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.

 

 

 

 

Revelation 22 – Jesus Is Coming

The imagery used here to describe heaven, the dwelling place of God and our Lord Jesus (and one day us as well) in these first few verses harkens back to Ezekiel 47:1-12.  No longer will there be anything accursed, verse 3 says; and the tree of life will be there (see Genesis 2:9).  This seems to be a symbol for the restored condition of things as they were between man and God before the fall (Genesis 3).

cross-005Verse 6 is a reminder that the other events spoken of in this book are to occur soon, but Jesus reminds that He is coming back (verse 7).  John affirms in verse 8 that it was he that received all of these visions; and he fell down to worship the angel who showed him, but was rebuked for doing so, as the angel reminded him that only the Lord was to be worshiped.

Jesus again promises that He is coming to bring his recompense for each of us for what we have done (Isaiah 62:11).  Verse 13 (“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”) signifies the eternal supremacy of God and His Son.  Verse 17 repeats the promise that eternal life is available freely to all who will come – Jesus paid the price for it already.

John finishes the New Testament with the yearning call to Jesus as Lord to come.  Then finally, and appropriately: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

Amen, indeed!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Revelation 21 – The New Jerusalem

With all of the imagery amid these chapters, just what is meant by a new heaven and a new earth is highly debated.  Many see it as a literal renewal of earth after the old has passed away.  But much about what is spoken of in this chapter simply does not fit into such a notion.  2 Peter 3:10-13 affirms that the earth and the heavenly bodies will be destroyed – burned up  – after the judgment.  Just how this imagery of a new heaven and a new earth does fit into the coming of the faithful to heaven is uncertain.  What is certain is that there will be a literal new home for the faithful that is so wonderful than our minds probably could not grasp it without the imagery contained here that is full of references to precious metals and jewels and such.

Alexander building a wall against Gog and Magog

Alexander building a wall against Gog and Magog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No sun or moon will be needed because “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  No temple is there because God will be in the midst of his faithful, and they shall be His people.  This is an echo of the prophetic language in Isaiah 60:19-20.  The description of John being carried away in the Spirit to the high mountain to view the new Jerusalem is reminiscent of the time after “Gog and Magog’s” destruction Ezekiel 38-39, when Ezekiel was transported to “a very high mountain” (Ezekiel 40:2-3) to see the future temple of God.  The measurements done this time are enormous (a stadia was about 185 meters) and all are multiples of twelve; and the number is repeated in other descriptions here as both the twelve apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel are mentioned.  Both of these groups were important, after all, in both the old covenant and the new covenant.

The last word of comfort in this chapter for these first century Christians – and for us – is that once in heaven, no longer will they have to live among those who do evil in the world or, most especially, do evil to them, as verse 27 says “…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Revelation 5 – The Scroll and the Lamb

The lion is the symbol of the Tribe of Judah. ...

The lion is the symbol of the Tribe of Judah. It is often represented in Jewish art, such as this sculpture outside a synagogue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The image here 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).

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Revelation 4 – The Throne in Heaven

John’s vision here begins with a door open into heaven.  The first voice he hears in verse one is generally accepted to be that of Jesus.  John had heard that voice on earth.  As John is then aware of being fully in the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit, the visions that occur after that remind us of a similar reference in Ezekiel 3:12-15.   Much interpretation of the detail of the imagery that follows has been made to the point of extremity.  One writer noted: One who adapts Biblical images as freely as he (John) has in this chapter should not be expected to preserve an undeviating consistency in his pictures. They are for kindling the imagination, not for transference to the drawing board.

Nero's human torches of Christians

Nero’s human torches of Christians

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.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Reading Revelation \ Week 50 summary posted

This week, we will start with one more chapter from the Epistle to the Hebrews, then we will finish the year with four chapters from the Book of Revelation.  We cannot do justice to the latter in just four days of reading,  but we can get an overview of how the book brings an ending to the story of the Bible we began in Genesis this year.  This book is intimidating to many people, and it certainly can be challenging.  It is also one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted books of the Bible.  But it is not as difficult to read or to understand if one keeps in mind the context in which it was written.

The Angel Appears to John. The book of Revelat...

The Angel Appears to John. The book of Revelation. 13th century manuscript. British Library, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John wrote this epistle (yes Revelation is a letter) to Christians in the first century about first century times; and it was intended to strengthen their faith and hope during times that were extremely difficult – and promised to become even more so.  There was much Apocalyptic literature around in those times, and people were used to such imagery and symbolism.  But those same two things have led many scholars to come away with misguided ideas – such as the supposition that Jesus failed at a first attempt to establish an earthly kingdom, and is going to do it successfully (for a thousand years?) in the future.  The very idea of the Lord failing at anything is ludicrous, and shows a total misunderstanding of what the kingdom is in the first place.  Also, where many commentators and scholars go awry is in trying to give prophetic (and often even literal) meaning to every single detail.   Others want part of a passage full of imagery to be literal, and part to be figurative, so they can “pigeon-hole” it into the prophetic word they wish it to be.

For those interested in a more in-depth reading of Revelation, we would like to recommend a very well-written and informative book that aids in understanding Apocalyptic literature contained in such books of the Bible as Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, and yes, Revelation in particular.  The name of the book is “Understanding Apocalyptic Literature (A Guide to the Book of Revelation)” by Mark Roberts.  It is an easy read – less than 100 pages; and this writer benefited enormously from reading it before tackling Revelation during last year’s full Bible reading schedule.  It is well worth the very low price (5.99 at the time of this writing), and can be purchased at this link.

It is helpful first to understand what Apocalyptic literature is.  The word Apocalypse is associated today with an “end of time” situation, the end of the world in particular.  But that is a view of the term that has been perverted over time.  Translated literally from Greek, it is “a disclosure of knowledge, hidden from humanity in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception.”

Page 289r: The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth ...

Page 289r: The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seals, Revelation 6:9-16 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is tremendous value to the Book of Revelation for us today, as with all of God’s word.  But we must remember that as Revelation 1:1, and other passages of the book state, it was to show “the things that must soon take place.”  It does not predict things like the tragedy of 9-11, or even good things like the establishment of the United Nations, as some have claimed.  “Revelation does not address life in our times because that was of no interest or help to its original audiences… It promises God’s action soon” (Roberts, 2011).

So what understanding should one have after reading the Book of Revelation?  If you come away with the assurance that, although there is great evil in the world and it wants to thwart and utterly defeat the followers of Jesus Christ, that there is more to be hopeful for than just this earthly life, and that in the end, Jesus will be triumphant, then you have understood the message of the book as it was intended.

Works Cited

Roberts, Mark.  “Understanding Apocalyptic Literature” A Guide to the Book of Revelation.  Temple Terrace, Florida: Florida College Press, 2011.

Summing Up

Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week.  I have posted the summary for Week 50 (December Week 2) of the schedule I am following.  This short PDF document contains condensed comments about 1 Peter 1, 1 Peter 2, and Hebrews 3, 4, and 5, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.