John, the Apostle of (Agape, God) Love, and writer of the Book of Revelation, in exile on the Island of Patmos.
Art used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. Visit her 'Revelation Illustrated' website.
By Gavin Finley
The prophet Daniel and the apostle John both contributed enormously to our understanding of the end-time and the climax of this age. To these two men we owe the books of Daniel and Revelation. Both of them saw the Word of God revealed to them through visions and an open heaven. Why were they so blessed?
'Daniel answering the king'
Art by Briton Riviere (late 19th century).
The scriptures show clearly that they were not just cloistered scholarly types. Neither one of them arrived at the truth through some prolonged intellectual process. So what was it about these two that allowed them to be entrusted with these awesome and glorious truths of the end-time? Can their personal lives provide some sort of clue?
The scriptures give us the answer. Both of them had a deep love for God. That love was manifested in a zeal to see the unfolding of God's plans and purposes here below. Their burden was for Jerusalem and for God's holy people. Because of their covenant commitment both found themselves caught up in extraordinary adventures that involved great trials and testings. God also opened up heaven and revealed His secrets to them. By the end of their days they had seen not only the rise and fall of kingdoms and rulers but had seen across the centuries to our day and the second coming of our Redeemer, the long awaited Messiah of Israel.
Both the prophet Daniel and the Apostle John were given special mention in scripture as being beloved of God. Just as he was about to be given the key Prophecy of the 70 Weeks Daniel was told by the Angel Gabriel that he was a man "greatly beloved". - Dan. 9:23 This was restated again in another vision given in Dan.10:11. And as for the Apostle John he was known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved". - John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, and 21:7.
The covenant relationship was to each as much a passion of heart as it was a scholarly and faithful handling of the Holy Word of God. Both of them faced deadly trials. And both were miraculously delivered from murderous persecutions. Daniel spent a long night protected from a den of hungry lions. And John, (legend has it), emerged unscathed from a barrel of boiling oil. John stayed with Jesus right through to the bitter end. He was there at Calvary and was witness to His crucifixion. The personal commitment and patient endurance of these two men was exceptional. Their faithfulness through their trials and tribulations confirmed their devotion to God. So perhaps a simple case could be made here. Perhaps their lives demonstrated trustworthiness to receive classified information. Perhaps their worthiness to deliver to us the Word of God relating to the apocalypse came out of a tested love relationship with God.
In the culture today, and throughout history in fact, those who love God have often been looked upon as "wimpy". Devotional matters and our love of God has often been considered irrelevant or even quaint in the broad flows of the "victorious Christian life". For many people who call themselves Christians the devotion in God has often been reckoned as a bit "over the top". It is a non-essential "extra" reserved for those who have the time to dither around in religious sentimentality.
Of course all this can change, and change quickly. When history comes knocking at our door then eternal matters re-emerge. In such times the devotion in God is inclined to re-appear on the agenda. The Salvation Army ministered on the front lines during the awful trench warfare of World War 1. At that time many men came inquiring after the things of God. In the recent Desert Storm campaign soldiers came to God in record numbers. They were hard pressed to find enough water to baptize the large numbers of converts to the faith. They ended up baptizing the soldiers in coffins. What an appropriate way to identify with the death of Jesus!
In times of trial the larger questions of life call out for answers. Again and again modern man in dire circumstances remembers that he is an eternal spirit being in need of salvation. Human beings were created to keep company with God. That is where true happiness is found. Even Europeans are for the most part a lost people. We belong back with the God. At the cross He shed His blood for the sins of the world. He alone is the God of history and the God of eternity. Only when intimately connected with God, repenting of sin, and asking Jesus Christ to come into our life will we ever find true meaning to our existence. Only in Christ, who is Truth personified, shall we find the answers to the big questions of life.
It was a lover of God, Divine, who wrote the Apocalypse or Revelation of Jesus Christ. Knowing and loving Jesus is the key to understanding the end-time. God "seals up" His end-time truth from others. Is it because they would abuse that truth? As the Day of the Lord approaches all human philosophies and all human efforts will fail. The witness of Jesus Christ remains. It is the end-time story. It was John the Beloved who brought us this truth,"........the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy". - Rev.19:10
Holy history moves forward teleological or in linear fashion towards a climax. The hypnotic cycles of eastern mysticism, the cold impersonal ying and yang, the dreary meaningless circle of life and death, the drugs that fog the mind, and all these mind numbing non-conclusive philosophies drag men's souls down to the dust. The empty existentialistic mysticism that snared the Beatles and the youth of the 60's led nowhere. Nowhere except to bed with a stranger in a vain attempt at finding "peace" in eros without returning to God. The Woodstock doctrine, "make love and not war" was just another attempt by mankind to balance war and peace as another "ying and yang". Rudyard Kipling said "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet." He was wrong. Western man is now steeped in eastern mysticism. He is truly lost. His mind is in a fog. In Homer's legend of Oddyseus his hero was detained on an island with the witch Circe for 10 years. Eating the lotus leaves he had forgotten who he was. He had also forgotten his quest. Western man too has lost his memory. He too has forgotten his destiny. Sadly, like the crew of Oddyseus, the men of the west have also been turned into swine. But the crises of the age will come. We shall awaken one morning and remember who we are and what we have been called to do. Like Oddyseus we shall return to the ship. We shall set sail once more and resume our voyage. And like the prodigal son, we shall return to our spiritual home. We shall return home to the Father; And to the One we really love.
Love is a burning fire. The information that Daniel received from the throne of God in three visions was difficult to receive. The true saints will lose temporal power and political protection in the end-time. -Dan.7:21 & 25, Dan.8:24, and Dan.12:7 In the days of the 5th seal during the Great Tribulation the saints will suffer a martyrdom of staggering proportions. When these end-time truths were downloaded into his soul they were of such severity that Daniel fainted, (as we probably would today). -Dan.8:27. He was not given an understanding as to how the end time saints lose the temporal power struggle yet in the end inherit Kingdom of God. This was as much a mystery to him as it is to us 2500 years later. Coming to terms with the inevitable and necessary spiritual war that lies just ahead is what the books of Daniel and the apocalypse of the Apostle John are all about.
As we can see, this study of the last days is more than just an exercise in scholarship. It is a passage of devotion and love. The Way leads us on into the very heart of the Shepherd Himself. It is a lovewalk that goes out even through death and beyond. Death has been overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is being confirmed by the witness of His covenant people. Our passage into God is not just a head trip. It is an adventure and a romance in God. Increasingly it will become a passion. That zeal is growing within us. It is destined to totally captivate and consume us.
The journey in God is a romance. It will take us beyond our present concerns about possessions and political protection matters. We shall experience realities that transcend mere survivalism of the flesh. The Way will transport us beyond the mandates of the present dominant self-life. Remembering Lot's wife we shall leave our burdens of care behind. We shall walk on without looking back.
The pilgrimage is a devotion. It is a highway of holiness. (-Isa.35:8-10) We shall eventually come within reach of the Holy City. As we come within sight of the gates of splendor all the earthly burdens we have held dear will be left behind. And so we shall enter into the City of God. -Mat.19:24-29. There we shall enter into realms of unspeakable glory not yet in view.
Yes we may be "scattered like sheep without a shepherd", -1Kings 22:17, Mat. 9:36,
but not one will be lost.
Yes, we may have been and still yet may be exiles among the goyim, (heathen),
but God will make us a "light to the gentiles".
Yes, we may be accounted as "sheep for the slaughter".-Ps.44:22, Rom.8:36,
but "we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us".-Rom.8:37.
"You will be betrayed by family and friends." Jesus said.
"They will send some of you to your death", our Lord shared privately to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse -Mat.24
"But not one hair of your head shall be lost".-Luke 21:18.
"In your patience, possess ye your souls". -Luke 21:19
His words to each of us from that place of the olive press, (Gethsemane), are still heard today,
"I am with you always, (our Lord says),
even unto the end of the age." -Mat.28:19 &20amp;
Dear saints we are pilgrims on an epic journey into the heart of God. The key issue will not be our economic, material or military strength. Rather it will be our devotion and just who we are devoted to. The curtain is about to go up on the most riveting drama and the most captivating love story that this world and the watching angels have ever seen.-Heb 12:1
Here is the conclusion of the matter from the scriptures. The Messiah will return for a bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish. -Eph.5:27 The refining of the saints as gold is inevitable.-Rev.3:18. The story of this present evil age will conclude with the revelation of the Messiah as the Lion of Judah roaring from Zion, -Joel 3:16, Amos 1:2. He will plead against the armies of Gog and his allies with pestilence and bloodshed as they try to sweep down on land of Israel from the uttermost north in the end-time.-Ezek.38 He will defend Jerusalem with his mighty arm. When the surrounding nations gather their armies on the plain of Armageddon God will exact a terrible retribution. Isaiah saw the returning Messiah trampling the grapes of wrath at Bozrah. -Isa.63 Micah also saw Messiah, coming as "the Breaker", deliver His elect from Esau's fortress/sheepfolds at Bozrah. -Mic. 2:12-13 This is the "day of the Lord's vengeance and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion". -Isa 34:8
The second coming of our Lord Jesus is all about devotion. The final deliverance for the saints is also the day of wrath. This will be doomsday for the wicked. God will act in love and in a pure jealous anger. Because He will deliver His hard pressed saints from the hands of their captors. In that Day the wicked will be gathered up by hideous angels of wrath. They shall be swept up as tares/weeds to be burned. Their destiny is a place of eternal torment.- Mat.13:30 This "Great Day of the Lord" or "Day of Christ". It is mentioned many times in the prophetic Word for our edification. God's wrath on the wicked will one day become an awesome reality. Men may scoff at the promise of His coming. But God is not mocked. Nor will He desert His people. He will deliver them speedily when all is said and done.
It is very important that we know that righteous judgement will come. We need to know that. This will help us personally to go through the Great Tribulation with patience. Indeed this knowledge is given so that we may grow in grace and minister with compassion to those very ones who will be persecuting us. Because guess what? We are not the ones in trouble. They are! They will have dared to persecute God's covenant people! God Almighty is on their case!
God's wrath is not just empty rage. Nor is it directed at His own people in the form of 'tribulation'. Rather it is a white hot righteous zeal and anger which is directed specifically at the ones who are persecuting His own covenant people. This is a manifestation of His love.
Why should we mention God's wrath in a treatise on Loving God? Because we need to know the awful consequences for those who persecute Christian saints and get crossways with God Almighty. This knowledge helps us to know that no matter what persecutions come against us we will not be forgotten. The knowledge of the sure judgement of God on the wicked also helps us to exercise compassion on our persecutors.
As we think about the love and devotion of God let us pause and remember our patriarch Joseph. You will recall that he was persecuted by his brothers. Some of them wanted to kill him. Yet in the time of famine he ministered the bread of life to his previously hostile brothers. He also fed those outside the covenant from across the world during those awful seven years. Did Joseph leave a pattern for us to follow in those seven years yet to come at the end of this age?
The life story of Joseph during those 7 years is a pattern of future church history in the 70th week. This grace and patience in tribulation which Joseph exemplified will be gloriously seen again in the end-time drama. At the end of the age the Judeo-Christian people, those belonging to the God of Jacob, will all come to the time of "Jacobs's trouble". At the climax of that trial many will finally bow down and embrace the Christ they see in the life of their persecuted brothers. A key element to this will be the commitment Judah made to be guarantor for the life of Benjamin. The royal Jewish house of Judah will be saved and the throne of David established on the earth for one thousand years. - Zech.12:7-13:1 Both houses of Israel and all 12 gates into the holy city are destined to open gloriously in the last days. The two sticks will come together in the hands of Messiah. - Ezek.37 The royal kingdom office and holy priesthood offices of Messiah as the greater Melchizedek will come into confluence. In Christ/Messiah they will unite to form a single "royal priesthood and a holy nation". - 1Pet.2:9 This will be the kingdom/priesthood that will restore this world during the Millennium of Messiah.
Many mysteries are yet to be unveiled. A great adventure lies up ahead. For the end-time pilgrims this holy quest is destined to consume them. For them the quest will turn out to be an all-encompassing romance in God.
It has been a long pilgrimage. The journey of covenant devotion began with our patriarch Abraham. 4,000 years ago he set out from Ur, a city of idols, being guided by the hand of God. 500 years later the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was a nation over a million strong. They sang the Song of Moses as they left Egypt in a great deliverance. Under the mighty hand of God Moses led them out in a great exodus. God rescued them from the chariots of Pharaoh allowing them to cross the Red Sea on dry land.
The pilgrimage of the people of God goes on. An even greater exodus lies out there in our future. - Jer.16:14-15 At the end of this age a huge and magnificent company of the redeemed will arrive at last within the heavenly realms. There they will sing the Song of Moses, just as it was sung at the Red Sea crossing. This time it will be sung in commemoration of an even more glorious deliverance. And that huge and glorious company drawn from all nations will stand at last before the Crystal Sea.- Rev.15:1-3
Truly, our God delivers His own!
The pace is quickening now as we close in on the prize of the high calling. The elect of God are in the crosshairs of holy history. How will they possibly be able to go through with this? How will they continue to wrestle with the Angel through that "dark night of the soul"? The answer will be seen in the deed. It will be God's divine enabling grace that carries the day. The coming 70th week of Daniel and its final 3.5 years of Great Tribulation will bring the saints onstage. They will endure an unprecedented period of testing in the fiery crucible of history. How will they possibly endure such affliction?
The end-time saints will not be alone. Nor will they be entirely in their bodies of flesh as they come to their 'hour of trial'. At that time they will enter into the mystery of godliness. They will be supernaturally endowed with God's grace for the trials. Persecuted Christians in countries abroad are being covered even now. The saints will be "kept" or preserved by the power of God, even in, through, and out of their "hour of trial" . - Rev.3:10 They will find shelter in 'the secret place of the Most High'. - Psalm 91:1 Like David in the "valley of the shadow of death" they will find a table has been prepared for them; even in the presence of their enemies. - Ps.23 There they will experience the wonder of the divine romance; a romance that transcends all others.
In the Song of Solomon the Shulamite finally brings the love story to its conclusion. She testifies of her total commitment and blood covenant love for her Beloved with these words,"Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame".
- Song of Songs 8:6 NKJV"Close your heart to every love but mine;
hold no one in your arms but me.
Love is as powerful as death;
passion is as strong as death itself.
It bursts into flame and burns like a raging fire."
- Song of Songs 8:6 Today's English Version
So where will the saints find the strength to sustain them in such an awesome period of testing? Where will the grace and patience come from to endure? And how will they be fortified in their inner being to witness the covenant faithfully, even unto death ?
In their hour of trial they will discover an inner strength coming up from within them, even from the indwelling Christ. - Ps.91
They will bring their testimony before men just as the saints of old have done before them. Even in the climactic days of a bloody moon, their witness will go forth. Their faithful witness during the fifth seal will bring this age to its awesome conclusion.
And why will they do this?
They will do this because of Love.
Some more devotional articles on apocalyptic Biblical themes for the inquiring Christian.