Apr 142018

Revelation 7:1-8

The 144,000 of Israel Sealed

1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.

  • Who are the 4 angels? Are they the 4 horsemen who were sent out?
  • Note that they stand at the 4 winds of the earth. Four is the number of the earth and it seems to be what God is using to judge.
  • The 4 winds of heaven – we see this in Daniel 7:2 and Jeremiah 49:36.
  • The use of “four winds” and “four corners of the earth” are metaphorical devices used to show the totality of judgment that God will send on a rebellious world.

Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea,

  • Jesus is coming from the east – the rising of the sun. This is messianic language we see in Ezekiel 43:1-2 and also Zechariah 9
  • Check out the Palm Sunday reference as Jesus comes to Jerusalem from the Bethany in the east. Both a fulfillment of Advent and Holy Week.
  • Remember the question from Rev 6:17 – “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” – the answer is here in chapter 7 – the Christians can stand – those who have been sealed – sealing of their baptism. The baptism delivers this sealing in the name of the triune God.
  • 2 Cor 1:21-22 – “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
  • We know that we have the Holy Spirit in baptism Acts 2:38-39; Matt 28:19; Titus 3:4-6.
  • In the midst of all this turmoil, while it looks like the world is going to hell in a hand basket – here is the refuge we have – in our baptism. Here we have a Sabbath rest in our salvation. This is very comforting for the Christian.
  • When it looks like all is lost and all we have is despair – take heart, we have the seal.

saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

  • Now this is the kicker as dispensationalist say that Revelation is written in chronological order – which is very important to their system. But John shows us that the judgment on the earth is not to begin until the Church is sealed.
  • But wait – didn’t we see the earth get destroyed in chapter six? Welcome to the world of apocalyptic writing. You are supposed to recognize certain “anomalies” like this and understand John’s purpose in writing the way he does and in organizing his thoughts the way he does. The events John describes are real but he rarely – if ever –records events in chronological order.
  • In fact, as we progress through the coming judgments of trumpets and bowls, take notice of how often the world is destroyed in judgment.

And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

  • Who is sealed? These numbers have always been confusing, but we are not Jehovah’s Witnesses so we do not take them literally.
  • This is the complete, complete people of God – 12 OT tribes = the complete people of OT and 12 Apostles = the complete people of the NT.
  • Multiplied by God’s number of completeness, 10 (the 10 commandments, the 10 plagues) – but in Trinity 10x10x10 = 1,000
  • 12×12 = 144 x 1,000 = 144,000
  • Another odd note is that the dimensions of the New Jerusalem according to Rev 21:17 = 144 cubits – it may not relate but something to use at a party.

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,

  • We need to evaluate if this listing, which is different is trying to make a point in Revelation that we do not see elsewhere?
  • Dan is missing – replaced by Manasseh, the first born of Joseph. (Jewish tradition has it that Dan fell away.)
  • Why is Judah listed first instead of the actual first born Reuben?
  • Judah precedes Reuben because the leader of the new Israel is none other than the Lamb – see Rev 5:5 and Gen 49:10

12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,

  • The tribes are the description of all God’s people of all time in all places. A synonym = the Church. James 1:1 uses this language – “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion”. Does anyone make the case that the book of James is to national Israel?
  • Gal 6:16 “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
  • Gal 3:29 – “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
  • 1 Peter 2 uses this kind of language.

12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,

  • All who believe in Jesus are of these 12 tribes. The OT believers, the NT believers – the whole enchilada.

12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

  • Dan No – Manasseh Yes – Ephraim No – Joseph Yes
  • There are no less than nineteen different listings of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and the one listed here in Revelation 7 is not identical with any of them. This is especially remarkable in light of Ezekiel 48, where an eschatological listing of the tribes is given.


Apr 132018

I don’t usually write on the weekends…but sometimes I have to.

Mega blogger Tim Challies wrote an article today about the Humboldt hockey team tragedy.



For those of you who are unaware, a youth hockey team traveling to a playoff game was involved in a horrific accident and sixteen of them were killed.

It has deeply grieved the town, the country of Canada , and the whole hockey community internationally.

Why did Challies feel the need to write about it?

“As I have reflected on the disaster, there is a thought that continues to haunt me. It’s the thought of young people who have heard the gospel, but haven’t yet decided what to do about it. I know many people who are in the age-range of those players, people who are in their teens or twenties. Many of them have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, but have not yet responded in repentance and faith. They haven’t outright rejected the gospel—they just haven’t decided yet whether or not they believe it.

This is not unusual for young people. It is not uncommon for them to hear the good news but to hold off, to delay, to wait for what seems like a more opportune time. They are young, after all. They’ve got years still, don’t they? Perhaps not. I’m sure every young man on that bus had dreams for the future. I’m sure every one was convinced he had time left to live. But he didn’t.”

So, grieving parents, grieving family, grieving friends, grieving country…not only did you lose these loved ones, a bunch of them probably went straight to hell.

Why…why…in the name of all that’s holy would you write such a thing before the funerals have even begun?


What kind of insane, insensitive, religious spirit would compel you to add to the unimaginable pain that these people must be experiencing?

What the hell is wrong with you that you would use a crushing national disaster as an opportunity for an online altar call?

When doctrine is your god, Jesus cannot be…

Challies, you need to watch this video a few hundred times…it’s the shattered chaplain of that hockey team trying to comfort a shattered flock…and he gets it right.

He gets it right because he weeps with those who weep…and he won’t stop weeping until his flock does…if then.

He knows Jesus as well as you know your doctrine…

Apr 132018

Our church sends out an email every week of the prayer requests that were made after the service.

It’s divided into two parts…current requests and the permanent prayer requests.

The permanent ones are the ones that never seem to get answered so we just copy and paste them every week.

I’ve almost stopped looking at them because they taunt me and mock my faith.

I think I’ve had the same two requests up for four years or so…

I pray about them now and again, but I’ve ceased to expect much.

This, of course, brings me to a cat story.

Every day when I leave the house, I lock Chester in the house.

He can’t go outside because he’s a risk (to say the least) to other cats, small dogs, and obnoxious humans.

As I turn the key from the outside, he takes his position inside…right in front of the door.

He calls for me until I come home.

I was just gone for three days…

My mom would come in and feed him, then he would take his place again.

His place was in front of the door calling for His Dad until his Dad comes home.

When I came home I could hear him calling as I walked up the driveway…the howling growing louder and more frequent as I got closer to the door.

I barely sat down before a 30 pound sack of cat landed in my lap.

He wasn’t angry that I was gone so long, he was just overjoyed that I was home.

He never stopped calling for me.

He never had any doubt I would show up.

He probably thinks I finally heard him…

Three days is probably like four years in cat time…

Lord, make me like Chester…faithful in asking and joyful in your presence.

Make your own application…

Apr 122018

Psalm 3: The Lord Is My Shield! – Part 1

“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
‘There is no salvation for him in God.’  Selah”

Psalm 3 corresponds well with the events surrounding the treason of David’s son, Absalom. Luther and Augustine observed an even closer correspondence with the Passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luther is said to have lived in this psalm when he was summoned to the Diet of Worms in 1521 by the emperor to answer for his alleged heretical teachings. More broadly, this is a psalm in which every Christian at times may live.

(“Though devils all the world should fill”2)

A Christian has no shortage of devils in this world. On June 17, 2015, nine men and women in Charleston, South Carolina, were slaughtered inside a church in which they were engaged in a Bible study. On November 5, 2017, twenty-six men, women and children in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were murdered in the middle of a church service. Christians in Egypt and other countries live under a daily threat of being murdered in their own homes and churches.

But our foes also have an array of non-physical weapons with which to war against us in our everyday vocations:

  • Have you ever tried to navigate a career at a company where greed, dishonesty, gossip, discrimination or other evils are promoted or tolerated?
  • What does a Christian face who seeks political office in a system where dishonesty, bigotry, corruption and character assassination are the norm?
  • How does a pastor remain faithful to the Word of God in a congregation where its members are inundated with aberrant theology from radio, books and the internet?
  • Can a Christian discharge his family responsibilities where his spouse, children or parents deride his beliefs as narrow minded, unloving, primitive, or stupid?
  • Can a Christian stand in faith where his own flesh tempts him daily with unbelief from depression, disease, lust, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, greed, violence, etc.?

“Yes,” a Christian can and must live in the world full of devils, under constant spiritual or physical affliction, but not without many crosses.

“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (Ps 3:1)

Our foes rise against us in two different ways. First there is the gang mentality that often takes place when a Christian sins or experiences failure. The cowards, the jealous and the resentful often burst into the open to publicly mock and celebrate when a Christian or church is suffering.

Second our foes rise within us when, tempted by unbelief, we despair of our foes or circumstances instead of clinging to Christ and His salvation. We can focus on the Canaanites until they appear to be the size of Nephilim, or we can focus on Christ and His Word with the result that our foes will appear as grasshoppers, as they actually are by comparison.

“many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’  Selah” (Ps 3:2)

The greatest lie that Satan whispers is: “There is no salvation for him in God.” Even the lie of “There is no God” is not as bad, because if there is no God, then we are no worse off than our neighbors when we die. But imagine the sheer horror and terror of hearing that there is salvation in God, but you are not included, that God has forsaken you in particular.

This was the lie David heard from Shimei as he fled Jerusalem: “The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” (2 Sam 16:8) So also Jesus from the cross: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” (Matt 27:43)

“3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill.  Selah”

(“A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon”3)

In light of David’s history, one could easily imagine David thinking: “The roosters have finally come home to roost. God is now punishing me for my adultery and murder of Uriah.” But instead of despair, David confessed his trust in what is only visible to faith: that the Lord is a shield, his glory and the lifter of his head, no matter what the Lord was orchestrating.

Regarding the cursing of Shimei, David said to his men: “Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Sam 16:11-12)

And Christ, knowing that His enemies were rising against Him and that His disciples would soon abandon Him, nevertheless confessed his confidence in His Father: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me” (Ps 3:3)

Everything that the Lord accomplishes for us comes through faith in Christ and His cross. Paul calls it “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). Christ has called us into His kingdom under His governance. In His kingdom, He grants us reconciliation with God and eternal life.

At Golgotha, Jesus defeated sin, death and the devil. Before His arrest, He comforted His disciples with the following words: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus has overcome the world!

Thus, Jesus is our impenetrable shield against all devils. To the world and our own flesh, we will suffer as though we have no shield at all; but “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)

Therefore, we must not judge based on appearances or worldly values; but must train our eyes and ears on the Word of God, which teaches the true nature of things to those with faith. And this shield of faith believes that no matter who or what threatens us, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loves us. Amen.

Next week we will pick up Psalm 3 in verse 3 where David confesses the Lord to be his glory and the lifter of his head. Amen.


1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 14.

2 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Martin Luther, v. 3.

3 Ibid., v 1.

Apr 112018

Over the last couple of years I’ve had some friends and co-workers in Christ leave the faith in a public manner.

Some have left because of horrific treatment at the hands of the church.

Some leave because of crushing disappointment with life and God’s providence.

I can fully understand both.

There have been more than a few days over the past few years when I was eying the door myself…


Often they will use social media to rail against both the church and God…and maybe even you.

How should we respond when our friends seem to fall away?

The first thing you do (if allowed), is to remain friends.

If you only love your friends when they agree with you, you aren’t much of a friend.

The second thing you do is let them vent.

They are drawing from a well of deep hurt and it’s going to look and sound ugly until the well is drained.

Hurt people can and will hurt other people…sometimes even people that used to be friends.

Be willing to hurt for the sake of the kingdom and your friend.

God doesn’t need you to defend Him at every turn…He does expect you to love even when someone may be unlovable.

The third thing you should do is validate their pain, especially when they have been crushed by the church or circumstances.

Life hurts, sometimes unbearably so.

Bad things do happen in the church and there are inexplicable tragedies all around us every day.

We wonder where God is and what He is doing.

If you haven’t been hurt that deeply yet, your time is coming.

Healing takes time…and you don’t control how much time it will take for someone else to heal.

What you don’t do is judge…using “if they were with us they would have stayed with us” to write off a soul is easy, but says more about your heart than theirs.

Finally, don’t decide that the decision they made is final.

God loves them more than you do…and His heart is to bring them back to the flock in wholeness.

He may even use your faithful friendship as means to do so.

Make your own application…


Apr 112018

In a radical twist on the old “touch not God’s anointed” threat to laity, Francis Chan raises the bar on both the threat and biblical distortion.

I guess when you’re on the board of an organization like Gospel for Asia, you need to shut people up where ever you go…

The Scriptures speak of exposing false teachers and corrupt shepherds throughout…because God loves His kids and holds His leaders to higher standards.

Watch this video and see what spiritual manipulation really looks like…then run from it.

Read here about “touching the Lord’s anointed”…if you’re in Christ, you are one of His anointed.



Apr 102018

How Eastern Orthodox’s ‘Forgiveness Sunday’ could save us from our Facebook feeds…

Lord’s Supper: Who is Unworthy?

Most churches have never disciplined a congregant…

It’s a mistake to think of the devil as a myth…

Justification in fresh perspective…

Mother, Fathers:Bury your dead…

You can’t skip lament and have a happy New Year…

The unspeakable pleasure…

Creating Information Naturally, Part 1: Snowflakes, Chess, and DNA


Why your church should take eschatology seriously…

Pope says helping poor and migrants as important as fighting abortion…


An open letter to those frustrated by their progress in sanctification…

The Apostle Paul and women…

Bonhoeffer’s last Advent…

Billy Graham’s regrets…

If God is in charge…

Beware of the peace snatchers…

The true nature of our struggle…

Shall we go be among the oppressed?

Silence in Seattle…

Where was God?

Apr 092018


It was a Sunday morning in 1984.  We had just finished celebrating the Eucharist at my college in the north of England.  As was the custom, several of us had retired to the Senior Common Room to have a sherry before lunch.  The news of the day was that in the nearby coastal city of Sunderland, Billy Graham was coming to hold a rally.  We started talking about the concept of evangelism, what it meant, and what some of us thought was wrong with Graham’s methodology and strategy. 

Yet, all of us also felt very keenly the need for a new awakening of faith within the lives of many nominal Christians as well as outreach to those who had rejected Christianity altogether.  At the Eucharist  that morning the preacher had been a Fellow of the college, the former Archbishop of Canterbury +Michael Ramsey.  Bishop Michael had often been identified with the Catholic and intellectual wings of the Anglican Church.  In the course of our conversation, one of the young men sitting in the Senior Common room, a visiting priest from a struggling urban parish, suddenly blurted out, “You know, the problem is I haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  I mean, on some days I’d like to grow up and be Michael Ramsey and on other days I think I would like to be Billy Graham.”  At that moment we were suddenly aware of a presence in the doorway.  A large head with fluffy white hair on the sides and large over-arching eyebrows, leaned in and said, “It’s quite alright. I sometimes have the same problem myself.”  It was, of course, Bishop Michael himself.

We know that we are called to the task of evangelism.  Many of us, however, are somewhat conflicted about the task to which we are called.  While we appreciate the warmth and fervor of some evangelicals, many of us don’t want to be considered Bible-thumping fundamentalists akin to some televangelists of recent decades.  Certain of us care about our catholic and sacramental identity and tradition. Yet others of us wish to maintain a faith that has some degree of intellectual integrity. So, how are we to combine all of these diverse elements into the proclamation of a Gospel that will change people’s lives?

Firstly, however, we probably need to admit that we’re not doing a very good job when it comes to evangelism, but we do try.

The Anglican Communion declared the 1990s the “Decade of Evangelism” and immediately saw a numerical decline that has continued to this day, losing some 30% of membership.

On the other end of the scale, the Southern Baptist Convention, faced with declining numbers over the past decade, in 2017 established an Evangelism Task Force. We hope their experience will be better than that of the Anglicans.

Certain Confessional Lutherans, faced with similar declining numbers, in 2017 launched  “The Every One His Witness” evangelism program.

Even the Roman Catholic Church declared a “Year of Faith and the New Evangelization” as the ancient faith retreats from Europe and millions abandon the Catholic Church in the Americas.

I hope, wish and pray that any or all of these programs and proclamations may bear fruit in due time… but, I have my doubts.

What we look for is a real awakening of faith. I would like to suggest, however, that such an awakening in our time must supersede old-fashioned evangelism, with its palpable emotionalism, its intellectual obscurantism, its puritanical rules, political leanings and its frequent and unfortunate self-righteousness.  Moreover, I think it also must go much deeper than any mere sacerdotal kind of catholicism that places so much stress on the proper regard of order and outward forms that it misses the need for a change of heart. Finally, I think that such an awakening in our day must give due regard, but not be much bowled over by, the insights of intellectuals and academics who, after all, talk mostly to their own kind and share little of their wide world of learning with the person in the pew.

In other words, I have the feeling that God might have for us an awakening and a form of evangelism which includes us “growing up” to be both Billy Graham and +Michael Ramsey, not one or the other.  What I mean by this is that we must somehow have within the message we share the warm enthusiasm of evangelicals, the genuine sacramental life of catholic Christians, with its steady emphasis on forgiveness and grace, and at the same time have an intellectual honesty and a social passion without which many people, quite rightly I think, will not listen to us.

If we could combine these elements in our message of the good news of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe we would give to the Holy Spirit a wider, as well as a deeper, channel through which to work via the Church of our time. Each of us, however, has a part to play in the presentation of this ageless message, for each of us must, as the Apostles did, first find Christ in our midst, changing our lives. Each of us will, like the Apostles, surely recognize our unworthiness to carry this message. Yet, each of us must, like the Apostles, become “fishers of men”, going forth from our daily preoccupations to make a difference in the world in which we live. We can make no greater difference than simply to share Christ – not a sectarian Christ of evangelicals, or Anglo-Catholics, or intellectuals, or of our particular tribe, but the living Christ, the Christ who reigns over all creation, who comes to warm our hearts, bring order to our lives and who renews our minds. 

I have the feeling that the real issue of evangelism has less to do with a program and more to do with us.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project 

Apr 092018

1. Yesterday morning I was officially received into the Anglican communion. They put it on paper so they can’t change their minds now…

2. There is a vast difference between being publicly received into a communion, by a communion… and being considered a “member” because you occupy a seat…

3. Part of the liturgy to be received into the Anglican church involves renouncing the devil…which is both an acknowledgement of the existence of the evil one and his influence and works. It would do the catholic church well to do likewise…

4. There is a special joy in finding your spiritual home…and I think God has prepared such a place for all His children. It should be of great importance to you to find it…

5. I had a terrible experience with Apple customer service the other day..so terrible that I shot off a couple of inflammatory tweets on Twitter about it. They instantly disappeared and never posted. What we see online is controlled in ways we have no clue about…

6. Virtually everything that the current administration says about the southern border is a provable lie. This should concern you because walls keep people in as well as out…

7. My greatest conundrum is how to address issues with a biblical ethic and without political partisanship…when I renounced the devil, both parties qualified…

8. Nothing speaks of the transcendence of God like the sea…nothing speaks of His immanence like a forest…

9. God did a miracle for a friend of mine in what was, to most, a relatively trivial matter. It annoyed me, to be honest…but it also showed me that if it matters to us it matters to God. Trivial is in the eye of the beholder…

10. I can’t believe I have to speak to this after all these years…those who want me to help destroy a prominent pastor are now accusing me of taking money from that pastor to “cover up” his sins. This, despite the fact that they have not offered a shred of evidence to support their libelous charges. For the record, all of our support comes from our readers and friends, not from any other ministry. We’ve not received a dime from the pastor in question, his church, or from anyone associated with him.


%d bloggers like this: