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“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'” Matthew 3:7-10
So a quick introduction to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, basically both were elitist Jewish groups with strong political impact, though from different angles. The Pharisees were a legalistic synagogue party, cultural separatists that kept the Law of Moses to the letter. Whereas, the Pharisees represented the wealthy and sophisticated Jews, politically minded, with their sights on the temple and, therefore, mostly located in Jerusalem and the temple vicinity. Both groups were relatively small in number but big of opinion and influence.
It’s no surprise, then, that this group came snooping when all of Israel turned out to hear John’s message, confess their sins and be baptized by him in the Jordan river. Anyone who drew masses of people away from the Pharisee and Sadducee influence was a threat.
John’s words sound abrading, but actually they’re prophetic. How so? Each of John’s phrases here are later spoken by either Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Jesus refers to the religious leaders as vipers [Matthew 12:34 & 23:33]. He warns of the coming wrath [Matthew 23:33] as does the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul [Romans 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:10]. He speaks of the good fruit produced in a life after true repentance [Acts 26:20], and he warns that failure to bear good fruit will result in being cut off and thrown into the fire [Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:6-9; John 15:2-6].
So before Jesus even started his earthly ministry, God has put the words of Christ in the mouth of his forerunner.
Now don’t misunderstand, God is not saying that their Abrahamic lineage is unimportant. But God is letting the Pharisees know that though they have kept the whole law, they have missed the point–the greatest commandments to love God and one another [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28; John 13:34]. He is also letting the Sadducees know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God [James 4:4].
Darkness doesn’t perceive light the way that light perceives darkness [John 1:5]. People, who have been born into death and are being raised by its precepts, have a hard time understanding what true life is.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try anyway. We who are the light of the world [Matthew 5:14]. We who have accepted the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6]. We should burn with the grace and mercy of God to speak His love and light and life to this lost and dying world.
Does your life speak light? Does your life speak eternal life into others?
“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me–God sends forth His love and His faithfulness.” Psalm 57:3
God is not passive about His mercy. His goodness and love reach out to every person in every generation.
He actively extends His forgiveness to everyone at all times. Any time we choose to repent and accept His forgiveness, it is right their waiting for us. He never rescinds it. Never attaches conditions to it. Never shuts it away from us. Never stops loving us.
He is actively compassionate, slow to anger and abounding love and faithfulness [Psalm 86:15]. He actively listens to our cries and sees our needs, and comes along side to comfort [Psalm 23:4], clothe [Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:27-40], provide for [Psalm 65:9], give wisdom, peace, joy and strength [1 Samuel 23:16 & 30:6; Nehemiah 8:10; John 14:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; James 1:5]–when we seek Him.
You see, many want God’s mercies without a relationship with Him. And He does cause the sun to rise and the rain to fall on everyone [Matthew 5:45]. He does offer His forgiveness to everyone at all times. He does slow His anger so that no one will choose to perish, but that all will seek Him while He may be found and choose eternal life [Isaiah 55:6; 2 Peter 3:9]. He does hear and see every need and broken heart–and He continually longs for us to see Him as our provider, to repent of our foolish pride and ask for His provision. He knows our need for wisdom and desires for us to rightly reverence Him so that we may attain it [Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10]. He compassionately wants to lavish an abundant life of joyful peace and strength on us and desires that we find the truth of it all in Him.
Most importantly, He desires that we find eternal life. That we come to a right understanding that loving this life and the things of this world is the fastest way to lose it all [Matthew 10:39 & 16:25; John 12:25]. But coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and daily denying ourselves to follow Him is the only way to keep our life for eternity [Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23].
His mercy is active, but it is also wise. And we need to understand that it is not always the merciful thing to give us exactly what we ask for. Just as a parent knows better than to give in to their children’s requests for things that will hurt them physically or bring them to ruin in other ways, so God–out of His great mercy–weighs our requests for our own good. When we don’t get the answer that we want, we should thank God that He has answered for our good rather than for our desire. When we don’t get the answer that we hope for, we should ask the Holy Spirit to tune our hearts more closely to God’s. And we should praise God for His great mercy, trusting always in His infinite wisdom.
Have you accepted God’s mercy in your life yet? If not, will you do so today–this very minute? If so, do you trust God’s wise mercies to answer prayers for your good–a good that exceeds all you could ask or imagine [Ephesians 3:20]?
“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” Romans 2:14-15
In a world where conscience has become synonymous with being true to self, which in turn equates to self-as-god, let us return to the root meaning.
And as Christians, we can take this one step closer to the reality of eternity and understand that conscience is living with THE Knowing One.
God is omniscient–all-knowing. The fear of the Him is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom [Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10; Psalm 111:10]. Does that mean that we need to be afraid of God? Actually, the phrase the fear of the Lord refers to our reverence for God. If we respect Him to the fullness that He deserves, then we are on the road to true knowledge and wisdom.
He Himself becomes our wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Because–while we can never plumb the depths of the mind of God [Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34]–we have received the mind of Christ [1 Corinthians 2:16]. Therefore, we can tap into the wisdom from on high in any situation we face.
We have His Holy Spirit to remind us of everything that God, the Father and Creator, has spoken to us [John 14:26]. His Word is alive and active, judging every thought and attitude of our hearts [Hebrews 4:12], shaping us–as we allow Him–into the image of Christ.
When we live conscientiously or with THE Knowing One, then we have direct access to the truth of our situation. We do not live reactively. We do not live in fear. We do not live in slavery to our doubt, anger, sinful desires or anything else.
Our conscience, that is our God With Us, counsels us. It’s how we can rejoice always, even in troubled times [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. It’s how we can pray without ceasing while walking through our everyday life [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It’s how we can give thanks to God regardless of our circumstance [1 Thessalonians 5:18]. And it is precisely God’s will for us [1 Thessalonians 5:18].
Do you live with The All-Knowing One? Or is your conscience synonymous with self-as-supreme authority? Are you on the path to true knowledge and wisdom?
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16
John, still looking into the wide open vision of heaven saw, once again, the rider on the white horse [Revelation 6:2]. If there was any question of His personage in the earlier reference, this passage should clear it up.
Revelation 3:14 agrees that this is the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Isaiah 11:4 speaks of His righteous justice–an attribute that scoffers hold as oxymoronic, because we live in a time where what God calls wrong, the world calls right and what God calls right, the world calls wrong [Isaiah 5:20].
Here again we see his eyes of fire, his crowns and bloodied robe [Revelation 1:14, 5:6, 6:2, 11:15 and 12:10].
Here again we see the unknown name inscribed as on the invitation stones [Revelation 2:17]–new names fitting of a new Creation. Yet His name is the Word of God [John 1:1]. He is the living Word. He is truth. He is the way, the truth and the life [John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6]. Son of the I am that I am [Exodus 3:14]. Through Him all things were created [John 1:1] and have their being [Colossians 1:16-17].
He leads the faithful–made righteous by the forgiveness of sins–as the victorious army over the sins that once held them captive.
The sword of His mouth is the truth of eternity [Revelation 1:16 and 17:14]–the bittersweet, double-edged sword that falls in judgment. Though He does not desire any to choose to perish [2 Peter 3:9], all who deny the truth of His kingship, all who refuse to accept the forgiveness of His lordship in their lives will receive the eternal wage of their own sin [Psalm 2:9; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 2:27].
Vengeance belongs to Him alone [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19], for He alone will step into the winepress to tread out the harvest [Isaiah 63:2-3; Revelation 14:20]. For He alone is the King above every king that has ever ruled, is now ruling and will ever rule on earth. He alone is Lord–sovereign authority–above every scientific law and government issued decree, statue, law, ordinance, rule, et al.
If He tells the sun to stand still or reverse in the sky, then it obeys [Joshua 10; 2 Kings 20:8-11]. If He commands the wind and the waves, they obey [Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:22-25]. The sick are healed, the lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised, demons cast out [Matthew 10:8 and 11:5]–by one name alone. Jesus.
All of Creation obeys its Creator. Every authority will confess that He alone is Lord God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:11]. Do you?
“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.’ Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” Revelation 16:12-16
The mighty Euphrates, fourth river of Eden [Genesis 2:14], covenanted border of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 1 Kings 4:21 & 24]. In modern times, the Euphrates appears to be nowhere near Israel’s borders, running instead from Turkey across Northern Syria and through Iraq. Only for a short time under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon did Israel’s territory extend all the way east to the great river [1 Kings 4:21; 1 Chronicles 18:3].
Still, it is significant that the river is removed altogether when the sixth bowl of wrath is poured out. With it, God’s covenanted Promised Land with the Israelites is without border, a border that delineated both divine protection and spiritual alignment in scriptures. Jacob fled from his father-in-law into the country of refuge across this river [Genesis 31:21], while enemy kings are noted as having come from beyond the river [1 Chronicles 19:16; Isaiah 7:20].
God’s hand of protection is removed from the earth along with his mercy [Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 46:6] to prepare for the final war–Armageddon. A demonic spirit comes out of Satan, his antichrist, and the false prophet, each one. The frog-like demons represent unclean spirits, since the frog was considered an unclean animal. They aid with the deception of the antichrist and the false prophet, and help unite the governments of the entire world against their Creator God.
Armageddon likely is a re-pronunciation/respelling of Har Mageddon, meaning the mountain of Megiddo. Throughout history, the plain of Megiddo, located in the main pass that runs northeast through the hill country between Sharon and Jezreel, was a frequent battleground because of its strategic location [i.e. Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22; and in modern times–1468 & 1917].
Just as Jesus’ return to rapture the church to heaven will be like a thief in the home of the unsuspecting [1 Thessalonians 5:2 & 4; 1 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3], so will his appearance at the last battle be like a thief to the earthly governments who have fallen asleep, those who have not only denied God, but forgotten Him. There is a difference. But Jesus is warning them that, Hey look, you’re going to be defeated by virtue of aligning yourselves with the unholy trinity, but you don’t have to shame yourselves in the process. Be ready.
This can also be taken as reminder to believers to be ready for His return. Jesus coming will only seem like a thief in the night to the unsuspecting. We not know the exact day or the hour [Matthew 24:36], but we can see the signs of the times, recognize that it is near, and be ready for His return [Matthew 24:1-35].
Do you know the signs of the end times? Study God’s word to understand them better. Do you see the signs all around? Is your heart prepared so that Jesus’ coming does not take you by surprise?
“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:12-13
Two times the book of Revelation calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints–first during the reign of the antichrist [Revelation 13:10] and now while those who followed and worshipped him are judged.
Hagion–rendered here as saints–appears 39 times in the New Testament. It refers to faithful believers who endure suffering [Acts 26:10; Romans 8:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12], but it is also used as the adjective holy to describe prophets [Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2], angels [Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Revelation 14:10] and places [Hebrews 8:2, 9:8, 10:19]. The Holy of Holies from Tabernacle and Temple times is referred to in Hebrews 9:8 as the hagion. This was the inner sanctuary where the high priest would offer the prescribed sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people [Leviticus 16:2; 1 Chronicles 6:49].
The writer of Hebrews recognizes, then, that the saints are the temple of God and indwelled by His Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 3:16]. To be holy is to be set apart for a special–usually a Godly–purpose. God is holy. Where He is, sin cannot be also [1 John 3:9]. When God lives in our hearts, then sin has to move out. Because He is holy, we too are to become holy–set apart unto Him [1 Peter 1:16].
As God’s saints, we must patiently endure the effects of sin in the world, faithfully holding to Jesus all the while.
Then the voice reminds us that John is seeing a vision. Write to the churches that those who believe on Jesus and die [1 Corinthians 15:12-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16], they will be extremely joyful–aka blessed. Those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will find rest from the toil that sin brought through eternal life [Genesis 3:17-19; Matthew 11:28-30], and they will store up for themselves treasures in heaven [Matthew 6:20].
Do you have this hope within you? Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and none else? Do you love Him?
“Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.” Revelation 13:14-18
The unholy prophet has already established himself as a deceiver, a liar, a consummate charlatan. Everyone on earth will be deceived by him. He will find a way to make an image of the first beast speak and kill dissenters–possibly through the ancient literary means of hollowing out the image and hiding people or mechanisms inside, or using ventriloquism and booby traps. Whatever his tactics, they will seem so real that the earth will bow to the unholy trinity–prophet, antichrist and dragon.
The only possible way for everyone to be fooled is for no one to be holding onto the truth [2 Thessalonians 2:9-10]. And this passage tells us that there may be those who refuse to worship, whether that be because of truth or principal they will be killed for their refusal.
This is where the beastly trinity really distinguishes themselves as the antithesis of the adorable triune Godhead. Whereas God created us with free will and allows each to choose whom he will serve, the beast will kill everyone who refuses to serve him. Whereas God mercifully seals those who have chosen to serve Him in order to protect them, Satan paranoically forces his followers to be sealed under threat of starvation–to protect his own self-serving, temporal authority.
Such seals were seen in the practice of branding slaves or enemy soldiers, stamping official documents, the sign of the cross on new believers’ foreheads, and in the emperor worship of Rome. But it is the ultimate sign of disavowing God in the days of the antichrist, the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Not to mention just one more counterfeit in Satan’s uncreative bag of lies. God instructed His chosen people to bind His commands on their hands and on their foreheads as a way of impressing godly instruction on their children [Deuteronomy 6:8].
Finally, the number riddle follows patterns of puzzles that John’s readers in the seven churches would have recognized and possibly have been able to actually solve. Often numbers and ancient alphabets were used in place of one another to create cipher codes for such brain teasers. However, the number could also represent a trinity [three] of falling short of the glory of God’s [Romans 3:23] perfect number, the number of completion and the spirit of God [Revelation 3:1, 4:5, and 5:6], 7.
Whatever the actual number significance, the implications are clear–we don’t want to be around to accept or reject the mark of the beast. We want to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and serve Him only. We want to choose to love Him as He loves us.
But it is a choice.
Whom have you chosen to serve with your life?