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Psalm 2 & Exodus 4:7 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 51 secs

Sixth Seal; Hardened Hearts Psa. 2; Ex. 4:7

 

The judgments of the Tribulation are man's fault because man has rejected God and rejected salvation, and because mankind will set their hearts completely against God, this is divine judgment on the human race in order to deal ultimately and finally with the problem of evil. It is actually a form of divine grace that these judgments will occur. Yet in spite of these judgments and in spite of God's grace there will be numerous people who will harden themselves in unbelief and in rejection of God. In Revelation 6:16 we see that the response of these earth dwellers is to hide in the mountains and caves and to call upon the mountains and rocks to fall on them, to hide them "from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." The terminology here relates to divine judgment. They are afraid of the judgment of God that is coming. They call on the mountains and the rocks to hide them because rather than submit to the authority of God they would rather be destroyed.

 

There is a restraint by God of evil within the human race until this point. Once the Rapture of the church occurs then the Holy Spirit is removed and God is going to take His restraint off of man, and man's inhumanity to man is potential for tyranny and cruelty and dominance which will reach its culmination. God has never allowed men to ever fulfil the dreams that they have had of dominating the human race and it will only occur during this period of the Tribulation. So what we see in the first five seal judgments, the sixth seal judgment being that of martyrdom, is that the world government of that time unleashes its fury against all of those who worship God, all of those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and there will be millions who will be slaughtered during this period of time—just the first two years of the Tribulation period. Then there is an intensification that occurs with the sixth seal judgment: astronomical and geophysical disturbances on the earth that are the result of God's more direct intervention as opposed to the indirect intervention of simply removing the restraint of evil. The result is what we see in verses 15 & 16 where the rulers and leaders, the people on the earth who are the earth dwellers, will rebel against God even more. It will be clear to them at that point that these judgments they have been going through are the result of God's judgments. They will know this and they will shake their fists in the face of God and resist Him even more. God is going to put these judgments on the earth to expose the orientation of the heart of mankind. But there are others who will respond to the grace of God during this period and they will put their faith in Jesus Christ as their saviour.

Revelation 6:12-17 NASB "I looked when He 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; 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 sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 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; 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; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'"

The physical disturbances involve six different things. There is a great earthquake at the beginning, the sun becomes black as sackcloth, the moon turns red like blood, stars (actually comets or asteroids) fall to the earth, the sky is split like a scroll (reaction of some kind in the upper atmosphere), and there is enormous geophysical shift that takes place that John describes as "mountains and islands moved out of their places." And remember that this is only the beginning of the birth pangs, as Jesus identified it in the first twelve verses of Matthew 24. Notice the response of mankind. There are some from every classification who fit into this earth dweller category. Notice the arrogance: they think they can hide from the sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who will judge all the living and the dead. They would rather die in misery in their arrogance than submit to the authority of God. And there are a lot of believers who are that way—they are glad they are saved but they would rather live their life the way they want to than make Bible doctrine and the Word of God a priority in their life.

"Who is able to stand?" That is an interesting question. After we look at the details of these judgments which will come, it is a good question. It looks as though this is a total disaster on the planet. Who could survive? Who could go on? It seems this has to be describing the very end of the Tribulation period, but the trouble is we are only in chapter six! We still have to go through the seven trumpet judgments and then the seven bowl judgments. The worst is yet to come and yet despite the grace that God has given and the proclamation of His Word when we get into chapter seven we will see that during this time God has sealed 144,000 Jewish evangelists who are already taking the truth of His Word and the gospel throughout the earth. We will see that in chapters 11 & 12 there are two witnesses who are proclaiming the truth of God's Word, there is a phenomenal witness on the planet, and yet there are those who have hardened their hearts completely against them.

Whenever we talk about this issue of the hardening of the heart a lot of questions about the dynamics of this hardening, such as just who hardens the heart. There are those passages related to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart and it sounds to many people as if somehow God is interfering with the volition of man, that He is reaching down and flipping a switch which is going to intensify the negative volition. So we have to look at this concept because understanding the dynamics of the hardened heart is important, not just in terms of what happens in the future or in the past, but there is the ongoing challenge and exhortation and warning of the writer to the Hebrews to church age believers to not harden their hearts as did the Israelites did at Meribah and Massah. Hebrews chapters 3 & 4 repeat that warning from Psalm 95 three different times, so this is a very present warning that isn't just addressed to unbelievers but also to believers.

What we see happening in the sixth seal is related to a prophecy that is given by the writer of Psalm 2 which is a picture in the prophetic mind of David of what is going to transpire at the end time. David sees what human history will culminate in: the battle between the kings of the earth on the one hand and the King of the earth on the other hand, and that the human kings have been conspiring throughout history to establish the kingdom of man to establish world peace, world harmony, etc. The kingdom of man seeks for itself that which only God can give.

Psalm 2:1 NASB "Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing?" The word for "vain" is a word that indicates a vapour, something that just lasts momentarily and has no lasting significance. It is translated in the LXX with the Greek word mataiotes [mataiothj] which, again, indicates vanity, emptiness, that which has no lasting value. What is the vain thing? To establish a kingdom that will bring peace, prosperity, happiness and health to the human race. That is described in the Bible as pure vanity, the self-deception of arrogant earth dwellers who reject God and His Word. This leads to a confrontation.

Psalm 2:2 NASB "The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed [Messiah], saying …" This is what we see happening in Revelation 6:15, 16. These rulers are taking counsel. How can they finally defeat God who is interfering in their plans and their agenda. What they are saying is vocalised in [3] "Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!" They view God as restrictive. Man in his arrogance wants to remove himself from the authority of his creator.

We see the response of God in vv. 4-9. Psalm 2:4 NASB "He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them." He scorns them, derides them, makes fun of these puny little creatures who think that they can somehow throw off their fetters and violate the authority of God. [5] "Then He will speak to them in His anger …" What is God's solution? It is the establishment of His kingdom and the destruction of the kingdom of man. That is pictured in Daniel chapter seven. "… And terrify them in His fury, saying, [6] But as for Me [God the Father], I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain. [7] I [Messiah] will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." That idea of begotten is not birth, not  a beginning, it is the idea of establishing His kingdom, His inauguration, as it were. [8] "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the {very} ends of the earth as Your possession. [9] You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'" That is exactly what is happening during the Tribulation period. Nothing else will work.

What we have is the kind benevolent God who always precedes His justice with the offer of mercy and grace. He offers complete forgiveness to the rebels, to all mankind, to those who have disobeyed Him; but it is on His terms, not their terms. We see this grace in vv. 10-12.

Psalm 2:10 NASB "Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth." This is the offer and it continues through the Tribulation period. There is the constant offer of salvation and deliverance to those who have hardened their hearts, to the earth dwellers. [11] "Worship the LORD with reverence [fear, awe] And rejoice with trembling." This is the call of God to change. The word translated "worship" in the Hebrew means to serve. [12] "Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish {in} the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" God's grace always precedes judgment.

What we see is that there is always this clash between God as the ruler of all history and man. In the Old Testament we see this exemplified in the conflict between God and Pharaoh. When God is going to deliver the Jews, who are slaves in Egypt at this point, the Lord said to Moses" "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power, but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Again in Exodus 7:3 NASB "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt…. [13] Yet Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said."

One word for "harden" is the Hebrew word chazaq in the piel stem, which is an intensification form meaning to strengthen, to fortify, to reinforce. Another word that is used is qashach in the hiphil, which means to cause to make hard or heavy, to strengthen, to make strong. So these words basically have the idea of someone becoming obstinate, being set in their arrogance and stubbornness. Is God the one who is initiating this in Pharaoh? No. Remember, Pharaoh is a god in Egyptian mythology, the head of the Egyptian pantheon and an incarnation of the god. He has already immersed himself into all of the pagan idolatry of one of the worst forms of paganism that existed in the ancient world. So to get an understanding of who hardened Pharaoh's heart we have to go back to Romans chapter one where we see that it is man that ultimately and initially hardens his own heart.

1.  The first point that we see in Romans 1:18ff is that human history is the arena for the execution of divine judgment against sinful and rebellious mankind. It is within human history that God judges man, as well as outside in terms of eternal judgment. In Romans 1:18 we see this phrase again: "For the wrath of God is revealed [ongoing throughout history] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." This is against a certain class of men: men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This class of men is comparable to the "earth dwellers." They are those who are negative to God at God-consciousness and who continue to be negative to God throughout the rest of their life, hardening themselves against God. What does that hardening look like? It is clarified in vv. 19ff and what we see is the reason for this particular wrath.

2.  The reason for the wrath or judgment is that the majority of the human race are truth suppressors; they are antagonistic to the truth as God has defined it. Verse 21 tells us that they know that God exists, know that He is there, but they suppress that truth. They have more than enough evidence and yet they have rejected Him. This is what Pharaoh has already done prior to Exodus 4. It doesn't mean in Exodus 4 that God is locking him into negative volition so that he cannot run to God, but what it shows is that in Pharaoh's stubborn negative volition he has already locked himself down in response to God's grace. Each of the judgments, the ten plagues that we see in Exodus, are manifestations of God's race and each time Pharaoh has the opportunity to change and return to God; but he won't. The ten plagues are all warning shots across Pharaoh's bow to get his attention but each one causes him to react by hardening his heart.

In Romans 1:21-23 we see what the progression is. NASB "For even though they [these truth suppressors, the earth dwellers] knew God, they did not honor Him as God [active voice] or give thanks [active voice], but they became futile in their speculations [passive voice], and their foolish heart was darkened [passive voice]." The word "speculations" is not really a good word here. It is dialogismos [dialogismoj] in the Greek and it has to do with their reasoning powers. When you reject the truth of God's Word you are reasoning on false assumptions. Even though your system may be logically consistent it is built on a foundation of quicksand and is therefore totally fallacious. People will be impressed with it because it is internally logical but their rationale is completely empty because it is based on a false presupposition. "… their foolish heart was darkened." There is no light their; there is no truth there; it is completely fallacious. [22] "Professing to be wise, they became fools …" This is because they have rejected God. [23] "and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures."

If we have ever looked at all of the different gods and goddesses in the Egyptian pantheon we can see that this describes it perfectly. This is exactly what Pharaoh had already done. He had rejected God, rejected the non-verbal, non-literal communication of God in the general revelation and he had exchanged the truth of God for a lie and was worshipping the creature rather than the creator. So he begins the process, and what happens is that God uses His revelation through His judgments to harden Pharaoh's heart. The question isn't does God reach in and tweak his volition, but God through His revelation intensifies already-present negative volition. But it is Pharaoh who reacts. He could change at any moment but because he is enmeshed in arrogance he won't. That is true not only of unbelievers but it is also true of believers.       

Illustrations