The covering that is wrapped tightly around all the tribes (all of humanity) is the root of sin and it’s fruit of death. And the veil is the lie of disbelief and self-worship which has been woven by the father of lies. These have bound humanity to the fear of death from the first sin of Adam and Eve.
Chapters 24-27 are referred to by some as the Apocalypse of Isaiah, and for good reason. Those familiar with the wider canon of Scripture see many correlations between Isaiah 24-27 and other apocalyptic writings in both the Tanakh (OT) and the Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT).
Chapter 24 deals with the final judgement of all humanity and creation. It is the beginning of the culmination of the prophetic destiny of each of the nations who surround Israel, to whom Isaiah has prophesied in chapters 13-23. Ultimately, Israel’s enemies fall that Israel might rise.
The present chapter is therefore, a hymn/song of praise to HaShem for His deliverance, not only from physical oppression but also from the fear of death, which has bound, even suffocated Israel and all of humanity.
This chapter, like those before it, addresses both temporal maters and eternal realities.
The following are both the prophetic words of Isaiah and the yet future words of redeemed Israel.
Isa 25:1 HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), You are Elohay my God (Judge); I will exalt You, I will odeh cast, throw confession, and praise, Your name; for You have asiyta fashioned pele wonderful things, advice, eitzot counsel from distant ones, in emunah faithfulness, trust, omen support, agreement, faithfulness, truth.
Having seen the wonders (peliym) of God’s deliverance, redeemed Israel offers praise to HaShem (Mercy) her Elohiym God-Judge, from the foundation of confession.
The one who acknowledges that HaShem is his Judge (God) is free to throw both confession and praise toward God.
The distant ones through whom God affirmed His counsel to Israel are acknowledged and His faithfulness, fidelity, support and trust are named as both attributes and experienced realities. Redeemed Israel gratefully recognizes the perfect character of her God.
Isa 25:2 For You have samta appointed, placed meiyr anguish (a city) lagal as a wave (heap), kiryah a fortified city to be a ruin, a palace of zariym strangers, foreigners, meiyr anguished (a city); leolam perpetually never rebuilt.
The city that is the subject of this verse may be Rome (which saw its ruin) or Babylon, however, these words will be visited on any and all cities that resist God’s people and His Messiah. In a figurative sense, the city in question is ultimately representative of the seat of Satan’s power on earth. Just as death entered through humanities accepting of Satan’s wicked counsel, so death will exit forever through the utter annihilation of Satan and his seat of temporal authority.
Isa 25:3 Therefore shall a people of strength glorify You; a city of goyim nations be terrified and in awe of You.
This verse speaks of the repentance of strong people who have been brought low by the judgements of God and as a result, the collected nations making up this greater people are in awe of the God of Israel.
Isa 25:4 For You have been a maoz stronghold, refuge ladal to the poor, weak, a maoz stronghold, refuge to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, when ruach a wind, spirit of the terrible ones was as a storm against the wall.
The poor, weak, needy, distressed and vulnerable among God’s people acknowledge that He has been their refuge and fortress, even when a terrible spirit came like a storm against them. The faithfulness of God is a strong theme in this chapter.
Isa 25:5 Cechorev As cutting heat betzayon in the parched land You will bring down, humble the shaon noise, roar, din of zariym strangers, foreigners; as the Cechorev cutting heat betzeil in the shadow of av a thick darkness (cloud), a song of ariytziym terrible ones will ya’aneh testify.
The Hebrew phrase “betzayon” shares its root (tziyah) with the name “Tziyon” (Zion), which means “parched land”. Thus, given the context of this passage and the pursuant clause regarding the mountain of HaShem in verse 6, we understand that the land of Israel is being referred to here.
This verse seems to be speaking specifically of those foreign enemies of Israel who have lived as a thorn in Israel’s side, within the land of Israel. The cutting heat is in the “parched land”, an allusion to the Land of Zion (Parched land). This is a poetic play on words that illuminates a remez (hint) at the location of these events. The cutting heat of the dark clouds may be a description of literal lightening that will strike down with precision the enemies of Israel.
Ironically the song of the terrible ones will testify against them. They will be cut down in the heat that emanates from the thick darkness that overshadows them.
Isa 25:6 Ve-asah And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot Who goes out warring (of hosts) will fashion all ha-amiym the peoples, tribes, ba’har hazeh on this mountain, a feast of shemaniym oils (fat), mishteih wines on the shemariym lees, dregs, and both shemaniym oils (fat) and wines, will be wiped clean of dregs, well refined.
“This mountain” refers to the Temple Mount, Mount Zion.
God will war against evil and those among the nations who repent will be fashioned anew in His Holy Mountain (Tziyon, the Temple Mount). He will take the sin (dregs) affected oil and wine and remove the sin (dregs) from them so that both blood (wine) and spirit (oil) will be made pure through the saving work of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Thus the nations will feast with the chosen people of God (ethno-religious Israel) on the Holy Mountain according to Isaiah’s previous prophecy (Isa. 2:2-4).
Isa 25:7 U-vila And He will swallow up Ba-har in this mountain the face of the covering that is wrapped tightly upon col all ha-amiym the peoples, tribes, ve’hamaseichah and the veil (cast image) that hansuchah is woven al over col-ha-goyim all the nations.
The covering which HaShem will swallow up is illuminated in the following verse. This is a Hebrew literary device that acts to both cement the readers understanding and firmly establish the action being described.
The covering that is wrapped tightly around all the tribes (all of humanity) is the root of sin and it’s fruit of death. And the veil is the lie of disbelief and self-worship which has been woven by the father of lies. These have bound humanity to the fear of death from the first sin of Adam and Eve.
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.” -Hebrews 2:14-16 (NASB)
Hashem will swallow up all this death and disbelief in His Holy Mountain. Silencing them forever.
Isa 25:8 Bila He has swallowed up ha-mavet the death la-netzach for perpetuity; and the Adonay Lord HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will machah will blot out, wipe away tears from upon all faces; and the reproach of amu His people will be turned aside from upon all ha-aretz the land/earth: for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) dibeir speaks, declares.
This text was written down some 700 years before the birth of Messiah. How then is it possible that HaShem had already swallowed up death? It is possible because the resurrected Messiah transcends time and space. Once again, through the prophet Isaiah, HaShem speaks into time and space that which has already occurred outside of the limitations of time and space.
The Hebrew says “ha-mavet” the death, because it refers to the root of all death and not just the temporal nature of death. Rav shaul quotes the opening clause of this verse in reference to the eternal nature of the future resurrected and imperishable bodies of believers.
“For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” - 1 Corinthians 15:53-55 (NASB)
“Wipe away tears from all faces” is a figurative way of saying that there will be no more tears resulting from sin and death. This does not negate tears of joy.
“They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” -Revelation 7:16-17
‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”’ -Revelation 21:3-5
It’s important to note that the sign that will accompany these things will be the removal of all reproach (bad mouthing, criticism, political bias, abuse, persecution, hatred) from Israel (ethno-religious), and her land. Thus “ha-aretz”, in all the land, in all the earth.
The Messianic Jewish commentator Victor Buksbazen puts it beautifully:
“An integral part of the vision of God’s triumph over sin is the vindication of God’s people Israel, whose reproach will be removed forever. As long as the forces of evil are triumphant in this world, God’s people (ethno-religious Israel) will always be despised and put to shame.”
Today we see the nations of the earth criticizing, demonizing, attacking, sanctioning, persecuting and abusing the Jewish people and the modern Jewish State. This will come to an end. May it come about speedily and soon bezerat HaShem!
The Hebrew “DiVeiR” shares its root with “DaVaR” (Word, Essence, Speech). In fact, devoid of the nikudot (Masoretic vowel markings), it is spelled exactly the same way DVR. Davar is of course the Hebrew word used to describe Yeshua in Yochanan (John) 1:1.
Isa 25:9 And it will be spoken beyom in the day, ha-hu that one, hinei behold, now, Eloheiynu our God (Judge), the one we looked for, waited for, hoped in: veyoshieiynu and save, redeem us, this HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) kiveinu our hope, waiting, expectation negilah glad, exultation venishmeiachah and great rejoicing beyeshuato is in His salvation/redemption.
“In that day” refers to the day of Israel’s redemption.
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
‘The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’
‘This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.’” -Romans 11:25-27 (NASB)
This verse speaks of the faithful waiting of the righteous remnant within ethno-religious Israel and the faithfulness of God Who both seeded their hope and filled it with His Son, their salvation.
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure persecution with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” -Hebrews 11:24-26
The Hebrew root “yeshuah” is the basis for both “our salvation” and “His salvation”. It is because Messiah is God with us and is the Salvation of God, that He has also become our Salvation. Salvation is a redemptive action born of the Redeemer.
Isa 25:10 Ki-tanuach For rest, comfort from yad the hand of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will be ba-har on the mountain, this one; and Moav (of his father) shall be trodden down in his place, even as straw is trodden down in the water of the dung-hill.
Again, in unison with the prophecy of Isaiah 2, the mountain of the Lord is identified as the place where HaShem will pour out rest and comfort. The follower of Messiah sees in this a reference to that eternal Jerusalem that will descend from the heavens to rest on the very location of Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
“Moav” here is figurative of the children of Satan. Moab was the first people group following Israel’s escape from Egypt, to seek to attack and annihilate Israel. Israel were weak from slavery, vulnerable and small, and Moab sought to take advantage of Israel’s frailty and destroy her. This would subsequently have removed all possibility of a Messiah coming forth from her: thus, this attempt by Moab was an affront, not only to the physical people of Israel but also to the redemptive plan of the God of creation. Therefore, Moab has been a figure for the B’nai Adam (Children of men, rejecters of God), sons and daughters of the Adversary, Satan. This is why Moav alone is mentioned here.
Notice that Moav will not be trodden down on the Mountain of the Lord but “in his place”, which means, “where Moav dwells”. This is most likely to refer to Babylon and her final destruction, as spoken of in the Revelation.
Isa 25:11 And he shall spread forth his hands bekirbo in the inner part, the midst of it, he will spread out like a swimmer spreading forth his hands to swim; but his pride will be laid low together with the arbot deceit of his hands.
In this verse “He “ refers to Moab, who is the nearest subject for the actions described. Moav is said (Figuratively) to spread out his hands in the midst of watery dung and vainly attempt to swim. So full of pride, are the children of Satan, that even when their rightful end is upon them, they still reject God and prefer to swim in their own filth. However, in spite of these foolish attempts at renewed autonomy, Moav will be laid lower still and the deceitful actions of his hands will never resurface again.
Isa 25:12 And the high place of your fortress walls heishach he brought down to strike the soil, ground, land until it turned to dust.
The “High place” is a reference both to the practical elevation of a well-built fortress and the high place of pagan worship. Thus, Moav (Satan’s kingdom) will be brought down and turned to dust, both physically and spiritually.
Copyright 2018 Yaakov Brown
Gentle Jesus meek and mild?
An examination of Revelation 6
It is important to note that the origin of the four horses and their riders is found in the scroll of Zechariah chapters 1 through 6: where four horses are sent to carry judgement to the four corners of the earth (against the pagan nations) and G-d is called upon (by an angelic messenger) to dismantle the tranquillity of the nations and restore the peace of Jerusalem, Zion and Israel (ethnic).
Therefore, the horses and riders of Revelation 6 are personifications of the instruments of G-d’s avenging judgement against those on the earth who continue to resist Him.
While we observe that the horses and riders stand for four destructive forces that have appeared in Israel’s past and will reappear at some point in the future, we must not neglect the fact that these same events were also taking place in Yochanan’s present (70 – 90 AD) and as a result much of our understanding of them must combine the historical context of the late first century AD alongside the ancient context of Israel’s dispersion (522 BC) and the Hebrew consciousness of the recorder of these visions.
The book (scroll) of Zechariah, is foundational to the present passage (Rev 6) in that the chronology of events is similar. It acts as a prophetic vision of both the physical rebuilding of the Temple and the future coming of the Messiah. By saying that the nations are at peace (Zech. 1:11), the returned riders of Zechariah are observing a stark contrast to Israel’s suffering and homelessness. This can be compared to the suffering of ethnic Israel following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD and the suffering of Jewish and Gentile followers of Messiah during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian between 81 and 96 AD (Yochanan is thought to have written the Revelation at some point during Domitian’s reign).
Just as Zechariah’s prophecy goes on to describe the raising up of the Branch (Messiah), the crowning of Yehoshua (Joshua, Yeshua, Jesus) the Priest and the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem (Zech. 6); so too the goal of the opening of the scroll of Revelation 6 is to see the very same thing happen for the final time in all of temporal history: that is, the final restoration of Israel (ethnic) to G-d through Yeshua the Messiah and the restoration and completion of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, that will be the habitation of the righteous ones, both Jew and Gentile, who have been redeemed through the Lamb, Yeshua, our High Priest and King.
Six of the seven seals are opened in chapter 6, however the scroll itself is not opened until Revelation 8:1 after the breaking of the seventh seal.
Verses 1-8 echo the following Scripture from the Tanakh (OT): Ezekiel 14:12-20; Jeremiah 15:3, 24:10, 29:17; Ezekiel 5:17, 14:21, and are contextually related to the service of the Temple altar as described in Leviticus 16:14-26.
6:1 Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”
The irregular feminine form of the Greek, “mia” meaning, “a one” or “one of” conveys a similar meaning to the use of the Hebrew equivalent, “echad” of Genesis 1:5, meaning “complex unity, a one”, best translated, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day”. This usage is understood as an ordinal rather than a cardinal use of the term, “echad”. Therefore one of the seals, like one day of creation, is opened at an undetermined point in time and begins a subsequent cardinal order of numbered seal openings. We are therefore unable to tell which of the seven seals is opened first.
Using the same method we are also unable to determine which of the four living creatures is speaking with a voice of thunder. The living creature is calling, “Come!” to the white horse and its rider, who will soon appear. It seems that the breaking of the seal is a catalyst for the calling out of the horseman, however the scroll itself remains closed, still sealed by the remaining six seals.
The voice of thunder symbolizes the fact that the living creatures call can be heard throughout the earth while it resonates in the heavens.
2 I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The four horsemen bring judgement against the earth and are called out to perform their tasks. They correspond to the vision of Zechariah 1:8-17; 6:1-8. It’s important to note that the first four judgements bring subjugation, bloodshed by war, famine and plague, and death at the hands of wild animals. These all precede the outcry of the righteous slain and their request for vengeance, which correspond to the report of the horsemen and the messenger’s plea regarding Israel (ethnic) in Zech. 1:11-12. The four riders symbolize the fact that their judgement of subjugation, sword (civil war), famine, plague, and bloodshed, will reach to the four corners of the earth.
The same instruments of destruction are recorded in the following passage from Ezekiel:
“The word of HaShem came to me: 13 “Son of man, if a country (eretz: land) sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, 14 even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign ADONAI. 15 “Or if I send wild beasts through that country (eretz: land) and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts,16 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign ADONAI, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate. 17 “Or if I bring a sword against that country (eretz: land) and say, ‘Let the sword pass throughout the land,’ and I kill its people and their animals, 18 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign ADONAI, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved. 19 “Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath on it through bloodshed, killing its people and their animals, 20 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign ADONAI, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness. –Ezekiel 14:12-20
“A white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow:”
These represent judgement by conquest, subjugating peoples one unto another. The crown placed on the rider’s head represents his G-d given authority to carry out a particular judgement, and the bow is a symbol of war reflecting the Hebraism, “My arm can bend a bow of bronze”. The rider, like his three companions, is a personification. The horse, like its three companions, is a symbol of the vehicle for the related judgement.
When Roman generals returned in triumph from a conquest they would ride into Rome in chariots drawn by white horses (symbolizing successful conquest) with their armies and captives trailing behind them.
The rider of the white horse has a bow in his hand, which is first and foremost a Hebraic symbol of strength in battle, as seen throughout the Tanakh. When Babylon suffers her final defeat her soldiers are taken and their bows (A sign of military strength) are destroyed (Jeremiah 51:56). The prophet Hosea writes that, “G-d will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:5).
“He (G-d) makes wars cease to the four corners of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire.” –Tehilim/Psalm 46:9
Therefore, the bow always represents military power.
There is one final image that both the Romans and all those who lived in Asia at the time of the writing of Revelation would recognize, the one enemy that Rome feared most, the Parthians. The Parthians dwelt in the Far East of the Roman Empire and were of great concern to Rome. The Parthians rode on white horses and were renowned for their skill with the bow. These bowmen were feared throughout the known world and were conquerors of the unconquerable Rome.
The white horse and its bow wielding rider stand for strong military conquest.
3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” 4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, so that human beings would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
The second seal, having found its reference point in the one previous seal opened, now begins a chronology of events.
The red horse and rider denote bloodshed and civil war, that is, the horse and its rider cause the nations to fight among themselves as houses that are divided and as a result will not stand.
This rider, like his counterpart in Zechariah. 1, will take away the tranquillity that the pagan nations have enjoyed at ethnic Israel’s expense. He holds a great sword because the damage that he facilitates will consume the earth (pagan nations). He is a true peace maker because he is sent to take away false peace from the enemies of G-d.
The complete disintegration of human relationships is one of the key elements of the Jewish understanding of the last days. Brother will fight against brother, neighbour against neighbour, city against city and nation will rise against nation (Isaiah 19:2).
“On that day people will be stricken by HaShem with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another.” –Zechariah 14:13
5 When He (The Lamb) broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the centre of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
We continue to see the Lamb opening the seals. It is important to note that as the Lion-Lamb, Yeshua is the One Who is releasing wrath against the earth (v16).
We are foolishly fond of saying, “Yeshua (Jesus) doesn’t judge, He doesn’t bring wrath, He’s a pacifist, a sacrificial, non-violent lover of humanity”. The Scripture says otherwise.
It’s helpful to remember that events Yochanan is recording are not the events of the end itself but are signs that precede the end.
The black horse symbolizes famine and economic distress, its rider holds scales which represent both judgement and the measuring out of essential food supplies. This is qualified by the description of the market place and the distinction made between staple food products and refined sacramental liquids.
The, “something like a voice in the midst of the four living creatures”, is the voice of the Lamb, His Ruach (Spirit) speaking from His position in the midst of G-d’s throne.
“A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius,” is understood to be the equivalent of paying a single person a day’s wage which would purchase enough wheat for one person to eat a single meal. Wheat was the food of the rich and the second crop harvested in Israel. Here it is compared to the barley grain favoured by the poor, which, for the same price will feed an entire family. This is a description of economic upheaval. A situation that will level the playing field so to speak, between the rich and the poor (pagan nations).
The primary crops of first century Israel were grain (Barley & Wheat), grapes and olives. The Tanakh’s frequent mentioning of these fruits is makes them a familiar symbol to the Jewish reader and brings to mind Israel’s complete reliance on G-d for the provision of them (Deut. 7:13, 11:14, 28:51; Hosea 2:8, 22).
Rav Yechiel Lichtenstein (1825-1908) of Hungary, the only Rabbi (Messianic or otherwise) to have ever written a complete commentary of the New Testament in Hebrew, wrote:
“Weighing the bread is a sign of curse, according to Vayikra (Leviticus) 26:26, ‘They shall dole out your bread by weight; you will eat but you will not be satisfied.’” –Rav Lichtenstein’s commentary of the New Testament
G-d warns Israel through the prophet Ezekiel:
“Moreover, He (G-d) said to me, ‘Son of man, behold, I am going to break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they will eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and drink water by measure and in horror,” –Ezekiel 4:16 (NASB)
“And do not harm the oil and the wine.”
Agriculturally speaking it is more than possible to have a season where there is an abundant grape and olive harvest despite a poor grain harvest. This is because both Grape vines and olive trees are more deeply rooted and often produce better fruit under harsh conditions. A Biblical example of this can be found in Genesis 43:11, where Jacob sends, “the best fruit of the land” down to Joseph in Egypt during a time of drought in Canaan.
When Yochanan was recording the scroll of Revelation during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, there was a serious shortage of grain throughout the Roman Empire. Interestingly, at the same time in history there was an abundance of wine available. Domitian issued a decree commanding that half the grape vines in the Empire be uprooted and replaced with grain crops. Due to this edict the people of the province of Asia (Who Yochanan was writing to) came very near to all out rebellion against Rome because their vineyards were their primary source of income. As a result Domitian rescinded the edict.
Notice the differences between the two types of grain and the water and wine. The former are in their raw state, whereas the latter are refined and set apart for sacred purpose. Also, the text says, “do not harm the oil and the wine” which is literally understood to mean, “Do not compromise it or pollute it”. However, the language hints (Remez) at an allegorical meaning.
The oil, which represents the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the wine, which represents the cup of redemption in the blood of Messiah; are clearly symbols associated with those who have been redeemed through Messiah Yeshua and are filled with the Ruach Ha-Kodesh. Therefore the voice (which is Messiah the Lamb) is instructing the horseman not to harm His people. The result is the Divine protection of the people of G-d (Both Jew and Gentile) in the midst of the turmoil that the pagan nations (the earth) will suffer. This affirms the promise that Yeshua made to the assembly of Philadelphia (Rev 3:10).
7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death (Thanatos) (the result of sin, the physical event); and Sheol (the holding place of the dead, separated into Gehenah—temporal punishment—and the bosom of Abraham—temporal paradise) was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence (Thanatos) and by the wild beasts of the earth.
At this juncture it is important to remember that the vision is beholding events that occur throughout time and are referenced against the resurrection of the lamb Who is worthy to open the scroll. This means that these events have been happening from any point in time and are released by the Lamb of G-d Who was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
These are events that had taken place prior to Yochanan’s writing them down, they were also taking place in Yochanan’s present and would continue to take place at any given point in the future within time and space as we perceive it. Therefore, when the text says, “a fourth of the earth” it means a fourth of all pagan humanity from time immemorial until the future time of the culmination of the events pictured in Yochanan’s (John) vision.
These are signs which precede the end. They’re not descriptions of the end itself.
The Greek, “Thanatos” means both death and pestilence, therefore we could read, “He who sat on it had the name pestilence”.
We are reminded again of the fourscore judgement of HaShem, the sword, the famine, the wild beasts and pestilence (Ezekiel 14:21).
“‘If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. 22 I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted. 23 ‘And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, 24 then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. 25 I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.’” –Leviticus 26:21-26 (NASB)
No human being and no nation can escape the consequences of sin forever.
“An ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death and Sheol was following with him.”
Death here is the result of sin, the catalyst for the physical event of dying. Sheol is the holding place of the dead, separated into Gehenah—temporal punishment—and the bosom of Abraham—temporal paradise. These are personifications of spiritual forces that are beyond our full comprehension. I have called the compartments of Sheol temporal because Judaism understands Sheol to be a spiritual abode which is metaphorically beneath and within time awaiting the judgement and the world to come.
The future Kingdom of G-d that is illuminated to His servants post judgement is eternal life, whereas the future lake of fire described in Rev 20:11-15, is the eternal punishment awaiting Satan, fallen angels, Death (the result of sin), Hades (specifically Gehenah) and all those who have rejected Messiah’s offer of redemption (whose names are not written in the book of life).
Confusion over the terms describing various aspects of the afterlife has left many a believer under the delusion that there is only temporary punishment after death. This is a lie that contradicts Scripture and impugns the character of G-d. There can be no doubt that when the word eternal is used in Scripture it is to be understood to reflect life and death forever outside of time and space. Hence, when Revelation speaks of the punishment following judgement it says, “The Second death” (Rev 20:11-15).
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw beneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of G-d (Messiah), and because of the testimony (of the Messiah) which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O HaShem, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
The heavenly altar, which is the basis for the shadow of the earthly one (Exodus 25:9, 40; Numbers 8:4; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23), features throughout the scroll of Revelation (Rev 8:5; 14:18).
For a Jew, the most sacred part of any sacrifice is the blood. “The life is in the blood”, life which comes forth from and belongs to G-d and to none other (Leviticus 17:11-14).
“The priest shall also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense which is before the Lord in the tent of meeting; and all the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” –Leviticus 4:7 (NASB)
The life blood of these martyrs has been poured out onto the earth at the base of the altar and cries out to HaShem for justice.
There is a wealth of rabbinical commentary regarding the heavenly altar and the function of it. The following are a selection of relevant quotations:
“Ha-Kadosh (The Holy One), blessed be He, took the soul of Moshe (Moses) and stored it beneath the Throne of Glory… Not only the soul of Moshe (Moses) is stored beneath the Throne of Glory, but the souls of the tsaddikim (righteous ones) are also stored there. –Rabbi Natan Ha-Bavli
“Rabbi Akiva used to say,… ‘Whoever is buried beneath the altar is as though he were buried beneath the Throne of Glory’” –Avot diRabbi Natan 12:4, 26:2
“Rabbi Abba Arikha (Rav)… taught that the archangel Michael offers a sacrifice on the heavenly altar in the heavenly Temple (M’nachot 110a). The Tosafot, medieval commentators on the Talmud, said about this passage that this sacrifice consists of the souls of the righteous, of Torah scholars. Similarly Shabbat 152b” –David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary
When we read that the souls of the tsaddikim (righteous ones) are beneath the altar, we must understand that the heavenly altar facilitates the covering (Kiparot) of redeemed humanity and is the altar at which Yeshua our High Priest ministers on our behalf. In this way it bridges the distance between the heavens and the earth and beneath it is the paradise of G-d, the bosom of Abraham, in which the righteous dead dwell. This is also how Yeshua is manifest both in Paradise and in the heavens at the same time (being that in His resurrected body He is outside of the confines of time and space, able to operate within and without).
These righteous souls are those who have been slain due to their having upheld the Word of Messiah’s Gospel and the testimony of Messiah. This includes the Jewish prophets of old, who having been visited by The Word, gave of their lives in His service. Their blood cries out from the earth like the righteous blood of Abel and Zechariah and all those in between (Gen. 4:10; Matt. 23:25).
The Jewish concept of martyrdom is known as, “al Kiddush HaShem” (To Sanctify the Name).
“How long, O HaShem, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Many misunderstand the Scripture relating to vengeance:
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for G-d’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says HaShem.” –Romans 12:19 (Deut 32:35; Hebrews 10:30)
G-d does not say that we should not ask Him to avenge us, rather He says, “Don’t take vengeance into your own hands” why? Because He knows that we may in some cases mistake the facts and fall into sin by avenging ourselves upon the innocent. Therefore it is right to ask G-d to avenge us against the enemies of G-d upon the earth. Here, “those who dwell on the earth” refers to those who are not sealed by Yeshua.
This verse also reflects the plea of the messenger of Zechariah’s vision concerning Israel (ethnic):
“And they reported to the messenger of HaShem who was standing among the myrtle trees, ‘We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.’ Then the messenger of HaShem said, ‘Adonai Tzevaot (YHVH of Heavens armies), how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?’” –Zechariah 1:11-12
Add to this the voice of the psalmist:
“Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Before our eyes, make known among the nations
that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.” –Tehilim/Psalm 79:10
And finally the voice of the true Judge Yeshua (Given authority to judge by HaShem):
“ And will not G-d bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” –Luke 18:7-8
11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants (Gentile Christians) and their brethren (Messianic ethnic Israel) who were to be killed even as they had been, would be fulfilled also.
The idea that the martyrs should rest until their number is complete is a Jewish one. Judaism teaches that the drama of history must be completed in full before the end can come. Jewish apocryphal works remind us that, “G-d will not stir until the measure appointed has been fulfilled (4 Ezra 4:36). An offering of the complete number of the righteous must be made before the end can come (Enoch 47:4).
The white robe is a symbol of purity purchased by Messiah Yeshua’s blood and of the righteous acts of these tsaddikim (righteous ones). It is interesting to note that up until the present day Judaism employs the white robe at sacred rites. The Rabbis and devotees of many branches of Judaism today, don a full length white robe called a ketel during the High Holy Days in the seventh month in order to acknowledge Israel’s need for purification and redemption at the hand of G-d. These High Holy days include Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah), The Days of awe (10 Days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur), Yom Kippur (Day of Covering/Day of Judgement) and Sukkot (Feast of Booths/Tabernacles).
In Revelation we are watching the High Holy days unfold, or rather, be unveiled to us by Yeshua. At the beginning of the scroll of Revelation we hear the trumpet of Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) calling to us to prepare ourselves for the visitation of Messiah. As we progress we journey through the days of awe and repentance upon the earth as the seals are opened and the judgements of G-d begin. At the opening of the books we see Yom Kippur and the Judgement of G-d over all creation, and finally as the scroll of Revelation concludes we witness the descending city of the New Jerusalem and G-d and His Messiah dwelling with us in the great fulfilment of the Feast of Sukkot (Booths). I call this final joy, “Camping with Dad”.
The time of persecution of the followers of Messiah has a limit set upon it and will come to an end, at which point there will no longer be opportunity for returning to G-d. At that time the Gentile nations will lose any further chance to repent and the whole remnant of ethnic Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).
What follows is a vivid picture of the key elements described in the Jewish Scriptures regarding the last days. The Tanakh and other Jewish writings detail these events as follows:
1.) Earthquake: At the coming of the L-rd the earth will tremble (Amos 8:8); there will be a great shaking of the land of Israel (Ezekiel 38:19); the earth will quake and the heavens will tremble (Joel 2:10); G-d will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and dry land (Haggai 2:6).
2.) The Darkening of the sun and moon: The sun will set at midday and the moon will grow dark in the clear daylight (Amos 8:8); the stars will not shine; the sun will be darkened in his going forth, and the moon will not cause her light to shine (Isaiah 13:13); G-d will clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering (Isaiah 50:3); the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood (Joel 2:31); The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her light (Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 23:45).
3.) Falling of the stars: From a Jewish perspective the heavens in array are the unchangeable assurance of the created order and the fidelity of G-d. If the reliability of the heavens is taken away, then all things will fall into chaos, a state of pre-created darkness.
“Enoch saw the chambers of the sun and moon, how they go out and come in, how they never leave their orbit, and add nothing to it and take nothing from it.” –Enoch 41:5
From a Jewish perspective the disintegration of the heavens is the last word in chaos. However, Isaiah speaks of this very thing:
“And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.” –Isaiah 34:4 (Matthew 24:29)
4.) The folding of the heavens: The picture of this in Revelation 6 is that of an open scroll being torn down the middle and then the two halves recoiling and being rolled up onto each of their respective pillars. The heavens will be rolled together as a scroll (Isaiah 34:4); they will be changed like a garment and folded up (Psalm 102:25-26).
5.) The moving of the mountains and the islands of the sea: The mountains will tremble and the hills will be removed (Jeremiah 4:24); the mountains will quake and the hills will melt (Nahum 1:5).
All of the events pictured in Yochanan’s vision are familiar to Israel, they have been prophesied from ancient days and are now communicated afresh at this pivotal time in history.
12 I looked when He (The Lamb) broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;
This description of the breaking of the sixth seal alludes to a number of similar Tanakh passages which describe the end of days: Isaiah 2:10-12, 19, 13:10, 34:4, 50:3; Jeremiah 4:23-29; Joel 2:31, 3:15; Nahum 1:5-6; Haggai 2:6. New Testament comparisons can be found in Matthew 24:29 and Luke 23:30.
“Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of HaShem and the splendour of His majesty! 11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low;
HaShem alone will be exalted in that day. 12 HaShem Tzevaot (Almighty) has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),” –Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 2:10-12
One of the first things we note is that this is a singular event. Much of the foolish conjecture of recent times regarding the so called “Blood Moons” (plural) neglects this very important fact. The sun becoming like sackcloth is a reference to a specific eclipse of the sun at a specific time in the future which is unknown to us but known to G-d (Duet. 29:29). The metaphorical use of the word, “sackcloth” is an allusion to the great tragedy and mourning that will befall the earth (pagan nations) and the blood colour of the moon is a symbol of bloody judgement meted out against the earth (pagan nations).
It’s important to note that from ancient times pagan nations have worshipped the sun and the moon as deities. Therefore by removing their effectiveness G-d is symbolically showing that not even the loftiest gods of humanity are a match for His wrath. This is prophetically foretold in the historical account of Joseph (a type for Messiah) and the bowing down of the sun and the moon and the eleven stars (Genesis 37:9-11).
13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.
The stars falling can be seen to include both stars and asteroids and the imploding of planets. Symbolically speaking they may also represent fallen angelic beings (falling from within space, not from the third heaven which they were cast out of long ago).
The comparison of the stars to the unripe fruit of the fig tree is a poignant Hebraic symbol. The fig tree is the place of Jewish teaching, when the teachers of Israel taught the word of G-d the fruit was ripe and benefited Israel, however, when the teachers of Israel taught the rules of men, the fruit fell from the tree out of season and rotted on the ground. The wind is the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit), Who shakes the tree and removes the unripe fruit, that is the fruit of false teaching.
14 The heavens tore apart and recoiled like a scroll rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
This is a description of the heavens imploding rather than exploding. The scroll rolling up is torn in the centre and pulls the heavens apart. This is a vivid image of catastrophic astronomical events, followed by perhaps the greatest tectonic shift ever to affect the earth.
The rolling up of the scroll of the sky is a metaphor for the conclusion of those things that have come before and acts in juxtaposition to the soon to unrolled scroll of G-d.
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
The kings of the earth are the leaders of those who have rejected Messiah. The list goes on to include every walk of life, all of whom have rejected Yeshua and the G-d of Israel (ethnic). Their response is noteworthy because although they acknowledge that no one can hide from G-d’s wrath and the wrath of the Lamb, they do not repent. In fact it seems that they invite death rather than choosing to repent.
This is consistent with ancient Hebrew thought, which boasts numerous examples of prophetic statements regarding the universal terror that will befall humanity in the last days.
“Wail, for the day of HaShem is near!
It will come as destruction from Shaddai (the Almighty).
7 Therefore all hands will fall limp,
And every human beings core being (heart) will melt.
8 They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them;
They will writhe like a woman in labour,
They will look at one another in astonishment,
Their faces aflame.” –Isaiah 13:6-8
“At that time even the mighty man will cry bitterly.” –Zephaniah 1:14
“The inhabitants of the land shall tremble.” –Joel 2:1
“The day of HaShem is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?” –Joel 2:11
“Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
This text reflects the writings of the Tanakh (OT) which describes the Day of the L-rd (Judgement Day) in similar terms (Zeph. 1:14-18; Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2).
“Then they will say to the mountains,
‘Cover us!’ And to the hills, “Fall on us!” –Hosea 10:8 (Luke 23:30)
“That day will be a day of wrath--
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.” –Zephaniah 1:15
Those who refuse to address the sin that reigns in their lives become accustomed to the darkness. When the Holy G-d pours out His wrath, which is born of love and light, the one who hates G-d flees because the darkness in him seeks to hide from the light. This reminds us of humanity’s first response to G-d after our very first act of sin. Adam and Eve sought to hide themselves from G-d (Genesis 3:8).
“The wrath of the Lamb;”
According to John 5:22, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, G-d has entrusted judgement to His Son the Lion-Lamb. This judgement is said to take place on:
1.) The Great Day of The L-rd (Rev. 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10)
2.) The Day of The L-rd Yeshua our Messiah (1 Corinthians 1:18)
3.) The Day of our L-rd Yeshua (2 Corinthians 1:14)
4.) The Day of The Messiah (Philippians 1:10)
5.) The Great Day of ADONAI Tzevaot (Rev. 16:14; Isaiah 2:12; Jeremiah 46:10)
6.) The Day of Judgement (Matthew 10:15; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:17)
As Mashiyach Ben David The warrior Messiah, the Lamb will reveal His wrath:
“Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of Adonai Tzevaot (G-d Almighty).” –Revelation 19:15
“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against HaShem and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; HaShem scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim HaShem’s decree He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve HaShem with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” –Tehilim/Psalm 2
It is the great day of, “Their wrath” both the Father and the Son will visit just retribution against the enemies of G-d and His people (ethnic Israel and believing Gentiles).
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.