The Scroll and the Seals – Rev 5-6

The image in chapter five of God holding the scroll that no one in heaven or on earth was worthy to open is certainly a symbol of the fulfillment of God’s plan for the redemption of man and our salvation.  Jesus is the only one that could fill that post.  The image of the Lamb who is the Lion of Judah (a reference to Genesis 49:9) from the root of David all point back to Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1, 10, Isaiah 53:4-7).  Taking the scroll from the hand of God is clearly symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb, having been crucified, thereby fulfilling God’s plan and taking His place there with God, having proved himself worthy to be praised and worshiped as God was in the previous chapter (verses 9-11).

Chapter six begins to thicken the imagery in  great detail. The interpretation of the seven seals has spawned so much commentary that one could read for hours upon hours about these 17 verses, and still come away unsure about what they mean.  It is highly likely that some of this imagery had more definite meaning to the first century Christians for whom it was originally written. To understand it better ourselves, we must put ourselves, as much as we can, in their place.

Most scholars place the date of the writing of this book in the mid-90’s. If the mid-90’s estimate is correct, it would mean that Rome had destroyed Jerusalem some twenty years ago. Many of those in these churches could have had relatives that were killed in the blood bath that occurred. And make no mistake, it was a blood bath. Of the siege, Josephus wrote that “the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were.”  Christians had become a scattered and sparse group of people who were reviled and persecuted.But what events would “soon take place” that would be as significant as the destruction of Jerusalem?

Nero began his persecution in 64 A.D.; and one need only read the writings of Tacitus – Annals (XV.44) to get a glimpse of the brutality of that time. Again, it is contrary to the thinking of most scholars, but some have made a very good  case that the book was written in the years preceding the Roman siege of Jerusalem – possibly the mid-sixties. This fits much better with the promise of Revelation 1:1-3 that the time of God’s judgment is near – near to the first century Christians to which it was written (see this previous blog post for more on that).

The first seal that is opened is commonly thought to represent Jesus as the conqueror. The second seal has a reference to what we must surmise as war. then we have saints crying out as to who will avenge their blood. Then an earthquake and everyone hiding because the wrath of the Lord is coming. Clearly, the message to Christians is that there will be a day of reckoning for those who have turned their hands against the Lord’s people.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Rev 3, Rev 4, Rev 5, Rev 6, Rev 7

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

All Creatures – Rev 3-4

In chapter three, the instructions are given to John to write to the churches of Sardis, Philadelphia, and Leodicea. The church, the Lord say, at Sardis “has the reputation of being alive,” but he says they are dead. There is no other way to take this than that they have lost their zeal for the lord, and are not doing the work that the church is supposed to do.The church at Philadelphia gets little in the way of rebuke, but praise or their endurance, and a promise of protection “from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world.”

To the church at Laodicea, this famous passage is written: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” This seems to say that they also are lacking in zeal.

Chapter four begins the visions with the 24 elders and the strange “living creatures.” It is here that we begin to caution the reader to be open to the possibility that some of the imagery may not be deep prophecy that unveils the secrets of the universe. Some of it may just be poetic imagery, such as was written in that time. The point of this chapter may well be that all creatures – both heavenly beings and creatures of all types, recognize that the Lord is the Holy one, and is worthy of our praise.

No matter what interpretation you give each of these eleven verses, keep in mind the original audience.  These were persecuted Christians, many of whom may have known people – even had loved ones – that had been killed because of their faith in the Lord.  But they were holding on to that faith while looking toward heaven.  Here, as instructed by the Lord in Revelation 1:10-11, John gives them a grand glimpse of that splendor in the sort of literary imagery that was common to their day.  In the middle of the Lord’s battle with Satan, John gets that look at the throne of our Creator in heaven, and the worship that He worthily receives there.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Rev 3, Rev 4, Rev 5, Rev 6, Rev 7

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The Visions of John Given By the Lord – Rev 1-2

The book of Revelation is notoriously difficult to understand for a number of reasons. First, it is written as a poetic work, with much imagery. This presents great difficulties because so many people try to use the entire book as a guide to a very literal interpretation of modern events. Secondly, this type of imagery, while more familiar to people of the first century is very foreign to people today; and its inclusion in the New Testament (which is so reliably straightforward in most cases) seems even more confusing that it otherwise might. Third, while there are several references to Christ’s second coming, it is important to remember that John opened the book with the statement that this revelation of Jesus Christ was given “to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.

Addressed to seven churches in Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea), it had more than one purpose. But undeniably, one of those purposes was to give comfort to Christians in these and other places – Christians who had suffered and were still suffering great persecution because of their love for Jesus and their refusal to bow to those who would have them deny the Lord.

Contrary to what modern-day “prophets” would have you believe, these Christians were not concerned about what would happen in the middle east (or anywhere else) during the 20th and 21st centuries; and it is the height of insolence to think that half of such a book written for them would concern itself with events of our era. It is the opinion of this writer that other false prophets a century from now could easily use the same passages their peers use today to fit their own perception of world events. Don’t fall into that trap.

When you read a part of revelation that you are tempted to take literally, examine the surrounding passages, and ask yourself if that means you should take those other passages literally as well. Much error in teaching and understanding can be avoided this way.

In chapter 2, John is told what to write to four of the seven churches. He commends Ephesus for their endurance and for weeding out false teachers, but scolds them for having “abandoned the love you had at first.” This probably refers to the fact that they had lost their zeal for worship and teaching that had been strong before. He has words of comfort for those of Smyrna, while also warning that their persecution was about to become even greater.

For those at Pergamum, he has praise for holding fast, even though they are in the middle of the worst of evil. But some of their number have fallen into the teachings of the Nicolaitans, who he praised the Ephesians for holding in disdain. We know little about these Nicolaitans, other than the fact that they did not teach the truth. For the Thyatira church, he also begins with praise, but scolds them because some of their number had succumbed to the sexual immorality and false teaching of a woman named Jezebel, who represented herself as a prophetess.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

1 John 5, 2 John, 3 John, Rev 1, Rev 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

John’s last Two Letters – 2 John, 3 John

John’s second epistle could be addressed to a particular woman, but the “elect lady” more likely refers to a particular congregation (the phrase “some of your children” could go either way, but more likely means many offspring of members there). He tells them that he has much to say that he would rather say face to face. But there seems to be some urgency in warning them of deceivers – false prophets – that are obviously much of a problem for the 1st century church.

His third epistle has John referring to himself as “the elder,” as he writes kind words for Gaius. John praises them for their good treatment of the brothers that came to them, and encourages their continued support. Here he speaks of false teachers again and mentions Diotrephes by name.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

1 John 5, 2 John, 3 John, Rev 1, Rev 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Sin That Leads to Death – 1 John 5

The last chapter of John’s first epistle contains a passage that confuses many. Verses 16-17 state:

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

This inevitably conjures up Matthew 12:31, which speaks of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  But we are assured that God forgives all sin that we repent of (1 John 1:9). John is simply telling us that it does no good to pray for someone who rejects God and rejects repentance.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

1 John 5, 2 John, 3 John, Rev 1, Rev 2

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

God is Love – 1 John 3-4

1 John 3 begins by speaking of the difference between what we see in each other now, and what will be when we are in our spiritual “bodies.” Verse 2 says that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” He speaks of brotherly love again, but he makes certain to let us know that having love for our brothers and sisters is not a passive order. In verses 17-18, he says “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

In Chapter 4 , John continues to speak of love, with the famous “God is love” passage. Don’t be confused by the passages about spirits. John is not speaking of supernatural beings, but of men and (most importantly) false prophets.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

John 21, 1 John 1, 1 John 2, 1 John 3, 1 John 4

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Walking In the Light – 1 John 1-2

The first chapter of 1 John begins with words for which one can hardly mistake the author, for it sounds a lot like the beginning of John’s gospel.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…

In chapter 2, John calls Christ “our advocate” in the same way that he is spoken of in Hebrews 7:23-28. In verses 7-11, he also stresses emphasis on the importance the Lord places on brotherly love. The “antichrists” he writes about in this chapter are not some end-times figure. He was speaking about people, some of whom had been believers with them, who had lost their way and were now teaching lies rather than the truth. He makes that plain in verse 26, when he says that he is writing about “those who are trying to deceive you.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

John 21, 1 John 1, 1 John 2, 1 John 3, 1 John 4

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Back at the Sea of Galilee – John 21

In this final chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus appears to seven of the disciples that have gone fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee). Appearing to them 100 yards from shore at daybreak, they did not recognize Him until they cast their net out where He told them – and then were unable to haul it in, so great was the catch (verse 6). John must have at once been reminded of the similar incident in Luke 5:4-6, as he exclaimed to Peter that “It is the Lord!”

Verses 15-19 is the “feed my sheep” conversation between Jesus and Peter.  Much has been written and discussed about the two different Greek words for love (agape and phileo) that are in the text.  But the two words are used interchangeably in the book of John, and even throughout the Septuagint.  It is no more valid to make something different of this than the two different words this very same text uses for “feed” and even “sheep.”  There are only two things of significance.  One is that Peter denied Jesus three times; and though it grieved Peter (verse 17) that Jesus asked him whether He loved Him a third time, Jesus knew that it would also be somewhat of a comfort to Peter later.  The command to him to “feed my sheep” came from “the Good Shepherd” Himself (John 10:11,14) for Peter and the other apostles, and is carried forward to all elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:28).  With verses 18-19, Jesus foretells Peter’s being bound and led to his own crucifixion.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

John 21, 1 John 1, 1 John 2, 1 John 3, 1 John 4

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Flogged, Crucified, Buried, and Risen! – John 19-20

Chapter 19 has the long detailed account of Jesus being scourged and crucified. The text which details his death does not to communicate as much about his agony through this process as we might think. There are secular descriptions of crucifixion that explain in great detail the very real torture that people endured through such a death. John instead puts the fous on how it fulfilled the prophecies and, of course, God’s will.

When death finally comes, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take command of his body for burial. It is fitting that two members of the Jewish rulers that had been so against him were His disciples. Notice in verse 39 that the amount of myrrh  and aloes that Nicodemus brought amounted to about 75 pounds!

After the resurrection in chapter 20, Jesus – as He had told the disciples in Matthew 26:32 that He would meet them there – would be with them at the Sea of Galilee, and at a mountain that He directs them to.  But several other events occur before and after this, the details of which are interspersed throughout the gospels in Matthew 28 and Luke 24.  And events in a single chapter are in some cases separated by days, and even weeks, as Jesus remained for forty days before the ascension.)

In the evening of the day of the resurrection, verse 19 tells us, the disciples had the doors locked where they were “for fear of the Jews.”  But Jesus comes and stands among them.  This is not to imply that the risen Lord was now some disembodied spirit.  But a locked door was certainly no challenge to the Lord, who had raised the dead.  He showed them His hands and His side’ and in verses 21-23, John gives his account of a foretaste of the Holy Spirit to come to them when He leaves.   Verse 23 confirms what He told them in Matthew 18:18.

The “doubting Thomas” verses are next as Thomas was not with the others on the above occasion.  When the others told Thomas they had seen the Lord, he said “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  Eight days later, Jesus again enters where they are locked in and He has Thomas do exactly those things.  When Thomas acknowledges Him as the Lord, Jesus says “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Though there still remains one chapter in the gospel of John, he ends this chapter by stating that Jesus did many wondrous things that were not written in his gospel.  But he says it was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

John 16, John 17, John 18, John 19, John 20

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Meeting Pilate – John 17-18

In chapter 17, Jesus prays first for himself (verses 1-5), for His disciples (verses 6-19), and then for all believers to come (verses 20-26). He states in verse 4 that He has glorified God on earth “having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (meaning that He did not fail to setup His kingdom as some have claimed – or anything else for that matter). He gave up the glory that He had with God since before the world existed (verse 5), and now asks God to glorify Him in His presence (after the resurrection), which will also achieve the result of the Son glorifying the Father.

As He prays for His disciples, He notes in verse 12 that He has guarded them and not one has been lost other than “the Son of destruction” (Judas) – which fulfilled the Scripture (Psalm 41:9):

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

Verses 6, 11 and 26’s use of God’s name is the manifestation of His character and will that Jesus made known to them through His teaching and His actions. In verses 20-26, He prays for all who believe in Him, so that they may be with Him to see the the glory that He had “before the foundation of the world” (for all eternity). Those who believe know that God sent Him. They will know God through the Son; and the love God has for His son will be in them through Jesus.

Having finished the Farewell discourse, including His prayer, Jesus and His disciples went across the Kidron brook into a garden in chapter 18. John does not identify Gethsemane as Matthew and Mark do (Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32). But he does say in verse 2 that Judas knew the place where Jesus would be because He often met there with His disciples. And we know from several scriptures (Luke 21:37 and Luke 22:39, for example) that it was His custom to go to the Mount of Olives at night. Knowing that this was the time, Jesus came forward to the soldiers and officers of the Pharisees that Judas had brought. Much commentary has been written about verse 6 (“When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground”) – but we just do not know exactly what happened there. Clearly however, this was a significant response that we would not have expected from Jesus’ captors. But it really does seem appropriate for the Son of God at this hour in His life.

Verses 15-17 contain the account of Peter’s denial. Though we are not told, the “other disciple” mentioned in verses 15-16 is probably John himself (the disciple that Jesus loved – as in John 20:2). John is the only one of the four gospels that gives us the account of Jesus going first to Annas. He had been High Priest from 6-15 A.D., but had been deposed by Valerius Gratus, the former Roman prefect of Judea (Josephus Antiquities 18.26, 34, 95). But the position stayed in the family – currently his son-in-law, Caiaphas. Since the position had traditionally been one that was life-long, Annas was still considered a High Priest by many Jews. Jesus was then taken to Caiaphas. John does not record the events of that encounter, but the synoptic gospels do (Matthew 26:57-68, Mark 14:53-65, and Luke 22:66-71). It was Caiaphas that had suggested that Jesus should die back in John 11:49-51.

From there, Jesus was taken to the praetorium – the Roman governor’s residence – to appear before Pilate. In verse 31, Pilate wants them to “judge him by your own law.” But the Roman government had supposedly taken away the Sanhedrin’s right to capital punishment (though clearly they exercised exceptions to this, as with Stephen in Acts 7:57-60), and they wanted Him put to death. Besides, as verse 32 reminds us, it was the Roman method of execution that would fulfill the scripture (Isaiah 52:13, John 12:32-33). When Pilate speaks with Jesus asking what He had done and whether He was a kink, Jesus lays aside all doubt as to what type of Kingdom He had come to establish in verse 36:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Pilate still tries to avoid the responsibility for their blood lust, but he lacks the courage to go against the crowd. So he offers to free either Jesus or the known criminal Barabbas, no doubt thinking they would choose the latter.

But such was not to be. Jesus took the place of all of us, including Barrabas.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

John 16, John 17, John 18, John 19, John 20

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.