In the first three messages in this series, we were considering the future period of time that we call “the revolt against the Kingdom.” This period will be a most strange one on earth, yet it is a very critical one in God’s plans. It is set forth in many passages of Scripture. All the truth regarding Daniel’s seventieth week is related to this period. The entirety of the first nineteen chapters of Revelation is related to this time as well. Yet there are also many other passages that deal with this critical time of testing in the Kingdom.
We considered Psalm 2 and the revolt of certain of the rulers in the Kingdom. In our last message, we considered Matthew 24 and the prophecy the Lord Jesus gave His disciples of the consummation of the eon of the Kingdom of God. He gave them signs of His parousia and of the sorrows of the great testing period, but promised salvation to the one who would endure to the end of the period of the revolt
The Lord’s discourse in Matthew 24 really continues right into chapter 25. The chapter breaks in our Bibles are a man-made thing, and in this case they might confuse us. What the Lord is doing here is telling a parable to show the causes of the failure of some when the test comes.
1. “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
This parable tells of something in the Kingdom of Heaven, but it relates only to the time that Matthew 24 is setting forth. Notice the first word “then,” which places it squarely in the time of the revolt against the Kingdom which was being discussed in chapter 24. The subjects of the Kingdom are compared to the ten virgins, for the “kingdom of heaven” here is used to indicate its subjects. The reference is to a custom to greet the bridegroom as he was coming to the wedding festivities by lighting his way to the place of celebration. The exact time the bridegroom would arrive was uncertain, for one thing since they were much less careful about time in that society, and for another because travel was uncertain and the time it took could vary considerably. These virgins who are to light his way thus go out early and are prepared to wait some time if need be until the bridegroom arrives.
2. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
Five of the virgins were wise, and five were foolish. This compares those who are ready to face the test of the period of the revolt with those who are not.
3. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,
The foolish ones took their lamps but took no oil with them to refill them. Since the time of the bridegroom’s arrival was unknown and could be quite late, this was a foolish and thoughtless thing to do.
4. but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
The wise, however, took oil in their vessels along with their lamps to use in case the bridegroom would be long in coming.
5. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
The bridegroom was delayed longer than expected, and so these virgins all slumbered and slept. This would not have been at all unusual, for in their society they were not so much “night owls” as many people are in our day, and they typically rose with the sun. The long wait and the late hour would act heavily on these young girls, and so it is no surprise that they all fell asleep.
6. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
At midnight a cry is heard that wakes up these young women, telling them that the bridegroom is coming at last and that they should go out to meet him, as they were tasked to do.
7. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
They probably come awake in a rush and jump up, only to find that their lamps have smoldered and gone out. Due to the long wait, they have all run out of oil.
8. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
The foolish try to relight their lamps, but cannot since they are out of oil. Therefore they ask the wise to give them their extra oil, since they have none of their own.
9. But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’
The wise virgins are unwilling to do this, however, for they do not believe their extra oil will be enough to light two lamps along the way back to the wedding. Therefore, they advise the foolish virgins to go to those who sell oil to buy some for themselves. Of course, the hour was midnight, and so buying from these oil sellers would involve getting them out of bed and convincing them to come out to their shops to sell them oil, which would be no easy task.
10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
These virgins took this advice and ran off to buy some oil. While they were about this difficult task, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready did their task of accompanying him and lighting his way into the place of wedding festivities. When all were inside, the door was shut behind them.
11. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
Afterward the foolish virgins arrive back at the wedding. We are not told if they had any luck rousting an oil merchant out of bed at this hour. At any rate, they find the wedding procession already ended, and so they run to the door and implore the Lord of the feast, the bridegroom, to open to them.
12. But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Yet he refuses to do so. Instead, he tells them assuredly that he does not know them. This is an unexpected twist, for surely this bridegroom must have known all these young girls, or why else would they have been part of his wedding festivities?
13. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
This is the point of the parable: that they are to watch, since they do not know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. The foolish virgins were unready, and so were rejected and shut out of the wedding. So, those who are unready for the Son of Man when He comes will be shut out of His Kingdom in the parousia of Christ. If they fail the Kingdom test, they will not be let back in when the Kingdom reveals itself again in force at the return of Jesus Christ.
What is it that will help those living in the Kingdom be ready for the time of revolt? What is the oil they should have on hand and more to spare? The oil stands for the Holy Spirit and the things of the Holy Spirit. The wise have these things on hand, but the foolish have neglected Him. The Kingdom will be the time of the Spirit indeed!
II Thessalonians 2
This passage is an important one because it tells us the things that must take place before the day of the Lord can be present.
1. Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
Paul had already revealed to these Thessalonian believers that at the parousia (not “coming”) of our Lord Jesus Christ they would be gathered together to Him (I Thessalonians 4:15-18). Now, concerning these things, Paul and his companions ask something of them.
2. not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
They ask that they not soon be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or even by a letter written as if from Paul and the apostles, acting as though the day of the Lord had already come. The phrase here should be “day of the Lord,” not “day of Christ,” and that is how it reads in some good manuscripts. As we said earlier, the day of Christ is the day of the Kingdom of God on earth. All that must happen to bring in the day of Christ is for the Lord to pour out His Spirit from heaven to establish His government upon earth. Yet not so with the day of the Lord. Certain important events must take place before that day arrives. Yet some, it seems, were trying to deceive the Thessalonians into believing that the day of the Lord had already come.
Paul mentions here a “letter, as if from us.” This seems to indicate that the Thessalonians had really received such a letter. Paul here is denying that he or any of his companions wrote it, and insisting that it did not tell the truth. This letter was a fraud, written with the goal of upsetting their faith in what the apostles had told them would take place.
3. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
Paul reassures the Thessalonians that this cannot be the case, so they should not let anyone deceive them by these or any other means. He informs them that the day of the Lord cannot come until certain things come first. These are:
1. There is an apostasy.
2. The man of sin (the lawless one) is revealed.
Obviously, from Paul’s words here, there was no apostasy, no falling away, when Paul wrote these words. If there was, it would have destroyed his argument. Yet we cannot deny that there were many Satanic activities at the time Paul wrote this. We can see this was true among the Thessalonians from I Thessalonians 2:14-16.
14. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15. who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16. forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.
There can be little doubt but that the opposition to the apostles and the message God had given them was satanically inspired. This kind of opposition had gone on throughout the Acts period from the beginning, starting in Acts 4:1-3 and continuing in Acts 5:17-18 from the Sanhedrin in Judea, then in Acts 12:1-4 from King Herod, then in Pisidian Antioch from the Jewish leaders there in Acts 13:44-45, and in Philippi from the city officials in Acts 16:16-24. These were all the activities of Satan, as he worked contrary to God’s will and work. Yet none of these were an “apostasy.”
The Greek word apostasia (“falling away”) occurs only twice in the New Testament. The other time is in Acts 21:21.
21. but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
The word “forsake” here is the same Greek word apostasia. Some have used this verse to try to claim that the word means “a departure,” and to try to claim that it refers to “the rapture,” in other words, that the day of the Lord cannot come until “the rapture” comes first! Yet no one was “departing” from Moses in a physical sense in Acts 21:21, and the clear implication is that it was a departing from him in a moral sense that was meant; in other words, an apostasy.
The New Testament is not the only place we can go to find the meaning of Greek words used in the New Testament. One most valuable place to go is to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. An examination of the Septuagint usage of the word shows that an “apostasia” is a revolt against duly constituted authority. Consider Joshua 22:22.
22. “The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, He knows, and let Israel itself know—if it is in rebellion, or if in treachery against the LORD, do not save us this day.
Here, it is clearly a moral forsaking or apostasy that is meant, not a physical departure. The same is true of Jeremiah 2:19.
19. Your own wickedness will correct you,
And your backslidings will rebuke you.
Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing
That you have forsaken the LORD your God,
And the fear of Me is not in you,”
Says the Lord GOD of hosts.
So from both the New Testament usage and from the Septuagint, we can see that what must come before the day of the Lord is a revolt against proper authority. Thus, what II Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of as coming before the day of the Lord is a revolt against the authority of the Kingdom. This takes place at the conclusion, that is, the consummation, of the Kingdom of the Heavens. But there can be no revolt until God’s Kingdom, His government, is already here and present. Thus we see once again that the Kingdom of God must come first, and that the testing period of the tribulation must follow after it.
Besides the revolt that must happen before the day of the Lord begins, Paul also tells them that the man of sin must be revealed before the day of the Lord comes. Verse 4 tells more about this wicked character.
4. who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
The career of this one and his hubris and blasphemies against God are the culmination of the revolt against the Kingdom, and the introduction to the earth, for a brief time at least, of the counterfeit kingdom of Satan to replace the Kingdom of God. The history and progress of that wicked kingdom can be followed out in the books that discuss the period of the revolt, such as Daniel and Revelation.
The revolt against the Kingdom proceeds, but it is not ultimately successful. The revolt is brought to a sudden and complete halt with Christ’s glorious return. When He comes, He puts down those who rebelled against Him. We read of this great event in Revelation 19:11-20:3.
11. Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
John sees here the event for which the whole world waits: the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven to earth for His parousia.
12. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
He has many authorities on His head, for He truly is the King of the Kingdom, coming to reclaim His Own from those who dared to rise up against Him and seek to take it from Him.
13. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
His robe is dyed in blood, no doubt because He is the One Whose blood made the kingdom possible. His reputation is that He is The Word of God, God expressing Himself in human form.
14. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
The armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen white and clean (probably symbolizing their purity) follow Him on white horses of their own. These are probably His mighty angels.
15. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
The sword He bears comes out of His mouth. He needs no physical weapon, for His word is all it takes to defeat the enemy. He will strike all the rebellious nations with His word, and rule them with a rod of iron. Their revolt thus will be completely put down. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Those rebels who joined the kingdom of Satan will feel that fierce wrath at this time, as they will all be completely destroyed.
16. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
His name, that is, His true reputation based on His true character, is written on His robe and on His thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. This is the glorious One Who will come to bring His Kingdom back into subservience unto Himself!
17. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,
We are told of the strange sight of an angel standing in the sun! He speaks to the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, yet from what he says, we would assume that the carrion birds are meant. He calls on them to come and gather together for a supper that the great God will be preparing for them. One of the most iconic realities of battle in Israel, and in many other places for that matter, was the gathering together of the carrion birds, who would feast on the carcasses of those killed in the fighting. Thus this speaks of the reality of the slaughter that the Lord is about to make so that these carrion birds will have a great supper to feast upon.
18. that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
These carrion birds will eat the flesh of kings, captains, and mighty men, horses and their riders, free and slave, small and great without distinction. All who are in the army of opposition will likewise be killed, and none will be spared except for the two primary agents of Satan, who will be taken for special punishment.
19. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
The beast, often called the man of sin or the antichrist, gathers together with the kings of the earth and their armies in order to make war against Jesus Christ and His army. The height of their foolishness is shown by this. They gather themselves together only to be conveniently in one place for the slaughter.
20. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
The beast and his false prophet are treated specially, for rather than being killed in the slaughter they are captured, sentenced, and cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. There they will meet their fate and come to their awful end.
21. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.
The rest of the army is not spared, however, but all are universally killed by the word of Jesus Christ. The last battle is no battle at all. No one can stand against the Lord and His forces in the day when He arrives for His parousia. They all become corpses, and the birds the angel of verse 17 called for are filled with their flesh.
Revelation 20:1. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
Now John sees an angel coming down from heaven. He has the key to the bottomless pit. This place is “The Abyss” in Greek, though it is also called in some places “The Well of the Abyss.” The idea of “well” is that it has a narrow opening at the top and widens out the further you go down. The Abyss seems to be the name of God’s great prison for heavenly beings, whether angels, cherubs, or spirits. We know that fallen man, upon receiving our just penalty of death in Adam, are held in Sheol, the state of death, until the day of judgment. Yet the heavenly beings who sinned are not subject to Adamic death, and so when God chooses to bring a stop to their evil works, He incarcerates them in this supernatural prison. What exactly this prison is we cannot tell, any more than we can tell how an angel, a spirit, or a cherub might be imprisoned. Yet whenever a heavenly being is to be held until judgment day, the Lord will have him incarcerated here, in His great prison for heavenly sinners. Now Satan, the greatest of heavenly rebels, is about to at last join his fellow wicked beings in rightful imprisonment.
2. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;
The dragon, that serpent of old, the Devil and Satan, who was the great instigator of the revolt against the Kingdom, is dealt with for his crimes at last. The angel lays hold of him and binds him for a thousand years. This angel must have the power of God behind him indeed to do this to this great, wicked being who has defied God for so long. Yet none can argue that Satan well deserves his imprisonment. He would richly deserve it even now, and he will much more deserve it when that day finally comes.
3. and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
The angel casts the bound Satan into the Abyss, shuts him up there, and sets a seal on him so that he cannot be released until the thousand years are finished. Thus not only the rebellious forces of men on earth, but the great heavenly forces behind them are at last dealt with when the revolt against the Kingdom is put down. In this way Satan, who deceived the nations into rebelling against God in the first place, is not allowed to practice his deceptions any more throughout the thousand years of Christ’s parousia, though he will be released for one last test after that time.
This defeat of Satan and his forces is followed by the great period of Christ’s personal presence on earth, the thousand years of His parousia. That is the glorious Divine follow-up to the revolt against the Kingdom.
So the bottom line of what we have considered is that the famous “tribulation period” that many are so concerned is about to start at any time is not truly the end of this wicked course of things we live in now and the next event on God’s calendar, but is actually a revolt against the Kingdom of God. It is the Kingdom of God that is next on God’s calendar, and the revolt against the Kingdom will only follow after that Kingdom has ruled over the earth for many centuries. When this revolt comes, God uses it to test the world, and to see who has learned the lessons of the Kingdom and is ready for the personal presence of His Son on earth. The revolt accomplishes the great purposes of revealing the tares among the wheat, to be rooted up and destroyed, and of giving those loyal to God’s kingdom a chance to overcome and thus to reign with Him in His parousia.
The revolt is therefore a good thing, as God uses it to accomplish His good purposes. While we might wish that no one on earth after the Kingdom of God would be willing to rebel, that is not the case. Yet the revolt against the Kingdom does give others the chance to perform great feats of faithfulness to God and become overcomers. For these, its outcome will be most beneficial. Thus, we can be sure that, as sad as a revolt against the Kingdom is, it is all a part of God’s plan for moving things on to His glorious conclusion in the new heavens and the new earth. Praise God for it, then, and we will gladly go through that troubling period when the time comes.