Category Archives: Israel

Who Needs Enemies When You Have Job’s Friends? (Job 4-5)

Scripture reading – Job 4-5

The Book of Job is a study in Hebrew poetry, and as we have seen, a record of one man’s suffering and his righteous response to earthly trials and sorrows. It is the story of a heavenly drama pitting Satan’s assertion that Job would curse God, should trials befall him (1:7), against God’s confidence that his servant was “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [shunned] evil” (1:8). Job was unaware that his trials were initiated by Satan, but limited by His omnipresent, loving Creator.

With his sons and daughters deceased, his possessions lost, and his body afflicted with sores from head to foot, Job’s wife looked upon him with disdain, and asked, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (2:9).

The arrival of three friends (2:11-13), brought the hope of encouragement in the midst of sorrows, but we will see in today’s Scriptures that the opposite would be true. Shaken by his troubles, and overcome with sorrow, Job shared with his friends his longing for death as a deliverer from his suffering (Job 3).

Job 4 – The Counsel of Eliphaz the Temanite

Eliphaz was the first of Job’s three friends to respond to his longing to escape his suffering by death (that does not imply suicide, but the natural course of life that inevitably ends in death). The first of three speeches given by Eliphaz to his friend Job is recorded in Job 4-5, the second and third in Job 15 and Job 22.

Eliphaz’s manner began with a kind, comforting tone (4:3-5), but soon turned to an indictment of Job’s character (4:6), asserting his troubles were those faced by wicked men: “They that plow iniquity, And sow wickedness, reap the same” (4:8).

Claiming he had received a vision (4:12-16), and heard a voice, Eliphaz asked Job, “17Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (4:17). The implication was that Job’s troubles had come upon him because he had failed to confess his sin (4:18-21).

Job 5 – Eliphaz Proclaims the Greatness of God

Continuing his contention that Job’s trials were a consequence of his sins, Eliphaz questioned, “To which of the saints wilt thou turn?” (5:1) In other words, “Job, to whom will you turn, if you don’t turn to the LORD for help?”

Eliphaz accused Job of failing to respond to God with humility, and warned, “2For wrath killeth the foolish man, And envy slayeth the silly one” (5:2). Adding a greater assault on Job’s character, he seemed to have implied that the deaths of his children were a result of his sin (5:4; 1:18-19). Continuing his discourse, Eliphaz encouraged Job to accept his troubles as a sign of God’s chastening, and urged him to “despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17; 5:18, Hebrews 12:5; Proverbs 3:11-12)

Eliphaz challenged Job to accept that there are seven troubles (seven being the number of perfection and wholeness), from which the LORD is able to deliver His people: Famine unto death (5:20a); death in war (5:20b); a slanderous tongue (5:21a); natural calamities (5:21b); fear of famine (5:22a); fear of wild beasts (5:22b); and a fear of early death (5:26).

The implication of Eliphaz’s observation was, “If the LORD is able to deliver His people out of their troubles, why has he allowed Job to suffer so much?”

Lest some dear saint accepts Eliphaz’s counsel as truth, and applies his statements to themselves, remember that Job’s trials were not caused by sinful failures or unconfessed sins. The LORD allowed Job to suffer as a means of testing, that would ultimately bring blessing. We cannot grasp all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept that He is Sovereign.

Remember, when trials and sorrows come, they are temporal; however, you can be confident in this: The way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tower of Babel and One Big Unhappy Family (Genesis 10-11)

Scripture reading – Genesis 10-11

The conflicts among the races and nations of the world have their origin in today’s Scripture reading (Genesis 10-11). Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons and concludes by introducing us to Terah, the father of Abraham, the patriarch. We find in Genesis 10-11 the common kinship of all humanity, traced back to Noah’s three sons.

Genesis 10 is where God begins to deal with the Hebrew people through the lineage of Shem. Though the Old Testament focuses upon the history of Israel, and God’s dealing with His chosen people, nonetheless, the LORD never forsook humanity.

Genesis 10

Genesis 10 records the names of sixteen sons who were born to Noah’s three sons (and perhaps as many daughters). Genesis 10 registers seventy individual nations that emerged from Noah’s sons: fourteen associated with Japheth (10:2-5), thirty linked to Ham (10:25-27), and twenty-six from Shem (10:21-31).

Japheth, Noah’s oldest son, was the father of many Gentile nations (9:27; 10:2-5), among them the ancient empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the European people (namely, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, Spanish, and the English).

Ham, Noah’s youngest son who was identified as “Canaan” in Genesis 9:25, was father to some of the great empires of the ancient world, among them the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and some scholars would suggest Chinese, Japanese, American Indians, and African tribes (10:6-20).

Although cursed to be a “servant of servants” (9:25-27), the accomplishments of Ham’s progeny were so vast that it appears they set their minds to cast off the curse of being a “servant of servants.” Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the son of Cush, was the first ruler following the flood (10:8-10). He was a “mighty hunter” (10:9), and founded what would become ancient “Babel…in the land of Shinar” (10:10).

Shem, Noah’s second born son, was “the father of all the children of Eber” (10:21-31). Scholars believe the name “Eber,” is an ancient word from which the word “Hebrew” was derived (10:21). “Eber” was the father of the Hebrews (Abraham is described as “Abram the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, and the nomadic Arab tribes and nations.

Shem’s lineage is the ancestral line through which God would fulfill His promise of a Redeemer Savior. Genesis 10 concludes leaving no doubt that all nations and people in our world today are descended from Noah’s three sons:

Genesis 10:32 – “32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

Resisting God’s command to “replenish the earth” (9:1), Noah’s sons and their families continued as “one language, and of one speech” (11:1), and congregated in “a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” (11:2).

Arising from their desire to continue as they were (being “of one language, and of one speech,” 11:1), mankind resolved to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (11:4). Man’s sinful pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion was summed up in this: Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Once again, we are made privy to a heavenly conversation when the LORD determined to intervene, lest the wickedness and rebellion of man be carried so far that there would be no hope of salvation, and “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6).

Confounding their one language into multiple languages, the LORD caused the work on the tower and the city to cease, and men were forced to scatter abroad “upon the face of all the earth” (11:7-8).

Genesis 11 concludes with the lineage of Shem, and leading our Bible study to a great crossroads in the history of mankind: God calling Abraham (11:31-12:1).

Friend, never forget that the story of history is “HIS-STORY;” a testimony of God’s invisible, providential hand and His “Amazing Grace.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Tale of Two Lineages (Genesis 5-6)

Scripture reading – Genesis 5-6

Genesis 4 concluded with Cain being driven from the presence of Adam’s household (4:12-16),and him taking a wife, and establishing an ungodly lineage (4:17) that would be the curse of righteous men (4:18-24).

Several sons and daughters were born of Adam and Eve’s union (5:4); however, it was a son whom Eve named Seth that God chose as His godly lineage (4:25). Seth had a son whom he named Enos, and then we read, “then began men to call upon the name of the LORD” (4:26).

Genesis 5 – A Tale of Two Lineages

Before we identify the two lineages that proceeded from Adam and Eve, consider for a moment the incredibly long life spans of the men of these first generations. For instance, Adam lived 930 years (5:4); his son Seth lived 912 years (5:8); and Enos lived 905 years (5:11). How might we explain the longevity of early human life?

Various scholars have tackled that question, and many have scoffed at the possibility of men living nine hundred years or more. Although not original with me (and I do not know whom to cite as my source), there are generally two explanations: That earth’s atmosphere was an expanse of water “above the firmament” (1:7) and therefore shielded man and the world from harmful environmental factors that hasten aging (an example would be the cosmic rays of the sun). A second explanation for longevity, and one I believe is most important, is that the human race was more genetically pure, and there was less disease and sickness. By the way, the longevity of man in those early centuries would have contributed to a boom in population growth that some have estimated might have reached billions of souls before the Flood!

The ungodly lineage of Cain was recorded in Genesis 4:16-24, but remember only a few of his descendants are named, and only because of their important role in the Biblical narrative. I hope to address Cain’s lineage at a later time.

The godly lineage of Adam, through his son Seth is given in Genesis 5 and takes us through to the birth of Noah, and his three sons, “Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (5:32).

Genesis 6 – Judgment and Destruction: The Worldwide Flood

Like our day, the world of Noah’s day before the Flood evidenced not only a population explosion, but also a wickedness that motivated God to intervene, allowing the Flood to cleanse the earth, in preparation for His promise of a Redeemer to be fulfilled. Once again, we are made privy to the thoughts and heart of God.  Seeing the proliferation of sin in the world, the LORD avowed, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (6:3).

The heart of man had become so consumed with wickedness, that even the godly lineage (“the sons of God”), intermingled with the “daughters of men” (6:4, I believe a reference to the line of Cain). God determined, “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Grieved by the wickedness of man, the LORD declared, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (6:7).

I close inviting you to consider an incredible phrase, and a wonderful doctrine:

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (6:8). The statement concerning Noah’s spiritual relationship continues: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (6:9).

Genesis 6:8 is the first mention of God’s “grace” in the Scriptures (although amazing grace was evident when the LORD sacrificed to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness with skins).

How did Noah respond to God’s gracious commandment to build an ark to the saving of his house, and thereby establishing His covenant (6:18)? He responded in the same way that all sinners must to be saved…Faith. Noah believed God!

Hebrews 11:7 – “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things [and events] not seen as yet, moved with fear [took heed of God’s warning and used due diligence], prepared an ark to the saving [deliverance] of his house; by the which [FAITH] he condemned the world [of unbelief], and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

Noah’s faith in God was expressed in his obedience: “Thus did Noah; according to all that God had commanded him, so did he” (6:22).

What of your faith? What do your works say about your faith, and trust in God? After all, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A New Heaven, A New Earth, and A New Jerusalem (Revelations 21-22)

Scripture reading – Revelations 21-22

Today we come to the end of a journey that began 366 days ago (2020 was a leap year, meaning we were blessed last February with an added day, a phenomenal that occurs every four years). Today’s devotional commentary is a monumental milestone for me, as I fulfill a personal goal of writing a daily devotional commentary following a chronological schedule through the Scriptures.

As we come to Revelation 21, let us take a moment and reflect on the events that will come to pass before that chapter.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be observed (19:1-10), and will precede the triumphant Second Coming of Christ (19:11-18). The “beast” (antichrist), and the false prophet will be cast alive into the “lake of fire” (19:19-21). Satan will be chained, and cast into the “bottomless pit” (20:1) where he will be held a thousand years during the Millennial Reign of Christ on the earth (20:2-6). When a thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed to wreak havoc on the earth until he is cast into “the lake of fire and brimstone” where he will be forever tormented (20:7-9).

A dreadful, eternal judgment will follow, as the dead who had rejected God’s gift of redemption made possible in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, will appear before The Great White Throne (20:11). Death, hell, and all unbelievers, “small and great [will] stand before God, and will face eternal judgment as they are condemned and “cast into the lake of fire” (20:10-15).

Revelation 21 – A New Heaven, A New Earth, and New Jerusalem

With sin no more, God reveals “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (21:1). The apostle John witnessed “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2). Suddenly, there was a “great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (21:3).

Comforted by the presence of God in their midst, John writes, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21:4). Imagine, no sin, no sorrows, no sufferings, no sickness, and no death!

Much more could be considered in today’s Scripture reading, especially the wonderful description of New Jerusalem (21:9-22:2); however, I will save that great study for another time, and Lord willing, another year.

We began the year with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Today we conclude our year-long study being reminded of something we have seen throughout this year: The Grace of God. John writes,

Revelation 22:21 – “21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Grace: Marvelous, matchless, unmerited. Songwriter Julia Johnston penned the hymn, “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” writing:

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

Refrain:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelations 19-20)

Scripture reading – Revelations 19-20

Our Scripture reading brings us to future events that have captured the imagination of the saints of God for two millennia. The apostle John wrote in vivid detail the same prophetic scenes that the prophets Zephaniah and Zechariah had foretold would come to pass.

The events recorded in Revelation 19 follow the destruction of Babylon (Revelation 18:1-8), whom we have seen was the symbol of all false religions, and the enemy of God and believers. John observes that the kings of the earth, and all the people, will be stunned when Babylon falls, and will mourn her sudden destruction (Revelation 18:9-20). Several remarkable events follow the destruction of Babylon.

Revelation 19

A scene of praise and worship begins, as the people of heaven begin saying, “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore [Babylon], which did corrupt the earth with her fornication [false religions], and hath avenged the blood of his servants [believers] at her hand” (19:1-2).

Imagine the voices of all the redeemed, the saints of both the Old and New Testaments, and the martyrs of the Tribulation, all lifting their voices and shouting, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (19:6).

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (19:7-10)

A heavenly wedding feast will follow as the Lamb, Jesus Christ the Son of God, takes His spiritual bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-27), as His wife (19:7). The church, who are the true believers, is described as a wife who has “made herself ready” for her groom (19:7). Her clothing portrays her preparation, for she is “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (19:8).

The Marriage Supper being ended, the stage is set for the next glorious event:

The Second Coming of Christ (19:11-16)

Christ is portrayed coming from heaven (19:11a), and riding upon a white horse (a symbol of victory, and spotless, sinless perfection). He rides under a war banner that bears His name: Faithful, for He is ever faithful to His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20); True, for He is true to His Word and will not lie (Titus 1:2). He is coming to judgethe earth in righteousness (19:11) and to make war against the antichrist and the nations that will assemble against Israel.

Christ will be accompanied by the armies of heaven (19:14), whom I imagine are the believers who were in attendance at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (notice they wear the same robes as those that were described at the feast, 19:8, 14). Christ is coming as a fierce warrior, and He will destroy the enemies of God and His saints (19:15-16).

The Battle of Armageddon (19:17-19)

I believe the host of heaven that accompany Christ, will not come to wage war themselves, but to witness the sudden destruction that will befall “the beast” (the antichrist), and “the kings of the earth and their armies” (19:19). Christ comes wearing the name written on His robes, “KING OF KING, AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16).

The battle having been won, an angel summons carrion (flesh-eating birds) to the battleground to devour the carnage (the battlefield is described in Revelation 14:20 as “the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs,” or a spread of 200 miles). For more on the battle scene of Armageddon, go to Zephaniah 1:14-18 and Zechariah 14:1-13.

The Judgment of the Beast (Antichrist) and the False Prophet (19:19-21)

The battle having been won, the beast (antichrist), and his false prophet who had performed miracles to deceive the people, are both “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (19:20). This is the dreadful place of judgment where all unbelievers, the demons, and the devil will eventually be judged for all eternity.  It is described as “a furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:42), “everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8), and a place of “[torment] day and night for ever and ever” (20:10).

Lord willing, I will address the Millennial Reign of Christ (20:1-6), God’s final judgment of Satan (20:7-10), and the final judgment of unbelievers (20:11-15), in another year.

I close inviting you to search your heart, and make sure your salvation; trust Jesus Christ as your Savior before it is eternally too late (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Acts 16:30-31).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“It is Done!” (Revelations 16-18)

Scripture reading – Revelations 16-18

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of God’s judgments that will be poured out upon the earth in the latter-half of the tribulation, a period of three and a half years, known as “The Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 7:9, 14; 16:4-7; 22:14-15). Today’s devotional commentary will focus upon Revelation 16.

Revelation 16 – Seven Angels and Seven Bowls (vials) of Judgment

Revelation 16 opens the next phase of God’s judgment as He summons seven angels to go forth bearing seven “vials” or bowls of “the wrath of God.” The bowls are symbolic of individual judgments that will be poured out on the earth (16:1).

There are seven distinct judgments (i.e. bowls). The first bowl of judgment will result in open sores or ulcers, and will afflict all those who have taken “the mark of the beast,” and worshipped his image (16:2). The second judgment disturbs the sea (probably the Mediterranean Sea which is in the vicinity of Babylon), and its waters will become “as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul (i.e. the fish of the sea) [will die] in the sea” (16:3).

The third bowl of God’s wrath will poison the fresh waters, that are described as “the rivers and fountains of waters.” The waters will become as blood (16:4). The third angel states the justification for God’s judgments, declaring His righteousness (16:5) demanded man’s wickedness be condemned (16:6).

Revelation 16:6For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. [In a literal sense, they are punished as they deserve, for their wickedness.]

A voice will arise from the altar in heaven and will state, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” (16:7).

A fourth angel will then go forth, and will bear a bowl of judgment that will cause the sun to become unbearably hot, so that it will “scorch men with fire” (16:8). Rather than repent of their wickedness, men will revile and curse God’s name (16:9).

The fifth bowl of God’s wrath will be poured out upon the antichrist and his throne (16:10), and a heavy, frightening darkness will descend on the earth. Once again, though their bodies will bear the “pains and sores” of God’s judgments (16:11), men will not repent.

The sixth angel will bear a bowl that will dry up the Euphrates River (a principal waterway in the Middle East), enabling the armies of the nations to make their way toward Israel (16:12-15). Three evil spirits are described, who will be unleashed to stir the nations of the earth to go to war in “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (16:14b).

The Lord will then warn the people of the earth, “15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, andkeepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (16:15), as He gathers all the armies of the earth to “Armageddon” for the final judgment (16:16).

The seventh angel will then be sent with the bowl of God’s wrath that will affect the air and atmosphere of the earth (16:17). Suddenly a voice will cry out from the throne of heaven, saying, “It is done” (16:17b).

God’s final judgment will be accompanied by terrifying natural events: “Voices, and thunders, and lightnings;” and a great earthquake like none that had ever been seen (16:18).

“The great city,” which I believe is Jerusalem, will be “divided into three parts;” however, not destroyed (16:19a). The other great cities of the earth will fall, and “great Babylon” will be utterly devastated by God’s wrath (16:19).

The continents of the earth will shift, and the mountains will fall (16:20). Great hail stones will fall to the earth (the weight of a “talent” may be estimated between 90 to 150 pounds). Still, men who survived will refuse to repent (16:21).

So much more could be written of that great and awful day of judgment; however, I will reserve that to another year.

I close reminding you that wise men and women are looking for, and anticipating Christ is coming (16:15). If you are not ready for His judgment, I urge you to repent of your sins, and turn to Christ before it is too late.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

The Expulsion and Defeat of Satan (Revelation 12-15)

Scripture reading – Revelations 12-15

The imagery of today’s Scripture reading (Revelation 12-15) is profound, and complicated. I will limit the devotional commentary to focusing on Revelation 12; however, I encourage you to read today’s full Scripture reading assignment.

A novice Bible student might be so stunned by the descriptions and characters in Revelation 12, that he forgets there is practical meaning and application behind the narrative. Remember, in Revelation, we are observing literal events that will come to pass in the Tribulation.

Three characters in Revelation 12: A Woman Great with Child (12:1-2); A Great Red Dragon (12:3-4); and the birth of a “Man Child” (12:5).

Israel – A Woman Great with Child (12:1-2)

Who was this woman who was “with child,” and is pictured as one “travailing in birth” (12:2)? I believe the woman “with child” is a description of Israel as a people.

She is described as, “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (12:1). Israel’s glory, her prestige as God’s chosen people, her “crown of twelve stars,” symbolizing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and her labor and travail with child was because the Christ child, God’s Redeemer would be born of and come out of Israel.

A Great Red Dragon (12:3-4)

The “great red dragon” is a symbol of Satan (12:3), and his being cast out of heaven is repeated here as it was described in the prophesies of Isaiah (14:12-15), and Ezekiel (28:12-17). Satan was the angel Lucifer, until his heart was lifted up with pride, and he led a rebellion against the God of heaven in which one-third of the angelic host followed him in an uprising against God.

Satan did all he could to prevent the birth of the promised Redeemer, seeking to destroy, to annihilate Israel, the people through whom God had promised the Christ child would be born (fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that through his lineage all the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12). When Christ was born, the devil attempted to have Him killed, by King Herod’s assault on the children of Bethlehem. When Christ was crucified, and rose from the dead, sin and death were defeated, Satan turned his fierce wrath upon believers, and Israel.

The devil, the great dragon, knowing his time is short in the Great Tribulation (12:12), will make one last desperate attempt to destroy the true Israel (12:13-15), but he will fail when the earth opens up and swallows his forces (12:16).

A “Man Child” (12:5)

Who is the “man child” (12:5)? He is Jesus Christ. He was the son born of Israel (his mother being Mary), and of the lineage of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). He was born of the virgin, but was rejected by Israel. However, when He comes again, He will come and reign for a thousand years.

The woman who “fled into the wilderness” (12:6).

This is a prophesy that Israel as a nation and people will flee into the wilderness in the second half of the tribulation (lasting 3.5 years, or 1260 days, 12:6). Israel will seek refuge from the wrath of the devil and his forces.

A Heavenly Battle (12:7-9)

A heavenly war will be waged between “Michael (the archangel) and his angels” and the dragon and his angels (12:7-9). The devil’s defeat is assured, and he and his fallen angels will be “cast out into the earth” (12:9).

There is much in today’s Scripture reading that might baffle you, but you can be assured of this one thing:

Satan is a defeated foe, and God has assured believers the victory!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

The Seven Seals and Seven Judgments of Revelation (Revelation 6-11)

Scripture reading – Revelation 6-11

The intensity and breadth of today’s Scripture reading (Revelation 6-11) is nearly overwhelming, for the veil of future things is drawn back and we are permitted to see those things that will surely come to pass in that time that is known as The Tribulation (Revelation 6:1-18:24).

The Seven Seals of God’s Judgment (Revelation 6:1-7:17)

We read that “the Lamb” (6:1), Jesus Christ being the Lamb of God, will open or break seven seals. A seal was an instrument that guaranteed the privacy and security of the contents of a letter or other means of communication. A king would use a seal to guarantee the privacy of a letter. A seal might be used by a judge to bind an agreement between two individuals.

Four Seals and Four Horses with Riders

When Jesus Christ, “the Lamb,” breaks the seven seals in Revelation, He does so as the One with authority to unleash God’s judgments and fulfill their purpose. The first four seals are immediately followed by a rider and horse that go forth to judge the earth in an escalation of sorrows.

When the first seal is broken, a rider on a white horse goes forth to conquer and subdue the earth (6:1-2). The second seal is broken, and a rider on a red horse goes forth with a “great sword,” and removes peace from the earth (6:3-4). A third seal is broken, and a black horse and rider are sent and famine follows (6:5-6).

When the fourth seal is broken, a pale horse departs, and its rider identified as “Death, and Hell” (6:7), brings the greatest judgment the earth has faced in the Tribulation. In the wake of the fourth rider’s judgment (6:8), one fourth of the earth’s population is killed (that number today would be one billion nine hundred million souls that would perish).

The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Seals

The fifth seal marks a departure from the symbolism of riders and horses. When “the Lamb” (Jesus Christ) breaks the fifth seal, a heavenly veil is drawn back and the souls of those who have been martyred in the tribulation appear “under the altar” (6:9). We are told they are those who were slain because of their faithfulness to the “word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (6:9).

The sixth seal is broken, and a time of universal judgment begins (6:12-17) that is manifested in “a great earthquake,” the darkening of the sun, the moon appearing as blood (6:12b), and the light of the stars being extinguished (6:13). All men, great and small, will realize the wrath of God is being poured out, and will seek in vain to hide themselves (6:14-17).

Revelation 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, and it is revealed that 144,000 of all the tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes, will be chosen to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When “the Lamb” breaks the seventh seal, heaven will fall silent “about the space of half an hour” (8:1). “The seven angels which stood before God” will be given seven trumpets (8:1-2), and the sounding of their trumpets will usher in a time of unimaginable destruction and judgment upon the earth and its inhabitants (8:1-11:19).

Unfortunately, an interpretation of the seven angels, and the seven trumpets that accompany the breaking of the seventh seal will have to wait to another year, and another devotional.

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Journey’s End (Acts 27-28)

Scripture reading – Acts 27-28

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the close of our study in the book we identify as The Acts of the Apostles. Our study has taken us from the historic fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and public appearances (Acts 1:1-3), to Him commissioning the disciples to be His apostles (1:4-8), before He ascended to heaven (1:9). After receiving the promise that Jesus would return (1:10-11), the disciples returned to an “upper room” (1:12-13), and there waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who came on the Day of Pentecost (2:1), fifty days after the Passover and Christ’s death on the Cross.

There are many other events that are essential to the historical narrative of the early church that are found in the Book of Acts, including the death of Stephen, the first of many martyrs (7:55-8:1), the salvation and transformation of Saul, the great persecutor (8:1; 9:1-9), who became Paul, and the apostle to the Gentiles (9:10-16).

Our study of Acts has followed Paul’s three missionary journeys as the Gospel spread throughout Asia, Greece, and Europe (reaching at least as far west as Spain).

Taken prisoner in Jerusalem, Paul was held in the fortress of Caesarea, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where he was tried and falsely accused of sedition by enemies who would have killed him (24:1-6). Knowing by revelation that he was to be a witness in Rome, Paul had exercised his right as a Roman citizen, and appealed for a hearing before Caesar (25:10-11).

Acts 27 – Paul’s Shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea

Arrangements having been made for Paul to sail to Rome, he was assigned a military escort with “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship had stopped at several ports in its journey, including Sidon where Luke noted the centurion’s favor in allowing Paul to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon, the centurion transferred Paul and other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria [i.e. Egypt]“ that was sailing to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9), and knowing storms would soon make sailing hazardous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and his centurion guard to seek safe harbor (27:9-10). Those men, however, dismissed Paul’s concerns, and set sail until the vessel was caught up in a great storm so that, in Luke’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:11-20).

The balance of Acts 27 chronicles Paul’s shipwreck (27:21-44), while Acts 28 records his time and ministry on the isle of Melita, an island located south of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea (28:1).

Acts 28:11-31 – Paul’s Final Journey

Beginning with Acts 28:11, we follow Paul from his ministry on Melita, to his arrival in Rome. Although a prisoner of Caesar, he was a captive of God’s grace, and for the next two years preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome, the capital of the world in the first century (28:17-22).

A rented house, serving as his prison and sanctuary (28:30), Paul opened his door and heart to “all that came in unto him,” and faithfully preached “the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (28:31).

What happened during the years that Paul was a prisoner in Rome?

We will answer that question as our chronological study takes us next to the letters Paul wrote while a prisoner in Rome.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Paul: A Model of Conviction and Courage (Acts 24-26)

Scripture reading – Acts 24-26

We might glean much from the apostle Paul’s courage, and defense of not only himself, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached. He had been arrested under the false pretense of breaking the Law (Acts 21:27-28), and defiling the Temple (Acts 21:29), but had been delivered from harm, and almost certain death by Roman soldiers (Acts 21:31-35). After declaring his salvation and calling as an apostle (Acts 22:1-23), when he was arrested, Paul sought the protections allowed him as a citizen of Rome (Acts 22:24-30).

In Acts 23, he was placed under the protection of the Romans, and was given an opportunity to defend himself, and answer his accusers (23:1-11). When the chief captain of the guard realized the Jews’ plot to kill him (23:12-22), he spirited Paul away to safety with the governor of that region whose name was Felix (23:23-35).

Acts 24 – Trial before Felix at Caesarea by the Sea

Five days after Paul arrived at Caesarea, Ananias the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin gathered and put forward “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1), who was tasked with accusing Paul of sedition, a crime that would demand his death (24:2-9).

Paul sat in silence as Tertullus leveled false indictments at him, alleging him as a wicked, subversive man. Felix then gestured to Paul an opportunity to answer his accusers (24:10). With diplomacy, and the discretion deserving of Felix’s office as governor and Paul’s civil authority, Paul began to speak (24:10).

Acts 24:10b – “…Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself [i.e. make his defense].”

Paul answered the accusations brought against him by the Sanhedrin (24:11-20), proving the only dissension between him and those leaders was that he had challenged them on the doctrine of the resurrection (24:21). Felix, being the governor of that region, had “perfect knowledge of that way” (24:22; Acts 16:17; 18:25), a reference to those who believed that Jesus was the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, crucified and died for the sins of the world according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53), and rose from the grave on the third day!

Acts 24 concludes with Governor Felix retaining Paul in custody, giving the apostle liberty to have guests, but also having opportunities for he and “his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess,” to hear Paul’s testimony and his “faith in Christ” (24:24). Paul’s witness was powerful, and we read that the governor was so moved that he “trembled” with conviction as he heard of God’s judgment that was to come (24:25).

On an interesting closing note; had Paul been inclined, he might have raised funds to bribe the governor for his release and freedom (24:26). He was held captive for two years (24:27); however, the apostle was a man of integrity, and he did not buy his freedom. Paul was persuaded that he was destined for an opportunity to go to Rome and declare Jesus Christ in the very household of Caesar (23:11), and he would not be deterred from his calling.

Though he trembled at the thought of God’s judgment (24:25), Felix delayed his decision to accept Christ as Savior, and was reassigned elsewhere, leaving Paul bound in prison (24:27).

Paul’s passion and boldness in declaring the gospel is one of the many things I admire in the man; however, we should also note his tact, prudence, and patience in preaching Christ to those who would listen. Though bold in addressing and rebuking the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders (23:2-5), Paul was wise, discerning, and patient when speaking to the Roman commandant in Jerusalem, and Felix, the governor who resided in Caesarea.

A closing thought: Like Paul, those who witness for Christ should be passionate for men’s souls.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith