Where Does “Christmas” Originate From?

Where Does CHRISTMAS ORIGINATE from.jpg

The Christmas season is the most enjoyable time of the year for many who think upon the events surrounding the gift of Jehovah to the world—his firstborn Son, our Lord Jesus as a special gift to the human family, but is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, truly appreciated in its full sense?

You see, the true reason for Jesus’ birth was that he would give his life as a ransom price for the sins of every single human that has lived.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

In John 3:16 we read that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The Greatest Message of Joy

The angel in Luke 2:10-14 was announcing God’s greatest gift to his poor, sin-sick and dying human creation: A SAVIOR… The “ransom for ALL to be testified in due time” when Christ’s future kingdom of righteousness will soon be established on earth, and when “God’s sons” (the Bride of CHRIST—the 144,000, shall be all beyond the vail and “revealed.” (1 Timothy 2:6, Romans 8:19)

The birth of Jesus had been foretold by the Prophet Isaiah:

“Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6,7).

Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of Jesus as the antitypical King David, and that he would in due time assume the several and distinct offices of his yet future kingdom as outlined in the prophecy.

At that future time, our loving Heavenly Father would entrust the glorified Jesus to exercise the great power and authority that would be given him to bless all the families of the earth as promised to the true and faithful “seed” of Abraham (Genesis 22:15-18; Acts 17:31).

At Christmas when the world’s attention is drawn to the birth of our dear Lord Jesus, we must acknowledge that he left us with no instructions to celebrate his birth date.

However, Jesus did give us instructions to memorialize his deathinviting us to partake of the emblems and to remember his death. (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

In the Book of Luke, Jesus’ words spoken to his followers at the last supper on Nisan 14th (the day of unleavened bread when the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed) are as follows:

“(17)And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: (18) For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. (19) And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. (20) Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:17-19).

An Ancient Holiday Season

Although many Christian people continue to observe December 25th as the date of Jesus’ birth, there is no scriptural evidence for this date. Many students of the Bible have come to the conclusion that the blessed event took place around the beginning of October, as we have explained in the post titled Calculating the Date of Jesus’ Birth.

The Winter Solstice

Many ancient cultures chose the Winter Solstice as a special time for celebrating Christmas—which was the terminal point between the darkest days of the year, and the time when the sunlight would begin to increase. That is, when the path of the sun has reached its furthest southern position. The word “solstice” literally means “the sun stands still.”

The time of the Winter Solstice was determined using very primitive and imprecise methods—measuring the length of the shadow created by a stick or a standing stone, which in turn, was dependent on clear weather to create a shadow and to make their calculations as accurate as possible.

In pagan times, the Winter Solstice was seen as part of an annual cycle of the earth’s seasons known as “the wheel of the year.” They celebrated eight festivals including the spring, midsummer, fall, and Yule seasons. Four others were spaced midway between each of them. These festivals have origins in Germanic and Celtic pre-Christian feasts.

Yuletide Celebrations

The Yuletide festival was one of the ancient traditions that was observed in many areas of Europe, the British Isles, and elsewhere. The word Yule relates to the Christmas season and the time when the sun reverses its downward path and begins to shine longer each day.

The actual time may vary a few days over the course of years, but usually occurs sometime between December 21st – 23rd.

Fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. The log was believed to bring good luck to the occupants of the dwelling. Ashes from the log were placed in wells to keep the water pure and they were also placed at the roots of fruit trees and vines to help them bear an abundant harvest during the following year.

The end of December was also when most cattle were slaughtered, thus, the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat and most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honoured the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday who they were terrified of, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

Saturnalia

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful, when slaves would become masters for this month and when peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could partake of this pagan “fun.”

Mithraism

Another of the Winter Solstice festivals was the celebration of Mithra—annually observed by the people of ancient Persia in honour of the Persian god Mithra who was considered the deity of light, wisdom, and moral purity. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year and celebrated on December 25th.

The celebration of Mithra was later introduced into Europe and other areas of Asia Minor after the conquests of Alexander the Great (in early 300 BC) but it began to lose much of its influence by the end of the fourth century. With the rise of Constantine the Great in the fourth century, Christianity was then elevated to the prominent position as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Therefore, the ancient traditions and various observances of the old pre-Christian era gave way to the new Christian religion and its festivals.

The Christian Era

Who Established the Christmas December 25th Date?  

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. During the early centuries of the Christian era, religious leaders wanted to establish a fixed date to celebrate the mass of Christ, which was called Christmas.

It is commonly believed that the church (that is, Pope Julius I—a bishop of Rome from AD 337 to his death in AD 352) chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by AD 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.

By the Middle Ages, on Christmas believers attended church and afterwards celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

Christmas is Outlawed In the Early 17th Century

In 1645, Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England and they vowed to rid England of decadence and, thus Christmas was cancelled through these efforts, even being known to be outlawed (from 1659-1681) in Boston. However, by popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

The Christmas Tree – A Pagan Custom Brought to Christianity

Long before Christ, evergreen trees and plants have been used to celebrate winter festivals.

Early Romans used evergreens to decorate their temples at the New Year’s celebration of the Saturnalia festival, and exchanged branches and twigs of evergreens as a good luck blessing.

The ancient Egyptians used green palm rushes as part of their worship of the god Ra.

Pagans in Europe believed that because the evergreen tree stayed green throughout the year and could withstand the rigors of an extreme winter, they had magical abilities to ward off the life-threatening powers of darkness and cold. Thus they were considered to possess powers over evil spirits, which some ancient pagan civilizations of northern Europe believed stalked the eerie shadows of the wintertime forests.

During the winter months, evergreen wreaths and other forms of greenery were hung over doors and windows and brought inside the house to protect one from the darkness and evil spirits. The incense from burnt needles and cones as well as the scent from this greenery would freshen the dark and dismal dwellings from the otherwise stagnant odour of thresh and straw and was considered a means of blessing the occupants of the home.

The evergreens served as a reminder that the rigors of winter would pass, and that the land would once again be fruitful.

Many historians believe that the pagan people of Scandinavia were among the first to actually bring evergreen trees indoors, which served as a mid-winter symbol of the promise of the coming warmth of spring.

German Saxons are believed to have been the first to light their trees with candles, and to adorn them with decorations and trinkets for good fortune. The tradition of the indoor evergreen tree became popular in Germany, and it is believed that the first use of Christmas trees by Christians was developed in that part of Europe. Some historians have suggested that its origin may reach back as far as the eighth century.

In England, the first recorded Christmas tree was in 1841. At that time, Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert of Germany, and he brought the tradition with him and set up the first Christmas tree in Windsor Castle.

German immigrants to America also brought the tradition with them and were celebrating Christmas with evergreen trees as early as the 1830s. The custom took several decades to catch on in the United States. During that period of time, most religious people correctly assumed that it had pagan origins. However, by the 1890s the indoor decorated Christmas tree had become popular in the majority of homes in America.

The Truth behind the Word “CHRISTMAS”

The word “CHRISTMAS” is based upon an impure doctrinal foundation: THE ROMAN CATHOLIC PAPAL SYSTEM—the ANTICHRIST of the Bible—was identified by the Reformers of the Early Church, such as Martin Luther.

The Papal system fit the description found in 2 Thessalonians 2:4:

“…who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God…”

The evidence to the Reformers in confirming the identity of Antichrist was the doctrine of the Mass. The ritual of the Mass claims to recreate and sacrifice over and over Christ’s actual flesh (bread) and blood (wine). Known as the Eucharist, it became a requirement that each believer must receive this fresh sacrifice of Christ to cover his daily sins. Daniel 11:31 refers to this as “the abomination that maketh desolate.”

The Mass makes desolate or negates the full merit of Christ’s blood which was shed once for all.” (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10)

It is important to note that the Protestant Reformers were careful not to condemn any individual Catholic believer as Antichrist—recognizing that no man is The Antichrist. Popes, bishops, priests and others have been only parts of, and, possibly, innocent members of the corrupt Antichrist system.

Jesus Christ’s Commission On Earth

At the age of maturity (30 years), the perfect man Jesus presented himself to his Heavenly Father in total consecration and obedience to do his will.

Jesus fulfilled the words that the Psalmist David had written concerning him:

“Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me” (Psalm 40:7-11).

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus explains to us his commission:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

“To the poor”—In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

“Heal the brokenhearted—Jesus was to heal the brokenhearted, and he said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Luke 11:28).

“Preach deliverance to the captives”—Isaiah’s account reads, “To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

When Jesus quoted Isaiah’s prophecy, he used the word “bruised” which means to crush, as in death. The reference to “captives” points to the prison house of death. In his sermon on the resurrection of the dead, he said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).

“To preach the acceptable year of the Lord”—speaks of the special invitation which has been extended to the called by God during this present Gospel Age who are laying their lives down in sacrifice which is acceptable to God (Romans 12:1,2).

What is our Commission?—see post titled Jesus’ Commission: Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

We, too, are commissioned to preach the Gospel to the poor, groaning creation. If we are faithful unto death, we will have the great privilege to share with our glorified Lord in his future kingdom of righteousness over all the people of earth. Let us renew our efforts to serve him as we approach another new year.

May we continue to give thanks to our loving Heavenly Father for his gift of Jesus, in whom the whole human family will be blessed under the provisions of his future kingdom of life and righteousness.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

“Let us remember: Jesus did not tell his disciples to celebrate his birth. Therefore, it is not important when we choose to remember this wonderful event. Because love and appreciation for our Savior abound in people’s hearts on December 25th, we may join in their attitude of glad remembrance. And the habit of giving gifts to one another seems especially appropriate. God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Certainly, amongst all His gifts, the one of greatest important to us is the gift of His Son to be our Redeemer” (Chicago Bible Students Website, Questions and Answers).

Reference:

The Dawn Magazine, December 2005, “The Birth of a Savior: Tidings of Great Joy.”
The Dawn Magazine, December 2011, “The Yuletide Traditions: and the Winter Solstice.”
The End Times, Fall 2005, Issue No. 34 – “Anti-Christ – the Counterfeit Heavens.”
Chicago Bible Students Website: Questions and Answers (www.chicagobible.org)

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The Book of Revelation: A 2016 Perspective

John the Revelator  - 1 -crossFINAL

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which GOD gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” — Revelation 1:1

The Book of Revelation is a prophetic picture of the experiences and purpose of the Christian Age. Its symbols illustrate what the true Church would suffer at the hands of the false church and the glorious outcome of patient endurance through agonizing trials of faith. As with many prophecies, these events would not be fully understood by the Church until their fulfillment. But now, at the end of the Christian Age, since many of these prophecies have been fulfilled, we should expect to have a clearer insight into what the signs and symbols of Revelation mean. Indeed, this book itself reveals that the complete prophetic picture written in symbolic code would be shown only to the end time Church.

The Unfolding of the Vision

While in prison on the Isle of Patmos, the Apostle John received the “Revelation of Jesus Christ to all of the Churches.” As its name implies, it is a revealing—an unfolding. In his vision, John was shown amazing scenes which were prophetic signs of things to come. Note the first verse: “…he sent and signified it by his angel…” Signified here means “to put into signs—symbolic depictions.” This book, therefore, is written in a kind of code language, and so, when it says “beast,” it does not mean a literal beast, and when it says “angel,” it may not refer to an actual spirit-being.

When symbols such as these are understood, the results are inspiring—as we might expect from a book given by Jesus to the Apostle John for the Church living in the last days. And, while some view these signs and symbols to be terrifying, the Christian who longs for a better day finds hope for everyone in its words, as the final chapters portray.

Time Frame One: THE CHRISTIAN / GOSPEL AGE

The Book of Revelation is neatly divided into three sections corresponding to the three major time periods of GOD’s dealings with the Church of Christ and their role in the ages to come.

The first time frame is from chapters 1 – 13, which primarily refer to the history of the Church from Christ’s death to his second advent (‘Parousia’, invisible presence, in 1874). This period of time was set apart for calling out from among mankind a group of people referred to by various scriptural names: the Church, the Bride, Christians, a people for His name, the 144,000, the little flock, saints, etc. (Acts 15:14; Acts 11:26; Philippians 1:1; Luke 12:32; Revelation 21:9)

This time frame tells of the suffering of Jesus’ true followers at the hands of the powerful apostate (false) church systems, of which the Apostle Paul warned. (2 Thessalonians 2:2-7). Jesus summed up this history in only a few words: “the beginning of sorrows…” Matthew 24:4-14

The history of the Church, as shown in Chapter 1, is divided into seven time periods which are each unique in both their doctrine and experiences. Jesus watches over these seven Churches as symbolized by his appearance “in the midst of seven candlesticks...the seven Churches.” (Revelation 1:13, 20)

Recall that Jesus told his disciples they were like candles on a candlestick—“the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14-16

In Revelation 1:16 Jesus holds seven stars in his right hand. Stars are used in Scripture to symbolize teachers—both good and bad. (Daniel 12:3; Jude 13; Revelation 12:1)

In Revelation 1:20, the seven stars are identified as the seven angels sent to the seven Churches described in Chapters 2 and 3. Note that the word angel has the meaning of messenger in the Greek, and GOD has sent a special Messenger to each of the seven time periods throughout the history of the Church. The Apostle John was one such messenger.

Between Chapters 2 -11, these seven periods of Church history are illustrated three times under different symbols.

The seven Churches are listed in Chapters 2 – 3:-

(1) EPHESUS             =     33 ad, Paul
(2) SMYRNA              =    73 ad, John
(3) PERGAMOS         =     325 ad, Arius
(4) THYATIRA           =    1157 ad, Waldo
(5) SARDIS                 =    1517 ad, Luther   
(6) PHILADELPHIA  =     1667 ad, Penn (he was baptized that year)
(7) LAODICEA           =    1874 ad, Russell

The 7 Messages to the Churches (for the godly) are as follows (each message corresponds to the same church number):

(1) Jesus surpasses Judaism
(2) Gnosticism is wrong
(3) Jesus was the son of GOD
(4) Christian discipleship
(5) Reform
(6) Brotherly love
(7) Harvest message

The Scroll of Revelation 5:

The scroll contains judgments against the ungodly. In particular, the judgments of the seven trumpets. That is why the seven angels blaring forth the seven trumpet judgments follow immediately upon the loosing of the last seal — for now the scroll can be unrolled and read and its judgments expressed.

Let us compare Zechariah 5:1-4 which is clear on this point with also Ezekiel 2:9,10 :-

Zechariah 5:1-4:- Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.

Ezekiel 2:9-10:- And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

The scroll contents are the seven trumpets.

Those trumpets are judgments.

Note: The scroll in Hebrews 10:7 is a different scroll than the one in Revelation 5; Hebrews 10 refers to the Old Testament. The scroll of Revelation 5 is a series of judgments that form the seven trumpets.

While the seals are being loosed, we are not progressing through the Gospel Age. We are merely seeing a vision on each loosing, representing what will later occur in the development of the Gospel Age. They are foregleams of coming events. The entire scroll is opened before the first trumpet judgment. The scroll was opened at the beginning of the age, not the end of the age.

The seven seals are listed in Chapters 6 – 8;

We believe the seals were all broken when Jesus was given the scroll after his resurrection, and that the 1/2 hour of silence was the pause before the judgment followed on Judaism.

The seals describe events that would later develop during the Gospel Age. Let us remember that the visions of the seals do not reflect the contents of the scroll. They are merely visions of coming events. Not until the seventh seal is loosed do we actually get to the contents of the scroll itself. Those contents are the judgments of the Trumpets.

The visions revealed at the loosening of each seal are these (very briefly):-

SEAL 1.  Christianity spreading rapidly
SEAL 2 False doctrine coming in
SEAL 3.  Famine for the word of GOD
SEAL 4Spiritual death rampant during dark ages

SEAL5.   Reformation and the hope for release from oppression
SEAL 6.  French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, followed by the second advent. The vision following the loosening of this seal includes events that pertain to periods six and seven of the Gospel Age. Thus when the 7th seal is loosened, we proceed to the judgments contained in the scroll.

The seven trumpets are found in Chapters 8 – 11.

The message of the trumpets contain judgments on Judaism, Pagan Rome, wayward Christendom, and the nations supporting Papacy.

Recall the text in Ezekiel 2:10, “it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.”

These judgments of the 7 trumpets and the 7 blasts under the 7th trumpet do not include original sin and the curse. The trumpets are against Gospel Age systems. The original curse was upon Adam and Eve and descended to others. Of course original sin is related to all other problems. But nothing in the trumpets speaks to Adam or Eve.

So, the trumpet judgments usually highlight a particular distress during the period of the church that corresponds to that trumpet period, and they are as follows:

JUDGMENT 1. The judgment against Judaism and the polity of Israel, that really fell hard from 66 to 73 ad with the seven years of the Roman Wars against Judea.

JUDGMENT 2. The overthrow of the Pagan Roman Empire. That would not pertain to the saints. (But it was a big relief for them.)

JUDGMENT 3. The third trumpet describes the pollution of the sweet waters of truth, which made the message “bitter” and caused the forfeiture of many spiritual hopes.

JUDGMENT 4. The fourth trumpet take us to the darkest part of the “dark ages”, when the Gospel Sun, the light of the Apostolic Stars, and the typical teachings of the Law were substantially darkened.

JUDGMENT 5. The Reformation.

JUDGMENT 6. The French Revolution (1789-1799) and subsequent Napoleonic Wars that ravaged Europe and broke up the hold of Papacy in 1799.

JUDGMENT 7. The Harvest in 1874 and its accompanying Time of Trouble from 1914 onward.

—————————————

1260, 539ad – Some Specifics about the 1260 years of Papal Power.

The date 539 ad is used as the time when Papacy came into temporal political authority. In 538 ad the Pope was left in control of Rome as Belisarius, general of Justinian the Roman Emperor from Constantinople, left Rome to pursue the Goths who had recently sieged the city. Thereafter, in 539 ad, Ravenna, the then capital of Italy, was taken by Belisarius, and he subsequently left Italy to return to Constantinople with his victory. In his wake the Pope was left as the political ally and figurehead in Italy — thus the beginning of his political authority.

This came to an end 1260 years later in 1798 when the Pope was taken out of Rome by the French General Berthier, and subsequently died in 1799 in France, Napoleon declaring that no new pontiff would be elected (though one was by other arrangements after a few months). One history of the poes throughout the age breaks for a new chapter at 1799.

1914 was the end of Gentile Times – representing the smiting of the image of Daniel chapter two, thus the end of the political assemblage that had governed Europe for so long, as the iron (political) and clay (imitation Christian church) system.

Babylon at first conquered the holy land from 607 to 603 bc — a four year period — the corresponding four year period 2520 years later is 1914 to 1918, World War I.

—————————————

Each period of the Church has its corresponding concurrent seal, vision and trumpet.

Here are four examples illustrate just a few of the many parallels between the Churches, seals and trumpets:

1.“Four angels” are mentioned in both the sixth seal (7:1) and the sixth trumpet (9:15).

2. An earthquake is shown in both the sixth seal (6:12) and in the sixth trumpet (11:13). An earthquake pictures, in symbol, the shaking up of earth’s society through discontent and revolution.

3. The return of Jesus is mentioned in both the seventh Church (3:20—he is “standing at the door”) and the seventh trumpet (11:15—his “reign” begins).

4. Increased enlightenment is shown in both the seventh Church (3:20—Jesus promises to serve the evening meal—“sup”) and in the seventh trumpet (10:7—enlightenment clears up “the mystery”).

One fascinating example of symbols related to the seals of Chapter 6 is the picture of the four horses.

Horsesin symbol, often represent doctrines, ideologies. (Isaiah 31:1-3, Deuteronomy 17:15-16).

Horsemenrepresent the teachers who bring forth those doctrines.

White horsethe 1st horse pictures the pureness of doctrine delivered to the early Church by the twelve Apostles. (Revelation 3:5, 15:6, 19:8,14)

Red horsethe 2nd horse, illustrates how the doctrine began to be polluted with sinful heresies by the developing apostate church. Red is the colour of war and speaks of spiritual warfare because of doctrinal changes. This horse represents the period of time in history from Nero (37-68 AD) until Diocletian (244-311 AD).

Black horse – the 3rd horse, represents a dark period in Church history brought about by dark age doctrines. Black is the colour of famine—Lamentations 5:10.

Pale (Greek-greenish)the 4th horse, symbolizes doctrine so sick and devoid of any life-giving qualities that the rider that sat upon him was even given the name “death.” The symbolism refers to spiritual pestilence.

This sad history portrays how the beautiful truth once given to the early Church was increasingly corrupted by the traditions of men.

But, as will be seen in Chapter 19, the white horse returns with a valiant rider—Christ in glory—who brings back life-giving truths to the end-time Church. These truths prepare the true Church for the final victory over the apostate systems.

Time Frame Two: HARVEST of the Christian Age

Chapters 14 -19 focus on the events which impact the close of the Christian Age—the Harvest.

A careful examination of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares helps in understanding this Harvest time. (Matthew 13:24-43)

During the Harvest, the world at large is experiencing troubles it cannot handle, and the Christian world in particular is faced with the kind of scrutiny that exposes false doctrines and practices.

“Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven [the Christian world] … that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Hebrews 12:27-29

In the Harvest, three works are progressing at the same time:

  1. The unseen presence of Jesus is actively manoeuvring the affairs of the true Church and the world in preparation for the peaceable Kingdom. 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15; 14:1
  2. False Christianity is being judged by GOD and also by man based on both doctrine and conduct. Revelation 14:8,15; 18:1-9
  1. A great increase in understanding Scripture is fed to sincere, truth-hungry Christians. Revelation 14:6; 17:1; Daniel 12:4, 9, 10

This Harvest parable first summarizes the Gospel Age by stating that Jesus sowed seeds of truth which, springing up in the hearts of his disciples, transformed them to newness of life, thus becoming true Christians — wheat.

Once the Apostles died — while men slept — Satan sowed seeds of error which created false Christians — tares. This tendency toward imitation Christianity was active in the Apostles Paul’s day and developed into what he called the mystery of iniquity and the man of sin. John refered to this as the developing Antichrist. (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 4:3)

Revelation calls this that great city, Babylon. Revelation 14:8

Jesus taught that this combination of true and false Christianity would exist together until the close of the Christian Age, at which time a separation—a Harvest—would occur. The work of destroying the errors of the false church systems would cause true Christians to come out of Babylon and gather together where truth is being served.

The central theme of Chapter 14, then, is the time for harvesting two groups:

  • The Harvest of the earth (wheat—verses 15-16) and
  • The Harvest of the vine of the earth (tares — verses 18-19). See also Luke 17:34-37.

The central theme of Chapters 15 and 16 deals with the plagues upon Babylon the false church system.

We believe we are currently in the sixth plague. It is a lengthy one, and we have not reached the deep part of it as yet — we may in another 13 years. The sixth plague is a withering of the economic vitality of the western world. We saw things relevant to this in the market declines of 2000 and 2008, with perhaps more impending.

Here is a list of all 10 judgments, and some suggested applications:

1 — Protestant Reformation
2 — French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
3 — Advent movement
4 — Truth movement (1874) – bothersome difficulty for nominal Christians
5 — World War I – the deadly strife that began the Time of Trouble in 1914
6 — Western weakening in Depression
7 — Modernism consequent upon World War II
8 — Papal woes in the cold war era, perhaps until 1989

9 — Financial withering
10 – Armageddon, followed by a great “earthquake”, and subsequent “hail”

The seven plagues are seven judgements or troubles during the Harvest, as a consequence of things that have transpired during the seven church periods. These seven judgments constitute the overall judgment of the 7th trumpet, which is the 3rd “woe” of Revelation 8:13. The seven circlings of Jericho on the seventh day pictures this “sevenfold” judgment of the seventh trumpet.

In Chapter 18:4, GOD warns the wheat—my people—that if they do not come out from Babylon during the Harvest, they will be subject to the “death, and mourning, and famine” which bring Christendom down (Revelation 18:8).

In the midst of the plagues of Chapter 16 appear three symbolic characters unified in a final attempt to preserve control and stabilize society over the world – the beast, the dragon and the false prophet.

The beast = Papacy.

The dragon = Political power under the influence of Satan.

The false prophet = the Church of England and their protestant allies.

The Pope (as reflected in the beast) would like to retain influence. But his authority wanes. Revelation 10:1 shows that the power of Papacy to persecute as before, closed during the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-11:14), the longest of all the trumpet descriptions. The “rainbow” of Revelation 10:1 symbolizes that the past distress of Papal persecution has ended and will not be repeated – just as the rainbow in the cloud after the Flood meant that the experience would not be repeated.

The Beast (Papacy), Dragon, and False Prophet will coalesce and croak like frogs endeavouring to support society. Their individual weakness is the motive for collaboration, but their efforts will prove abortive (Revelation 16:18,19).

(Note that the “four beasts” of Revelation 4:6-9, associated with GOD, are better rendered “living creatures,” distinguishing them from the dreadful beasts representing false religious systems. The four “living creatures” represent GOD’s attributes of justice, wisdom, love and power.)

In Scripture, the true Church is often represented by virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and so, by contrast, we see in Chapter 17 that Babylon is pictured as a harlot.

The harlotry of the apostate church is due to her having a unification (adulterous marriage) with the governments of this world.

The true saints, on the other hand, strive to keep themselves separate from all entanglements with the world.

In highly symbolic language then, Chapter 17 shows how the apostate (catholic) church throughout history amassed political power to further her interests and rule the western world, Christendom.

This Chapter shows the steps by which both the harlot and the people and powers she ruled (the scarlet beast) meet their ends (as systems, not as people) in the Harvest period.

The “hour” of Revelation 17:12 is the time of demise of the Catholic Church when she is eaten by the horns (political powers) and peoples (body of the beast). Note: Revelation 17:16, where better versions say the whore is destroyed by the “ten horns… and the beast.”

Compare also Revelation 18:10, in “one hour” her demise comes. The “one day” and “one hour” of verse 8 and 10 both express the relatively brief climax during which Papacy succumbs.

Chapter 18 begins when Babylon is fallen from GOD’s favor, and it ends with her total overthrown as detailed in verse 21. The focus here is on the manner in which Babylon’s destruction will affect various segments of society which have become dependent upon her for their subsistence. These elements of society are symbolically called:

the kings of the earth (18:9);

the merchants (clergy) of the earth (18:11);

every shipmaster, all the company in ships, sailors (i.e. bishops), and as many as trade by sea (18:17)

This illustrates that the world, as we know it, functions on a political/commercial basis, and the weakening of that international economic system, according to this chapter, will soon cause it to fall apart.

Chapter 19 could well be two chapters. The first ten verses deal with “the marriage of the lamb,” and the remainder describes how the current social order will meet its end.

(Note that, for emphasis, the Revelator often jumps back to a point in time, re-telling the story from another point of view.)

This “marriage of the lamb” is a symbol for the time when Jesus’ Church, his Bride, is complete — when he has gathered all of the wheat into the (heavenly) barn.

Thus, Chapter 19 confirms what we saw in Chapter 14 that the Harvest has two worksharvesting the wheat to glory and harvesting the vine of the earth—the system of Babylon—for burning. Compare also 14:19, 20 with 19:15—depicting the same event.

Time Frame Three: The MESSIANIC AGE

Although most of the prophecies of Revelation focus on the Harvest of the Gospel Age, Chapters 20 through 22 relate to the grand and promising outcome of the previous nineteen chapters, which portray the end of the old world order and the beginning of the new. We are now living in that transition time. These last three chapters of Revelation basically refer to the Messianic or Millennial Age. This age is referred to in the Scriptures by various names: the Kingdom, the thousand years, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, the regeneration, the times of restitution of all things, etc. Matthew 26:29; Acts 1:6; Revelation 20:2-6; 2 Peter 3:7,8; Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:20,21

Revelation 20 illustrates several events of the thousand-year Messianic reign of Christ with his Church:

Verses 1-3 show that the actual devil will be bound as well as a symbolic devil—the systems built upon his lies. Thus, all stumbling blocks in the way of the peaceable Kingdom will be removed. This is the reason for not only binding the literal devil, but also binding the influences of the beastly governments which have made life so difficult for the human race.

Verses 4-11 show:

  1. The reward of the true Church who will reign with Christ;
  2. Satan’s little season of testing upon the world of mankind at the close of the thousand years— the end of mankind’s period of education; and
  1. The everlasting destruction of Satan, his followers and the corrupt civil and religious systems.

Verses 12-15 : show the final judgment of earth’s billions at the end of the Messianic reign. This will be the last judgment event of history where GOD will destroy in everlasting death all those not in full harmony with His perfect law of love. Both hell and death are consigned to fire — complete destruction, oblivion—this is the second death (20:14).

By contrast, everlasting life will be the reward for all who progress to perfection through the thousand years and who stand the test of the little season because of their faith and obedience.

The Left Behind series of novels promote an overly dramatic, literalistic and sadistic view of Revelation, telling of the horrors of a vindictive GOD destroying three billion people by literal fire and earthquakes. These fictional depictions of prophecy ignore the last three chapters of Revelation—the Good News of the Bible. They ignore that Jesus gave his Revelation to John in symbolic language.

The Scriptures do speak of a momentous time of trouble coinciding with the return of Christ and culminating in Armageddon, however, as we have seen, the true purpose of Armageddon is to cleanse the earth of the corrupt ecclesiastical and civil systems under the control of Satan and his servants.

These evil SYSTEMS will be destroyed—not the people misled by these systems.

GOD does not intend to burn in eternal flames billions of good-hearted people just because they have not known and accepted Jesus now. The conversion of these people—“the remainder of men” — will be after the cleansing work of Armageddon which prepares the way for the Righteous Kingdom of Christ and his Church. (See Zephaniah 3:8-9; Acts 15:14-17) Then, under their benevolent reign, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” without the fetters of devilish, selfish and oppressive powers. Isaiah 26:9

Chapters 21 and 22 describe the new heavensChrist’s righteous government—which will uplift and educate the new earth—the world of mankind—thereby bringing them back into harmony with GOD. What joy to know that Jesus’ return means the restitution of all things! (Acts 3:19-22) All of the loss suffered in the opening three chapters of Genesis is here undone in the last three chapters of Revelation. It is a glorious ending, worthy of a merciful GOD.

All that was lost when sin entered the world—life, health, happiness, freedom from fear and a loving relationship with GOD—will be restored to mankind. The healing of the nations occurs because of the fruitage of the trees. These trees are the Church glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)

Jesus and his Bride offer the water (truth) of life to all who thirst, without the deceptions of Satan to hinder them.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him TAKE the water of life FREELY.” Revelation 22:17

This is the true hope of the Gospel when it is finished.

Acknowledgment:

  • Bro. David Rice
  • The End Times Bible Report Quarterly – Summer 2013

Suggested Further Reading:

The Book of Revelation

 

The URL of this post: https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/06/30/the-book-of-revelation-a-2016-perspective/

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