Lesson 14

Part 1 of 2


Our previous study focused on the seven seals.  Because the seals are chronological in nature, it is critically important that we establish when the seals begin to open if we are to identify their relationship to time.  In our last lesson, we saw how Daniel and Revelation harmoniously combine and bring us to the conclusion that 1844 is the year that Jesus received the book sealed with seven seals. The harmony of the sum of prophetic parts brings encouragement and enlightenment to students of prophecy! Even more, we shall see in this lesson that Revelation’s sequences internally harmonize with 1844.

The issue of the worthiness of Jesus as our High Priest also brings us to 1844. Remember, in the Old Testament, the High Priest had to be found worthy and his sacrifice accepted before he could officiate on behalf of Israel!  Leviticus 16

The previous lesson also suggested that three seals were open within a short period following 1844.  As the drama requires a stage, the first three seals prepare the earth for the next three seals.  In addition, there is historical evidence supporting the interpretation given to the first three seals.  The cumulative influence of the first three seals has been steadily growing.  We will discover in this lesson just how well the senior angels of the first three seals have been at their work!

The fourth seal

Carefully review the fourth seal: “When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’  I looked, and there before me was a pale horse!  Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.  They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7,8

The strongest internal evidence that the fourth seal is the next to be opened is that the devastation described in this seal has not yet occurred. The fourth seal indicates that 25% of the earth will be destroyed by these four dreadful judgments.  Why will Jesus open the fourth seal and send these four terrible judgments throughout the earth?

An angry God

There is much confusion about the character of God in the world today. By misrepresenting the character of God, the devil has lead many to either hate or ignore God.  Even worse, the devil has lead most of the Protestant world to regard Jesus much like a heavenly Santa Clause. By over-emphasizing the great compassion and mercy of Jesus, and diminishing the legitimacy of God’s commandments, many are ignorant of the teachings of Jesus that require obedience. As the bumper sticker says, “Jesus is either Lord over all or He’s not Lord at all!”

Think about your own character for a moment.  Have you ever had someone misrepresent you before people that didn’t know you?  Even worse, has someone spread lies about you among those who knew you?  How hard is it to overcome slanderous falsehoods.

The Bible declares that God is love.  Divine love is the balance between justice and mercy.  Jesus is all-merciful, and yet, He requires justice.  He wants people to live as He lives.  The prophet Micah wrote, “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

The Bible tells us that Jesus is very capable of anger, and in times past, his wrath has broken out upon individuals, cities, nations, and even the world!  Review these four stories in your Bible that demonstrates the wrath of Jesus:

  1. Individuals: Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16)
  2. Cities: Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)
  3. Nations: The Philistines  (Joshua 5:13-6:27)
  4. Earth:  The flood  (Genesis 6,7)

Each of these stories brings out a very important truth.  Jesus rises up in anger and wrath when His mercy and patience no longer has a redeeming effect.

The truth hurts

Satan is delighted when people believe that salvation comes by assumption.  Many popular preachers and evangelists preach “Christ without the cross” and consequently become popular.  They excite multitudes with stories of powerful miracles.  They proclaim ecstatic messages about the power of Jesus and talk extensively about healing from sickness. But few clearly define sin and say that we can and must obtain victory over it.  People don’t like to have their sins pointed out!  Think about it.  If Jesus were alive were alive upon the earth today, His teachings would be meet with the same rejection as when He walked upon the earth. When it comes to sin, the truth hurts today just like it hurt when He walked upon the earth.

The problem is that we human beings have a hard time seeing our own faults.  Without a clear definition of sin we can’t appreciate or understand the malignancy of sin. By watering down the high standard of righteousness, Satan has led this nation (and all the others) into greater sin.  Consequently, problems without solutions escalate.

We cannot appreciate the salvation of Jesus without an understanding of the offensiveness and power of sin.  Until we comprehend some of the magnitude of sin, we cannot appreciate the meaning of “being saved.” Until we admit our helplessness to overcome sin, we cannot appreciate the transforming power of Jesus nor can we realize our desperate need for His great love.  Satan has cleverly worked through the large religious systems of the world to disguise sin.  In general, people don’t understand what sin is, nor do they know how to obtain victory over it!  But the everlasting gospel has the answer!  This is another reason why the gospel must go to the world.  It must expose the religious systems of the world for what they are!

The devil has encompassed the 7 great religious systems in the world so that they serve his purposes. In very general terms, the premise of each system is:

1.      Atheism:  This system teaches there is no God.  Man is supreme.

2.      Heathenism:  This system is ignorant of the living God and creates its own god(s) as needed.

3.      Eastern Mysticism:  This system teaches that man is immortal and can become God.

4.      Judaism:  This system teaches that man is saved by obedience to the laws of God.

5.      Islam:  This system teaches that man is saved through obedience to the teachings of Mohammed.

6.      Catholicism:  This system teaches that man is saved through obedience to the teachings of the church.

7.      Protestantism:  This system teaches that believing that he is saved saves man.

As you look at these seven systems, you’ll notice they neatly fit into one of three categories:

  1. There is no salvation, for there is no God.
  2. Man saves himself through obedience.
  3. Assuming he is saved - saves man.

The world’s 7 religious systems are built on false assumptions.  (This is not saying that God does not have sincere people within each system.  God claims those living up to all they know to be right as his children.  (Review lessons 5 and 6.) But falsehoods, once assumed or accepted, lead people away from God’s truth and ultimately, people do terrible things in the name of God.  Jesus warned his disciples, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.  They will do such things because they have not know the Father or me.”  John 16:2,3

Back to the fourth seal

Jesus has prepared a final test for the world to find out who loves Him and His truth.  The test is carefully made to test our love for principles of righteousness. It will not be enough to be sincere and dedicated when the test is applied. Hitler was sincere and dedicated to his terrible ideas and the world suffered at his hands.  Sincerity is not the most important element in life. The most important point is Truth.  Who loves and seeks for more of God’s Truth?  Who lives up to all the truth he knows?  Who loves the truth of God so much that he would be willing to suffer or die for its sake?

John saw the saints struggling to defend truth at the end of the world.  He say, “The dragon was enraged at the women and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 12:17 As he watched, John saw the martyrdom of the saints that occurs during the fifth seal and John was told, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Revelation 14:12

In 1844, Jesus began judging the dead.  Their deeds and actions are recorded in the books of record.  But how does Jesus judge the living?  Their lives are still being lived out. They continue to make choices.  Because the world is so diverse with languages, cultures and religious beliefs, God designed the judgment of the living in such a way that the living wills choose their own eternal destiny.  As each person makes his decision about the gospel, Jesus eternally seals him or her in it!  Here’s a brief scenario:

Jesus sends His four dreadful judgments to awaken and arouse the earth to the sinfulness of its course. These four judgments (also described in Ezekiel 14) arrest the indifference of the people of earth to the gospel so they can hear the final gospel. These four judgments are so extensive that every mind on earth is forced to consider them.  While people are considering the meaning of the judgments, they will be open to hear the everlasting gospel that contains an explanation of the judgments.  As the people of earth contemplate the full gospel, they are invited to do something that most have never done – yield their lives to the truth contained in the Bible.  The gospel clearly calls for obedience to the King of kings. This is how the Bible becomes the center of a great controversy. This is why John says of the saints, they “…obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Revelation 14:12 Satan, on the other hand, sees to it that circumstances will be so difficult that no one will be able to obey God’s commandments unless they are willing to live by faith!  The saints won’t be able to buy or sell! Much more will be said about this in lessons 17-19.  The point is that salvation will only come by faith and the saints will have the faith to obey!

Trust and obey

James clearly saw the true relationship between obedience and faith.  He says, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone...I will show you my faith by what I do.”  James 2:24

So what moves God to send judgments upon peoples and nations?  Notice what Jesus said to Isaiah, “see, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants…the earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered.  The Lord has spoken this word.  The earth dries up and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. Its people defile the earth; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.  Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” Isaiah 24:1-6 Isaiah was well aware of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  He said, “When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.

Through grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness and they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord.” Isaiah 26: 9,10

Jesus loves mercy and He loves justice

Jesus holds each person accountable for his or her deeds. When people get away with murder, lying, stealing and cheating, evil rapidly grows. It’s like nuclear fission.  It’s a chain reaction that can’t be stopped.  The runaway result is that sin spreads until almost every person is controlled or contaminated with it.  When peoples, cities, nations or even the world reaches a point where love has no redeeming effect, Jesus sets His mercy aside and steps in with redeeming judgments. These judgments are sent to arouse people with the sinfulness of their course!

Ezekiel 14:12-27 gives a very clear explanation of the four judgments used in the fourth seal.  “The word of the Lord came to me:  ‘Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, even if these three men – Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.

Or if I send wild beasts through that country and they leave childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts… Or if I bring a sword against that country and say, ‘Let the sword pass throughout the land’…Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath upon it through bloodshed, killing its men and their animals…

How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments – sword and famine and wild beasts and plague; to kill its men and their animals.  Yet there will be some survivors – sons and daughters who will be brought out of it.  They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I brought upon Jerusalem – every disaster I have brought upon it. for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause.” Ezekiel 14:12-23

Notice the prophecy of Hosea: “The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand…because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.”  Hosea 9:7

Through Moses, God warned the Israelites, “If you obey the Lord your God and keep his commandments and decrees that are written…the Lord thy God shall bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away, and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, you will certainly be destroyed.”  Deuteronomy 30:10-18

New Testament warnings

If you think that the above warnings only apply to Old Testament days, consider the following warnings from the New Testament:

Peter said, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, (the Greek word translated hell is “tartarosas” – the Greek equivalent to the bottomless pit), putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men…and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment.” II Peter 2:4-9

Revelation says, “Come out of her (Babylon), my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.  Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine.  She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”  Revelation 18:4,5,8

John says, “I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” Revelation 15:1

From the above examples, it is evident that god has sent and will send judgments upon the world either in an effort to save or to punish.  We need to notice two specific points.

First:  In a case of corporate judgment (judgments upon groups of people), God initially offered mercy to those who would turn from wrong.  In Noah’s day, the ark was opened to whomsoever would get on board.  In Sodom and Gomorrah, God couldn’t even find ten righteous people, but did save Lot and some of his family.  In Jericho, the harlot Rehab and her family were saved.  In Nineveh, the entire city was saved through repentance!

While cities, nations and earth itself may fill up their cups of iniquity, God seeks to save those who love Him and spares them from His judgments.  II Peter 3:9 say that “(Jesus) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance!”

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