INTRODUCTION
TO

"STRANGE WORK"
 
 

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Nearly three millennia ago, the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Lord God of hosts would rise up one day and do a strange work on the Earth. Furthermore, he prophesied that when it came it would come as a destruction upon the whole earth (Isaiah 28:21-22). The last thing that mankind expects today is that the true and living God will actually rise up and initiate such an intervention. Yet, with one voice, the prophets of the Bible predict that is exactly what He will do. The book of Revelation is the most detailed of the Bible's prophecies concerning that fast approaching, supernatural intervention. The lion’s share of the book of Revelation (chapters 6 through 18) give us in-depth details about the events, personalities and sequences of that inevitable future day of reckoning in our world’s history.


Someone has dubbed the book of Revelation, The prophetic Grand Central Station of the Bible. That is a good way to describe it because all of the great eschatological themes of the Bible run to the book of Revelation like train-tracks to a central hub. Therefore, as far as prophecy is concerned, the book of Revelation is the most important and relevant book of the Bible … especially for us twenty-first century believers living way down here in these last days of world history.

 

A photograph of Ahmadineajad with upraised arm while speaking at Columbia University. 

 

On September 24, 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then current President of Iran (speaking in Arabic at Columbia University), began his remarks with this prayer:


In the name of God, the compassionatee, the merciful … Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those to attest to his rightfulness.


His prayer was a call for the Shia Islamic Messiah, Imam al-Mahdi, (the Twelfth Imam) to appear and conquer the world (victory) … and for Ahmadinejad's audience at Columbia (those) to one day bow their knees (attest to his rightfulness) to this long anticipated, Islamic world dictator. Disturbingly, Amadinejad has said that he would like to hasten the Twelfth Imam's appearing by personally starting the last great World War that Shia Moslems believe will usher in their Islamic Messiah. Moslems of Ahmadinejad’s sect believe they can hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam by starting a war of genocide to defeat the Little Satan (Israel) and its ally, The Great Satan (U.S.A.). Ahmadinejad’s regime published a video for distribution to the Islamic world called The Coming Is Near. In it, the case is made that all the unrest in the Middle East is a sign of the Mahdi’s soon arrival. 


Meanwhile, around the globe, ISIS and other fanatic Islamic Holy Warriors continue to carry out their centuries old agenda of murdering and subjugating infidels (non-Muslims) as they await their Imam Al-Mahdi to come and fulfill their dream of Islam being the ONLY religion on planet Earth. Over the centuries, thousands upon thousands of people have lost their lives to these fanatics. Their single purpose and unchanging ultimatum is that every infidel must convert to Islam or be exterminated. It is simple as that. The bombs they set off in Brussels (March 22, 2016), spotlights in no uncertain terms their goal and world-wide agenda that continues to be on the increase.



Here, in the United States, we too have felt the sword of Islam. Nearly three thousand innocent lives were lost on 9/11 alone at the bombing of our World Trade Centers and that tragedy was not the first time we had experienced it. Consider all of the American lives lost by the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the past attacks on various U.S. Embassies, the bombing of the Cole, the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center and last, but not least, the thousands of American lives that have since been lost on the battle fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Truly, as the Bible predicts:

…in the last days, perilous times will come… Second Timothy 3:1b


Standing at the heart of Islam's hatred and in the way of its goals however, is the little nation of Israel. For decades, the eyes of the world have been drawn to this tiny country and its capital at Jerusalem. When Israel was established by the United Nations in 1948, for the first time in nearly two millennia large numbers of Jews began returning to their ancient homeland. Immediately, war erupted as surrounding Islamic states attempted to eradicate the fledgling new nation. They were not successful, however. But, war after war has continued to erupt over that tiny land. Arabic nations, the Palestinians, and a host of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations have done their best to destroy Israel but she has managed to survive. Today, her existence is threatened more than ever. As we speak, skirmish after skirmish is being fought from Gaza between Hamas (backed by Iran) and Israel which has resulted in hundreds of lives being lost. On every side, the red hatred of the enemies of the Jews continues to seethe and build, while a whole host of Islamic fascists continue to avow to push Israel into the sea. Iran's current crash program to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is predicated on this all-consuming goal, and the launching of their first satellite into orbit (2/8/2009), was a huge step in Iran’s ability to launch its nuclear weapons when they are completed.



Now ... the Bible predicts that in the last days the ancient nation of Babylon is going to rise again. According to Scripture, Babylon will be Antichrist's world capital and the name of his worldwide empire (Rev.17:18). Geographically, ancient Babylon was located at the head of the Persian Gulf where Iran, Iraq and Kuwait are situated today. It was at ancient Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar, that man-worship first raised its ugly head when Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of himself and commanded that everyone in his empire must fall down and worship it (Daniel 3). However, three young Hebrews … Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego … refused to do so. So, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown alive into a super-heated fiery furnace. However, the one true and living God intervened and miraculously rescued them and the three young Hebrews walked out of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace with not a single hair on their bodies having been singed! Nor, was there even the smell of smoke on them! If you would like to read about it, you can go to my commentary on Daniel.


Coming back to the subject of Iran, fast-forward with me to our present day. Iran has long desired to conquer its neighbors. The last war that Iran initiated against Iraq cost over a million lives. And, had it not been for the assistance of the United States, Iran would have prevailed. If Iran could succeed in conquering Iraq, much of the territory of the ancient Babylonian Empire would be reconstituted.


Now, allow me set forth a possible scenario. If the Rapture of the Church were to occur today, the United States of America (presently the most powerful country on Earth) would be devastated. Millions of Christians who presently occupy key and strategic positions throughout our nation would suddenly and instantly vanish from off the earth. The result would be utter chaos throughout every area of American infrastructure and society. Communications ... transportation ... utilities ... government ... and, most importantly, the United States military would be severely disrupted and crippled ... all in the blink of an eye. In an atom of time, our nation would be thrown into paralysis and chaos. Not so, however, in the Muslim world. Those nations would lose almost no one. Then, with the Christian nations of the world disabled and in utter chaos, the Islamic world would be free to quickly unite and make its long desired move for world domination … and ancient Babylon could quickly rise again. Under those circumstances, The Man of Sin (Antichrist) could step forth upon the world scene declaring that he is the Twelfth Imam and billions of fanatic Muslim adorers would instantly be available to march beside him to conquer the world. Three and a half years later, he would invade Israel, breaking his treaty with them, and seize the temple at Jerusalem to make his claim there to be "God". Then, in the ancient mold of Nebuchadnezzar, man-worship would once again be imposed upon the world (Rev. 13) and that worst of all manifestations of idolatry would have come full circle. Man-worship, having begun in Babylon, would once again be centered at Babylon in one last great Gentile, blasphemous, and world dominating theocracy.

In Daniel 11:37-38 (a passage that refers to the coming Antichrist) we read,

Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. (KJV)

Many believers have puzzled over that passage and sought to interpret it. If Antichrist were to be a Moslem, however, the phrase the God of his fathers (from whom he will turn away), would be referring to Allah ... and the God of forces (to whom he will turn), would refer to Satan. According to the Bible, this switch of allegiance will occur when Antichrist seizes the Jew's temple at Jerusalem (midway through the Tribulation). At that exact point in time, he will declare himself to be "God" and demand to be worshipped by all (Daniel 11:36; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). We will discuss this in greater depth when we come to Revelation 13.


As for the nation of Israel, she too would be little affected by the Rapture of the Church. Very few of her people would go missing as well. Today, Israel is the sole (though undeclared) nuclear armed Middle Eastern power. Therefore, she would emerge from the Rapture as a power to be reckoned with. This is probably the key reason that Antichrist will enter into a treaty with her before he sets off to conquer the rest of the world (Daniel 9:27). That prophetic treaty will insure the peaceful existence of the Jews in their homeland during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation and give them the authority and time to rebuild their temple.


This is my take ... a very possible scenario of what could happen if Christ were to remove all of his believers from planet Earth ... today (the Rapture of the Church).


Believers everywhere are asking, Are the world events I am witnessing today the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy? Not too long ago, on cable television, I heard two well known Bible expositors  state that the Bible’s prophetic battles of Armageddon and Gog and Magog were virtually upon us. In their opinion, this was evidenced by what we are witnessing on the chaotic world scene today. The book of Revelation, however, clearly states that is not the case. It places the battle of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 16), and the battle of Gog and Magog at the end of the Millennium … over a thousand years later (Rev. 20). Neither Armageddon nor Gog and Magog are upon us at all. However, another great world war that the Bible predicts is most certainly gathering on our horizon today. In my opinion, what we are witnessing is the stirrings of that war’s relentless and inexorable approach. It is the great world war that will bring Antichrist to power. Immediately after the Rapture, the Bible predicts that Antichrist will quickly arise and seize the whole world by military force (Rev. 6:2). Earth's history is fast approaching this great prophetic event. When it actually begins to occur in time, like passengers on a runaway train, the peoples of the world will be thrust into the amazing and perilous days of the Tribulation that Daniel and Jesus foretold, and that are so precisely described in Christ’s book of Revelation.


Now, let me say a few words about this commentary…

First, Strange Work is unique among commentaries on Revelation because it takes the position that the visions of the book are in the exact chronological order of their future fulfillments. I am not aware of any other commentary that recognizes that fact. Although this may seem unimportant, this unique position adds a wealth of new and fresh information to several things that heretofore have seemed very mysterious and difficult to interpret. Four examples come to mind:

  1.  In Strange Work you will find a unique interpretation of the judgment of the sixth seal, as to its timing, centrality, literal character and future significance (Rev. 6:12-17).


  2.  In Strange Work you will find a fresh and well supported interpretation of the judgment of the two sickles in Revelation 14:14-20, that clearly demonstrates that this is the judgment of wicked Israel (resurrected Jews from all time combined with all the wicked Jews who are still alive at the end of the Great Tribulation).


  3.  In Strange Work you will find a reasonable identification of the seven kings of Revelation 17, who were ancient Caesars of the Roman Empire and are types of the coming Antichrist.


  4.  In Strange Work you will find a possible key to the understanding the mysterious number of the beast … 666 … (Revelation 13:17-18), in light of the binary code that is used to transmit data over the Internet.

    Second, Strange Work makes every attempt to hold strictly to sound principles of biblical exegesis. Only when one follows a literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation of the Bible ... does the Bible consistently yield its truths to its readers (Second Timothy 2:15b).

   Third, I have made every attempt to ground Strange Work on sound principles of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is defined as the art and science of interpretation. It is a big word that simply means that when you are interpreting the Bible (or any other writing for that matter) you must always follow common sense rules in order to correctly understand what the author is saying. For example, one of the rules of hermeneutics is the rule of context. Only by consistently studying and acknowledging what was said before and after the point where one is currently reading can one correctly understand the meaning of the thought of the writer. Violations of sound hermeneutical principles never yield correct interpretations of the Word of God ... or any other writing for that matter, but invariably lead one away from the meaning that an author intended rather than to the meaning of what he wrote.

    Fourth, throughout Strange Work the actual biblical text, along with the majority of the scriptures that are cited, are printed out for you so that everything is at right at the reader’s finger tips. You will not need to look up anything or necessarily even have a Bible on hand to study Revelation. For the most part, I have used the New King James Version of the Bible in Strange Work and have taken the liberty to underline and bold print it for added emphasis. For what it is worth, I also consulted the NIV but, it being an equivalent translation (giving the general and more easily understood meaning of what was written) ... rather than a literal one, I concluded that the NKJV was the better text to use for our study. When interpreting prophecy, each and every word can be of vital importance, you see. One seeks to know exactly what God has said … not roughly what he said. So, when studying the Bible carefully, a literal translation is far more helpful than an equivalent version.

    Fifth, throughout Strange Work, where the latest Greek scholarship throws new light on the text, the reader will find the designation "NU" inserted and the scripture updated at that point. This abbreviation refers to two classic works on the original languages and manuscripts of the New Testament. The N stands for the twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament and the U stands for the third edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament, The New Testament Text. So, as you read along, you will be able to see where the latest Greek scholarship has clarified or improved on the translation of the New King James Version. This is in accordance with another sound principle of hermeneutics, by the way. It is called the rule of the priority of the original languages. This rule states that, when one is handling a translation from one language to another and a question arises, the only reliable way to discover the right meaning is to consult the original language. In the Bible, that would be Greek in the New Testament and Hebrew and a smattering of Aramaic in the Old. NU helps us a great deal in that regard.

      Sixth, I have written Strange Work with three groups of people in mind. First, it is written to edify (build up) the blood-bought Church of Jesus Christ. So, primarily, it is written for believers today. Second, it is my prayer that it will be used of the Lord to speak to lost men and women as well … so that they might be saved. Third, it is written for the Tribulation Saints who are going to come to Christ during the dark days of the coming Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-17). Nothing would thrill me more than if any of those saints, in that yet future day, were to find access to this commentary and discover God's plan and will, as well as, comfort and help during the dark days of Earth's two thousand five hundred and twenty-day trial.

     Finally, I have written Strange Work in the style of how I speak … as if the reader and I were just chatting together sitting in front of a cheery fireplace in a cozy room. Therefore, if you find the grammar and punctuation not exactly according to rule … it is on purpose … for ease of reading and my own way of communicating.

    I realize that the book of Revelation can be a bit intimidating at times. But, I would strongly encourage each reader to stick with it. The blessings and rewards for doing so are beyond measure. There are very few unsolved mysteries in the book of Revelation. After all, it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is not a book that is hard to interpret. The difficulty is in simply believing what it so plainly says.

      Now, let me acknowledge some of those who have helped me along in my understanding of the Bible and in my study of Revelation. I absolve them, however, of any responsibility for any of my interpretations with which they might not agree or deem accurate. I gratefully thank and acknowledge the following men of God who have helped me in my understanding as well ... as helped me with my own walk with the Lord ... by sharing with me their love for the Savior and His Word … either by their writings or in person:

   A Study in the Revelation ... E. F. Webber, D.D., F.R.G.S. Dr. Webber’s book was the first on Revelation that I read as a teenager. My saintly grandmother, Mrs. H.C. Hudson, who often listened to Dr. Webber’s radio broadcasts, sent it to me.

    A Revelation of Jesus Christ ... J. B. Smith

    The Apocalypse ... J. A. Seiss

    Things to Come ... J. Dwight Pentecost

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ ... John F. Walvoord

    The Rapture Question ... John F. Walvoord

    Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee ... J. Vernon McGee

    Dr. Stanley A. Ellison ... Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon

    Dr. Earl D. Radmacher ...Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon

   Dr. John G. Mitchell ... Multnomah School of the Bible (Now: Multnomah University and Biblical Seminary), Portland, Oregon

    Dr. Roger D. Congdon ... Multnomah School of the Bible, Portland, Oregon

      Before we begin, here is an outline of the book of Revelation that I have found helpful. It would be a good one to memorize. The lion's share of it came from Dr. Stanley Ellison: 

                    I.      The vision of Jesus Christ in Glory (Chapter 1)

                    II.    The vision of Jesus Christ midst his Churches (Chapters 2-3)

                    III.   The vision of Jesus Christ in Coronation (Chapters 4-5)

                    IV.   The vision of Jesus Christ in Judgment (Chapters 6-18)

                    V.    The vision of Jesus Christ in Return (Chapters 19-20)

                    VI.   The vision of Jesus Christ in Eternity (Chapters 21-22)

 

      Are you ready to begin? Well then, fasten your spiritual seat belt because we are about to experience the most spectacular, eye-popping, into the future, biblical ride of our lives!

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Proceed to Chapter One