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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

What is Wormwood?

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(II Timothy 2:15)
We are currently reading: Revelation Chapter 8

What is Wormwood?

Thank you for the question Fred.  I was familiar with this term; but to be honest I never really checked it out before today.  As I have said before, I consider myself a student of the Word too.
No one should be able to say they know it all when it comes to this book.  Beware of the ones who say they do.

We came across this word after the angel blew the third of what will be seven trumpet judgments.  Let’s see what the Word reveals.  I’m going to underline a few words in the Bible text below and  then we’ll address each of these in the Bible lesson to follow.

Revelation 8

10: The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters.

11: The name of the star is called (note the capitalization) Wormwood; and a third of the waters became (and now the word is not capitalized) wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were bitter.

To be honest, opinions are all over the place as to what these two verses actually mean; and as to the meaning of the word “wormwood.”  As you know, I’m not really interested in man’s Biblical opinions.  I certainly won’t teach opinion; not even my own. I’m more interested in what the book actually says.

Matthew Henry and John Gill who are Bible commentators, Seventh Day Adventists and others believe these two verses are symbolic references to “past events.”  They believe the term “wormwood” represents historical figures.  One of these is Attila the Hun.  Others believe it represents Constantine.

Others take a “literal” view of these two verses.   A comet or asteroid will strike the earth, some day future, reacting oxygen and nitrogen, producing nitric-acid rain; and this in turn pollutes the waters of the earth causing irreparable harm.
Some Bible scholars consider the term “wormwood” to be purely symbolic.  (Imagine that.)  They contend that this word represents the bitterness between peoples, and God, that will fill the earth during “troubled times” noting that the plant “mugwort” is a known Biblical metaphor for things that are bitter.

Remember: the book of Revelation is filled with symbolism.  The other thing I need to remind you of is this symbolism points to a literal truth.  The excerpt below was taken from a Crosswalk.com commentary on these two Bible verses we are examining; and this is as good as place as any to bring it up.

“As we discussed concerning the interpretation of symbols, once the choice is made to take physical descriptions as being symbolic, there is no end to the conjecture which attends the interpretation of what God is attempting to convey.  Again, we ask the question: If God had wanted to describe a time of extreme physical catastrophe, how would He have done so differently than what we have before us?  
A second question presents itself: How could God tell us about future physical convulsions if we forever insist on taking the text as some form of veiled apocalyptic political intrigue?  
See The Genre of the book of Revelation.”

Note: “Whenever the word star is used symbolically, it is a common symbol of an angel, and this is the case here.  The angel’s name is Wormwood, showing the angel to be a fallen one.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 226.

Here’s another possible link.  Les mentioned this the other evening.
Nuclear war may be a component of the tribulation era.
When the Bible was written, their knowledge of nuclear weaponry was limited, at best; and so was their vocabulary.  But the term “wormwood” could be the term chosen by the writer of Revelation to represent nuclear fallout or radiation from these weapons.  The word Chernobyl translates to “wormwood.”

A good rule to remember in your Bible study is this: when possible, return to the place of first introduction.  If you follow that rule here, you’ll find the word “wormwood” appearing thrice in the Old Testament.  Please turn to the book of Amos chapter 5.

But first a lead in:  Perhaps the answer we seek about the future is in the past…

INTRODUCTION TO AMOS, by John W. Ritenbaugh 1995

Has the world ever witnessed a time like this?  Has any nation experienced such prosperity and strength, yet such turmoil, injustice and oppression as our nations have?

The answer to these questions is both yes and no. Yes, other nations have risen to power on the world scene, though none as spectacularly nor to such dizzying heights as America and the British Commonwealth. Yes, other nations have fallen from the peak of their power for the same reasons: The peoples' spiritual, moral and ethical disregard, irresponsibility and apathy. On the other hand, never in history has a nation's decline been so deep, so rapid, so extreme, so unnecessary and so clearly prophesied in the pages of the Bible.

Human nature has not changed. Mankind is no more sinful now than any other time in human history. With the rise of technology, though, man has the ability and opportunity to sin more frequently, to involve others in his sins more easily, and thus multiply the devastating effects of sin—all to a magnitude unparalleled in history.

No nations ever had less excuse for wallowing in a crisis of morality than have the Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking nations—the descendants of ancient Israel. In about a generation, we have collectively gone from exalting godly morality to complaining about its lack. What is ironic is that, individually, our actions border on being amoral. We once extolled and defended our foundational laws based on God's Word, and Christianity was by choice our national religion.

But in our lifetimes we have seen both our founding principles and God's Word assailed relentlessly and often forgotten. Humanism—exalting man over God—has risen as our new religion to replace Christianity.

We have even less excuse because God has provided a record of a nation that took the same course. If we continue down that same path of moral decay, we will arrive at the same destination—national military defeat and captivity.

The book of Amos records God's assessment of ancient Israel's internal condition some forty years before she fell. The prophet was sent to warn the people and lead them to repentance, but they would not change. As punishment for her spiritual and moral decay, Israel was invaded by Assyria in 721 BC and crushed in a devastating war. The surviving Israelites were taken into captivity where they seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth. This was God's answer to their sin and rebellion!

The meaning of the name Amos (which is from the Hebrew verb amas = "to lift a burden, to carry") is "burden-bearer."  He was a native of the southern kingdom of Judah, from the town of Tekoa -- about six miles south of Bethlehem, twelve miles south of Jerusalem, and eighteen miles west of the Dead Sea.  Tekoa was the center for a large sheep farming district.
Amos describes himself as one who had three different occupations:
  1. Shepherd (Amos 1:1)
  2. Herdsman (Amos 7:14)
  3. Cultivator of Sycamore Figs (Amos 7:14)  T
These occupations made it necessary for Amos to do a large amount of traveling to the wool and cattle markets of Israel and Judah.  In this way, he learned firsthand the military, social, and economic conditions and practices of rich and poor alike.  (John T. Willis).
Amos was not a "professional" prophet, but a common man utilized by the Lord to deliver His Word to His people.  

"I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet ... but the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.'   And now hear the Word of the Lord!" (Amos 7:14-16).  

He had no special training; he was not a graduate of the School of the Prophets (variously referred to as "bands" -- I Samuel 10:5, 10, and "companies" -- I Samuel 19:20, and "sons of the prophets" -- I Kings 20:35); nor was he descended from or related to any prophets.

He was not even a citizen of Israel (the northern kingdom), but rather of Judah (the southern kingdom).  Nevertheless, God sent him to Israel to proclaim the Word to the people of the northern kingdom.  

He was not a man of wealth, yet was sent to warn the wealthy; not a man of luxury, or one who was lazy, yet sent to those who were both.  All of this was designed to separate the MAN from the MESSAGE.  There was to be nothing about this man which would attract a personal following.  It was the message God desired the people to focus upon, not the messenger!

Amos did most, if not all, of his prophetic work (the totality of which probably did not last over a year or so --- Amos 1:1) in the city of Bethel (Amos 7:10), where he was denounced by Amaziah the priest and forbidden to preach further in Israel.

"Someone has described Amos as 'the first Great Reformer.'  
He was not of the school of the prophets, who by this time were disposed to cry what the people wanted.....  
There was not in Amos the sympathy, warm love, and feeling of the statesman or citizen, but a cold sense of justice and right.  He was the stern prophet of justice and righteousness. Hosea's spirit was summed up in the word lovingkindness; Amos' is summed up in the one word justice" (Homer Hailey).

"The dark days in which he lived called for a man of sturdy moral fiber and fearlessness.  Such was Amos.  His character, molded in the harsh terrain of the wilderness of Tekoa, enabled him to stand before the priest and the people, proclaiming the word God had given him" (Expositor's Bible Commentary).  "At the call of God he left his home in Judea as a mere layman to proclaim a hostile message in the proud capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Without any status as a recognized prophet, he braved the prejudice of the Ephraimite public to carry out faithfully his commission from God.  A man of rugged convictions and iron will, he could not be deflected from his purpose even by the highest functionary of the Samaritan hierarchy"   (Gleason L. Archer, Jr.).

DATE: Amos 1:1 gives us a fairly accurate picture of when this prophecy occurred.         
It was during the days of King Uzziah (792-740 BC), and King Jeroboam II of Israel  (793-753 BC).  His mission to Bethel was also more precisely dated as occurring "two years before the earthquake."  This was a very severe earthquake in the reign of Uzziah which was remembered for centuries afterward --- "You will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah" (Zechariah 14:5).  As a result of this information, most scholars date his prophetic work somewhere between 760 and 755 BC.

God sent Amos to deliver a message of justice and righteousness to His people!
It’s not a message they wanted to hear; but it’s the message they got.

Seek Me that You May Live
Amos 5

1: Hear this word which I take up for you as a (what) dirge, O house of Israel:

2: She has fallen, she will not rise again – The virgin Israel.  She lies neglected on her land; There is none to raise her up.

3: Thus says the LORD GOD, “The city which goes forth a thousand strong Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong Will have ten left to the house of Israel.”  (Note the shrinking number but also note that God will always preserve a “remnant” unto Himself and so it shall be in the last days)

4: For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, “Seek Me that you may live.

5: “But do not resort to Bethel And do not come to Gilgal, Nor cross over to Beersheba; For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity And Bethel will come into trouble.

6: “Seek the LORD that you may live, Or He will break forth like (what’s the next word) fire, O house of Joseph, And it will consume with none to quench it for Bethel,

7: …For those who turn justice into (what’s the next word) wormwood And cast righteousness (take note of the direction please) down to the earth.”

Let’s let this information sink in and then move on to the next piece of news.

Please turn to Deuteronomy chapter 29.  The LORD God working thru Moses reminds His people before they enter the land of Moab to keep the covenant He made with them.  God is a jealous God.  His people are not to adopt the practices of the Moabites and others i.e. engage in idol worship.  I suggest you read the entire chapter to pick up the flow; but we’re going to pick it up starting at verse 17.

Deuteronomy 29

17: …moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they (the gentile nations) had with them);

18: so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from (who) the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a (watch this) root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood,

19: “It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.’  (What’s this mean?  It may be that some Hebrews will decide not to go along with God and His covenant promises.  Free will is always an option and may be exercised my friends but there will be consequences.  Read on)

20: “The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven…  (And on and on this curse goes should you decide to continue reading.  Sounds serious?  It is)

There is one more encounter with this term “wormwood” in the Old Testament and it’s found in the book of Jeremiah chapter 9.

Jeremiah 9

Here we have the prophet Jeremiah delivering God’s message to His people (the Hebrews) who once again have turned away from God and His covenant promises and worshipped false gods, which their fathers had worshipped before them.  Idolatry has always been an issue with the Israelites almost from day one.  While Moses was on the mountain top receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the elect were down below fashioning a golden calf to worship.  These are the indisputable facts.  Let’s begin with verse 12 to get a better picture of what’s taking place.

12:  (This is the LORD God speaking) Who is the wise man that may understand this?  And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it?  Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that on one passes through?

13: The LORD said, “Because they (the Jews) have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it,

14: but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them,
15: therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “behold I will feed them, this people with (what) wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink.

16: “I will scatter them among the nations, whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send the sword after them until I have annihilated them.”

Now let’s return to the Revelation Bible verses of interest.  I want to show you that the wording is almost identical to what we have just witnessed above.

Revelation 8

10: The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters.

11: The name of the star is called (note again the capitalization) Wormwood (I believe this represent an individual and/or a being.  Some believe it is Satan.  This fits Scripture because we just studied the “war in heaven.”  Satan and his fallen angels were defeated by Michael and his angels, and the dragon with his angels were cast down to the earth filled with wrath because he knows his time is short…); and a third of the waters (the term “waters” here I believe is symbolic for what Jesus refers to as LIVING WATERS which only He can provide to the Believer or to the one who has faith in the gospel of I Corinthians 15:1-4 note the next word) became (and now the word is not capitalized) wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were bitter.

I don’t often choose to offer Bible commentary in my lessons; but there are time when I think it helps both you and me come to a better understanding.  This is one of those times, my friends.  Below is a commentary I borrowed from crosswalk.com.  I might add I highly recommend this website for all your Bible studies.

Wormwood [Apsinthos] : “Artemisia Absinthium. Derived from “absinthe, a bitter, dark green oil made from certain strong-smelling plants with white or yellow flowers, alcoholic in effect; called wormwood from its use as a medicine to kill intestinal worms.  ”The equivalent word (also translated as wormwood) in the OT is [laʿănâ , “a very unpleasant substance to consume, which may make one sick, either a root herb, leafy plant oil, or liver-bile; wormwood, i.e., a dark green bitter oil used in absinthe Artemisia absinthium.”

[In the Old Testament] it is suggested that it is a poison derived from a root of some kind (Deuteronomy Deu. 29:18), that it is very bitter (Proverbs Pr. 5:4), and that it produces drunkenness (Lamentations Lam. 3:15) and eventual death. It is associated with another poison known as “gall” (Deuteronomy Deu. 29:18; Lamentations Lam. 3:19).  This substance was used to produce a stupefying drink for Christ on the cross (Psalm Ps. 69:21; Matthew Mat. 27:34) which, however, He refused to drink.
Significantly, God describes idolatry as “a root bearing bitterness of wormwood” (Deu. Deu. 29:17).  Idolatry is a prevalent sin of the earth dwellers during this time of judgment (Rev. Rev. 9:20+; Rev. Rev. 13:15-16+).  So God judges their bitterness of wormwood by giving them wormwood to drink.  This is the same judgment which God gave Israel when she rejected Him and pursued false Gods (Jer. Jer. 8:14; Jer. 9:14-16; Jer. 23:15).  Wormwood also describes the fruit of unrighteousness, which will be a prevalent characteristic of the Tribulation period (Amos Amos 5:7; Amos 6:12 cf. 2Ti. 2Ti. 3:2-4).  At the bitter waters of Marah, Moses cast a tree into the waters and made them sweet (Ex. Ex. 15:25).  This pictured Messiah’s work on the cross which provided living water (John John 7:38-39).  Here, we have wormwood which turns the earth dwellers’ water bitter.  Since they would not avail themselves of the cross of Christ—today’s “tree of life”—to obtain the living waters of Jesus (John John 4:10), God gives them wormwood instead and poisonous waters which bring death rather than life.  Like Moses, one of Elisha’s miracles healed bitter waters and made them sweet (2K. 2K. 2:19-22).  

I pray this Bible lesson has been a benefit to you and yours.
I enjoyed doing the research and the prep work before getting it ready for you.
Take your time.  None of these lessons are designed to be a quick study.
If you have questions, I am at your service,

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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