I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).
However, as he finishes the book, he does tell two key stories: the story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples by the seashore, and the story of Peter’s restoration. Obviously, the two stories that were included were carefully selected to serve the author's purpose. So what is the purpose of John 21? While there are many ways to approach John 21, I am going to view it through the lens of Peter’s growth and restoration.
Peter later wrote the book of 1 Peter. In chapter 5, Peter teaches his readers to be humble (1 Peter 5:5-6), cast their worries on the Lord (5:7), be watchful, resist the devil (5:8), and overcome suffering (5:9). He assures his listeners, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (5:10). I believe that when Peter wrote these things, he was speaking from experience. In John 21, we see how Peter was humbled, learned to cast his cares on Jesus, resisted Satan, overcame suffering, and was eventually comforted, restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established by Christ himself. Christ established Peter as the foundation of the church.
As we mentioned in the last study, John 20 shows how Jesus appeared to different disciples. Before they could see the resurrected Christ, they had to remove their unbelief, doubt, and other blockages that were keeping them from knowing the risen Jesus. Even today, the Lord is willing to appear to anyone, but we must open our hearts and overcome the obstacles that are preventing us from knowing Him. It takes time for us to get to know the resurrected Christ, but only then can we help others learn to know Him. Peter went through this process, and it took time. Only when he knew the resurrected Christ could he become a true follower of the Lord (21:19) and a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19).
John 21 is a wonderful segue to the next book, Acts. In the first half of Acts, Peter is one of the most important leaders of the church. But he could only fill this role because the Lord had strengthened, restored, and established him in John 21. Only then could Peter be filled with the Holy Spirit so he could bring salvation to 3,000 people (Acts 2:41).
A Deepened Spiritual Life Is Necessary for Witnessing the Resurrected Christ
To experience the resurrected Christ, we must open our hearts. This implies spiritual growth, as seen in John 20-21. Even if we have learned to know the risen Christ, we must deepen our spiritual lives so we can be the nurturing shepherds that Jesus expects us to be. This was the experience of many Bible characters, such as Moses. Moses was called and prepared by God to lead his people out of Egypt. After he tried to rescue one of his people with his own strength and wisdom, he was forced into exile in the wilderness. While shepherding sheep in the wilderness, he saw the burning bush and came to know the true living God. The Lord told him, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Centuries later, Jesus told the Sadducees, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32). Jesus said this to prove the validity of the resurrection. So it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Moses had experienced the living God, the God who can make people live again.
Despite experiencing the living God, Moses rejected God’s calling. He refused to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he thought he lacked capability and eloquence. Even after God showed him three miracles, Moses still yelled, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). Finally the Lord became angry (4:14) and tried to kill him (4:24). Only after his wife Zipporah circumcised their son did the Lord let him go. Many are confused about this incident. They wonder why the Lord tried to kill Moses. To be honest, it is not difficult to understand, especially if we compare this incident with Peter's experience. Why? Because it is one thing to see the resurrection, but another thing to experience it. Abraham had the same experience. He had known the Lord since the time God promised him his son Isaac. But it was quite another thing altogether to experience God’s resurrection power when God rescued Isaac from death.
Jesus’ Repeated Appearances Deepen Our Understanding of the Resurrection
After Jesus' resurrection, He appears to His disciples many times. But why does He appear to Peter and the other disciples while they are fishing? Each appearance of the Lord Jesus deepens our understanding of the resurrection so that we can truly experience the death and resurrection of Jesus in our own lives.
This principle applies to both the Old Testament and the New. Each of God’s seven appearances to Abraham deepened his knowledge of God. The first time God appeared to Abram was to call him out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 15:7). He then appeared to him again in Haran (Genesis 12:1). Both times, God promised to give Abram the land of Canaan. As a result, Abram left the land of idols. Genesis 12:7 records the third appearance where the Lord said to Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land.” The fourth time God appeared to him, he promised to bless Abraham with countless descendants, as numerous as the sand of the seashore (Genesis 13:14-17). God appeared to him for the fifth time after he rescued Lot from the five kings. God told Abram that one of his very own sons would be his heir (15:4). Thirteen years after his biological son Ishmael’s birth, God appeared to Abraham again. This time, he changed his name from Abram to Abraham and told him he would become the father of many nations (17:5). The seventh appearance happened after Abraham sacrificed Isaac to the Lord. God once again promised, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of hisenemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18). Every time God appeared to Abraham, his understanding of the resurrection was deepened. Finally, God inspired Abraham with supernatural knowledge about his descendant, Jesus Christ so that Abraham could look “forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Galatians 3:16 says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. Notice here that the Scripture uses ‘his offspring’ instead of ‘all offspring,’ which indicates one person – Jesus Christ.” And verse 14 says, “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Abraham’s transformation—from living in a place of idolatry to knowing and waiting for God—was the result of his multiple encounters with God.
Similarly, after Jesus' resurrection, he chooses to appear to his disciples multiple times. Each time they see him, their understanding of Him is deepened, they become more aware of God’s will, and they better understand their glorious inheritance in God's calling. When they realize their identity in Christ, they can become what God desires them to be.
We Must Have a Clear Understanding of Our Identity
Why does the Lord Jesus choose twelve disciples? First, it is the will of God the Father. Everything Jesus does on earth is in accordance with the will of the Father. Luke 6:12-13 records, "In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles." Jesus' choice of the twelve disciples is not a random action, but an obedient action based on the will of the Father, which he discerned by praying all night. What is the Father's will? To duplicate Jesus Christ in the lives of his twelve disciples, and then for them to duplicate his life in others.
God's work is not a rapid growth like mushrooms that spring up overnight. Instead, it is a slow process of reproducing himself in others’ lives. Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God, and the twelve disciples are called to manifest Christ to the world. To spread the life of God to others, the disciples must recognize their identity in Christ so that they can mature and grow in Christ. If these disciples fail to recognize their identity in Christ, they cannot be an accurate representation of Christ's life. Jesus appeared to his disciples multiple times after his resurrection so he could help them recognize their deficiencies and fully understand their identity and calling in Christ. Only then can they experience resurrection in their own lives.
John 21:14 says, “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” The first time was when Jesus appeared to them on the first day of the week, when they were hidden behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (20:19). The second time was eight days later, when the disciples were gathered again, this time with Thomas. “Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’”(20:26). The first time Jesus appeared to his disciples, he helped them overcome their fear and lack of joy (20:20). A regenerate person is a person of joy. When Jesus appeared to his disciples the second time, he addressed Thomas' unbelief. What is the purpose of the third appearance? Jesus Christ will fill His promise to make Peter a fisher of men.
God Himself Establishes Us and Makes Us Perfect and Strong
At one time, Peter had confidently proclaimed that even if everyone else betrayed Jesus Christ, he never would. However, Jesus Christ told him that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed three times. And this was exactly what happened. Now, Peter is deeply ashamed of it. When he sees Jesus again, he was very embarrassed. But instead of scolding Peter, Jesus nurtures and restores him, and lifts him up again.
Peter learns several deep spiritual lessons which we find in the books of 1 and 2 Peter. As a fisherman, Peter may not have been very knowledgeable, yet his two epistles contain rich spiritual lessons. These are Peter’s only two epistles in the Bible, so they encapsulate the totality of the spiritual depth that Peter has acquired throughout his life. Although Peter did not have spectacular linguistic abilities, and many commentators do not spend much time interpreting his writings, the spiritual richness of Peter's letters is well worth excavating.
The first lesson Peter learned was the importance of humility. First Peter 5: 5-6 says, "... Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”
Second, Peter learned to trust God. Peter instructs believers to "cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). After seeing the resurrected Lord Jesus three times (once by himself and twice with other disciples) Peter still lacked faith in the risen Christ. He went back to fishing with other disciples, but caught nothing. When Jesus Christ appeared, they caught 153 fish. Through this experience, Peter learned a powerful lesson about trusting God.
Third, Peter learned about resisting temptation. Jesus Christ had repeatedly warned Peter and other disciples about Satan’s temptation. In Luke 22:31, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” Sure enough, Simon failed when facing Satan's temptation. So Peter shares what he learned through blood, sweat, and tears: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Finally, Peter writes his famous line, "And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" (1 Peter 5:10). I love this verse. Whenever I go through trials and failures, I sing a song based on this verse. I believe that God will one day restore, strengthen, perfect, and establish me.
Every Failure is the Foundation of the Next Victory
John 21 is crucial because it documents Peter's restoration. Without it, the Gospel of John would end on a sad note. Even though Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, the book would end with Peter’s failure. This is not the will of God. Jesus Christ has won the victory, and each of us has also won the victory through Him. Jesus wants us to live a victorious life. That is the purpose of his victory. Therefore, the Gospel of John cannot end with Peter's failure. It must end with his restoration.
The book of Acts, which follows John, tells about Peter’s leadership in the early church. He worked many signs and wonders in Jesus’ name. The book of Acts is about the work of the Holy Spirit through his vessels, the apostles. The filling of the Holy Spirit takes a moment, but the preparation of these vessels for his service takes decades or a lifetime. John 21 shows us how Jesus prepared his vessel, Peter, for the birth and growth of the Church and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised by the Father in the book of Acts. This is the great will of the Triune God.
Every failure of ours reveals where we need Christ. When we repent and ask God to transform us, God will be able to remake us in his image. We will become victorious vessels through which the Holy Spirit can work. May we all cherish our failures so we can learn and grow from them.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus - John 20
How To Deepen Our Knowledge and Experience of the Resurrection of Jesus
Do you know the risen Christ? Have you experienced His presence? Has he appeared to you personally? You may say, “Is it possible to experience the resurrected Jesus and know him personally?” My answer is, “Yes, you can. But you have to remove the obstacles that are preventing you from seeing the risen Jesus.” In John 20, Jesus helped various disciples remove the spiritual blinders that were preventing them from seeing the risen Jesus. When these veils were removed, each of them experienced Jesus’ presence and the risen Christ appeared to them. When we properly use our minds, wills, and emotions, we will be allowed to experience the resurrection of Jesus Christ as well.
For example, when we meditate and ruminate on Jesus’ words, it often leads to spiritual experiences. Madame Jeanne Guyon once said that when we pray and meditate on the Lord's words, we will certainly be able to enter the presence of God. But if we do not meditate and pray properly, then hindrances in our minds, wills, and emotions will prevent us from knowing and experiencing the resurrection of Christ. For example, the disciples’ closed hearts, doubt, fear, and guilt prevented them from seeing the resurrected Lord. Let’s look at these stories more closely.
- Mary’s strong emotions kept her from recognizing Jesus when he appeared to her.
- Thomas had to see the Lord's nail marks before he believed. Jesus showed him His nail marks, and only then were the doubts in his mind were resolved.
- John believed in the resurrection when he saw the empty cloth that had been around Jesus’ face (John 20:8), but there is no record that Peter believed at that time (John 20).
- Peter’s guilt about his betrayal kept him from fully embracing the risen Jesus.
In John 20 and 21, Jesus helped each of his disciples overcome any obstacles that were keeping them from experiencing the resurrected Christ. With his help, they were each able to experience the Lord’s appearance. This is true not only for the first-century disciples, but for all of us. “God is no respecter of persons,” as Peter said in Acts 10:34. Everyone in the Bible who loved the Lord, whether Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, or Solomon, each experienced the Lord’s appearance. It is hard to imagine anyone who could love God that much and not experience His personal presence. The experience of his presence only further increases our love for him.
Every disciple present in John 20 knew and experienced the appearance of the resurrected Christ, but each was unable to believe in the resurrection or recognize the resurrected Christ because of some kind of hindrance. As modern-day Christians, we must learn from their experiences so we can know and experience the appearance of the resurrected Christ today.
Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen and Yet Have Believed?
We should desire and believe that we can experience the life-changing presence of the risen Christ. Yet in modern times, many people have belittled the reality of personal spiritual experiences. They underestimate the benefits of pursuing the Lord’s appearance. They dismiss these experiences for several reasons. Let’s address the reasons for this overcorrection.
- Some people say that this type of spiritual experience is only for spiritual giants. When lay people testify that the Lord appeared to them in dreams or visions, others protest that God doesn’t appear to common people. But in reality, the Lord desires to appear to everyone.
- Many Muslims testify that the Lord Jesus appeared to them in dreams which led them to become Christians. They are very ordinary people, not spiritual giants. Yet some people dismiss these experiences for American believers, saying that the Muslims only had those experiences because they lived in countries where the gospel was forbidden. That is the only reason that Jesus chose to preach the gospel to them in this way. This is correct, but it absolutely cannot be used as an excuse to say the Lord only appears to certain special people.
- Some people point to Jesus’ words to Thomas to prove that we do not need to see Jesus. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Many people mistakenly understand this verse to mean that those who have the most faith do not desire to see Jesus.
Let’s examine these claims. Yes, those who believed without seeing are indeed blessed. But this does not mean that the Lord does not approve of us longing for His appearance. In John 14:21, the Lord Jesus said, "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” The Lord said that He will appear to those who love Him. Therefore, if we have not experienced the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, it does not necessarily prove that “Jesus does not appear to ordinary people today.” Perhaps we don’t really love the Lord’s appearance enough. When we assume Jesus can’t appear to us, we lower our expectations. However, Jesus wants us to ask for what we desire. A basic principle in Scripture says that “everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:10). James, Jesus’ biological brother, agreed: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3). The Lord promised His presence to those who love Him, so we can be assured that our request to experience His appearance is not wrong or selfish.
Factors Hindering Us From Experiencing the Risen Lord
Eventually, every disciple in John 20 experienced Jesus’ appearance. Their experience is instructive for each and every one of us. We need to see how the Lord Jesus helped each of the disciples to move from the expectation of being with Him in His physical presence to being able to experience His resurrected presence in faith and spirit. The disciples needed to learn this lesson in order to experience the resurrected Christ.
Let's take a look at the problems of each of the disciples in John 20 and how these problems prevented them from believing in the resurrection of Christ. Let us look first at Mary, whose love for the Lord caused her to go to the tomb very early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. There, she saw that the stone had been moved away from the entrance of the tomb. She didn't immediately think about resurrection. Instead, she assumed that someone had taken the Lord's body. So she went to tell Peter and John. Peter and John set out for the tomb. John ran to the tomb and saw the linen cloths, but he did not go into the tomb. Peter arrived, went in and saw the linen cloths and the face cloth. The Bible does not mention whether or not he believed at that point. After Peter arrived, John went into the tomb, saw the face cloth, and believed that Jesus was alive (20:8). This passage seems to indicate that the first person to believe in the resurrection was not Peter or Mary, but John.
This account is very interesting. Why was John the first to believe? Why did he believe when he saw the face cloth, but did not believe when he saw the linen cloths initially? The Bible says the face cloth was not lying together with the linen cloths, but was folded up in another place by itself (20:7). Why was the face cloth of Jesus lying in another place? Is it so that John would believe in the resurrection? My personal guess is that John, the Beloved Disciple, was familiar with the Lord's way of folding his face cloth. Just like a person’s signature cannot be imitated by others, John knew that no one else could imitate Jesus’ signature style of folding a cloth. When John saw the way the Lord folded the face cloth, he knew that it had been done by the Lord Himself, not by anyone else. I believe this was the Lord's personal message to John.
However, John’s faith was not yet complete. The verses that follow explain that the disciples did not yet fully believe: "For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead" (John 20:9). The disciples’ minds and hearts were not yet fully open, so God would need to open their hearts through their emotions or other means.
The two disciples saw that the tomb was empty. John believed that Jesus was alive, but Peter most likely didn’t believe, so he went back home. Why do I say that Peter did not believe? Because the Gospel of Mark records that the angel told Mary after the Lord’s resurrection, “Go and tell His disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7). So Peter probably did not believe.
Let's return to Mary. Mary loved God, and her deep affection for Jesus moved Him to appear to her before He ascended to the Father. But when the Lord appeared to her, she did not recognize the risen Christ because she was too caught up in emotions. When an angel appeared to her, she didn't realize it was an angel. She just kept on weeping. The Lord appeared to her, but she did not recognize Him either. She did not recognize the risen Lord until the risen Christ called her by name: "Mary.” The Lord awakened her spiritual identity in Christ, and only then did she recognize Christ. Mary was one of the Lord's sheep, and the Lord's sheep know the Lord's voice (John 10:3), so she recognized the Lord when He called her name.
Peter failed to fully experience Jesus’ resurrection because of his guilt about his betrayal. The Lord Jesus had appeared to Peter and the other disciples several times. Yet despite these appearances, Peter still went out to fish, as if his relationship with Jesus was a thing of the past. It was then that Jesus appeared to him again and asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Peter then had his own personal experience of spiritual death and resurrection. Jesus helped Peter finally overcome the guilt.
In John 21, the Lord Jesus appeared to the disciples, but they did not recognize Him at first. Similarly, the disciples on the road to Emmaus failed to recognize the resurrected Christ. Only after the Lord broke bread and gave it to them were their eyes opened to recognize Jesus (Luke 24:31). These disciples returned to Jerusalem and told the other disciples what they had seen. While they were still talking, the Lord Jesus appeared to them again. But they thought He was a spirit (Luke 24:37). The Lord Jesus said, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have" (24:39). To prove he was real, he ate a piece of broiled fish.
As Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures (24:45), they finally understood the resurrection. Clearly, the disciples’ closed minds were an important factor in their inability to recognize the resurrected Christ. Another factor is that Jesus’ resurrection body may have looked different from his natural body. This may be why the disciples could not recognize him. He may have looked different every single time he appeared. Perhaps his appearance was different each time, personally tailor-made for every individual he appeared to. For example, in my personal experience, Jesus has often appeared to me as an old Chinese lady. I never realized she was representing the Lord until the last day of 2017, when she took me into heaven and transformed into Christ.
To prove this point, let’s look at John 21. When the Lord appeared to Peter and the other disciples by the sea, John said, “Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (John 21:4). These disciples had seen the risen Christ several times already, yet they still did not recognize the Lord. Most likely, Jesus’ appearance was different every time he appeared. For this reason, we need to be discerning so that we can recognize the risen Lord in our spiritual experiences.
There are many reasons that we fail to experience Jesus’ presence in our lives, just like the disciples did.
- Emotions: our lack of desire for the Lord.
- Mind: accepting wrong concepts and beliefs.
- Will: stubbornness and self-will.
Each of these can hinder us from experiencing the presence of the risen Lord. These obstacles are like electrical insulators, preventing us from experiencing the appearance of the resurrected Christ. It's as if the power is connected to our house, but a small insulator is keeping us from connecting to the power supply. We need to remove those insulators so we can powerfully connect to Jesus.
Our Love for God Is a Response to God’s Appearance to Us
The Bible says that Jesus appeared personally to Peter, but God does not describe this meeting in detail. The disciples on the road to Emmaus told the other disciples that the Lord Jesus had appeared to Simon (Luke 24:34), and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:5, "He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.” According to this passage, Jesus appeared to Peter before he appeared to the twelve disciples (John 20:19-25), so this can’t be the same experience recorded in John 21, which occurred after Jesus’ appearance to the disciples and Thomas (John 21:1). Clearly, there was a personal meeting with Peter that is not described in the Bible.
Why is there no detailed record of the Lord’s appearance to Peter? Jesus Christ gave John a sign with the face cloth so he would know He was alive. The Lord Jesus called Mary's name so that Mary would recognize His voice. The angel told the women to go and tell the disciples and Peter that the Lord was alive. This may have been a prelude to the Lord's appearance to Peter.
The Bible does not record this appearance to Peter in detail, but we know that 1 Peter and 2 Peter are summaries of Peter's experiences with Jesus. Perhaps these two books can give us some perspective. In Peter's epistles, there is no explicit mention of this conversation with Jesus. But Peter did say, "The tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" (1 Peter 1:7-8). The "revelation" mentioned here can be understood as the future appearance of Jesus Christ. But perhaps it also refers to experiencing Jesus on earth. Peter goes on to say, "you have not seen Him.” He did not say, "I have not seen Him.” Peter had seen Jesus, both in his pre-death body and in his resurrection body. Before the resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter, he had experienced the trials of faith mentioned in this passage. When he passed through these trials and was restored by the Lord Jesus, his faith in Jesus Christ was as precious as gold that had been tested by fire.
The Appearance of Christ Gives Us a Deeper Understanding of the Resurrection
In the Catholic "mysticism" tradition, there are many accounts of Jesus' appearing to people. It’s easy to dismiss all of these experiences because Catholics tend to believe in superstitious accounts, such as the appearance of the Virgin Mary. I once translated a Catholic documentary that described the Virgin Mary’s appearance to many people. Personally, I think this is just a superstition, like the stories of idols appearing in Chinese idol temples. Martin Luther saw the corruption in the Catholic church and decided to completely deny all such experiences. He overcompensated by taking refuge in rationality. But we must not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We need to distinguish which of these are superstitions and which are real manifestations of the Lord’s presence.
After the Reformation, the church began to emphasize the prominence of Scripture and to ignore spiritual experience. This led to a focus on dry dogma. However, the saints in the Bible almost all experienced God’s personal presence to some extent.
When Jesus appears to us, it ignites our love for him. At least that has been my experience. After I was baptized in 2002, I lost interest in spiritual things. But during a conference in 2004, the Lord appeared to me and spoke to me personally, calling me to dedicate myself to Him. After that day, I began to love the Lord like crazy.
I believe we need to oppose the false teaching that leads people to ignore personal spiritual experiences. We need to bravely pursue the appearance of Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus promised to manifest Himself to those who love Him (John 14:21). In John 20, Jesus patiently helped each of his disciples overcome their obstacles so they could each experience the presence of the resurrected Christ. He will do the same for each of us today.
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Saturday Jul 01, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus- Daniel 2
The Relationship Between the "Great Image" in the Book of Daniel and the "Kingdom of Christ" in the Book of Revelation
The book of Daniel discusses a great image that was crushed by a large stone. The stone was cut out of a mountain without human hands. It then became a great mountain that filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35). Each of these objects is symbolic. The idol represents the rise and fall of the empires in human history. Specifically, it depicts Babylon the Great and its fall (Revelation 18:2). The stone that becomes a great mountain represents the moment when “the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” The great image and the great mountain are both symbolic images.
The church is the body of Christ, a very real representation and image of Christ. But the false image mentioned in the book of Daniel is created by evil spirits and sin. It is a fake imitation of the body of Christ. It represents Babylon, which is the mother of harlots, and the Tower of Babel, which is the symbol of rebellion against God. God wants to build up the Body of Christ, but the enemy wants to build a false imitation. The Bible says, "For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).
In the wisdom of God, God allows the growth of human kingdoms. The Bible says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27). These kingdoms exist in temporary space and time. Whether Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom or Pharoah’s, Babylon or Egypt, these kingdoms are all tools in the hands of God. God uses them to help people seek him. But neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Pharaoh could overstep God's authority, thinking the kingdom was their own. When God's time came, God tore down their kingdoms and gave them to others. In the same way, when God’s time for mankind comes, all the kingdoms on earth will be smashed to pieces and the kingdom of our Lord and Christ will be ushered in. Right now, God allows Satan and evil spirits to deceive people. But when God's time comes, he will judge them permanently. The Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation are closely related.
The Body of Christ is an Image of Christ
I once heard a Christian brother testifying about a vision he saw. He saw a vision of the body of Christ, which looked like a huge image of Jesus. The great image looked like a giant human, but every part of the body contained many believers living and dwelling in it. The Bible reveals that we are members of the body of Christ. “For behold, the kingdom of Christ is in the midst of us.” (Luke 17:21). When the life of Christ works within us, then we become a part of the kingdom of Christ. In a sense, the body of Christ is the kingdom of Christ. This is the kingdom that God wants to build, and Christ will rule as king within this realm.
This is God's ultimate purpose. This plan existed even before God created the world, even though it was hidden from humankind for a while. That is why Ephesians 3:9-10 says, “and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
God intends to help his children grow and mature until they become the mature Body of Christ, which will manifest all the riches of God and reveal His wisdom to all angels and demons in the heavenly places. Since Satan is a created being, he did not know about this plan. When God’s plan was revealed, Satan was filled with jealousy. Satan had been an archangel whose job was to lead all things to worship God. But when God chose mankind to represent His image, share his authority, and receive His glory and fullness, Satan became jealous. Satan was upset because this plan did not involve Satan at all! Satan began to rebel against God. He hated mankind extremely much. Satan decided to create a counterfeit Body of Christ. He wanted to defy God's plan, counterfeit God’s works, mock God, and try to lure people toward the same eternal punishment that he was destined for.
The Image in the Book of Daniel is a Counterfeit Body of Christ
This great image that Nebuchadnezzar saw had a golden head, which represents Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar himself. The Bible doesn't tell us which empires are represented by the arms and chest made of silver, the belly and thighs made of bronze, the legs made of iron, and the feet made of iron and clay. Some biblical interpreters believe that they represent the Medo-Persian Empire, the Macedonian empire, the Grecian empire, and the Roman empire, respectively. The Medo-Persian empire began in 539 B.C. in Babylon; King Cyrus let the Jews return to Jerusalem in 537 B.C. The Roman empire started ruling Israel in 63 B.C. and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This interpretation says that even though the Roman Empire has perished, the Anglo-American empire is now the continuation of the Roman Empire. Other biblical interpreters believe that the image represents Medo-Persia, Greece (Alexander conquered the Persian Empire in 331 B.C.), Rome, and the Anglo-American empire. These scholars point to the Anglo-American empire because of the Rise of the Anglo-American world dominance during the First World War from 1914 to 1918. The Macedonian Empire is not mentioned in this interpretation. I was taught the first interpretation. It divided the Persian Empire into the Macedonian Empire established by Alexander the Great and the Grecian Empire formed by the division after his death.
When I think about these two interpretations, I have a question. How do we know the Anglo-American empire is the last great modern empire? What happens if China, Russia, or a prominent country in Africa arises as a world ruler in the future? We can’t deny the possibility. China has already risen to power, and it will soon become the most influential country in the world. But China is not part of the Roman Empire, nor is it part of the Anglo-American Empire. In addition to China's political, military, and economic rise, I also believe that China’s future revival will bring great spiritual growth, which will influence great changes in Chinese society and politics. China may become a powerful Christian country that could be counted among the influential empires in eschatological history. Even a so-called Christian country (like the United States) does not always act in accordance with God’s will, so China could qualify as one of the empires represented by the image. In addition, it’s dangerous to assume that the Anglo-American empire is the only modern empire. What about the Portuguese Empire and the Spanish Empire that colonized the world, through which Catholicism spread? The British and American empires do not represent all modern empires.
Therefore, I think the two interpretations mentioned above are too linear and too constrained by time and the current course of human history. If the second coming of the Lord is delayed, there may be many more changes in human history. In other words, if we interpret scriptures based on the things that have already happened in human history, we may not get a complete picture. A lot of things haven't happened yet, and even the things that have happened can be interpreted from different angles.
The great image that King Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was a symbolic, prophetic picture that has not yet been completely fulfilled. At that time the only kingdom that existed was Babylon, the head. The other empires had not yet risen to power. If we interpret the last empire as the Roman Empire or the Anglo-American Empire, then why have we not seen an eternal kingdom ushered in during the reign of the fifth king (Daniel 2:45)? Although this verse mentions crushing the image’s feet, another verse references striking the entire great image (2:34-35). We know that historically, during the reign of the fifth king of the Roman empire, the Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar were long gone. Yet in the vision, the golden head still exists when the entire image is destroyed. I believe this word picture is describing the spiritual reality of the five kingdoms rather than their physical reality. Physically, Babylon no longer existed; but spiritually, it was still the head.
What exactly does this head of gold represent? And what about the silver, bronze, iron, and clay mentioned in this verse? These precious metals are a picture of the continuous degeneration of human regimes and their separation from God. Gold represents God's disposition. Because God had direct contact with Nebuchadnezzar, he publicly extolled the God of heaven. But his descendant Belshazzar completely forgot about God and offended Him. The human regimes were already beginning to deteriorate. The next empire was likened to silver, the next to bronze, the next to iron, and the next to clay. In each of these substances, the value was getting lower and lower as the substances contained less and less precious metal. This shows that the human regimes were becoming less and less obedient to God.
Despite their disobedience, human regimes have a measure of God-given authority. God uses human governments as tools to perfect His chosen people. He uses them like a rider uses a mounting block to mount the horse. God uses the nations like scaffolding to support his purposes until his work is complete. For example, King Nebuchadnezzar was God's servant to discipline Israel. After the seventy years of Israel’s captivity were over, God raised up Cyrus to lead the Israelites back to Jerusalem. All this happened in God’s timing. Just like God had designated a specific length of time for Israel’s captivity, God has designated a specific length of time for the entire history of mankind. Again, these human governments serve as scaffolding for God’s purposes. During the construction process, the scaffolding takes on the general shape of the building and assists in the construction process. But it is not part of the building itself. After the construction work is completed, the scaffolding will be dismantled. Similarly, to a certain extent, Satan can build imitation kingdoms that imitate God's work. He builds the kingdom of Babylon around the kingdom of God to tempt people to worship Satan. God may allow these kingdoms to exist for a time to serve his purposes, like scaffolding serves the purposes of the builders. But he will eventually tear them down.
The Work of God is to Build the Body of Christ
Human empires are a hybrid between God's will and Satan's infiltration. Paul said, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1); On the one hand, these rulers are used by God to maintain justice; but on the other hand, Satan infiltrates human governments and uses human greed to do evil things. I believe that the further down you move on the image (gold, silver, bronze, iron, and mud), the more Satan has infiltrated the good purposes of that human kingdom. I have been taught that feet of iron mixed with clay represent an end-time empire that is half democracy (clay) and half autocracy (iron). There may be some truth to this explanation, but I am more inclined to think that the half-iron and half-clay empire represents an end-time empire that has rejected God even more fully.
The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24:12, "And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold." This was His reply to His disciples when they asked when the end of the world would come. He then said, "But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (13). Jesus continued, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (14). What is the gospel of the kingdom? It is the stone cut out without human hands which struck the great image into pieces. In other words, it is Christ. In Matthew 24:15, Jesus made a very meaningful statement referencing “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (let the reader understand).” Then Jesus spoke about the Great Tribulation.
Why did Jesus ask his readers to understand the prophecies of the book of Daniel? Because the prophecies in the book of Revelation and the visions of Daniel were all connected. Jesus wanted them to fully comprehend the essence of the imagery, dreams, and visions in Daniel, not just their literal meaning. We must fully understand the essence of what the image of Daniel represents. What is this essence? The essence is that behind human government lies human pride, and behind human pride lies the work of Satan—just like when the ancient people built the Tower of Babel to make a name for themselves. Behind their human pride lay Satan’s influence, as he tried to get them to build a tower to worship him. When humans work in pride, they are actually worshipping Satan. The Lord destroyed the Tower of Babel, and he also destroyed the great image mentioned in Daniel. These two stories depict the same theme: destroying idolatry. The big question is: Who is receiving worship? Satan wants to seize people's worship, and God wants to receive humans’ worship. The issue of worship lies at the heart of the reason this great image was destroyed.
Satan used human regimes and human pride to garner worship for himself. Even though the nation of Babylon was destroyed long ago, the pride and arrogance of Babylon live on. It is as if the golden head of this great image still exists. The human regimes of the ages have built a great spiritual Babylon. They are a counterfeit version of the body of Christ, and they worship Satan instead of God. However, the great stone that fell from the sky is Christ and His true body, which will completely smash Babylon to pieces. The worship of Satan will be destroyed, and the true body of Christ will be built, ushering in the true worship of God.
As Revelation 18:21 says, "Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more.’” This is why Revelation 19:7 says, "Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.” This is the greatest mystery in the universe, which is why Paul said, "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness! and without controversy He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory (1 Timothy 3:16).” Christ was manifested in the flesh, not only to save us from the hold of sin, but also to take us as His Bride and bring us together with Him into glory. This is God's ultimate plan.
Although the fall of Babylon the Great occurred in Revelation 18, the birth of the man-child in Revelation 11 had already laid the foundation for this event. Revelation 18:2 says, "Babylon the Great is fallen!" Revelation 11:15 says, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
Conclusion: The Great Image is a Furnace
The great image mentioned in Daniel, the apostasy mentioned in Matthew 25, and Babylon the Great mentioned in Revelation all represent one thing: the reign of Satan. Jesus says that in the end times, lawlessness will abound, and the love of many will grow cold. Through this lawlessness, Satan steals the glory and worship that God deserves. On the one hand, our human regime is being infiltrated by Satan in an attempt to seize man's worship of God. But on the other hand, God is using those same human regimes to work all things together for the good of His chosen ones. God uses those regimes to bring salvation to his people and maturity to his bride.
When Daniel’s friends were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to the golden image, Christ was with them and saved them. In the last days, when the Antichrist creates a time of unprecedented distress, the Lord will save those who do not bow to the Antichrist. God uses these human regimes and human suffering to refine his people like a fiery furnace. When God’s precious vessels of God are completely forged, the furnace will no longer be necessary. That is why the image representing the kingdoms of this world was eventually crushed, giving way to God’s eternal kingdom. Just like Nebuchadnezzar tried God’s chosen people in his fiery furnace, God is testing our faith like gold.
Wednesday May 24, 2023
Wednesday May 24, 2023
Wednesday May 24, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus - Revelation 8
The Prayers of the Saints Advance God’s Plans for Judgment on the World
In Revelation 7, we learned how Jesus, the Cornerstone, connects the Jewish and Gentile believers and lays the foundation for the New Jerusalem. The construction of the New Jerusalem is one of the themes of the Book of Revelation.
Another theme is that the newly-built body of Christ will judge evil spirits. Paul says explicitly, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?”(1 Corinthians 6:3) This judgment of angels culminates in the judgment of Satan and his evil spirits, as they are cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). This judgment is also pictured in the earlier chapters of Revelation, such as Revelation 8. God’s judgment is seen in the sixth seal, as well as in the vision between the sixth and seventh seals. The prayers of the saints are necessary to bring about God’s just judgment on humans and angels.
Why Is There Silence in Heaven for Half an Hour?
When the Lamb unveils the seventh seal, there is silence in heaven for half an hour. Why? Because when the seventh seal is opened, it will unveil seven more trumpet judgments. I believe that these judgments are dependent on the powerful prayers of the saints. The saints must cooperate with God’s sovereignty through prayer so that the Lamb can open the seven seals. The prayers of the saints are a necessary condition for the advancement of God’s kingly work. This is why verse 2 says that when the seven trumpets are given to the seven angels standing before God, they do not blow them right away. Instead, the angel offers up incense, which is the prayers of the saints. Its smoke rises up before God (3-5). Those prayers are necessary to bring about God’s judgment. Only after the incense of the prayers ascends to God do the angels prepare to blow the trumpets (6). Only then does God’s judgment unfold at last (8:7-13). So it is natural to infer that the prayers in verses 3-5 are the driving force for the blowing of the trumpets in verse 6.
Another reason for the silence in heaven is revealed in Revelation 6. God asked the persecuted saints "to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been" (6:11). These slain saints asked God to take revenge on those who had shed their blood (6:10). But after the judgment of the sixth seal was complete, God waited quietly for the prayers of the saints to fill up the golden censer. This was a gradual process. When the prayers of the saints reached the required amount, the next step of judgment occurred, as recorded in verse 5: “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Judgment comes from the throne of God, but the prayers of the saints have great power in bringing it about (James 5:16). Prayer can influence God, who sits on the throne, to carry out his judgment on evil spirits and on the world.
Don’t think that the seven trumpet judgments are too cruel. Peter predicts that God will even judge believers: "For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’”(1 Peter 4:17-18)
I can say from experience that it is extremely difficult to go through judgment. Years ago, I went through a long-lasting period of God’s discipline, and I learned many lessons of obedience through these times. In the end, I was able to praise God for what he taught me. The author of the book of Hebrews says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:5). When we experience God's discipline, our knee-jerk reaction is to feel discouraged. When my wife and I were experiencing ten years of infertility, a sister was going through the same difficulty at the same time. She had been barren for many years and had no children. One time, she lamented, “For so many years, nothing has gone well for me. Everybody else is having a good life but me.”
Of course, we felt the same way at the time. But I frequently comforted myself with the words of Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” I knew the Lord was disciplining me because of his love: “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). I knew in my spirit that God would use me greatly in the future and in order to prepare for that time, I had to grow in faith and yield my flesh to Him. I had to stop serving Him by my own power. The journey was a slow process. Learning to obey took a long time, and it took even longer to learn to thank God from the heart for His discipline. The process required time, and I kept praying desperately for God’s work.
After ten years of God’s discipline, I had an internal breakthrough. Though I still hadn’t seen God's blessing outwardly, I had surrendered myself to God inwardly. Even though the external difficulties didn’t go away, and Satan's attacks often made me burst into tears, I still worshiped and prayed to God from the bottom of my heart. I sang songs and praises to God, even while weeping. At this time, I experienced a miracle in my life. God gave me a miracle baby. In addition, the infertile sister I mentioned earlier also received a son and a daughter.
The judgment of the sixth seal depicts an extremely difficult lesson of God’s discipline. Even the martyred saints struggled to learn this lesson. After this difficult lesson, it took them a while to send enough prayers to fill God’s censor. God was patient with the process. During the half an hour of silence in heaven, he was waiting patiently to begin his spiritual discipline of mankind as a whole.
This is not a wild guess from me, but a lesson that I have learned through my own spiritual experiences with God Himself. Even though God’s word is greater than our personal experience, yet our experiences are necessary to help us better understand His word. We should not only learn His words, but also experience them for ourselves. The spiritual lessons a person learns through experience can help him understand the words of the Bible from a higher spiritual vantage point. In this case, God’s discipline reveals his love and patience.
When Jesus was on earth, he lived a life of meekness and patience. No one can immediately utter words of praise when they are slapped in the face. Most people would complain or even curse. For example, when James and John were rejected by the Samaritans, their first reaction was to command fire to come down from heaven and consume their enemies. But Jesus responded differently. His prayer was full of gentleness: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26). Why? Because Jesus knows the loving nature of God the Father. Through suffering, we can learn about God’s love, patience, gentleness, and meekness.
Watchman Nee says that when a person goes through suffering, he either becomes spiritually stronger or spiritually weaker. No one goes through difficulties without transformation. He says, “A believer can never be the same after passing through suffering. Either he will have his capacity enlarged or he will become more hardened. For this reason, when believers are passing through suffering, they must pay attention and they must realize that maturity in life is the sum total of receiving the discipline of the Holy Spirit.” Through suffering, our hearts become more tender toward God, and we learn more about his attributes. This will equip us to advance God’s work through prayer. This can only be accomplished by the overcomers who win a final victory, represented by the male child in Revelation 12. These overcomers are the ones who will judge evil spirits and the entire world on behalf of the church.
The Transition of Judgment
Another reason there is silence in heaven for half an hour is because all of heaven is waiting with bated breath for a huge transition that is taking place in this chapter. As we’ve mentioned, Revelation 12 is a turning point in the book of Revelation. Revelation 8 is another turning point. The focus of God’s judgment is turning from the house of God to the fallen world!
As 1 Peter 4:17 says, God's judgment begins with the house of God. We can see this truth in Revelation. God starts by disciplining the seven churches through His letters to the churches. This leads to heaven being opened. John sees God sitting on the throne with a scroll in his right hand. This scroll contains God’s plan for the church, the victorious body of Christ. Although this scroll includes God’s judgment for the world, it mostly focuses on God’s judgment for his chosen people. This is why the saints in Revelation 6 shout, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10) The saints are undergoing God’s judgment, and they are longing for God to judge unbelievers as well.
The vision that follows the sixth seal reveals that a large number of Jews have been saved and that countless Gentiles have turned to Christ. They are the firstfruits chosen by God. Though some people will need further discipline, others have experienced God’s discipline process and have matured spiritually. They now sit on the throne with God, judging the world. So we see that the seven seal judgments are focused on helping the church mature so it can bring forth conquerors. However, the seven trumpet judgments are for unbelievers and are brought about through the prayers of the conquerors. This is the difference between the seven seals and the seven trumpets.
This also points to the reason why heaven is silent for half an hour after the Lamb opens the seventh seal. Times are about to change. Why did God stay quiet 400 years after Malachi’s last prophecy? Times were changing, Jesus Christ was about to be born, and heaven was holding its breath for the coming of the great era. In the same way, even now, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). After the sixth seal, God is already beginning to reveal his sons. God’s times are changing. His creation is about to be set free. Romans 8:20-21 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” All of creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God with great anticipation. And after three short chapters, the great production is about to happen in Revelation 12.
My wife went through great difficulties when giving birth to our daughter. Since the delivery didn’t go well, we had no choice but to agree to a Cesarean delivery on the spot. I was full of anxiety at that moment. I prayed to God but got no response from Him. I was restless and kept pacing up and down the hospital corridors. When I saw the doctor pull our baby girl out of her mother and pat her buttocks to make her cry, I was so relieved. How can heaven not be silent for half an hour? The earth has been going through birth pangs. The moment of birth has arrived! The drama is about to unfold! It is so exciting! Just like God waited in silence for 400 years while he was preparing to send Christ at just the right moment, God is also waiting in silence at this pivotal junction in human history. He is filled with awe and is waiting with bated breath!
Many people read the book of Revelation as if they were chewing on wax. They are neither excited nor amazed. Why not? Because they cannot visualize this amazing picture in their spirits. We need to be spiritually enlightened, just like Simeon, to whom God revealed that he would see Christ Jesus with his very own eyes before he died. When he saw baby Jesus, he recognized him instantly and glorified and praised God (Luke 2:26-28). Many other people did not have spiritual eyes to see Jesus, so they did not recognize Him. This led to "the fall and rising of many in Israel" (Luke 2:34) because people could not recognize God's work.
The Terrible Judgment of God on Unbelievers
The Bible repeatedly warns that God's judgment on unbelievers in the last days will be great and formidable. Malachi 4:5-6 proclaims, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” These are the final words of the Old Testament, and they uncover God’s principle for the New Testament. God has appointed a day of great terror on which he will judge all human beings, especially unbelievers, with finality. But before that, God will continue to work through His grace and through the Gospel of His Son. He promised to send the Spirit of the prophet Elijah to reconcile people with the Father. The Spirit of Elijah is represented by the Baptism of Repentance proclaimed by John the Baptist. The Lord Jesus says clearly, "But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands" (Matthew 17:12). The Lord Jesus is referring to John, and also alludes to His own destiny.
After the turning point in Revelation 8, the target of the judgment turns to unbelievers. During the transition, God’s grace is still available. However, the hardness of the human heart is incredibly great. Even though a third of the human race was killed after the severe trumpet judgments, (Revelation 9:18), people still worshiped various idols. The Bible says, “They did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21). Therefore, God's hand strikes more harshly, and the judgment keeps getting crueler. It’s not until the great earthquake happens in Revelation 11:13, killing 7,000 people, that humans finally are terrified and give glory to God in heaven. Later, Revelation 12 describes the birth of a male child who will judge Satan. This child is persecuted by Satan, and the curtain opens on the catastrophe of the last three and half years of the tribulation. But even during the great tribulation, people are still getting saved and overcoming sin. God’s grace is still visible and available, even in His judgment.
The Seven Trumpets are God’s Judgment upon Evil Spirits
The ten plagues of Egypt were not only God’s judgment upon Pharaoh, but also God’s judgment on the ten evil spirits they represented. The same principle is found in the seven trumpet judgments of Revelation 8. Here is a fun fact: evil spirits like to live where there is water. Many of the trumpet judgments involve water so that God can judge the evil spirits in the water. Here is a summary of the way God judges evil spirits through the trumpet judgment:
- The first trumpet is God’s judgment upon the earth, because the earth is filled with human beings possessed by evil spirits. The earth is defiled by demons.
- The second trumpet judges the sea. This is God’s judgment upon the evil spirits in the ocean.
- The third trumpet judges the evil spirits in the rivers.
- The fourth trumpet, which strikes a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, is God’s judgment on the head of all rule and authority.
- The fifth and sixth trumpets of Revelation 9 release the locusts from the bottomless pit to torment people. In addition, the angel of the Euphrates River is released to bring in mounted troops to kill one-third of mankind.
In the first trumpet judgment, God judges the spirits that are targeting humans. Jesus says that when an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it is unable to find rest in waterless places, so it returns to the house from which it came. When it returns, it brings seven worse spirits with it, so the person ends up worse off in the end than he was in the beginning. Jesus says the same principle is true of the evil days (Matthew 12:43-45). Humankind is created in the image of God, so evil spirits target humans. They possess humans and try to influence them to commit sins. This is why God’s judgment starts with driving out evil spirits.
However, when the people who have been released from Satan refuse to allow the Lord to enter their hearts, their hearts will be like empty houses. Even worse spirits will take up residence inside them. This is seen in the locusts that come out of the bottomless pit. Those who refuse to repent and break free from evil spirits will eventually be tortured by unclean spirits that are far worse than the original ones. Their situation will only get worse and worse.
We will learn more about the seven trumpets in our study of Revelation 9.
 Watchman Nee, A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministries, 1991.
Wednesday May 24, 2023
Wednesday May 24, 2023
Wednesday May 24, 2023
Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 7
The Cornerstone Brings Together Jews and Gentile Believers
The end of Revelation unveils the beauty of the New Jerusalem, a magnificent city that has been recently constructed. First Peter 2:5 tells us that we as believers are the living stones that compose that spiritual temple, the New Jerusalem: “You, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the cornerstone of the entire structure. First Peter 2:4 states that Jesus is “a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” First Peter 2:6-7 also agrees that Christ is the cornerstone. Both Isaiah and Ephesians talk about how Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, unites Jews and Gentiles.
As the body of Christ matures at the end of Revelation, the construction of the spiritual temple is completed. Naturally, we would expect to see more about the progress in earlier chapters as well. And that is exactly what we find when we study Revelation.
The image of the New Jerusalem from Chapter 21 correlates to the vision in Chapter 7. Chapter 21 says that the New Jerusalem has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and on the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:12). The city has twelve foundations, and on them are written the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14). And Chapter 7 describes a vision that takes place between the sixth and seventh seal. It encourages believers to stay hopeful when going through suffering because God is already building his spiritual temple.
Let’s look at the vision more closely. In this vision, God describes 144,000 people from the tribes of Israel who had been sealed (Revelation 7:3-8). He also introduces “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). This vision is a vivid depiction of the truths revealed in Ephesians 2. The hatred between Jews and Gentiles has been removed. The Israelites and the multicultural tribe are all united before the throne of God. Because Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, believers from every nation can grow together into the temple of the Lord (Ephesians 2:11-22).
We Need to Understand the Overall Structure of Revelation
When we go for a walk in a forest, there are signposts or maps to guide us. If we do not see the signposts or misinterpret the signs, we will get lost. In the same way, when we read the Scripture, it’s easy to get lost. Especially when we read a difficult book like Revelation, we often miss the signposts and take the wrong path. There are signposts everywhere in the Bible. But sometimes we fail to see them. Perhaps they are overgrown with moss or shrubs and we must make extra efforts to find them. In the same way, when reading the Bible, we need help from the Holy Spirit to help us find the signposts.
In addition, we must not pay too much attention to the details in the Bible, or we will lose the forest for the trees. We will get lost because we fail to see the big picture. Just like you solve a jigsaw puzzle by creating the outer border and the main picture first, we need to see the outline and the big picture in the Bible. Only then will we be able to fit the details into place.
So here is an important question: What is the overall picture of Revelation? The overall structure is that God will judge the church and the world in order to mature the bride of Christ (the New Jerusalem) and prepare her for the second coming of Jesus Christ. In Revelation 12, we see a description of the bride giving birth to a male child. Because he knows that the church is destined to judge the angels, Satan’s anger grows exponentially after the male child is born. He begins to persecute the church and the overcomers. This event initiates a three-and-a-half-year tribulation.
Let’s review the structure of the Book of Revelation:
- Revelation 1-3 describes the Lord’s judgment upon the church.
- The Lord shows John a heavenly vision of God’s throne (4-5).
- After cleansing the house of God, the judgment of the world begins, which is the purpose of the seven seals (chapters 6-8) and the seven trumpets (chapters 9-11).
- In between the judgments God includes visions to encourage believers to see God’s grace and kindness amid suffering and judgment. The vision between the sixth and seventh seals reveals the foundation the New Jerusalem is built upon: Christ.
- Through Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, the Jews and Gentile believers are united (chapter 7).
- The vision between the sixth and seventh trumpets encourages believers to see that the mystery of God will be fulfilled (10:7). This is the signpost of Revelation. And this is the overarching structure: judgment comes first, then comes encouragement. Then the cycle repeats itself.
- After Revelation 12, the battle between Christ and Satan intensifies until it culminates in the Battle of Armageddon. Of course, Christ and His bride win the final victory over Satan and his demons. God puts down the rebellion, destroys all evil in His universe, and invites the New Jerusalem to come to earth.
We must see the hidden structure of the Book of Revelation so that we will not get lost as if we were in a forest.
The Vision in Revelation 7 Reveals the Foundation of New Jerusalem
Revelation 21 mentions the names of the twelve tribes written on the twelve gates, as well as the names of the twelve apostles written on the twelve foundations. The angel has a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, including its gates and its walls (Revelation 21:15). Those who have worked in construction or visited a construction site know that measuring is an important part of the building process. Whenever the Bible is talking about taking measurements, it is often referring to the building process. Both Revelation 21 and Revelation 11 talk about an angel taking measurements. Revelation 11:1 says, “Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there’” (11:1). Here, the idea of measurement may indicate sizing up the building and the building materials.
Even though the Book of Revelation contains a lot of judgment, it also contains rebuilding and growth. Paul says it in this way: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). God’s judgment demolishes the old creation, while God’s renewal builds up the new creation.
Although the Bible says that the New Jerusalem came “down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2), it does not exclude the possibility of building it on Earth. The word "parousia" contains both the idea of a public appearance and a hidden manifestation. Jesus Christ will return to earth publicly, but he also manifests himself in more subtle ways within the hearts of his followers. He appears quietly, like the morning star mentioned in 2 Peter 1:19. In the same way, the construction of the New Jerusalem has two aspects. On the one hand, she comes down from heaven; on the other hand, she is built up in each of our hearts. This is what Peter proclaims: "You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5).
The themes of tearing down and building up are two main themes of the Book of Revelation. They mirror the concepts of judgment and encouragement. God never tears down if he doesn’t intend to build up again. God's work does not stop at tearing down or judging. He also rebuilds and encourages his people, the world, and the new creation.
We can see this structure clearly at the beginning of Revelation 7. After the first six seal judgments, the four angels at the four corners of the earth were about to harm the earth and the sea (7:1-2). This judgment would have been part of the sixth seal, because it was happening before the seventh seal. However, another angel asked them to hold back the judgment until he sealed God’s servants with the seal of the living God (7:3). The severe judgment was temporarily suspended.
Chapter 6:12-14 says, "When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth… The sky... was removed from its place.” Jesus uses a very similar description of the end times in Matthew 24: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29). In Matthew 24:21, He goes on, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." Then verse 31 says, "And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Jesus’ words correlate closely to the vision in Revelation 7. After the angel with the seal of God stops the four angels who want to harm the earth and the sea, the chapter never records that the four angels actually executed their plans. Perhaps Jesus was referring to these four angels when he said that unless these days were cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of God’s chosen people, God's grace had cut these days short.
In addition, Matthew says that an angel will blow a trumpet to gather His chosen Jews together. This corresponds with the opening of the seven seals. Revelation 7 says that 144,000 Israelites were sealed, and their return to God may have begun during the blowing of the seventh trumpet. However, none of the 144,000 came from the tribe of Dan. Perhaps this tribe comes back to God in Revelation 21. This is beyond the scope of our current discussion.
Let’s return to our discussion of tearing down and building up. Judgment is not an end, but only a means to an end. The purpose of judgment is to bring people to repentance and gather God's chosen people—not only the Jews but also the saved people from all nations—to himself. Jews and Gentiles are built together on the cornerstone, Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of the temple.
Christ, the Cornerstone, Unifies the Jewish and Gentile Believers
Christ is not only the Lamb of God who takes away sin, but he is also the Designer and Architect of the City of God. Speaking of Abraham, Hebrews 11:10 says, "For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." I believe this city is the New Jerusalem in Revelation. That raises a question: What is the building material? As a spiritual building, the temple is made of living stones. And who are those living stones? Believers! Both Gentile believers and Jewish believers are the living stones that make up this building. The Jewish people rejected Christ as their cornerstone, but he nonetheless became the Chief Cornerstone that united Jews and Gentiles. Acts 4:11 maintains, "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." (See also Matthew 21:42.)
The Bible refers to Jesus as the cornerstone many times. Isaiah 28:16 says, "Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laidas a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone.’" The cornerstone refers to Christ, who is the foundation of a spiritual building. Obviously, Jesus Christ is not a physical stone; he is a "spiritual Rock … and the Rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus is the foundation of the church, and we are the living stones being built upon it. We are being built into a spiritual temple, the dwelling place of God’s Spirit.
Nowhere is this building process better described than in Ephesians 2. First, Paul reminds the Gentile believers of how they were formerly separated from the promises God made to the Jews (2:12), but how that hostility was removed through Jesus Christ (2:14). They now have access in one Spirit to the Father (2:18). Paul tells them that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (2:20), "in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (2:21-22). The "whole structure" includes both Jewish and Gentile believers who grow together into a holy temple in the Lord. This temple is the New Jerusalem. Christ, as the cornerstone, must include both Jewish and Gentile believers as he builds his temple.
Paul’s words can help us understand John’s vision in Revelation. If we are not familiar with Paul’s writings, our understanding of Revelation will be limited. The Bible is written by different people, but they are all inspired by one Holy Spirit. We must look at the Bible as a whole and interpret the vision in Revelation in the light of the inspiration that Paul saw and received.
The Building of the Foundation in Revelation 7 Is Necessary for the Seventh Seal and the Seventh Trumpet
In the Bible, we see a spiritual principle: God gradually does away with the old as he incrementally brings in the new. He does not get rid of the old too quickly, or the new growth wouldn’t have a foundation to stand on.
We see this principle in Revelation 7. In the seventh seal judgment and the seventh trumpet judgment, God judges the old creation so he can bring in the new creation. But he will not destroy the old creation before the new creation is fully formed because we still need the old creation to supply the physical needs of our natural existence.
In the same way, when we first put our trust in the Lord, the Holy Spirit gives us some sense of repentance, but he doesn’t show us all of our problems at once. Instead, as we mature, he gradually reveals more and more sins that we need to deal with. Another example comes from the Old Testament. When God commanded the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites, he didn’t allow them to do it all at once. If they had, the wild beasts would have grown and multiplied in the vacated land before they could fully take possession of it (Deuteronomy 7:22). Israel needed to drive out the Canaanites gradually. The Canaanites represent the aspects of the physical body and the physical world that are still useful. In Deuteronomy, the Canaanite’s presence served a purpose: to restrain the increase of wild beasts. The same principle applies to us today. We need our physical bodies so we can continue to develop our spiritual lives. Only when we reach heaven or obtain a glorified body will we escape the restrictions of our physicality. Until then, we need our bodies. Although there is no way to escape from the physical body, we can still experience freedom from the bondage of the sinful flesh.
Our spiritual maturity determines how well we deal with our flesh. For example, Watchman Nee often held trainings to help brothers and sisters mature spiritually and overcome the flesh. Sometimes when people asked him questions, he would speak out about their spiritual problems very frankly, sometimes even mercilessly. But other times, he refrained from pointing out their shortcomings, instead giving them compliments. People asked, “Why do you have such a strange way of handling questions?” He responded, “Everyone's spiritual life is different. For those who are more mature spiritually, critical words can help them. But for those who are spiritually immature, words of criticism would make them stumble.”
This story illustrates this principle well. Before the old creation can be judged and torn down, the new creation needs to be built up. The seventh seal and the seventh trumpet judgments that take place after Revelation 8 will be even more severe. That’s why Revelation 7 is so important. This chapter serves to build up the Jews and the Gentiles and bring them together in reconciliation. As God unites Jews and Gentiles upon the cornerstone, Christ, he lays a solid foundation for the spiritual temple. Only then will the church be able to endure God’s harsh judgment on the old creation. We hope that this spiritual principle helps you better understand God’s words in Revelation 7.