Think Paper 5: Rev 8-11
The Last Night: How to Survive World Catastrophes
Scriptures to Read: Dan 5; Rev 8-11
"Let's have a party!" said the king. Really, there was not much else to do in Babylon that night. All the king's advisors were in town and could not go out because the city was under siege. The army of the Medes and Persians had surrounded the city quickly, but Babylon was well stocked with food for years of siege. Water ran right through the city in the River Euphrates. The walls were thick and well guarded.
"Let's have a party!"
Belshazzar was king. Actually he was co-regent with his father, Nabunidus. Nabunidus liked to hunt better than he liked to rule, and was not in the city or at the party this night.
Someone else was not at the party this night. Daniel's Babylonian name as recorded in Hebrew Scripture is Belteshazzar. Some scholars believe that the "te" was inserted by Daniel so as to dilute the reference to a heathen god. If that is so, then Belshazzar the king would have known Daniel as another Belshazzar. Perhaps when Belshazzar became king he exiled the other Belshazzar as part of the purge of all possible rivals. Or perhaps Daniel's God just did not fit the lifestyle of Belshazzar the king. At any rate Daniel was not at the party this night.
Belshazzar threw a party with a thousand of his officials. They drank wine, and then they praised their gods. They mocked the God of heaven by drinking from the sacred vessels taken from the Jerusalem temple.
But something drastic interrupted the party. Words appeared on the wall written by a strange hand. The effect on the king was almost as remarkable as was the hand itself. Somehow those words in a strange language and coming from nowhere shook his aplomb. He had to know what they meant. As his habit was, he called in all his star students and magic makers to read the writing. They could not.
Since the king's wives were at the party, the queen who saved the day would have been the queen mother, of a generation who remembered Daniel. At her suggestion Belshazzar called in Daniel, the other Belshazzar, to interpret the words.
The message was as bad as the king had feared. Daniel reminded him of the conversion story he knew already of his father, or ancestor, Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel pointed out that he had not humbled his heart, had not decided to worship the true God as had Nebuchadnezzar. This then was curtains, the last night. God had blown the whistle. Justice would be done.
This is the night, October 12, 539 B.C., when the gold of the image dream gave way to the silver, when the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon. They diverted the River Euphrates, waded the river bed, found the river gates not closed, and captured the city during the party. There is a last night for the evil party. God is just.
Only Daniel survived. In fact, in the next chapter I find him a trusted advisor to the next king. Had he participated in the party he probably would have been killed along with Babylonian royalty.
Sometimes I hear of people being afraid of God's judgments. When I speak of God's judgments, I often receive a response of fear. I think people often picture world catastrophe, storm, and calamity in the words, "God's judgments." In the words, "His judgment," I think people hear a great courtroom's awesome silence and resounding voices. I think those are accurate references for the words, and I think there is much more. I will use these words, both "God's judgments" and "His judgment," as referring to parts of the overall justice of His government. For this session I want to look for the assurance that the Christian will survive during God's judgments. Over some of the next few class sessions I will be exploring the judgment.
I have shown you the picture of Belshazzar and his disrespect for the temple of God in Jerusalem. There was another temple of God which he also desecrated this night. Paul the apostle points to the human body as the temple of God. Belshazzar drank wine. He followed his habits. He failed to decide for God.
I view health in terms of input-process-output. The human body is wonderful. It inputs information through the senses. It processes that information through emotional and intellectual associations or habits. It outputs thoughts, feelings, words, and actions either by decision or by default. To care for my health, I must deal with each level: input, process, and output. King Belshazzar did not guard his senses. He did not select his habits. He did not consider his decisions.
On the other hand, from an earlier story I am acquainted with Daniel's commitment to guard his health. He survived during God's judgments on Babylon even though he was well past 65 by then. I believe Daniel knew the laws of natural health. I teach those laws with the acrostic "WIN MORE." Daniel guarded his senses by filling them with pure air and sunlight from the outdoors, rest, good nutrition, and water.He selected his habits carefully by moderation, exercise, and integrity—keeping a belief system and a God he could trust. I WIN MORE by use of Water, Integrity, Nutrition, Moderation, Outdoors, Rest, and Exercise. Because Daniel guarded his senses and selected his habits, his mind was clear, his forebrain uncluttered, so he could consider his decisions wisely.
The Christian will survive during God's judgments. When referring to persons, I use the term "Christian" in a very specific manner in this seminar, not at all as loosely as I did when referring to the "Christian Empire" or the "Christian Church." In this seminar, when "Christian" refers to persons, it means individuals who have continuing experience in the first three laws of recovery: I can't, He can, and I decide to let Him. Since I cannot assess or judge another's state of decision or commitment, my use of the term "Christian" will not presume to distinguish persons. Each person here knows for him or herself whether or not that sense of need, of hope in God, and of decision to turn life over to God is currently active in her or his life.
Christians will survive during God's judgments primarily because Christ protects them. Another reason they survive is that, over time and over a cross section of the population, Christians have better health than non-Christians. Christians respect their bodies as temples of God, as home for the Holy Spirit, and therefore they treat their bodies better. Christians believe that God cares about how they feel, that He wants them to feel good.
Paul's statements to the Corinthians about the body temple have verbal and thematic similarities to the messages of the Three Angels of Rev 14. I believe Christians who are being prepared by those three angels to follow the Lamb wherever He goes will have better health to survive during God's judgments.
David in Psalm 73 pictures himself as so perturbed with the unchecked partying of wicked people that his "feet were almost gone," his "steps had well nigh slipped," and it was "too painful for [him]; until [he] went into the sanctuary [or temple] of God; then [he] understood. . . ."
Today I will examine some of the temple scenes in Revelation. By respecting the temples of God, Christians will survive during God's judgments.
Earth Dwellers' Party: How to Survive
"Let's have a party!" said the dwellers on earth in Rev 11. They had just killed the only two people who could have helped them.
Belshazzar had banished the prophet Daniel, the one man in his kingdom qualified to serve as his mentor. In Rev 11, the earth dwellers killed their would-be mentors.
Belshazzar had desecrated the temple vessels. The earth dwellers made merry over dead prophets who had earlier been likened to candlesticks standing before God.
But now as in Belshazzar's palace, the party was interrupted by fear on all around, by the reappearance of the prophets, and then by the taking over of the kingdom.
Rev 11 is an amazing chapter. Apparently in this one chapter near the center of the book John tried verbally to reach out and tie the entire book together. Rev 11 has connections throughout the book. Verse 18 practically gives an outline for the last half of Revelation. Its phrase "the nations were angry" points to Rev 12:17 where the dragon was angry. Its notice, "Thy wrath is come" points to Rev 14:10 with the "wine of the wrath of God." Rev 11:18 cites the time for the dead to be judged and Rev 20:12 says "the dead were judged." The mention of reward for the prophets and saints previews Christ's second-coming statement "My reward is with me" in Rev 22:12. Finally Rev 11:18 says it's time to "destroy them which destroy the earth," and Rev 19:2 shows the destruction of the "whore which did corrupt the earth."
Then verse 19 cites an opened temple in heaven with a view of the ark of His testament. The ark of His testament was the piece of furniture in the inner room of the Old Testament sanctuary or temple. The outer room is represented in Revelation by the altar of incense (Rev 8:3-4), and the courtyard by the altar of burnt offering (Rev 6:9-10) and the Lamb slain.
Today I am examining some of the temple scenes in Revelation. By respecting the temples of God, Christians will survive during God's judgments.
Altar of Burnt Offering (Rev 6:9-10)
John in Rev 6 saw an altar where the blood of martyrs cried out to God for judgment as Abel's blood cried out when Cain killed him (Gen 4:10). Two things can be noticed from this temple scene. First, blood cries out! Blood makes a statement. Second, God's judgments are to be longed for. The judgment brings deliverance.
In ancient Israel one day, Joseph, a fifteen-year-old lad, recognizes his sin. He chooses a lamb, hears it bleat, feels it nuzzle his hand, hears its hooves in the sand as he leads it to the sanctuary. When they come to the altar of burnt offering, Joseph touches the wool and notices the twitch of the ear as he confesses his sin over that lamb. Then he holds the knife and sees the glint of its edge in the sunlight. He slices quickly. The blood feels warm on his hand. It spatters some and then makes a smooth ribbon down to the bowl held by the priest. Joseph sees the lamb wobble, then feels it fall. He watches the priest take the blood into the sanctuary where he will sprinkle some of it on the altar of incense. Soon he sees the priest come back out, pour out the rest of the blood under the altar, and hears a few kind words for himself from the priest. Joseph feels a great relief. He knows that his sin was separated from him and taken into the very presence of God. The lamb has died in his place.
Behold the Lamb of God. Behold. I can see Him in my mind's eye. I can fill my senses with Jesus Christ. I can guard the input into my body. I can open my doors to Him and worship Him exclusively. I can find a mentor to witness and affirm my confession and decision.
Whatever is taken in by the senses has a lot to do with health. The health laws around the Old Testament sanctuary specified what was clean to be eaten and what was unclean and not to be eaten. There were some uncleannesses that could be cleansed by sacrifice (Lev 12-16), but unclean food had no remedy (Lev 11). It was not to be eaten. There were some things unclean only to the Israelites, but some things were unclean even to the stranger and other nations (Lev 17-18, especially 18:24-28; Deut 14, especially 14:29). There are some things unclean today that were not even known back then to be seen as unclean.
God asks me to worship Him as the Creator with senses open to His created wonders and unclouded by the partaking of hurtful substances. God cares about how I feel.
I can't do it on my own. God can do it through me. I decide to let Him. I value a spiritual friend or mentor who can hear my need, my hope, and my decision. Sometimes what I need from church friends is simply a witness to my choice.
I can survive during God's judgments by guarding my senses.
Altar of Incense (Rev 8:3-4)
In Rev 8, John saw an altar where a special angel stood to offer incense with the prayers of the saints. Then that angel threw the censer down. In the Jewish rites, the censer was thrown down at the end of each day's work to be taken up again the next day. So this throwing down of the censer, if taken by itself, could indicate plans for the continuation of intercession and human opportunity. Or it could mean that the work of the intercession in the temple is finished as at the end of the age.
From Heb 8 I can see that Moses made the earthly sanctuary after a pattern shown to him of a great original in heaven. This is how John could view the temple in heaven. It was the original. I know it only by studying its shadow in the Old Testament.
The all-inclusive reason and meaning of the temple can be seen in Exod 25:8: "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them."
If any idea can be considered the theme of God, it is this: He longs to be with me, and for me to be with Him. That is Jesus' name, "Emmanuel . . . God with us." (Matt 1:23). That is why He came, "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). That is why He will come again, that where He is, there I may be also (John 14:3). That is why He knocks at my door, to come in to me, and to eat with me, and I with Him (Rev 3:20). And that is the goal of all history, the tabernacle of God with us, and He will dwell with us, and we will be His people, and God Himself will be with us, and be our God (Rev 21:3). God wants with all His heart to live with me!
However, there was a major problem with that desire. "God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29). Just as fire consumes dross and purifies gold, so this God had to find a way to separate out the dross of sin so the sinner could survive and even be purified in His presence. The sanctuary with its services is the plan He developed to separate sin from the sinner.
In the Old Testament, blood was the carrier of life (Lev 17:11,14). It was also the carrier of sin. Sin could get to the blood of transfer either by the sinner confessing over the blood while still flowing in a live animal or by the priest sprinkling some of the blood of the sacrificed animal on the repentant sinner. Whatever needed cleansing, the shed blood could cleanse, whether sprinkled toward it or flowing from it. God so ordained. The shed blood cleansed by gathering up the sin of the repentant sinner and transferring it into the sanctuary, into the presence of God.
The Old Testament sanctuary services were of a nature to sharpen the intellect and to honor the emotions. The worshipers were expected to find in these actions hope for a future Lamb shedding His own blood, hope for an eternal priest interceding with that blood.
God asks me to forsake the worship systems that do not work. I am expected to reason from cause to effect and to grow in my choices. My mind is made with amazing mechanisms for changing even habit patterns that are well set. I value a spiritual friend or mentor who can hear me while I sort out the habits or parts of habits which I want to change. Sometimes what I need from church friends is simply a witness to my growth.
I can survive during God's judgments by guarding my senses and by selecting my habits.
Ark of His Testament (Rev 11:19)
There is one more step in the care of Joseph's sin, one step closer to the presence of God behind the veil. On the Day of Atonement once a year (Lev 16), Joseph and his family join the rest of the congregation in concentrated focus on God and the services at the sanctuary. The priest takes shed blood into the sanctuary and sprinkles it on the altar before the veil. This time the blood gathers up the sins that have been recorded there all year and carries them out to where the priest has selected two goats for the occasion. He confesses on the Lord's goat all the sins the blood has gathered up and then sacrifices this goat, catching its blood with all the residue from sins confessed and forgiven all year long. This blood he carries into the inner room of the sanctuary and sprinkles on the ark of the testament, the earthly seat of God's glorious, fiery presence. Thus the dross of sin is fully separated from His people and consumed, and God dwells graciously among them.
The next day, Joseph and all the people begin the joyful preparations for the happiest feast of the year. The lamb has died in their place.
God asks me to worship Him and only Him. He tells me that tests will come during which He will seek to purify my mind just as He cleanses the sanctuary. He wants to write His law in my very desires, just as the Ten Commandment tablets were housed in the ark of the testament in the inner room of the sanctuary. I believe He wants my forebrain to bear His mark, habitually deciding for Him.
My only work is to look to Him, to bring to Him any problems He points out, and to keep on doing this no matter what tests or failures come. I value a spiritual friend or mentor who can hear my struggles. As long as I keep even one honest friendship, I have a built-in accountability system for the hard times. Sometimes what I need from church friends is simply a witness to my decision and persistence.
The Fifth Law of Recovery states, "We affirm our need for continued mentoring." There are seven more Laws of Recovery. This time, "We affirm our need for continued mentoring."
I want to show you now the sources behind these Laws of Recovery. I already hinted that they derive from the Ten Commandments in Exod 20, God's ten words to bring His people back into relationship with Him.
In the last decade or so the recovery movement has spread in America. At first it consisted primarily of Alcoholics Anonymous, but now it has grown to include anonymous groups for almost any addiction or relationship problem one could identify. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been adapted for each of these other programs.
Although perhaps someone could find some things in the movement which I could not endorse, I believe this recovery movement has several things quite right. For one, it recognizes the direct connection between addiction and relationship problems, even to the extent that addiction is perceived to be a relationship problem. If relationship with God, self, or others is not right, then sin is active and addiction and poor health inevitably follow.
The first commandment, to guard the relationship with God, provides foundation for the other nine commandments. The first step, admitting my powerlessness and getting myself out of God's throne in my life, provides foundation for the other eleven steps. Similarities are not always immediately apparent between the commandments and the steps, for instance, I had to include Jesus' two summarizing commands after the first ten. Similarly the last two of the Twelve Steps seem to summarize the first ten. I do find the Ten Commandments and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous immensely compatible and helpful for recovery in this world of sin, addiction, and compromised health. Therefore, I have combined the commandments and the steps into these Laws of Human Recovery.
The fifth step calls for deep personal honesty with God, self, and another human being. This step includes mentorship. This mentoring is what happens between parents and offspring in mutual respect. It happens in a church where Christians love and respect one another. This mentoring even happens on the telephone sometimes. Wherever I find it, I have come to know that I need to seek out this mentoring in an intentional way. Even finding a mentor becomes a considered decision.
I can survive during God's judgments by guarding my senses, by selecting my habits, and by considering my decisions.
I have reviewed with you some temple scenes in Revelation and to show you how I believe I can survive during God's judgments by guarding my senses, selecting my habits, and considering my decisions.
So now I have come back to Rev 11:19, where "the temple of God was opened in heaven."
This verse is the last in the section about the seven trumpets. The trumpets of Revelation represent God's whistle-blowing on the nation opposing Him. Just as Babylon fell when it had oppressed God's people long enough, so Rome fell. The curtain fell, the censer was cast down indicating the end of favor for a nation God had once used to His glory. Individuals still had a chance at intercession but the nation had passed God's limits. One of the reasons I see the political demise of the Roman Empire as the best historical interpretation for the trumpets is their parallel position with the fall of Babylon in Daniel.
Notice that the time periods, 150 years and 391 years, are worked out on a scale of one day equals one year. Since the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation reach from the prophet's day to the end of time, I need some sort of conversion scale for the long time periods. Other Old Testament prophecies used the day for a year scale (Ezek 4:6; Num 14:34). When a small event happened to signal the end of Ottoman, or Turkish, power in 1840 right on time, prophecy students saw the event as affirmation for the scale they had used, one day of prophecy for one year of real time. The Roman Empire and the church that took its place were hardly visible at all by that time, yet the final piece of justice is yet to come. I will show you more yet in future sessions about these decades around 1800.
The trumpets are God's response to all human efforts to save themselves. They are God's curtain drawn on the evil nation, His whistle-blowing when the nation has passed its limits. The last night will come for Rome. God is just. Yet the Christian will survive during God's judgments.
According to the plot of Daniel and Revelation, after this nation makes a decree to determine when or where or how people will worship, then the Gospel will spread and there will be conversions. But the curtain will fall, the last night will come. The nation that decrees against God will fall.
Next time I will move into uncovering the scheme of the ages, the heart of the action of the two books.
Coming Back from the Party
Once upon a time there was a woman who ate too much and thought about food all the time. When she thought about health she thought about what she should not eat. When she prayed she begged God to help her not to eat. When she heard a sermon about overcoming she knew that appetite was the first thing to overcome since it stood in the way of all others. When she sat at the table she showered herself with guilt. When someone wanted her friendship she offered food.
Then she discovered the first three laws of recovery, and she gave up. She thought about some things she had always wanted to do but had never done for all her work on her appetite. She took up painting. She became a Big Sister. She learned horseback riding. And somewhere along the way she lost some weight.
Sometimes guarding my senses means opening them up to the gifts of God. God cares about how I feel.
Then there was the man continually looking for ways to reduce his stress so he wouldn't have to drink. He said finances caused stress. He said his child caused stress. He said his wife caused stress. My stress management seminar caused stress. He kept on drinking.
Others have made it clear to me in their story that they had to quit the alcohol before they could even begin to work on their stress, or their relationships. They work a program to keep from drinking.
Sometimes selecting my habits means giving up on ever understanding my own cause and effect systems, letting go my habitual obsession with one type of solution. God cares about how I feel.
Then there were the times when well-meaning friends told me I should stand up straighter or get more exercise and I would feel better. At that time even getting out of bed in the morning brought on the heaves, so more exercise seemed out of the question. I had fasted away my muscles and squandered my adrenalin through busy nights. I knew standing straighter would likely bring me more energy, but I knew not where I would get the energy to hold myself up against the fatigue and pain.
I remember the first few mornings I moved without nausea. I decided right then that I would take whatever strength would come back to me and invest it back into the laws of natural health. I could keep on existing the way I was while sick, but whatever wellness I gained would be re-invested toward increased wellness. I knew not what law of natural health in which to invest first, but somehow God took care of all that. I am most pleased with the muscles I am getting back. I worked hard to get them back; indeed, I keep on working very hard.
Sometimes the only considered decision possible is that of giving up to let God Himself make clear what is the next step toward health. God cares about how I feel.
God cares about how you feel, too. Will you ask Him for the courage and guidance to guard your senses, select your habits, and consider your decisions?
Christians will survive during God's judgments. I can improve my health for survival by guarding my senses, by selecting my habits, and by considering my decisions.
How to Survive:
1. Guard My Senses
2. Select My Habits
3. Consider My Decisions