06/01/2004 - The Book of Revelation - Part 20

The Book of Revelation

Part 20

Date: 06/01/2004

Issue No. 189

Revelation 14:13 reads,

13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! Yes, says, the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.

Why are these people “blessed” if they “die in the Lord from now on”? What does “now” mean? To what time frame is this referring?

It is apparent that the time frame has to do with the events of the previous verses forming its context. “Now” has to do with the time when the nations “drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” We showed in our last study that this is the time that God hews the nations with the Sword of the Spirit, even as He “hewed” Israel in His mercy (Hos. 6: 5, 6). We also showed that the Sword is also pictured in terms of drinking “the cup of His anger.” We will also see shortly that it is pictured as “the wine press of the wrath of God.”

The wine and wine press are the biblical terms to show God’s wrath upon the oppressive systems of men. He is about to destroy those systems in order to set the people free. And He will use the overcomers to accomplish this.

The overcomers are the first fruits of the wine. They are the first ones coming forth from God’s wine press. They have submitted to His disciplines, and their flesh has been trodden under His feet. They are the first company that God has prepared to be poured upon the earth, not as a curse but as a blessing. They are the ones who are given authority in Christ’s throne to judge the earth under His direction and leading. Those who desire to oppress others will consider themselves mistreated and deprived of their “rightful” positions. They will not appreciate the judgment of God. However, the oppressed ones will be delighted.

As we will see shortly, Rev. 14:19 speaks of a time when the rest of the earth is cast into God’s wine press. All must go into the wine press of God, because it is only through God’s loving disciplines that our fleshly nature is overcome. In man’s spiritual immaturity, he thinks of such discipline as an evil thing to be avoided. But the mature ones know its value and embrace the wine press, knowing that this is the way to become God’s new wine.

Turning Water into Wine

When Jesus turned the six water pots of water to wine (John 2), He portrayed the transformation of man into the new wine. Six is the number of man. Man is 70 percent water. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:51, 52,

51 . . . we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment [Gr. atomos] 52 in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. . .

The Greek text indicates an atomic change that will occur in the blink of an eye at the last trumpet. Yes, they knew about atoms in those days. The Greeks invented the word to describe the smallest particle of matter.

When the overcomers are “changed” in their atoms, they will be turned from water to the new wine. Paul speaks of it as a change from the natural to the spiritual body in 1 Cor. 15:44, where he says,

44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

The spiritual body is the type of body that Jesus had after His resurrection that was not limited to the earthly realm, but could pass freely interdimensionally between the heavenly and the earthly realms. This is depicted in Ezekiel 44:15-17 in terms of changing from linen to woolen clothing when ministering to God and men.

The point is that when the Bible speaks of the wine and wine press of His “wrath,” that wrath is judicial, not based upon an emotional anger. It is directed at unrighteousness and oppression, which are works of the carnal nature. The purpose of the wine press is not to destroy the grapes, but to remove the flesh from the grape in order to bring forth the wine itself.

The wine press is not evil but good. Yet when sinners are cast into this wine press, they view it in their ignorance as a bad thing. They are as afraid to “die” as Israel was at Mt. Horeb (Ex. 20:19). They do not know the character of God. Their image of God is the stern and merciless judge. Earthly oppressors see Him in self-referencing terms and assume that God will treat them in a very human manner. The oppressed are likewise afraid of Him, because all they know about God is what religious men have told them—that He is a God of hell-fire and brimstone, who is seething with rage against all sinners.

But God’s intent is not to destroy mankind. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). He did not come to hew sinners in pieces with a sword, but to hew them by the Word. He did not come to destroy grapes, but to obtain grape juice. He did not come to squash men in a winepress so that their blood will be squeezed out of them in some horrible execution. He came instead to transform them from water to wine, so that the new wine can be poured out as a drink offering and a blessing to the earth.

The Time of Babylon’s Fall

So getting back to Rev. 14:13, those who die at that time are blessed because “now” is the time of blessing and outpouring of the Spirit upon the earth. “Now” is the time when God overthrows the oppressive system of man’s rule that is called “Babylon.”

Babylon will then be replaced by the Kingdom of God in an outward manifestation in the earth that will transform whole nations and political systems into the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is the time when the plan of God for the earth will surge forward under the ministry of the arnion of God, the body of Christ—particularly under the direction of the overcomers.

This next phase of the manifestation of God’s Kingdom will last a thousand years. I refer to it as the Tabernacles Age to show its contrast with the Pentecostal Age that has now ended. It is an age where the overcomers will be anointed with the fullness of the Spirit, so that they are fully equipped to complete the work set before them.

This time is pictured by the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle of Moses. That place was 10 x 10 x 10 cubits. This is a total of 1000 cubic cubits, and I believe that it prophesies of a thousand-year period. The same is true with the Holy Place, which represents the Pentecostal Age. The Holy Place was 20 x 10 x 10, which is 2,000 cubic cubits, representing the past 2,000 years.

This was also the reason that the Israelites had to cross the Jordan River 2,000 cubits behind the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant (Joshua 3:4). The Ark is the place of God’s presence and is represented by Jesus Christ, our High Priest. He had to go first into the Jordan River (death and resurrection) to show the way to the rest of us. When He stepped into the Jordan River, the waters backed up all the way to the city of Adam (Joshua 3:16), symbolically reversing the course of death all the way back to Adam.

Even so, the prophetic instruction to Israel was to remain 2,000 cubits behind the Ark. This accounted for the 2,000-year Pentecostal Age between the two works of Christ. And so, 2,000 years later the rest of us are able to cross over as well, led by Joshua (Jesus) the Ephraimite in the second work of Christ.

Conditions During the Thousand Years

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was given a prophetic dream that the prophet interpreted. It was a revelation about a huge image with a head of gold, arms of silver, belly of brass, and legs of iron. This portrayed four kingdoms that were to arise in the course of history.

That image was finally destroyed by the stone on its “feet,” the end of the time of the Babylonian oppression. This is the “now” of Rev. 14:13, because in verse 8 we read “fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.” The question is, what happens next? Dan. 2:35 tells us,

35 . . . But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

In Daniel’s interpretation in verse 44 we read,

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

In other words, this thousand-year Tabernacles Age will be a time where the Kingdom of God will ultimately fill the whole earth. The implication is that this will not all happen immediately, but will take a thousand years to accomplish. It will be done under the ministry of the overcomers who will have the full anointing of the Feast of Tabernacles—that is, the fullness of the Spirit. They will be able to enter the full presence of God with no veils hiding His glory (typified by Moses in Ex. 34:34).

There is also a revelation in the Hebrew word for “thousand,” which is eleph. This word is spelled the same in Hebrew as the aleph, the first letter of the alphabet. An aleph is an ox, signifying strength as well as the idea of being first. Strong’s Concordance (#505) says of eleph,

eleph; prop. the same as 504; hence, (the ox’s head being the first letter of the alphabet, and this eventually used as a numeral) a thousand.

This word is spelled with three Hebrew letters: aleph, lamed, and pey (or phey). Aleph means “first or strong.” Lamed means an ox goad and is a symbol of authority. These first two letters form the Hebrew word El, “God.” In other words, God is the First and Foremost Authority as well as the Strong Authority.

The final letter, pey or phey, means a mouth, signifying a word or message. Thus, the underlying meaning of eleph is the word of God or the word of the First Authority. This is the underlying purpose of the thousand-year Tabernacles Age that follows the fall of Babylon. It is the time when Jesus Christ and His Body will be in authority over the earth and will bring all things under His feet through the word—the sharp sword that comes from His mouth.

Even so, we should not be so optimistic as to think that everyone will die as a believer in Jesus Christ during this time. Even at the end of the thousand years, Rev. 20:7-9 tells us, there will be unbelievers in the earth. In fact, these will be the ones in “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13). They are the ones who are not allowed entrance into the Kingdom of Light (Rev. 22:5). Rev. 22:15 says,

15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Such people will be alive on the earth until the second and general resurrection of the dead (Rev. 20:11-15), when all must stand before God’s throne to be held accountable for their actions according to divine law. Nonetheless, these unrepentant people will be confined to that outer darkness and cannot oppress the children of light.

There will still be death during that thousand-year period of the Tabernacles Age. Isaiah 65:20 describes it,

20 No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed.

It is only after this thousand-year Age of Tabernacles that death will be abolished (Rev. 20:14). Death will be the last enemy abolished—not the first, as is often taught. There will yet be many “enemies” of Christ (those not yet reconciled to Him) during the Tabernacles Age. These will not be subdued and subjected to the authority of the divine court until the time of the Great White Throne judgment.

Meanwhile, we look forward to this next great step in the history of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

One like a Son of Man

Rev. 14:14 says,

14 And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand.

This is a reference to Jesus Christ Himself, although it has secondary application to His body—the hands which do as the Head directs. When Jesus was questioned by the high priest as to whether or not He was the Messiah, He said in Matt. 26:64,

64 Jesus said to him, You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.

According to Dr. Bullinger’s notes on Psalm 8:4 in The Companion Bible, the term son of manrelates to dominion in the earth.” He says also Appendix 98, section XVI,

“This title, when used of Christ, always has the Article …. When used of a human being, as in Ezekiel, it never has the Article….”

When John uses this term in Rev. 14:14 above, there is no article (“the”). This is why the NASB renders it “one like a son of man.” So who is this “son of man”? It is the corporate “son,” the body of overcomers manifesting the nature and character of THE Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

It is the arnion, the little lambs that Jesus said to feed in John 21:15—not the Amnos, who is the Lamb taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Yet, keep in mind that we this corporate “son” includes both Jesus (the Head) and the sons of God (His Body). In a sense, this is a joint work to bring righteousness to the earth.

This “son of man” has a crown on his head. Obviously, Jesus Himself is the highest authority, because He was the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18). But when the sons of God are raised in the first resurrection to join those who are yet alive, they are like the second-born from the dead. They will have the next highest authority. Authority is based upon the order of birth from among the dead.

The Apostle Paul wrote just before his martyrdom to his co-worker in 2 Timothy 4:8,

8 In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Paul was speaking of that son of man with the crown of righteousness in Rev. 14:14. It included Paul, but it also includes all of the overcomers.

This is also the same “son of man” that carries “a sharp sickle in his hand.” While the Head of this “son of man” is Christ, the hand is part of the body. The Head directs the hand, but the hand actually carries out the work as the executor of His will. The “sickle” is a prophetic picture, not the literal farm instrument. So what is its meaning?

The Sickle and Harvest Time

Rev. 14:15, 16 says,

15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe. 16 And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth; and the earth was reaped.

Reaping is done only when the harvest is ripe. In Jesus’ parable in Matt. 13:39, He says that “the harvest is the end of the age.” The point of the “harvest” theme is that God has sown good seed into the earth, but that it takes time for that crop to ripen. One should not try to reap a crop before it is ripe. James 5:7, 8 says,

7 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Those who study timing are better equipped in patience than those who do not. There is, of course, more than one level of timing for people to study. First there is the long-term study of things like the Pentecostal Age and the Tabernacles Age. The verses above refer to such things.

Secondly, there is the short-term timing in one’s own personal life. God may have sown His word in the lives of multitudes, but not all of those seeds have germinated. Yet some ripen every day. This has gone on for generations. In this sense, Jesus said in John 4:35,

35 Do you not say, There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.

In other words, while we must be patient for the greater fulfillment of the harvest at the end of the age, there is even now a work to be done on an individual basis. There are many individuals who are now “ripe” for harvest, even though we must have patience with those yet unripe.

But let us not pit John 4:35 against James 5:7, for then we will have one side arguing against the other, when in reality, both are correct on their own level.

Rev. 14:15, 16 (quoted earlier) is not talking on the individual level. It is a long-term prophecy of “the end of the age” (Matt. 13:39). What sort of reaping is it? That really depends upon which people we want to discuss.

The harvest of the field (i.e., “the world”—Matt. 13:38) begins with the offering of the first fruits (overcomers). When the sons of God are manifested after the first resurrection has brought the dead overcomers to life, they will be the first fruits of a general harvest. This is why Rev. 14:1-5 speaks of the overcomers being manifested. That event marks the beginning of harvest. Then immediately in verse 6 John speaks of the gospel being preached to all nations. That is the general harvest of the “field.” That preaching brings about the final collapse of “Babylon” in verse 8.

A farmer harvests wheat in order to make bread out of it—not to destroy the crop. Even so, God is a farmer who sends His angels to harvest His field—the world. While it is true that the tares are removed first (Matt. 13:24-30), we ought not to think of the tares as being all non-Christians. No, tares are imitation wheat. Tares look like wheat and can only be distinguished toward harvest. At that time, the grains of wheat are heavy and cause the wheat to bow. The tares have a small, black, poisonous seed that is lightweight and can easily be seen at the time of harvest.

The tares are those who claim to be God’s chosen, but who are only imitators, whose doctrines are poisonous. They are the followers of the Old Jerusalem, “the bloody city” (Ez. 22:2), rather than those of the New Jerusalem, the true “City of Peace.” They are twins like Jacob and Esau, making it difficult for most people to distinguish between them. The removal of the tares will precede the actual harvest. That time is nearly here.