What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
These verses actually repeat Jeremiah 23:19-20 almost word for word. This repetition is significant because Jeremiah 23 is a warning against false prophets. In particular, it is about men, claiming to speak for God, who tell the people—whose lives deny God—that, "The LORD has said, 'You shall have peace.'" These prophets say to the people, who were walking according to the dictates of their own hearts, "No evil will come upon you." In essence, they deny God's justice, and the fact that sin has consequences. They are telling the people not to worry about God's judgment upon them—everything would be fine; no change of course would be necessary.
However, the people, in reality, have declared war on God and His way of life through the conduct of their own lives. Whether or not they realize it, their carnal minds hold great enmity for God's way of doing things. They can never have peace with God until they repent and change.
God always desires peace, but if the sinning party is unwilling to face reality and repent, then His response will be a painful one. There will be peace with God only when the sinner is broken and submits to God. Yet, the false prophets insinuate that God does not care and that it does not matter how one lives. Nevertheless, these verses show that God destroys those who promote the idea that sin does not have consequences, who say God's justice is of little concern. These ideas keep getting Israel—indeed, all of mankind—into trouble.
The symbol of the whirlwind, then, represents God's fury and anger. Just as no man can control or divert a tornado or hurricane, so God's anger at the sin of the wicked cannot be resisted. It will continue until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days, which we are in, God says we will consider it, meaning that Israel and Judah have not yet learned this lesson. However, when that chastening is over, Israel and Judah will be restored to the land, and, more importantly, they will be reconciled to God and able to live in peace.
David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)
After God performs the intents of His heart, as it says at the end of the previous chapter, and His wrath has consumed those He will consume, then peace in the relationship between Israel and God becomes possible because all of those who declared war on God through their conduct are dead. God does not believe in "peace at any price." He works toward repentance, but if there is no repentance, the only solution is to destroy those in rebellion against Him. Yet, after the destruction, He promises once again to be the God of all of Israel, and Israel will again be His people.
Verse 2 provides the qualifier that the remnant will be those who have survived the sword. Ezekiel 5:1-4 illustrates this time:
And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber's razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair. You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them. You shall also take a small number of them and bind them in the edge of your garment. Then take some of them again and throw them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will go out into all the house of Israel.
From these verses and the remainder of Ezekiel 5, it is evident that a great deal of violence will be done to the peoples of Israel, but when it is over, God will give them rest (Jeremiah 31:2). The people who survive the sword will find grace. God begins to demonstrate His lovingkindness and to rebuild and restore Israel. Jeremiah 31:4 contains the imagery of a festive occasion with dancing, something that the Israelites probably will not have felt like doing for quite some time. There will be food in abundance, and the time of famine will be over (verse 5). On all counts, Israel's outlook is brightening.
David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)
God will pour out His Spirit upon the people to such an extent that seemingly everyone will be prophesying, dreaming, or seeing visions. This did not happen anciently to Judah, though it did occur in a more limited way on Pentecost after Jesus Christ died (Acts 2). This is speaking about the conversion of many people, and by their conversion through the receipt of God's Spirit, they become “His people.”
As a matter of speculation, there is a way of looking at the timing of the end-time fulfillment as a literal locust plague before the Great Tribulation. For instance, the several years it takes for grape vines and fruit and olive trees to mature and produce in abundance could indicate that the Tribulation is at least several years off when the locust invasion (mentioned in Joel 1:4; 2:25) strikes. Then come the “wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:30-31). These signs (the sixth seal; Revelation 6:12-17; Luke 21:11) are the precursors to the great day of God's wrath.
The last verse, Joel 2:32, is most interesting, as it points out that those who call upon the Lord shall be delivered and saved. Here is how James Moffatt translates it: “But every worshipper of the Eternal shall be saved, for Sion hill shall hold those who escape, as the Eternal has declared, and the fugitives whom the Eternal calls shall be inside Jerusalem.” The Amplified Bible renders it: “And whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered and saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the remnant [of survivors] shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
Who are those fugitives who escape and from what are they running? Who are those whom the Eternal calls? Revelation 12:15-17 prophesies of a remnant of commandment-keepers, presumably the church, fleeing from a flood of Satan's persecution. In fleeing, where did they go? In this speculative scenario, they go to Jerusalem before the army of locusts attacks and perhaps before the drought takes hold. They are in Jerusalem during that catastrophe where, apparently, there is food and water.
These church members could be the fugitives and those whom God calls. However, at this point their refuge is not what we call the Place of Safety, as the Tribulation has not yet begun. Those who are at the time in Judea, which includes Jerusalem, are later warned to run for the protection to be found in the mountains just as the Tribulation commences (Matthew 24:16-20).
Keeping in mind that Scripture was not written to the world at large, but to the few who have been called, it is not a great leap of faith to realize that these people delivered at Jerusalem are true Christians who flee from Satan's “flood.” The same group is warned to flee Judea to a safe place in the nearby mountains.
What Is Joel 2 Really About?
1 Peter 2:24-25
The most brutal example of divine justice is found in the New Testament, not the Old. We see the most violent expression of God's wrath and justice in the crucifixion of His own Son. If anybody had room to complain that He was not being treated fairly, it was Jesus Christ, who was not guilty of even one sin! He was the only innocent person who ever lived, yet He suffered a horrible, cruel death. If we were to become upset or offended at something that seems to be unjust, this would be it.
The crucifixion, similar to the Flood, the casting out of the Amorites, and so forth, is simultaneously the most just and the most gracious act in history. It would have been absolutely diabolical of God to punish Jesus if His Son had not first voluntarily taken on Himself the sins of all the world. Even though He was innocent to that point, once He took upon Himself that concentrated load of sin, He became the most repugnant thing that ever existed on earth before God. He became an obscene and accursed thing, and God executed His wrath. He acted in total impartiality. God could not overlook sin, even when it touched His Son.
Jesus Christ did this for us. Christ took the justice that was to fall on us, and He paid for it with His priceless life. It is the "for us" aspect that displays the majesty of the grace of God.
We cringe at God's justice because it is so unusual, since most of the time He is so gracious. Human nature deceives us into taking it for granted, but we need to keep it in mind because it just as integral to His character.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace
Unlike the other five seals, the text of the sixth seal is straightforward and uncomplicated. Only a few of the details in the description require more than a brief comment in explanation. Far more important to understanding this seal as a judgment is the effect the signs have on the people of the earth.
The seal opens with "a great earthquake" (Revelation 6:12), a common indicator of God appearing (see Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:8; 77:18; 97:4; Habakkuk 3:10; Haggai 2:6-7), working out His purpose (see Exodus 19:18; Matthew 27:51-54; 28:2; Acts 16:26), and/or striking out in displeasure and judgment. In terms of anger and punishment, God caused an earthquake to open the ground in the wilderness and swallow Korah and his fellow rebels (Numbers 16:31-32). In Psalm 18:7, David writes, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry" (see Isaiah 5:25; Nahum 1:2-5). God prophesies in Isaiah 13:11, 13, "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. . . . Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger."
Earthquakes occur frequently in Revelation, of which this one is the first. Seismic activity accompanies the seventh seal (Revelation 8:5), the resurrection of the Two Witnesses (11:13), the seventh trumpet (11:19), and the seventh bowl or vial (KJV) of God's wrath (16:18). Evidently, massive earthquakes—the kind that strikes dread and panic into every soul caught in them—will frequently punctuate the Day of the Lord.
Certainly, the heavenly signs that occur in tandem with the great temblor are astounding, especially if all of them should occur within a short span of time. Joel 2:30-31 describes the same event: "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD." In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus repeats the warning: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25). Luke's rendition adds a few details:
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)
The Sun Darkened: John describes the darkness of the sun as "black as sackcloth of hair" (Revelation 6:12), comparing it to the black goat hair used to make sackcloth and tents in his day. This may depict a solar eclipse or possibly a massive dust storm caused by a volcanic explosion. The Ninth Plague covered Egypt with a "darkness which may even be felt," a "thick darkness" (Exodus 10:21-22), and perhaps God will repeat it on an even grander scale. Whatever the case, visibility will be severely limited, even during the daylight hours.
The Moon Like Blood: This chilling sight presages calamity and death, particularly in war, as in the color of the second horse (Revelation 6:4). Sometimes lunar discoloration occurs naturally when unusual amounts of dust are suspended in the atmosphere, particularly after a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. Incidentally, many manuscripts read "full moon" rather than simply "moon."
The Stars Fall: John's imagery reflects countless late figs blown down by the violent winter wind (verse 13). This seems most likely to predict a meteor shower of immense proportions, possibly containing larger-than-normal meteorites, thus increasing the effect and making it seem as if the stars themselves are falling. Because stars are a biblical symbol of angels, some have suggested that this verse parallels Revelation 12:7-10, the casting out of Satan and his demons from heaven. However, for this to have any credence, the concurrent celestial events must also be taken symbolically.
The Sky Recedes: Of these four wonders, this event is the most puzzling (Revelation 6:14). The apostle compares it to a scroll rolling up, or we might think of it in terms of opening a spring-loaded window blind. Joseph A. Seiss, in his The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation, comments: "Great, massive, rotary motion in the whole visible expanse, is signified, as if it were folding itself up to pass away forever." Perhaps John saw clouds building to thunderheads, roiling, and flying at breakneck speed across the expanse of the sky. Such turbulence could make an observer on the ground think the sky was splitting apart. Isaiah 34:4 describes the Day of the Lord similarly.
The Mountains and Islands Move: As a result of the great convulsion of the earth, massive land transformations occur, shifting mountains on land and undersea. Obviously, such a violent shaking will create unprecedented destruction and loss of life. As the conclusion of the sixth seal's disturbances, this displacement of terra firma is the calamity that most terrifies earth's inhabitants. Suddenly, nothing is stable—not even the earth under their feet!
Finally, God has their attention!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal
The effect of these cosmic signs from God is to produce terror in earth's populace, triggering humanity's strong drive to preserve itself. Despite mountains moving, men and women of every origin, status, and creed—from king to slave—flee for the caves under the mountains in a vain attempt to hide themselves from God (Revelation 6:15). This is reminiscent of Isaiah 2:19, a prophecy of the Day of the Lord: "They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily."
John sees these fearful people speaking to the mountains and rocks, commanding them to hide them from the sight of God the Father and from the "wrath of the Lamb" (verse 16). Their cry, "Fall on us!" is not a death wish or a suicidal means to avoid God's judgment but a hope that the mountains will cover and conceal them. "Fall on us and hide us" is typical Hebrew parallelism, as can be seen from an Old Testament parallel in which Israelites "shall say to the mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall on us!'" (Hosea 10:8).
It is somewhat startling that earth's sinners correctly identify these catastrophic events as evidences of God's wrath. We are used to them being termed "natural disasters" and in no way a result of God's intervention in humanity's affairs. Yet, this time, these cataclysmic signs are indeed "acts of God," and men know it. Such a succession of disturbances can be nothing other than divine anger.
Further, people seek to be "out of sight, out of mind" to both the Father—"Him who sits on the throne" (Revelation 6:16)—and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Often, the phrase "face of Him," "face of God," or "face of the LORD" suggests being in His presence (Genesis 33:10; I Samuel 26:20; II Chronicles 7:14; Lamentations 2:19; Luke 1:76). However, it can also imply being under the judgment of an angry God (see Leviticus 26:17; Psalm 34:16; Jeremiah 44:11; Lamentations 4:16; also Amos 9:4). Obviously, the latter idea fits this instance.
Initially, it seems incongruous to pair "wrath" with "of the Lamb," but it makes perfect sense on two levels. First, "Lamb" is only one title of this complex Individual, Jesus Christ, who is not a cute, cuddly, little lamb. As the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue," relates, a person's name cannot describe his entire personality, and one may rue the day he made the assumption it could! The same Jesus Christ who took little children in His arms and blessed them also made a whip of cords and angrily drove the moneychangers from God's Temple.
Second, as it pertains to Christ, the lamb represents a sacrificial Redeemer, One who gave His life to buy back others who had been enslaved. The meaning of the symbol contemplates, not only the force of character it would take to perform such a selfless act, but also the position of mastery to which it elevated Him due to its success. In other words, the imagery of the lamb contains both the Suffering Servant and the Exalted Lord and Judge of all (John 5:22).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal
God quotes two statements of these sixth-seal cavemen. The first is a command to mountains and rocks. The second is a question. What do their words tell us? What does their silence tell us?
The first sentence is a somewhat illogical command for the "mountains and rocks" to fall on them.
» In making this statement, the cavemen demonstrate at least some correct understanding of the Source of their difficulties. They recognize two Beings as the cause: "Him who sits on the throne" and "the Lamb." This is remarkable in itself, since, to this point, they have seen neither Being.
» The cavemen call one of these two Beings "the Lamb." Admittedly, they do not equate the Lamb with Christ, but the inference is clear that they understand the Lamb to be Christ, the Word of God. Incidentally, John makes 26 references to Christ as the Lamb in the book of Revelation.
» Further, the cavemen understand that these two powerful Beings are angry. In assigning a cause to their difficulties, they utterly shun the voice of the secularist or the atheist. They do not, for example, blame nature on their troubles. They do not assert, "It's just a cycle. Nature will clean up the air and water, and everything will be okay soon." Rather, they squarely identify the cause of their present problems to be the wrath of the Father and Christ.
» Even more interesting is their silence concerning the Holy Spirit. In their dire straits, where their lifestyles have so dramatically changed and their lives are in clear-and-present danger, they make no reference to the Holy Spirit as a separate Person of the Godhead. This suggests that they have abandoned Trinitarian doctrine—remarkable considering the cornerstone status nominal Christianity has historically accorded to it. We are left to speculate why they make no reference to the Trinity at this time.
Their second sentence is a question rather than a statement or command. In stating that "the great day of His wrath has come," they recognize that their situation is special; theirs are extraordinary times. They rightly realize that they can no more defer the effects of God's ire than they can blame those effects on nature. Their reference to "the great day of His wrath" indicates an at least superficial realization that they are facing the Day of the Lord. In asking, "Who can stand?" they recognize that they are powerless to defend themselves against the wrath of these two God-Beings.
In short, the window of these people's minds opens up to a substantially different landscape than what currently exists in our world. Consider how many individuals whom we would today classify as "the kings of the earth, the great men" would refer to Christ as "the Lamb"? How many "rich men, the commanders, the mighty men" know about the prophesied Day of the Lord?
Comparatively few. Perhaps some in America's Bible Belt might use this terminology, but most individuals in the wider society, the secularized, cosmopolitan mess we call the Western World, would find these concepts alien to their thinking. Moreover, most of those who are familiar with the concepts of Christ as the Lamb or the Day of the Lord also fervently believe in the Trinity—something our latter-day cavemen do not allude to at all.
What is happening here? God has actually begun to transform the religious landscape of these cave-dwellers as surely as He has commenced to terraform the planet's physical landscape. These people have listened to the Two Witnesses' preaching, beginning at the time of the fifth seal. God's Word does not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11); these erstwhile movers and shakers have heeded, to an extent. As a result, they have a more complete—though far from perfect—understanding of God and His purposes. And they run for the hills!
Revelation 6:17 should read, "For the day, the great [day] of Their wrath, has come, and who is able to stand?" This is a plain statement of truth followed by a rhetorical question (see Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2). The sixth seal announces in unmistakable fashion that "the great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly" (Zephaniah 1:14). The prophet Joel describes it:
Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all of the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. . . . The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:1-2, 10-11)
This is the question: Who will survive it? Who will pass God's judgment? The answer seems to be, "No one." But there is hope, as Joel 2:12-14 instructs:
"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him . . .?
Jesus gives us His answer in Luke 21:36: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." We must be alert and prepared for what may come, and the most important part of our preparation is the strengthening of our relationships with the Father and the Son through prayer, study, meditation, and obedience to His instructions. This is the only means to escape God's wrath.
Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD's fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD's anger comes upon you! Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD's anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
If we wish to avoid the coming stern and destructive judgment of God on recalcitrant mankind, there is no time like the present to seek His face (Psalm 105:4).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal
This last - seventh - trumpet announces the coming of Christ, the establishment of God's Kingdom, the judgment upon the nations, and the rewarding of the saints. They occur simultaneously!
The last trumpet sounds when Christ returns, not 3½ years before! If we compare verses 11-13 (the resurrection of the Two Witnesses) with verse 19, the "great earthquake" ties the resurrection of the saints with the beginning of the Kingdom (see also Revelation 16:18). In addition, an angel tells John in Revelation 10:7 that when "the seventh angel . . . is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." There will be no more mystery about man becoming God when the saints are resurrected or changed to eternal spirit beings!
Matthew 24:30-31 also verifies this scenario, showing that the trumpet sounds to send the angels to gather the elect from all over the earth to meet Him upon His return. To clinch the argument, verse 29 very plainly says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. . ."! Isaiah 27:12-13, Joel 2:1-11 and Zechariah 14:3-5, 9 also confirm these events.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture
Not only is Christ's coming shock and awe, it is destruction as we have never imagined it. The angel calls the birds to devour the flesh of all people, small and great. Jesus Christ comes back to wage a righteous war, one that has been brewing for 6,000 years due to mankind's hostility and rebellion to God. By the time this prophecy is fulfilled, God has had enough of sin. Christ comes back and treads the winepress of His wrath, where the blood spilled comes up to the horse's bridles. It is hard to imagine blood three or four feet deep and flowing like a river.
Talk about shock! Some people faint dead away when they see just a drop of blood, but imagine a river of blood flowing through the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Revelation 14:20; Joel 3:9-13)! Not a pretty picture.
As is happening in Iraq today, the enemy regime and all of its supporters must be removed before a new and better government can be installed. In like manner, God has to wipe the slate clean and start over.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Shock and Awe - and Speed
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