Thursday, April 30, 2009

Revelation 5 (The Scroll and the Lamb)

Chapter five continues the description begun in chapter four.

“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it” (Revelation 5:1-4).

A scroll with seven seals is brought forth, but no one is found worthy to open and read it.

“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’ And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Revelation 5:5-7).

The Lamb is obviously referring to Jesus, who comes and takes the scroll.

“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:8-10).

Again, Jesus has made us kings and priests, and we reign with him on earth.

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 5:11-14).

Besides the twenty-four elders and the four seraphim, there are a lot of angels: “ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands.” Obviously, these numbers are not precise but are given to us so that we will understand that there are a ton of angels present.

So, Jesus takes the scroll (5:7), and he is about to take off the seven seals and read the scroll. The rest of the book of Revelation (6:1-22:5) are a description of the breaking of the seals and what results.

Revelation 4 (Heavenly Worship)

Chapter four gives us a glorious picture of heavenly worship.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this’” (Revelation 4:1).

Revelation 4-22 is a description of things that take place next.

“Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:2-3).

This is a description of God the Father on his throne in heaven.

“Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:4-5).

Twenty-four elders are sitting around the throne. These are twenty-four king/priests who are ruling with God.

“Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:6-8).

These four living creatures with six wings are the seraphim that guard the throne of God. The description of heavenly worship parallels Isaiah 6.

“Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created’” (Revelation 4:9-11).

The twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the Father; this matches the twenty-four actions by angels in the book of Revelation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Revelation 2-3 (Letters to the Seven Churches)

In chapters 2-3, Jesus has a special message for each of the seven churches before giving them the general message contained in chapters 4-22.

2:1-7 Ephesus
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God’” (Revelation 2:1-7).

The Ephesian church has left its first love. If they do not repent, then Jesus threatens to “come to you quickly.” This would be a coming in judgment, to “remove your lampstand.” Remember, lampstands are symbols of the churches. Jesus will come in judgment and destroy the church as Ephesus.

2:8-11 Smyrna

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:8-11).

The church at Smyrna is already in tribulation because they are being persecuted by some claiming to be Jews. Jesus says they are not Jews. That is, these persecutors are ethnic Jews, but because they are not spiritual Jews, Jesus calls them “a synagogue of Satan.” Again, this points to a pre-AD 70 writing of Revelation, as there was no Jewish persecution of the church after AD 70.

2:12-17 Pergamos
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it’” (Revelation 2:12-17).

Jesus again threatens judgment against the church at Pergamos: “I will come to you quickly.” This “coming” is fought with the “sword of My mouth,” which is the word of God. In other words, if Pergamos does not expel the doctrine of Balaam, then Jesus will send men to preach the word and replace the cowardly leaders of Pergamos.

2:18-29 Thyatira
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels – as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 2:18-29).

To the church at Thyatira, Jesus says, “hold fast what you have till I come.” This is not a reference to the second coming, but to Jesus coming in judgment upon Jezebel and her children. When Jezebel and her children die, this will relieve Thyatira from their inner turmoil. However, they have to hold fast what they have until the Lord comes to them.

3:1-6 Sardis
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 3:1-6).

Again, Jesus promises a visit: “I will come upon you as a thief.” Again, this is not the second coming. This is a coming in judgment upon the church at Sardis in the first century if they do not repent.

3:7-13 Philadelphia
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 3:7-13).

The church in Philadelphia is also being persecuted by those who claim to be Jews, but are not. These are ethnic Jews, but they are not true Jews, that is, spiritual Jews. Their synagogue belongs to Satan.

Jesus speaks about “the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.” Here, “world” is oikoumene, which means the inhabited world” or “the known world,” which was common parlance for the Roman empire.

Specifically, this was “to test those who dwell on the earth.” The word for earth is the most common word for “land,” which is a reference to the land of Israel. In other words, Jesus is about to bring tribulation upon the Roman empire, and specifically upon the land of Israel. This can only refer to was about to happen in AD 70.

Again, Jesus says “Behold, I am coming quickly!” When Jesus comes to judge Jerusalem, he will also judge the churches, removing those that are unfaithful and rewarding those who are faithful. This is going to happen quickly.

3:14-22 Laodicea
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22).

The church at Laodicea is wealthy and lukewarm. Jesus threatens to vomit them out of his mouth. This time, Jesus is wanting to visit the church in a good way. He wants to dine with them.

Summary of Chapters 2-3
Notice how each of the seven letters contains a reference to Jesus coming, yet none of these are the second coming or personal, bodily comings of Christ. He comes for blessing or for cursing, using agents to accomplish his will.

The letters to the seven churches are in the form of a chiasm.

A) Ephesus – loveless
B) Smyrna – persecuted
C) Pergamos – compromising
D) Thyatira – corrupt
C) Sardis – dead
B) Philadelphia – faithful
A) Laodicea – lukewarm

Ephesus and Laodicea are both lax. Smyrna and Philadelphia are both faithful. Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis represent a progression of churches that tolerate error: compromise, corruption, death.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Revelation 1 (Introduction)

1:1-3 Introduction and Benediction

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1-3).

a) Revelation is about Jesus Christ; he is the interpretive center.

b) The time texts lay the foundation for how we interpret this book.

c) Revelation is signified, full of symbols, just like OT prophecy.

d) Blessing is promised for those who read and obey.

1:4-8 Greeting to the Seven Churches

“John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: ‘Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:4-6).

a) John is recording this letter specifically for the seven churches that are in Asia minor. The entire letter is for their benefit. Along with the time texts, this points us toward a first century fulfillment.

b) Jesus has ascended and is ruler over the kings on earth.

c) Jesus has made us kings and priests.

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:7-8).

a) “He is coming with clouds” is not a reference to the second coming, nor is this a personal coming. This is OT language for a coming in judgment (cf. Isaiah 19:1). Jesus will come in the sense that he will send his agents to do his bidding.

b) “Every eye will see” does not mean that everyone on the earth will see Jesus physically coming. “Seeing” often refers to cognitive perception, to understanding. Everyone will hear about the destruction of Jerusalem, and then they will understand that Jesus has come in judgment.

c) This is the theme of Revelation. Jesus has ascended, and he is going to prove that he has ascended by coming in judgment on Jerusalem. Jesus talks about coming frequently (2:5, 16, 25; 3:3, 11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 20). Do not confuse this coming in judgment with the second coming.

1:9-20 The Vision of the Son of Man

“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).

The great tribulation had already started. Nero began to persecute the church in AD 64. Revelation was likely written around then.

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea’” (Revelation 1:10-11).

The message of Revelation is relevant for these seven churches in the first century.

“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “’Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death’” (Revelation 1:12-18).

This is a description of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, which matches descriptions in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, and Daniel 7 & 10.

“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:19-20).

a) The seven golden lampstands are symbols of the seven churches.

b) The seven stars are symbols of the angels (messengers; possibly pastors) over each of the seven church.

Monday, April 27, 2009

When Was Revelation Written?

Most modern scholars believe that Revelation was written around AD 95. Obviously, if Revelation was written after AD 70, then the book could not be a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.

The arguments concerning the date of Revelation are very technical, on both sides. Nevertheless, there is one fairly obvious point in favor of a pre-AD 70 date.

Revelation 17:10 tells us when the book was written.

“There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Revelation 17:10).

This verse is referring to seven kings, who are emperors of Rome. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has yet to come. This means that five have died. The sixth is currently reigning. The seventh is not yet ruling.

Claudius was the fifth emperor of Rome, and he died in AD 54. Nero was the sixth emperor, and he reigned from AD 54-68. The book of Revelation was written during his Nero’s reign.

Kenneth Gentry has written an entire book, Before Jerusalem Fell, defending a pre-AD 70 dating of the book of Revelation. He compiles a ton of evidence that many find convincing.

At the end of the day, neither side can absolutely prove when Revelation was written. It is best to keep an open mind, to study the contents of the book, and to see what the book points us toward.

As we will see throughout this study and especially this morning, the content of Revelation itself not only fits in a pre-AD 70 time period, but it only fits in a pre-AD 70 time period.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Last Days (Esch 356)

The Last Days of What?

The “End Times” is often described as the “Last Days.” A few passages speak about the last days.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).

The common assumption is that “the last days” describes the last days of the universe. However, the author of Hebrews indicates that he was already in the last days.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The author of Hebrews was in the last days. Unfortunately, many attempt to argue that the last days began in the first century and continue even today, so that, two thousand years later, we are still in the last days. According to this view, we will still be in the last days until Christ returns, even if that is 100,000 years from now.

Of course, this not only drains “last days” of any significance, but it gives “last days” precisely the opposite of its normal meaning.

A more natural way of understanding “last days” is that it is referring to a specific era. Preterists hold that “last days” refers to the “last days of the Old Covenant” or “last days of the temple” or “last days of Jerusalem.” All of these describe the situation leading up to the destruction of the temple in ad 70.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Prophetic Language in the NT (Esch 355)

Jesus and Prophetic Language
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus has been predicting the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple when he uses imagery strikingly similar to Isaiah.

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mark 13:24-25).

Has Jesus all of a sudden shifted from talking about the destruction of the temple to describing the end of the world? Not at all. Jesus is talking about the end of the Jewish world. The Jewish leaders will be overthrown and the Jewish world will come to an end with the destruction of the temple.

John and Prophetic Language
The apostle John gives a similar description.

“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind” (Revelation 6:12-13).

John’s language has been taken by many to be a description of the end of the world. However, this is not the end of the world, but the end of a world, namely, the end of the Jewish world.

Thus, we need to be careful about passages that seem to describe the “end times.” They are probably describing the end of a nation or an era rather than the end of the universe.