Sunday, January 18, 2009

And They Have No Rest...

Revelation 14:11. "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Is this verse talking about the wicked not having rest day or night because of their punishment of eternal torment, or is it speaking about something else? This verse is not easily nor quickly digested because there are four topics in 33 words.These are the four; 1). smoke ascending forever, 2). no rest (for the wicked), 3). worship of the beast and, 4). receiving the mark of his (the beast's name.
The task here is to examine which of these are sequential and directly related or, nonsequential but interrelated. Admittedly, coming on the heels of, 'the smoke of their torment...", it sounds as though the torment of those who worship the beast goes on, and on, and on... Is that what's happening here? It requires another entire study to examine all the verses in the Bible that speak about the first death, the second death, and the issue of an eternal torment (kind of like waterboarding forever and ever; except this involves fire instead of water.
Of the four issues in this verse we are dealing with that of rest and why the wicked do not have it. When we speak of rest, or resting in the Lord, what we hear is an echo from the book of Hebrews that distinguishes between those who worship and obey God (and enter His rest), and those who do not worship nor obey Him (and thus cannot enter His rest).
Looking just at the wording of the text, John's use of the present tense of two very significant words gives one pause to reconsider what the revelator is trying to convey. Those who have no rest are those who (contextually) still worship the beast; rather than being identified as having previously worshiped him. If the wicked were being punished for having previously worshiped the beast, then the text would be saying that they continue to worship him throughout the eternities of their torment. I opine that this is not what John was saying.
The next question has to do with whoever receives the mark of his name. If eternal punishment followed worshiping and receiving, would not the verse speak more clearly about those who had received the mark of his name?
Is there a more logical explanation of this verse; one that harmonizes with Bible verses that teach the destruction of the wicked rather than an eternal torture for three score and ten years of rejecting Jesus (see Job: 31:3; Isaiah 5:24; Matthew 3:12; II Thessalonians 2:8; ITimothy 1:9; Revelation 16:18 [KJV]). Eternal torture of the wicked is in direct contrast and opposition to what the Bible teaches, and what the crucifixion illustrates of the character, and love of God; Who does not merely have love, but Who is said (many times) to be love [Romans 5:15; Romans 8:39; Ephesians 2:4; I John 4:10; I John 4:16].
For the answer to this apparent dilemma between rest and torment, we will follow the echo to the book of Hebrews; most particularly chapters 3 and 4. The writer quotes liberally from the Old Testament many times as he illustrates the hard heartedness of Israel during their 40 year sojourn in the desert and applies the quotations to New Covenant Christianity. He writes; "...They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways. So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest." [Hebrews 3:10, 11]. Again he writes; "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (in the desert) [Hebrews 3:15]. The writer of Hebrews goes on to exhort; "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them..." [Hebrews 3:18 - 4:2a].
This exact same theme is repeated several times in Hebrews chapter four and the application is clearly made that "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." [Hebrews 4:9]. The final point in this post is the way Hebrews ties the keeping of the 7th day Sabbath to '...entering His rest..." for he writes in verse 10; "For he who has entered His rest has himself ceased from his works as God [did] from His."
The connection is clear and the meaning is clear; those who enter His rest cease from their works of self righteousness and accept the free gift of the righteousness of Christ.
Going back to Revelation we see more clearly that those who worship the beast are in rebellion against God and thus they can not enter His rest: They have no rest because they worship the beast rather than the Living and True God. it comes even more clear when we move to Revelation 14:12; the very next verse. "Here is the patience of the saints; here [are] those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
The saints are characterized by two traits; first, they keep the commandments of God, and second, they keep their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior; this is what it means to keep the faith of Jesus!
God Bless. e.c.

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