2 PETER

 

Last spring we reviewed the biography of Peter as found in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.  We found that he changed dramatically from a rough, sometimes wavering fisherman, into a powerful apostle of the faith.  The change was brought about by his witness of Jesus resurrection and by the filling of the Holy Spirit.

 

We do not have canonical documentation of Peter’s subsequent life and ministry.  However, there are several late first and second century books and letters that provide some more information about him.  (Many modern authors write books that deny that Peter ever went to Rome at all, and, therefore, deny papal succession from Peter.)  Two Gnostic accounts of Peter are The Apocalypse of Peter and The Gospel of Peter.  The apocryphal Acts of Peter describes a spiritual battle between Simon Magus (see Acts 8:9-25) and Peter in Rome.  It also tells of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome.

 

Peter is writing this letter to a series of Christian churches scattered through what is now central and northern Turkey.  This is an apocalyptic Diaspora letter intended as a pastoral encouragement to the believers.

 

 Most commentators say these were written to Gentile believers.  However, I think the letters were written to New Jewish believers, possibly dispersed by the persecutions in Jerusalem.  There may have been Jewish synagogues in the provinces dating back to the times of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions.  There would have been ‘God-fearers” in the synagogues, gentiles who worshipped with the Jews, and who believed in Yahweh, and now were converting to Christianity.

 

The churches were in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia These are Roman provinces in northern and central Asia Minor (Turkey today).  One would approach them by sea through the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles, and the straits of Bosporus into the Black Sea.  We have no record of Peter having been there, but I suspect that he did minister in that region.  You will recall that Paul thought to go to Asia (a Roman province by that name) and Bithynia, but Paul and Silas were forbidden by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-10).  We do not know why Paul was forbidden, but I would postulate that this was Peter’s mission territory, where he ministered on his way to Rome.

 

Peter has called the believers the elect.  He used the term ‘foreknowledge’.   This is a constant principle throughout scripture.  Divine election is more than ‘predestination’.  It involves God’s prescience from before the beginning of the world.  It implies 

God’s call but requires our response.

 

1.    Called by God:  1 Peter 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10. 

2.    Foreknowledge: Acts 2:23; Rom 8:29, 11:2; 1 Pet 1:20.

3.    Known by God: Hosea 5:3, 12:1; Amos 3:2; I Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9.

4.    Predestinated: Eph 1:5, 11; Rom 8:29-30.

5.     Also: Psalm 139.

The First Epistle of Peter was written to newly formed churches located in northern Asia Minor, along the south coast of the Black Sea.  The churches consisted of exiles from the persecution of the church in Jerusalem (Diaspora), newly converted Jews living in the communities where they settled, and Gentiles that became believers.  Many of these Gentiles could have been ‘god-fearers”, that is Gentiles that found Judaism attractive, and would join the Jews in worship in the synagogues.  Eventually large numbers of the Gentile communities became believers, causing consternation amount the political, economic, and religious leadership, which led topersecution of the believers.

See the note at the end of this week’s lesson.

 

I have postulated that Peter established many of these churches as he traveled through the region on his way from Jerusalem to Rome.  We do not have documented evidence of this, and many scholars think that Peter did not know any of these churches personally, and was writing generalized pastoral letters to them.  For what it is worth, I think they are wrong.

 

In his first letter, Peter addressed the new churches that were beginning to undergo some degree of persecution.  He encouraged them to stand up to the persecution, and used Jesus as their example of patient endurance while suffering.  

 

Peter’s first letter was written to young churches, many newly formed and filled with excitement that accompanies a new venture.  The new believers were warned of impending and real persecution, but are encouraged to face it bravely because Jesus also suffered and died, and because his return was thought to be imminent.

 

By the time this second letter is being written the churches are well established, but are now undergoing internal problems brought about by false teachings in the church.  It is amazing how quickly errors arise in the churches.  The churches are not much more than one generation old.  This letter is going to the next generation of the churches.  The issues now center around the invasion of false teachings about the faith.  The gospel is no longer simple.  The moral restraints of the Gospel were becoming burdensome.  the expected parousia (return of Christ) has not occurred.  The facts of Jesus life, death and resurrection are being questioned by the false teachers, and the people are becoming confused.  Hellenism (Greek philosophy) is the dominant worldview of the day, and it is being mixed into the teachings of the church.  Finally Gnosticism is making inroads into the thinking of the people.

 

Gnosticism is a poorly defined amalgamation of Greek philosophy, Biblical teachings, and oriental mysticism, that places an emphasis on esoteric knowledge (gr. gnosis) rather than faith for salvation.  Jesus resurrection is explained spiritually, but his physical resurrection is denied.  In fact, they denied that Jesus came in the flesh, because God could not be tainted by the evil of the material world.  Therefore, if the Christ was truly God, he could not have really been a man.

 

Gnosticism may take the form of severe asceticism or blatant immorality.  The asceticform of Gnosticism taught that because the body, and all matter, is evil it must be controlled by rigorous discipline of the flesh.   However, immorality was the preferred form, and the teaching said that since body is completely evil it cannot be controlled, and therefore it does not matter what is done in the body.    Thankfully, with the right knowledge (gnosis), the spirit can be saved.  This led to rampant hedonism among the gnostics.  We will look at Gnosticism later in our study to see how it is still present in the churches of our day. 

 

Peter is writing this letter to bring the people back to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  Jude 3.

 

 

Greeting

 

1:1-2 Simeon Peter,

Simeon is a Greek transliteration of the name Simon.  (See Acts 15:4).  This was the most common name among Jews during the period from 100 BC to 200 AD.  Jesus changed his name to Cephas (or Peter) (John 1:40-42; Matt 16:13-20).

 

a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…  The term servant is equivalent to bondservant or slave.  Paul, James and Jude use this same term to express their relationship to Jesus.  He was the one that bought them from slavery to sin, and redeemed them to himself.

How do we see our relationship to Jesus?

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Peter assures the people that their faith is not in any way inferior to that of the apostles.  The teachings of the apostles are as certain in the post-apostolic age as they were in the beginning.  The false teachers who are teaching something new are in error.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

The knowledge of God here implies the knowledge that comes with conversion, as opposed to knowledge in v. 5, for example, that implies knowledge attained by study.  This is a personal knowledge that has strong practical and ethical implications, and is very different from the secret knowledge of the Gnostics that led to moral libertinism.  Peter invokes God’s blessing on the true believers in the churches.

Confirm Your Calling and Election

 

 

1:3-4 Historical and theological introduction

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

How do we become partakers of the divine nature?  Do we become gods?  Are we to reflect God’s character?  Or do we share the divine attributes of immortality and incorruptibility? 

        Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in             you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

 

        1 Cor. 15:50-53 I tell you this, brothers:flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

 

 1:5-7 Ethical exhortations.  A catalogue of virtues

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  

    1. Faith - pistesThis is specifically Christian faith in the Gospel, not Hellenistic ‘loyalty’.

    2. Virtue - Areth   This is translated ‘excellence’ in Philippians 4:8.  Its typical Greek connotation is the achievement of human excellence, but here it implies obedience to God.

    3. Knowledge - gnoseiHere knowledge means the wisdom and discernment needed for a virtuous life.

 

    4. Self-control - egkratelan   This is a Hellenistic ideal of being master of one’s body and soul, self-restraint and ascetic control of the bodily passions, especially sexual passions.  In Galatians 5:23 it warns against the misuse of Christian freedom in libertinism.

    5. Steadfastness - upomonen   Courageous and steadfast endurance the face of suffering or evil, based on one’s trust in God and his promises.

    6. Godliness - eusebeian   This is found rarely in Christian use, and is found only in in Paul’s letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

    7. Brotherly affection - philadelphian  In non-Christian use this denoted family affection between physical brothers and sisters, but in the early church this was used for fellow-believers, brothers and sisters in the faith.

    8. Love - agape   This occurs in most Biblical catalogues of virtues, and usually finished the lists, while faith, pistis, begins the lists.  Love is the crowning virtue that encompasses all the others.  Jesus taught that love of God and love of neighbor encompassed all of the commandments.  Matthew 22:34-40But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

1:8-9 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  Beware the danger of willful blindness.(Jeremiah 5:21-31).

 

1:10-11 An eschatological exhortation

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Can we achieve final salvation if the ethical fruits of faith are absent in our lives?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication between the governor Pliny and the emperor Trajan

 

Pliny was the Roman governor in Pontus and Bithynia.  He wrote to Trajan, the Roman Caesar concerning the handling of Christians in his province:  

 

I have never been present at an examination of Christians.  Consequently, I do not know the nature or extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed.  Nor am I at all sure…whether a pardon ought to be granted to anyone retracting his beliefs, or if he has once professed Christianity, he shall gain nothing by renouncing it; and whether it is the mere name of Christian which is punishable, even if innocent of crime, or rather the crimes associated with the name.

 

For the moment this is the line I have taken with all persons brought before me on the charge of being Christians.  I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them.  If they persist, I order them to be led away for their punishment; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished.

 

Concerning an anonymous pamphlet which contained the names of a number of accused persons: among these I considered that I should dismiss any who denied that they were or ever had been Christians when they repeated after me a formula of invocation to the gods and had made offerings of wine and incense to your statue, and furthermore had reviled the name of Christ (“cursed Christ,” maledicerent Christo): none of which things, I understand, any genuine Christian can be induced to do.  Others, whose names were given to me by the informer, first admitted the charge and then denied it; they said that they had ceased to be Christians two or more years previously, and some of them even twenty years ago.  They all did reverence to your statue and the images of the gods in the same way as the others, and reviled the name of Christ (Christo maledixerunt).  They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this; they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, to commit no breach of trust and not to deny a deposit when called upon to restore it.  After this ceremony it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary, harmless kind; but they had in fact given up this practice since my edict, issued on your instructions, which banned all political societies.    This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture from two slave-women, whom they called deaconesses.  I found nothing but a degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths.

 

A great many individuals of every age and class, both men and women, are being brought to trial, and this is likely to continue.  It is not only the towns, but also villages and rural districts too which are infected through contact with this wretched cult.  I think though that it is still possible for it to be checked and directed to better ends, for there is no doubt that people have begun to throng the temples which had been almost entirely deserted for a long time; the sacred rites which had been allowed to lapse are being performed again, and flesh of sacrificial victims is on sale everywhere, though up till recently scarcely anyone could be found to buy it.  It is easy to infer from this that a great many people could be reformed if they were given opportunity to repent.

 

Trajan’s reply is interesting.  You have followed the right course of procedure, my dear Pliny, in your examination of the cases of persons charged with being Christians, for it is impossible to lay down a general rule to a fixed formula.  These people must not be hunted out; if they are brought before you and the charge against them is proved, they must be punished, but in the case of anyone who denies that he is a Christian, and makes it clear that he is not by offering prayers to our gods, he is to be pardoned as a result of his repentance however suspect his past conduct may be.  But pamphlets circulating anonymously must play no part in any accusation.  They create the worst sort of precedent and are quite out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

2 Peter 1:12-21    Peter’s Testament and Defense    September 19, 2016

 

Last week Peter briefly introduced the purpose of the entire letter.  He presented:    

        1) the theological basis for the faith

        2) the ethical expectations of the believes

        3) and the eschatological benefits of belief in Jesus and of 

            living a virtuous life

Now Peter wants to reassert his own credentials before he continues with the letter.  There are false teachers in the midst of the churches, and Peter contrasts his apostolic credentials with the lack of credentials in the false teaches.  The apostolic age is coming to an end, and Peter is about to be martyred.  It may be that John will be the only remaining apostle once Peter is gone.  John is the only apostle that did not meet a violent death.

 

The teachings of the apostles are the right teachings.  Jesus is the true Savior of all who believe, and Peter received his teachings directly from Jesus.  Indeed, he was present with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was glorified by the Father, and he was present through the passion week and the crucifixion.  He was witness to the resurrection and now is a true apostle.  

 

1:12-15 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.  I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.  And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Peter is nearing the end of his ministry and he wants to leave his legacy (testament) with his churches.  Twice he says ‘remind’ or ‘remember’.  Once he writes ‘recall’.  To ‘remind’ is to renew the mind.  It is also equivalent to ‘remembering’, in the sense of putting the members back together again.  This is one reason we go to church week after week, because we need reminding of the doctrines of our faith, and remembering how we came to be ‘saved’ by the Lord.

 

John 2:22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

 

1 Cor. 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

1 Cor. 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

established in the truth that you have.   

As in Jude 3: Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

By this time there are mature believers in the churches, but many new believers are coming to the faith, and they might be easily swayed by the false teachings Peter is addressing.

 

…as long as I am in this body…

1 Cor. 5:1-10 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.    For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.

John 13:36-38 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, abut you will follow afterward.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

 

John 21:18-19    Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

…after my departure…How would Peter keep reminding his flock after his departure?  Some scholars think that the Gospel of Mark reflects Peter’s account of the gospel, which he gave to Mark before his death.

 

1:16-18 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.  

One of the teachings of the false prophets was that the Gospel story and the resurrection accounts were concocted stories.  The teachings of Christ’s return and of future judgment, the Parousia, were made up as instruments of moral control.  Karl Marx considered Christian teachings to be the opiate of the people, a way to control the masses.  He would unmask the myth and set the people free.

The role of myth in Greek society meant stories about their gods that are not literally true, but conveyed religious, moral or philosophical truths in allegorical form.  Peter, however, wants to separate the idea of myth (mythos) from rational truth (logos), in relation to the gospel accounts.  The reference to the Transfiguration is meant to assure the readers that Peter is not making up stories, but that Jesus has the confirmation of God himself to be the eschatological king and judge.  And Peter was eyewitness of the event.

Matt .17:1-9 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

 

1:19-21And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The term ‘prophesy of Scripture’ refers to all approved Old Testament scripture, not only the prophetic books.  Therefore the entire teaching of the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the Messiah.  

Psalm 2:1-12     Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

    The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,

        against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,

    “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

 

    He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

    Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

    “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

 

    I will tell of the decree:

    The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

    Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

        and the ends of the earth your possession.

    You shall break them with a rod of iron and

    dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

    Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.

    Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

    Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

        for his wrath is quickly kindled.

    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

 

 

 

Daniel 7:13-14     “I saw in the night visions,

        and behold, with the clouds of heaven

            there came one like a son of man,

        and he came to the Ancient of Days

            and was presented before him.

    And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,

        that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;

    his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,

        and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

 

Numbers 24:17    I see him, but not now;

        I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob,

    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab

        and break down all the sons of Sheth.

These    and other Scriptures were familiar to the Jewish believers.  And the Gentile believers were being catechized in the Scriptures as well as the Gospel.  The teachings of the apostles cast a bright light in the otherwise murky darkness (hell) of the pagans.  The day that dawns is the eschatological age that will come with the Parousia.  Then the light of prophecy will no longer be needed, because the real will be completely visible in the new dawn, and darkness will be dispelled.

 

Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

        because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives,

        and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;

        to comfort all who mourn;

 

Romans 13:12-14     The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darknesshave seen a great light,

         and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

            on them a light has dawned.”

 

Peter’s own testimony and the Old Testament Scriptures confirm the validity and reality of the Gospel message that they learned from Peter.  Their salvation is real and their hope for Christ’s return is based on the certainty of Scripture.  Therefore, pay no heed to the false teachers that are denying the resurrection, the Parousia, and the veracity of the Gospel message.  

The believers are not trusting inGreek or Roman myths, but in the true God of creation, of redemption and of resurrection.

2 Peter 2:1-11                             September 26, 2016

Last week Peter told his readers that his days were numbered, but he wanted them to remain firm in the ‘faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  He assured them of the veracity of the faith both by his own testimony and by the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures.

The second generation of believers was becoming a bit disillusioned in the faith because of the persecutions they were suffering and b because the expected Parousia was slow in coming.  This left them vulnerable to false teachers who were creeping into the churches.  In today’s lesson Peter begins to address this issue.

The Apostle Paul addressed the church in Ephesus in a similar way when he was taking his final leave.

Acts 20:28-32 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  

There are parallels through the remainder of this chapter with the Book of Jude.  Peter may have copied Jude, or vice versa, or both were writing from an unknown independent source.  In any case, both letters address the same issues.

The Greek word for heresy, airesis, means a school of thought, or a sect.  Peter here refers to heresies that lead to destruction for the teachers and their followers.  The false teachers can arise from the church membership itself,, and not necessarily from outside.        

Jude 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago             were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert             the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and             Lord, Jesus Christ.

2:2-3 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

No generation of God’s people is free of false prophets and teachers.  The teachers of Peter’s day were denying the return of Christ.  They also denied his divinity, his redemption, and his resurrection.  They denied Christ also by their practices of sensual indulgences and immorality.  

If a person ‘loses the faith’ he has usually lost something else first, such as chastity, or patience, or sobriety.  Heresy, that is to say, is normally a cover for some deeper vice.  This is one of the reasons that the Bible takes such a dim view of false teachers.  (Patrick Henry Reardon)

Additionally the false teachers found ways to profit from their teachings.  The name of Christ was scandalized among the pagan neighbors by the immoral behavior of their followers.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 

Jeremiah had to face false prophets in his day.

Jeremiah 14:14 And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.

Jeremiah 23:9-15 Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake;

I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine,

    because of the LORD and because of his holy words.

For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns,

and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.

    Their course is evil, and their might is not right.

“Both prophet and priest are ungodly;even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD.

Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness,

        into which they shall be driven and fall,

for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment,

            declares the LORD.                                                                    

In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing:

they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.

 

But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing:

        they commit adultery and walk in lies;

        they strengthen the hands of evildoers,

        so that no one turns from his evil;

all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:

    “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food

    and give them poisoned water to drink,

    for from the prophets of Jerusalem

    ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

 

 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 

 

    Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of         authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under     gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

This refers to some teachings in the Jewish Apocrypha that can be found in 1 Enoch.  Apparently this was a common teaching in Peter’s day.  It refers to Genesis 6:4 that says: …when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them.  

When we studied this part of Genesis, I suggested that the sons of God were the progeny of Seth and the daughters of man were the progeny of Cain.  However, there has always ben a school of thought that considered the sons of God to be fallen angels known as the Watchers.

 

The Book of Enoch

Watchers

Chapter 1

1 The word of the blessing of Enoch, how he blessed the elect and the righteous, who were to exist in the time of trouble; rejecting all the wicked and ungodly. Enoch, a righteous man, who was with God, answered and spoke, while his eyes were open, and while he saw a holy vision in the heavens. This the angels showed me.

2 From them I heard all things, and understood what I saw; that which will not take place in this generation, but in a generation which is to succeed at a distant period, on account of the elect.

3 Upon their account I spoke and conversed with him, who will go forth from his habitation, the Holy and Mighty One, the God of the world:

4 Who will hereafter tread upon Mount Sinai; appear with his hosts; and be manifested in the strength of his power from heaven.

5 All shall be afraid, and the Watchers be terrified.

6 Great fear and trembling shall seize them, even to the ends of the earth. The lofty mountains shall be troubled, and the exalted hills depressed, melting like a honeycomb in the flame. The earth shall be immerged, and all things which are in it perish; while judgment shall come upon all, even upon all the righteous:

7 But to them shall he give peace: he shall preserve the elect, and towards them exercise clemency.

8 Then shall all belong to God; be happy and blessed; and the splendour of the Godhead shall illuminate them

Chapter 2

1 Behold, he comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done, and committed against him. 

Chapter 7

1 It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful.

2 And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.

3 Then their leader Samyaza said to them; I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise;

4 And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.

5 But they answered him and said; We all swear;

6 And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.

7 Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of Mount Armon.

8 That mountain therefore was called Armon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations.

 

(Mt. Armon, or Mt. Hermon, derives its name from the Hebrew word herem, a curse.)

 

9These are the names of their chiefs: Samyaza, who was their leader, Urakabarameel, Akibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Saraknyal, Asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them. 

10 Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.

11 And the women conceiving brought forth giants,

12 Whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labor of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them;

13 When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them;

14 And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, and to drink their blood.

15 Then the earth reproved the unrighteous.

 

Chapter 8

1 Moreover Azazyel taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered.

2 Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways.

3 Amazarak taught all the sorcerers, and dividers of roots:

4 Armers taught the solution of sorcery;

5 Barkayal taught the observers of the stars;

6 Akibeel taught signs;

7 Tamiel taught astronomy;

8 And Asaradel taught the motion of the moon,

9 And men, being destroyed, cried out; and their voice reached to heaven.

 

Chapter 9

1 Then Michael and Gabriel, Raphael, Suryal, and Uriel, looked down from heaven, and saw the quantity of blood which was shed on earth, and all the iniquity which was done upon it, and said one to another, It is the voice of their cries;

2 The earth deprived of her children has cried even to the gate of heaven.

3 And now to you, O you holy one of heaven, the souls of men complain, saying, Obtain Justice for us with the Most High. Then they said to their Lord, the King, You are Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings. The throne of your glory is for ever and ever, and for ever and ever is your name sanctified and glorified. You are blessed and glorified.

4 You have made all things; you possess power over all things; and all things are open and manifest before you. You behold all things, and nothing can be concealed from you.

5 You have seen what Azazyel has done, how he has taught every species of iniquity upon earth, and has disclosed to the world all the secret things which are done in the heavens.

6 Samyaza also has taught sorcery, to whom you have given authority over those who are associated with him. They have gone together to the daughters of men; have lain with them; have become polluted;

7 And have discovered crimes to them.

8 The women likewise have brought forth giants.

9 Thus has the whole earth been filled with blood and with iniquity.

10 And now behold the souls of those who are dead, cry out.

11 And complain even to the gate of heaven.

12 Their groaning ascends; nor can they escape from the unrighteousness which is committed on earth. You know all things, before they exist.

13 You know these things, and what has been done by them; yet you do not speak to us.

14 What on account of these things ought we to do to them?

 

2:5 …if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  

The flood in Noah’s day represents an eschatological judgment.  Noah was the eighth person saved.  Wight represents the new creation.  Sunday is the eighth day, the day of Christ’s resurrection.  Therefore the faithful believers will be preserved through the end times.

2:6 …if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 

Jude 1:7 …just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah represents another eschatological judgment.  The first judgment was by water.  This one is by fire.

The five Cities of the Plain (the Pentapolis) were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar.  Zoar was spared destruction because Lot escaped to there (Gen 19; Deut 29:23).

2:7-9 …and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, 

The Bible does not portray Lot as a blameless man (Gen 19:1-11)But Abraham considered him a righteous man in Genesis 18:16-33.  Therefore, this picture of Lot must have to do with election and not works.  For instance, if things were so bad in Sodom, Lot could have left on his own.  But Lot was a rich man, and probably highly respected in the community because of his uncle’s rescue of the city (Gen 14:11-6).  Yet the Lord rescued Lot from the judgment coming on his hometown.

The Wisdom of Solomon10:6-8

Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing: he escape the fire that descended on the Five Cities.  Evidence of their wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul.

For because they passed wisdom by, they not only were hindered from recognizing the good, but also left for humankind a reminder of their folly, so that their failures could never go unnoticed.

 

 

 

2:9b-11 …and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.  

    Jude 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams,         defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

In this section Peter is addressing the false teachers who deny the return of Christ and the eschatological judgment.  Peter shows that final judgment has happened in the past and is sure to happen again.  This is one of the core teachings of the church, and anyone who denies it is leading the people astray.  However the church also aches that the salvation of the righteous is as certain as the punishment of the wrong doers.  By denying a final judgment, the false teachers open the door to the sensuality and immorality practiced openly in the pagan culture around the church.  

In fact, we can ask today, Can man be good without God?

 

 

If a person ‘loses the faith’ he has usually lost something else first, such as chastity, or patience, or sobriety.  Heresy, that is to say, is normally a cover for some deeper vice.  This is one of the reasons that the Bible takes such a dim view of false teachers.  (Patrick Henry Reardon)

 Peter 2:12-22     False Teachers, Continued             October 3, 2016

Last we finished by asking if man could be good without God.  The churches Peter was addressing were only a decade, or a little more, old.  Yet teachers were rising up from within the churches, and coming from outside, who were perverting the Gospel message.  They were challenging the teachings of Christ’s eschatological return, and were offering libertarianism and antinomianism in its place.

The libertarianism was usually sexual in nature.  The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah suggests homosexuality.  The reference to irrational animals in verse 12 suggests the indiscriminate coupling we see in our society today.  In verse 14 he addresses adultery and the insatiability of sin.  If Christ was not returning, why remain straight-laced.

Peter is writing to ‘re-mind’ the believers, in the sense of renewal of the mind, of the teachings of Peter and the power of their conversion to the faith.  They are to ‘re-member’, in the sense of putting the members back together again, the faith afresh.  We all need continual reminding and remembering to remain faithful.  Therefore we meet together on Sundays, and study the scriptures during the week.

 

2:12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 

    Jude 1:10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and         they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand         instinctively.

 

“In their confident immorality the false teachers were contemptuous of the demonic powers.  When they were rebuked for their immoral behavior and warned of the danger of falling into the power of the devil and sharing his condemnation, they laughed at the idea, denying that the devil could have any power over them and speaking of the powers of evil in skeptical, mocking terms.”  WBC Vol 50/p. 262

We tend to take the devil lightly today.  He is commonly found in jokes.  We dress up like him on Halloween.  He is a red suit with horns and tale, not a real being.  We think of demonic possession as something from the past, but recently there a many news articles of renewal of devil worship, of increasing numbers of exorcisms, especially in the Catholic Church, and of actual churches being established for the worship of Satan.

 

 

:13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.  They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 

    Jude 1:12-13 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with         you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept         along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild         waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars,         for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

 

They think that the wages of iniquity is pleasure.  The Bible tells us the wages of sin is death.  They join in the fellowship dinners, but have ulterior motives.  They may talk the talk, but their walk shows the profligates that they are.  Christ wants to present us to the Father as spotless and unblemished.

    Philippians 2:14-1 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you         may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the         midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights        in the world…

    2 Peter 3:14    Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent     to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

 

In Leviticus one could not offer a blemished or spotted animal for sacrifice (Lev 1:3).  A man with a blemish could not perform priestly duties (Lev 21:16-24).  Since we are all spotted and blemished, we can only approach God when cover by Christ’s righteousness.

    1 Cor 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us         wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

 

2:14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls.  They have hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children!  

Their eyes are always looking for a woman with whom to commit fornication.  A common play on words in Peter’s day spoke of the shameless man who does not have pronas (pupils or maidens) in his eyes, but pornas (harlots).

 

2:15-16 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

    Jude 1:11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned     themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's     rebellion.

The story of Balaam can be found in Numbers 22-25, 31.  Balaam seems to be speaking the oracles of God when he blesses Israel.  But Jewish tradition sees him as avaricious and foolish in agreeing to curse Israel.  The false teachers in Peter’s day are also avaricious and foolish, both in the denial of the Parousia, and in thinking that they can sin with impunity.

Reference to Balaam is also found in Joshua 24:9-10, Micah 6:5; Deuteronomy 23:3-6 and Joshua 13:22.

 

2:17-18 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.  For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.  For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  

    Jude 1:18-19 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers,     following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions,     worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

Water is the source of life for the sellers in arid lands.  A spring without water means certain death.  If the eschatological judgment is removed, the people will return to the their lax pagan ways.  Is that what we find in our churches todaywhere the preaching of judgment and hell is rarely heard?

2:19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.  

There is a difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘license’.  Freedom requires accountability and responsibility.  Jesus offers the ultimate freedom.

    John 8:31-32, 36 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you         abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth,         and the truth will set you free.”  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free         indeed. 

To have freedom without accountability leads to moral license, then to anarchy, and then to death; for an individual and for society as a whole.

2:20-21For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  

    2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to         life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own         glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very         great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the         divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world         because of sinful desire.

    Matt 12:43-45 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes         through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will         return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house     empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven             other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the         last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this         evil generation.”

 

    Hebrews 10:26-27, 31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving         the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but         a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the         adversaries…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

2:22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

It is important to remember that the Jews had a very low opinion of both dogs and pigs.  They are both unclean animals.  The enemies of Israel would often label them as one or the other of these.  The Jews would see themselves as lambs under the care of a Good Shepherd.  

 

            Carry over from last week

2:5 …if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  

The flood in Noah’s day represents an eschatological judgment.  Noah was the eighth person saved.  Wight represents the new creation.  Sunday is the eighth day, the day of Christ’s resurrection.  Therefore the faithful believers will be preserved through the end times.

2:6 …if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 

    Jude 1:7 …just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which     likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve     as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

 

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah represents another eschatological judgment.  The first judgment was by water.  This one is by fire.

The five Cities of the Plain (the Pentapolis) were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar.  Zoar was spared destruction because Lot escaped to there (Gen 19; Deut 29:23).

2:7-9 …and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, 

The Bible does not portray Lot as a blameless man (Gen 19:1-11)But Abraham considered him a righteous man in Genesis 18:16-33.  Therefore, this picture of Lot must have to do with election and not works.  For instance, if things were so bad in Sodom, Lot could have left on his own.  But Lot was a rich man, and probably highly respected in the community because of his uncle’s rescue of the city (Gen 14:11-6).  Yet the Lord rescued Lot from the judgment coming on his hometown.

    The Wisdom of Solomon10:6-8

    Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing: he     escape the fire that descended on the Five Cities.  Evidence of their     wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing     fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an     unbelieving soul.

    For because they passed wisdom by, they not only were hindered from     recognizing the good, but also left for humankind a reminder of their folly, so     that their failures could never go unnoticed.

2:9b-11 …and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.  

    Jude 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams,         defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

In this section Peter is addressing the false teachers who deny the return of Christ and the eschatological judgment.  Peter shows that final judgment has happened in the past and is sure to happen again.  This is one of the core teachings of the church, and anyone who denies it is leading the people astray.  However the church also aches that the salvation of the righteous is as certain as the punishment of the wrong doers.  By denying a final judgment, the false teachers open the door to the sensuality and immorality practiced openly in the pagan culture around the church.  

In fact, we can ask today, Can man be good without God?

 

If a person ‘loses the faith’ he has usually lost something else first, such as chastity, or patience, or sobriety.  Heresy, that is to say, is normally a cover for some deeper vice.  This is one of the reasons that the Bible takes such a dim view of false teachers.  (Patrick Henry Reardon)

2 Peter 3 1-18      The Day of the Lord Will Come      October 24, 2016

 

Last week we noted that false teachings were coming into the church almost immediately after the churches were founded.  They were certainly present within the first generation.  There are many reasons that false teachings appear.  The gospel message itself is morally challenging and people do not care for too strict moral restraints.  The teaching that Jesus is the only way of salvation sounded, in today’s terms, too exclusive.  The belief that Jesus could raise the dead and that he actually rose bodily from the dead was difficult to comprehend.  And the state and pagan religious forces often persecuted believers.

 

In spite of all this, the Christ that was proclaimed by the apostles and the first Christians was so attractive and so compelling that large numbers of the people who heard the gospel came to know him as lord and savior and confess him to be God, co-equal with the Father.

 

We have already discussed the Arian heresy that denied the Godhood of Jesus.  For Arius he was a special creation of God, but not co-equal with God.  The Nicaean Council was gathered to address this error.

 

Another of the false teachings came from Nicholaus, a deacon appointed in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1-6).  He was a Greek proselyte from Antioch.  There are two Antioch’s, one just north of Israel in Syria and the other in southern Turkey.  I am not sure which he was from.  Paul and Barnabas were sent on their first missionary journey from the one in Syria.  He strayed from the early teachings he learned and denied the second return of the Christ.  Once the second coming was removed from the people’s minds he was able to entice them into sexual immorality, and to return to the some of the local pagan practices (Rev. 2:6, 15).  In today’s lesson Peter addresses the importance of Christ’s return in the gospel message.

 

3:1-2 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

 

Although there are scholars who question the Petrine composition of this letter on linguistic grounds, I would argue that the Holy Spirit would not allow pseudographic deception in the final canon. This letter sounds like it comes from Peter’s heart and it is definitely written by Peter.

 

Last week we reviewed the words re-mind and re-member. Peter is writing to ‘re-mind’ the believers, in the sense of renewal of the mind, of the teachings of Peter and the power of their conversion to the faith.  They are to ‘re-member’, in the sense of putting the members back together again, the faith afresh.  We all need continual reminding and remembering to remain faithful.  Therefore we meet together on Sundays, and study the scriptures during the week.

 

 

3:3-5 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”   

 

There were many letters and pamphlets written in the days of the early church that were attributed to the apostles and well known Christians, but the church recognized the false documents early on, and by the time of the council of Nicaea they were readily discarded.   A new stash of them was found in Egypt in 1945, called the Nag Hammadi library.  These were teachings of Gnostic Christianity.  They include the Apocrophon of John, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Acts of John.

 

    Colossians 2:8-9 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and     empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits     of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity     dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and     authority.

 

The scoffers scorn and despise God’s revelation, both moral and prophetic, so that they can follow their own evil desires.  Their problem is not intellectual concerns about the Parousia, but merely an excuse to avoid accountability to the moral law.  Many intellectuals espouse Darwinism for the same reason.

Can we have ‘good desires’ outside of faith and the influence of the Holy Spirit?

Does our ‘total depravity’ prevent even our good desires from being ‘good’?

 

Where is the promise?  This question has been asked throughout history.  Malachi 2:17 is one example: 

    You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we     wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the     LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

Jeremiah 17:15

    Behold, they say to me,

        “Where is the word of the LORD?

        Let it come!”

 

 

3:5-7 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

 

Peter appeals to the creation story for support of his case.  Aristotelian cosmology taught that the earth and the universe were eternal.  This held sway in western civilization until the 1960’s when the big bang theory was proposed.

Eastern cosmology is cyclical.  We are recycled through various forms of existence until we reach Nirvana.

The word nirvāṇa, states Steven Collins, is from the verbal root √ "blow" in the form of past participle vāna "blown", prefixed with the preverb nis meaning "out". Hence the original meaning of the word is "blown out, extinguished". Sandhi changes the spelling: the v of vānacauses nis to become nir, and then the r of nir causes retroflexion of the following nnis+vāna > nirvāṇa.[15]

The term nirvana in the soteriological sense of "blown out, extinguished" state of liberation does not appear in the Vedas nor in the pre-Buddhist Upanishads. According to Collins, "the Buddhists seem to have been the first to call it nirvana."[16] However, the ideas of spiritual liberation using different terminology, with the concept of soul and Brahman, appears in pre-Buddhist Vedic texts and Upanishads, such as in verse 4.4.6 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.[17] This may have been deliberate use of words in early Buddhism, suggests Collins, since Atman and Brahman were described in pre-Buddhist Vedic texts and Upanishads with the imagery of fire, as something good, desirable and liberating

 

Biblical cosmology is linear, with creation, the flood, re-creation, fire, and then a new heaven and a new earth.  God created the universe with a purpose that will be fully revealed in the new heaven and earth.  It began with a word by God and will end with chosen mankind forever in his presence.  I believe life will be much like life on earth today, but with all influences of sin taken away.  There will be housing, travel, commerce, rulers, subjects, love without hate, joy without pain, life without death, no more mourning or crying or pain, and there will be music and more music and still more music.  I also can guarantee that it won’t be boring.

 

3:8-9 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise vas some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  

    Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is     past, or as a watch in the night.

Jewish teaching says that after 6000 years there will be a thousand year Sabbath.  This is in keeping with our understanding of the beginning of civilization, as we know it, around 4000 years BC.  When we add the 2000 years since the Christ came we are brought to the threshold of the Sabbatical millennium.

    Habakkuk 2:2-3

    “Write the vision;

        make it plain on tablets,

        so he may run who reads it.

    For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

        it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

    If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

3:10-12 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

    Ezekiel 7:5-7 “Thus says the Lord God: Disaster after disaster!  Behold, it     comes.  An end has come; the end has come; it has awakened against you.      Behold, it comes.  Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land.  The     time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on     the mountains.

    Revelation 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the     generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid     themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the     mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated     on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath     has come, and who can stand?”

    Isaiah 66:15-16

     “For behold, the LORD will come in fire,

        and his chariots like the whirlwind,

    to render his anger in fury,

        and his rebuke with flames of fire.

    For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment,

        and by his sword, with all flesh;

        and those slain by the LORD shall be many.

    1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with     a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the     trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive,     who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the     Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage     one another with these words.

 

3:11-13 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

    1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the     Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please     God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what     instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your     sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you     know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of     lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong     his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as     we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for     impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not     man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

3:14-16 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.  

 

The new heavens and new earth will be a place of righteousness.

How would you define righteousness?  Will it make heaven boring?

 

If righteousness is not our pursuit now, how will we tolerate it in heaven?  You might like to read C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce for insight into this.

 

Note that Peter here equates Paul’s writings to scripture.  Paul’s teaching on grace vs. law, and freedom vs. libertarianism, are being distorted by the false teachers.

 

3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

    Be on your guard.

    Grow in grace and knowledge.

    Jesus is indeed our Lord and Savior.

    Peter ends this letter with a doxology: 

To him be the glory both now and to the days of eternity.  Amen.

The First Letter of John

 

We have just finished the two letters by the Apostle Peter to the churches in northern and central Turkey, the regions of Bithynia and Pontus and Cappadocia.  The first letter went to new believers from the Jewish and Greek citizens of the towns and cities.  They responded with great enthusiasm, and the churches grew rapidly.  The second letter was sent about 5-10 years after the first and was reaching the second generation of believers.  By this time false teachings were infiltrating the churches, both from within the churches and from the outside.  The issues include questions of Jesus divinity and his humanity, and also questions concerning end times, Jesus return (the Parousia) and the end of the earth as we know it to be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth.

 

Today we begin the study of the First Epistle of John.  Peter’s letters were written around 65 AD, + or – 5 years.  John’s epistle is being written close to 100 AD, + or – 10 years.  He is writing to the church at Ephesus and the churches located in Asia, southern Turkey today.  His letter would have reached Colossae, Laodicea, Antioch in Pisidia, Smyrna, Sardis, Thyatira, Pergamum, Philadelphia, and many other villages, towns and cities where churches were formed.  The churches are theologically more sophisticated by this time, but false teachings are found in these churches and John must address them.  The false teachings are more sophisticated as well.  John must keep the churches aware of the false teachings and remind them of the true Gospel they were first taught.

 

There were two major groups of people in the church communities.  There were Jewish-Christians who professed commitment to Jesus, but still felt a loyalty to Judaism.  They may have found it difficult to accept the Messiahship of Jesus.   They would emphasize the importance of Jewish Law as well.  Paul addressed this in his letter to the Galatians.  They probably had a theology similar to the Ebionites who were living in Qumran.

 

The term Ebionites derives from the common adjective for "poor" in Hebrew (singular: אֶבְיוֹן ev·yōn, plural: אביונים ev·yōn·im),[10][11][12] which occurs fifteen times in the Psalms and was the self-given term of some pious Jewish circles (e.g. Psalm 69:33 ("For the LORD heareth the poor") and 1 QpHab XII, 3.6.10).[13] The term "Ebionim" was also a self description given by the people who were living in Qumran, as shown in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The term "the poor" was at first a common designation for all Christians - a reference to their material and voluntary poverty.[11][14][15]

The hellenized Hebrew term "Ebionite" (Ebionai) was first applied by Irenaeus in the 2nd century without making mention of Nazarenes (c.180 CE).[16][17] Origen wrote "for Ebion signifies 'poor' among the Jews, and those Jews who have received Jesus as Christ are called by the name of Ebionites."[18][19] Tertullian was the first to write against a heresiarch called Ebion; scholars believe he derived this name from a literal reading of Ebionaioi as "followers of Ebion", a derivation now considered mistaken for lack of any more substantial references to such a figure.[11][13] The term "the poor" (Greek ptōkhoí) was still used in its original, more general sense.[11][13] Modern Hebrew still uses the Biblical Hebrew term "the needy" both in histories of Christianity for "Ebionites" (אביונים) and for almsgiving to the needy at Purim.[20]

 

The second large group of believers were Hellenistic Christians who had come from the pagan background and were still influenced by the dualistic beliefs of the Greeks and were easily enticed by Gnostic teachings.  They would find it hard to accept the full humanity of Jesus and moved toward the heresy of Docetism.   They taught that Jesus only appeared to be truly human , but he remained God really.

 

Docetism, (from Greek dokein, “to seem”), Christian heresy and one of the earliest Christian sectarian doctrines, affirming that Christ did not have a real or natural body during his life on earth but only an apparent or phantom one. Though its incipient forms are alluded to in the New Testament, such as in the Letters of John (e.g., 1 John 4:1–3; 2 John 7), Deceits became more fully developed as an important doctrinal position of Gnosticism, a religious dualist system of belief arising in the 2nd century ad which held that matter was evil and the spirit good and claimed that salvation was attained only through esoteric knowledge, or gnosis. The heresy developed from speculations about the imperfection or essential impurity of matter. More thoroughgoing Docetists asserted that Christ was born without any participation of matter and that all the acts and sufferings of his life, including the Crucifixion, were mere appearances. They consequently denied Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. Milder Docetists attributed to Christ an ethereal and heavenly body but disagreed on the degree to which it shared the real actions and sufferings of Christ. Docetism was attacked by all opponents of Gnosticism, especially by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch in the 2nd century.

 

A third group of people in the church we can call the Johannine Christians.  John had been a pastor in the church in Ephesus until he was exiled to the island of Patmos.  He taught the true gospel to the believers in his church, and this teaching spread throughout the countryside.  He is teaching a balanced understanding of the person of Jesus, both fully man and in some sense fully God. He is addressing those who thought of Jesus as less than God, and to remind them of his divinity; and those who thought of Jesus as other than man, to remind them of his humanity.

 

A fourth group can be noted, the secessionists.  These are believers who clashed with John and his teachings.  They drifted away from John’s orthodox teachings for a number of reasons and became false teachers.  They were inclined toward one or another of the many heresies attacking the true church and could no longer remain comfortable in the Johannine churches.  Cerinthus was one of the false teachers who was contemporary with John.

 

Cerinthus (Greek: Κήρινθος; fl. c. 100 CE) was a Gnostic and to some, an early Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers.[1] Contrary to proto-orthodox Christianity, used the Gospel of Cerinthus, and denied that the Supreme God made the physical world.[1] In Cerinthus' interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism,[2] guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.[2]

He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture.

Cerinthus taught at a time when Christianity's relation to Judaism and to Greek philosophy had not yet been clearly defined. In his association with the Jewish law and his modest assessment of Jesus, he was similar to the Ebionites and to other Jewish Christians. In defining the world's creator as the demiurge, he emulated Platonic philosophy and anticipated the Gnostics.

Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes Cerinthus was making to the original gospel.[3][4] All that is known about Cerinthus comes from the writing of his theological opponents.

 

And Dionysius, who was bishop of the parish of Alexandria in our day, in the second book of his work On the Promises, where he says some things concerning the Apocalypse of John which he draws from tradition, mentions this same man in the following words:  “But (they say that) Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called, after him, the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one.  And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion, that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace.”  These are the words of Dionysius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Apostle John
  •  

John was the brother of the apostle James; he was also the son of Zebedee (a fisherman of Galilee.)  His mother's name was Salome who is believed to be a sister of Jesus' mother Mary.

John, his brother James and the apostles Peter and Andrew were all partners in a fishing business prior to their calls by Jesus to follow Him (Zebedee was also a partner.)

It is said that John owned a home in Jerusalem and that it is possible that the interview Nicodemus had with Jesus was held there.

The apostle John rose to a position of influence within worldwide Christianity and shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, he moved to Ephesus (in modern day, Turkey.)  He became the pastor of the church in Ephesus and had a special relationship with other churches in the area (as we know from the letters to the Seven Churches in Asia, in the book of Revelation.)

John's brother, James, was the first of the apostles to die; on the other hand, John was the last.  All of the apostles met a violent death, however, John died peacefully in Ephesus (at an advanced age, around the year 100 AD.)

There is a church tradition, which says, that while John was living in Ephesus, John had with him Mary, the mother of Jesus, for a few years.

While in Ephesus, by order of the Roman emperor Domitian, John was exiled to an island called Patmos.  In what is known as the cave of the Apocalypse (located on this island), the sacred text of the book of Revelation was given to the apostle John by Jesus (it is here that John recorded what is written in the New Testament book of Revelation.)

Other New Testament books accredited to John are the Gospel of John, along with 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.

When he was released from exile, he returned to Ephesus and lived till the time of the Roman emperor Trajan. 

It is said that John, "Founded and built churches throughout all Asia, and worn out by old age, died in the sixty-eight year after our Lord's passion and was buried near the same city (Ephesus)."

There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples.  At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, "Little children, love one another!"  After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, "Master, why do you always say this?" "It is the Lord's command," was his reply. "And if this alone be done, it is enough!" 

There is, also, a Church tradition, which says that John was in Rome for a time.  

 

 

 

 

1 John 1:1-4            The Word of Life            October 31, 2016        

 

1:1-4 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—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

 

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

 

John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.

 

Acts 4:20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

 

John 19:35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.

 

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

Luke 24:39 Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 

 

John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 

 

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

 

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. 

 

 

Romans 16:26-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 

 

1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: 

    He was manifested in the flesh,

     vindicated by the Spirit,

    seen by angels,

    proclaimed among the nations,

    believed on in the world,

    taken up in glory.

 

John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

 

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 

 

John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

 

John is wanting to provide a balanced Christology, between the Jewish converts who see him as a real man, but not divine, and the Hellenists that see the Christ as a spiritual force, but not really a human being.  The Johannine gospel is flexible and is a living alternative to a fossilized Judaism and an intellectualized Hellenism.

 

Theologically John proclaims that true life is found in the Christ, that he was truly a physical man like we are, and that he is the path to eternal life with the Father.  Although Jesus was a real man when he was on earth, his origins were from the beginning.  John wants to be clear that the Christ was also one with God.  And he can testify to this because he spent three years continually in Jesus presence.

 

John’s opening words in his gospel reflected the opening words of the Old Testament, In the beginning.  He repeats that theme here.  The gospel message is a unique conjunction of the timeless and the historical.  He is challenging the teachings of the Docetist who deny the humanity of the Christ.  He is challenging the teachings of the Judaizers and others who denied the divinity of the Christ.  The church always has to walk the fine line between these two views.  It took 300 years for Jesus to be finally affirmed by the church as fully God and fully Man.

Just as John was teaching this from the beginning, there has always been a thread of orthodoxy in the church in spite of the heresies that keep cropping up.  

Nicene Creed I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand Modern Creed I believe in God, whose spirit is in everyone and everything. I believe in Jesus, who was a son of God. He taught us the ways of God, and they killed him because of what he taught. He has an honored place in heaven again, with God. of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.  I believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church.  I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

 

Filioque (Ecclesiastical Latin: [filiˈɔkwe], literally "and [from] the Son"[1][discuss]) is a Latin term added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (NCC) which is not in the original version. It has been the subject of great controversy between Eastern and Western Christianity. The Latin termFilioque describes the double procession of the Holy Spirit and is translated into the English clause "and the Son" in that creed:    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

Whether that term, Filioque, is included, and how it is translated and understood, can have important implications for how one understands the central Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. For some, the term implies a serious underestimation of the Father's role in the Trinity; for others, denial of what it expresses implies a serious underestimation of the role of the Son in the Trinity. Over time, the term became a symbol of conflict between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, although there have been attempts at resolving the conflict. Among the early attempts at harmonization are the works of Maximus the Confessor, who notably was sainted independently by both Eastern and Western churches.

The Filioque is included in the form of the NCC used in most Western Christian churches, first appearing in the 6th century.[2][contradictory] It was accepted by the popes only in 1014, and is rejected by the Eastern Orthodox ChurchOriental Orthodox Churches and Church of the East. It is not in the original text of this Creed, attributed to the second ecumenical council, Constantinople I (381), which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father", without additions of any kind, such as "and the Son" or "alone";[3] the Latin text now in use in most Western Churches speaks of the Holy Spirit as proceeding "from the Father and the Son".

Differences over this doctrine and the question of papal primacy have been and remain primary causes of schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches.[4][5] The term has been an ongoing source of conflict between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, contributing, in major part, to the East–West Schism of 1054 and proving to be an obstacle to attempts to reunify the two sides.[6]

The controversy referring to the term Filioque involves four separate disagreements:

  • about the term itself
  • about the orthodoxy of the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit to which the term refers
  • about the legitimacy of inserting the term into the NCC
  • about the authority of the pope to define the orthodoxy of the doctrine or to insert the term into the NCC

Although the disagreement about the doctrine preceded the disagreement about the insertion into the creed, the two disagreements became linked to the third when the pope approved insertion of the term into the NCC in the 11th century. Siecienski writes that "[u]ltimately what was at stake was not only God's trinitarian nature, but also the nature of the Church, its teaching authority and the distribution of power among its leaders."[7]

Hubert Cunliffe-Jones identifies two opposing Eastern Orthodox opinions about the Filioque: a "liberal" view and a "rigorist" view. The "liberal" view sees the controversy as being largely a matter of mutual miscommunication and misunderstanding. In this view, both East and West are at fault for failing to allow for a "plurality of theologies". Each side went astray in considering their theological framework as the only one that was doctrinally valid and applicable. Thus, neither side would accept that the dispute was not so much about conflicting dogmas as it was about different theologoumena or theological perspectives. While all Christians must be in agreement on questions of dogma, there is room for diversity in theological approaches.[8]

However, this "liberal" view is vehemently opposed by those Eastern Orthodox whom Cunliffe-Jones identifies as holding a "rigorist" view. According to standard Eastern Orthodox position, as pronounced by Photius, Mark of Ephesus and 20th century Orthodox theologians such asVladimir Lossky, the Filioque question hinges on fundamental issues of dogma and cannot be dismissed as simply one of differenttheologoumena. Many in the "rigorist" camp consider the Filioque to have resulted in the role of the Holy Spirit being underestimated by the Western Church and thus leading to serious doctrinal error. In a similar vein, Siecienski comments that, although it was common in the 20th century to view the Filioque as just another weapon in the power struggle between Rome and Constantinople and although this was occasionally the case, for many involved in the dispute the theological issues outweighed by far the ecclesiological concerns. According to Siecienski, the deeper question was perhaps whether Eastern and Western Christianity had wound up developing "differing and ultimately incompatible teachings about the nature of God." Moreover, Siecienski asserts that the question of whether the teachings of East and West were truly incompatible became almost secondary to the fact that, starting around the 8th or 9th century, Christians on both sides of the dispute began to believe that the differences were irreconcilable. ]From the view of the West, the Eastern rejection of the Filioque denied the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son and was thus a form of crypto-Arianism. In the East, the interpolation of the Filioque seemed to many to be an indication that the West was teaching a "substantially different faith". Siecienski asserts that, as much as power and authority were central issues in the debate, the strength of emotion rising even to the level of hatred can be ascribed to a belief that the other side had "destroyed the purity of the faith and refused to accept the clear teachings of the fathers on the Spirit's

1 John 1:3 – 1 John 2:3        Walking in the Light    November 7, 2016

 

Last week we noted that the Apostle John was writing this letter to his congregations in Ephesus and surrounding towns to warn them of the risks they faced from false teachers in their midst.  The two main false teachings centered on the person of Jesus.  Was he really God, was he really man, or was he truly God and man, consubstantial yet separate, as the Nicene Creed confirmed.  Many forms of Christianity today still struggle with the proper understanding of the person of the Christ.  In this letter John will develop three main themes:

    1. Life in Christ     1:2, 5:11-13, 5:20

    2. The historical reality of God’s revelation in Christ   4:2, 5:6

    3. ‘Seeing’ in association with witness.     1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 4:14, 5:6-12

 

Additional heresies emphasized asceticism or more popularly, hedonism.  Each drew the faithful away from the true faith.  This week we will deal further with heresies as John contrasts light with darkness.  We will also explore the significance of ‘fellowship’ as an integral part of the Christian faith.  Christianity does have a well-defined set of doctrines that separate the true faith from false teachings.  But it is not a faith of intellectual facts alone, but Christianity is a relational faith between God and God, man and God, and man and man.

 

 

1:3-4 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE FELLOWSHIP?

 

In today’s language we think of it as a gathering of friend for a specific purpose.  We have fellowship dinners in the church.  In town there may be an Odd Fellow’s hall, where men gather together for social and charitable purposes.  It usually happens in a group, but it certainly occurs between individuals, but usually without the name ‘fellowship’.

 

However, ‘Fellowship’ is a richly significant theological term.  The Greek term (koinonia) literally means ‘joint ownership’, or ‘partnership’.  In the New Testament it implies ‘mutual sharing’ of material goods (Rom 15:26), or in spiritual benefits such as sharing the blessings of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:23), or enjoying the ‘fellowship of the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13).

 

In the church there is a fellowship of believers on a human level that is rooted in the mutual indwelling of Christ.  Therefore Christian fellowship has divine origins and divine empowerment.  John extends his fellowship to the church because of his fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Jesus prays in his high priestly prayer that his followers may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory you have given to me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me(John 17:21-13).

 

The Communion Service is a reminder of the fellowship that the church has with it’s Lord and with each other.  Jesus is present with us through the Holy Spirit as we partake of his body and blood, and remember once again that we belong to Him because He purchased us with his life and blood.  As Chuck Schleich repeatedly told us, ‘We are blood bought, Spirit filled, children of God’.  We have the privilege of inviting others into this holy fellowship.

 

God is Light

1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

 

Many scholars suggest that John’s use of light and darkness here sounds like language of the Gnostics and Hellenists.  However, this contrast is used throughout the Old Testament and is very familiar language to his Jewish audience.  For the Gnostics, such as the Manicheans, light and darkness were competing powers in their dualistic theology.  In the Old Testament light represents truth in an intellectual sense and righteousness in a moral sense.

 

Isaiah 5:20

    Woe to those who call evil good

        and good evil,

    who put darkness for light

        and light for darkness,

    who put bitter for sweet

        and sweet for bitter!

 

That God is light means that he is absolute in his glory, in his truth, and in his holiness, that is in his physical being, in his intellectual being, and in his moral being.  His light reveals the works of darkness.  

 

John 3:19-21

    And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved     the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone     who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his     works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so     that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

 

 

1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

John now addresses the implications of God being light.  God has disclosed himself to mankind through the physical person of Jesus.  He was no apparition (Docetists), but he was not human alone (Judaizers).  He demonstrated how one is to walk in the truth, and then he empowers his followers to do so.

 

The meaning of ‘walking’ here implies a continuous attitude of mind.  To walk in darkness is to choose a dark path.  To walk in the light is to make a purposeful and sustained effort to live in conformity with the revelation of God.  God has made himself known to us through his Son who revealed Gods glory, truth and holiness.  The believer is joined with Jesus and God in an eternal fellowship, and should walk even as Jesus walked.

 

1 Peter 2:21-22  

    For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving     you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin,     neither was deceit found in his mouth.

 

Some teachers in the church had a false view of man and therefore a wrong view of redemption.  If one denies original sin, then there would be no need for redemption by the sacrifice of Jesus.  However, the sin of Adam is congenitally passed on to his offspring and man must be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.  This is the basis of true Christian fellowship, and is accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus.   The prevailing theology/philosophy of man in our present age is that we are basically good and only in need of occasional tweaking.  We are not in a kingdom of darkness.  We all deserve to go to heaven, except maybe a few glaring examples.

 

… and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

In the Old Testament the blood, that is the life, (Lev.17: 11) of the sacrificial animal atoned for the sins of the worshiper.  This sacrifice had to be repeated continually because the children of Israel sinned continually.  Now Jesus blood atones for our sin repeatedly and effectively.  The word ‘cleanses’ implies a continuing process.  With this John teaches that sin is not only forgiven, but the believer is purified.  The promise is that the purified in heart will see God (Matt 5:8).

 

Ephesians 5:25-27

    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for     her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water     with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor,     without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without     blemish.

 

 

 

Hebrews 9:11-12, 15, 27-28

    But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,     then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is,     not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of     the blood of goats and calves but my means of his own blood, thus securing an     eternal redemption.

 

    Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called     may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that     redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

 

    And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,     so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a     second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for     him.

 

1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

 

The Gnostics could make this claim.  Theirs was a dualistic universe with the material world evil and the spiritual world good.  Therefore the spirit was not responsible for any ‘sins’ done by the body.  Thus the teachings of Cerinthus:

 

“But (they say that) Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called, after him, the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one.  And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion, that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace.”

 

 

Do we make a similar claim?

We do not say we do not, or have not sinned.  But do we take it too lightly.  We whisper a quick prayer calling for forgiveness, but as quickly forget our prayer and continue doing the wrong things.  Do we not understand that our smallest sins are an affront to the God of the Universe, and that God paid an incredibly high price to free us from the consequences of our sins?

 

Romans 6:23     

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ     Jesus our Lord.

 

 

 

1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

The heretics denied that they sinned altogether, or they considered sin of minor importance.  Charles Price tells of a man who confronted him after a church service and said he hadn’t sinned in the past five years.  Charles then asked him if he was married.  Was his wife here today?  He answered that Charles should not speak with his wife because she was not of the same opinion.

The Gnostics would not define sin as John and the Bible did.  Islam also has a limited definition of sin.  It is ok to rape infidel women and to steal from the unbelievers because they are an inferior class of beings and are not protected by Sharia law.

Our society today has a very restricted definition of sin if it considers the word at all.

 

But Jesus died to make it possible for God to forgive our sin, and in his love he wants to do it.  His forgiveness implies total cleansing so that our sins are a separated from us as the East is from the West.

 

God’s faithfulness is defined in his covenantal relationship with his people.  This also includes his justice and his righteousness.

Palm 89:1-4

    I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;

        with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

    For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;

        in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”

    You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

        I have sworn to David my servant:

    ‘I will establish your offspring forever,

        and build your throne for all generations.’”

Hebrews 10:23

    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who     promised is faithful.

 

Romans 3:21-26

    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,     although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of     God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:     for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his     grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put     forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show     God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over     former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he     might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 

 

1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

To say we have not sinned has double consequences.  First it suggests falsehood on God’s part.  It makes God a liar.  It denies God’s mercy and his forgiving nature.  The second consequence is that God’s Word has no place in us.  The heretics have changed God’s word so completely that the message of a personal Logos is lost.  Jesus is not the Word in the Gospel of John.  

 

John 1:1-5

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was     God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and     without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the     life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has     not overcome it.

 

 

2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 

 

John is pleading for his congregations to renounce their disposition toward sinfulness, which issues in specific acts of wrongdoing.  .  The first condition for living in the light is to renounce sin in principle.  The second condition is to acknowledge the reality of sin in their lives.  The third condition is to turn to Jesus as our advocate before the Father.  Jesus is the propitiation for our sins and for the sins of all who call upon him.  The word ‘propitiation’ is hilasmos in the Greek.  It implies placation of the gods who they have displeased.  Jesus sacrificial death does placate God’s demand for righteousness. 

 

It can also be translated ‘expiation’., as found in the RSV.  It refers to God’s mercy and forgiveness, rather than his displeasure with sin.  Propitiation is the stronger and more accurate translation.   

 

Finally Jesus is our advocate with the Father.  The Greek word is parakleton from which we get the word Paraclete or intercessor.  We usually speak of the Holy Spirit as being our Paraclete, but here John says that Jesus Christ the righteous is our intercessor before the Father.  He can intercede on our behalf and on behalf of the whole world (kosmos).  Jesus as the righteous shares God’s nature as well as ours.  Jesus is supremely able to ask that his righteousness be extended to all God’s children.  John challenges the heretics with the affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  This is the essence of the Gospel as found in John’s Gospel and is now being taught clearly to John’s church and churches.  An inadequate Christology leads to a wrong ethic in practice, and a continuation in darkness rather than light.

1 John 2:3-17  Truth and the Lie  Love and Hate   November 21, 2016   

 

In the beginning of our study of 1 John we discussed the principle of fellowship.  Fellowship is a richly significant theological term.  Koinonia literally means joint ownership or partnership.  John emphasized that true fellowship is rooted first in one’s relationship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.  Once this relationship is established we can relate properly to each other.  The vertical relationship is powered by love and by forgiveness.  From this relationship with God we can properly love each other and can forgive each other as required.  If the vertical relationship is damaged or lost, the horizontal relationship with each other is weakened or completely disintegrated.

 

Last week we explored the meaning of light and darkness as described throughout the Old Testament and the New.  According to Gnostic teachings light and darkness are competing forces that never come to a resolution.  The physical world is dark, or evil, and cannot be redeemed.  The spiritual world is light and it you can attain light through the understanding of certain doctrines you have risen above the physical world and are on course to eternal life.

 

But the Bible has a very different understanding of light and darkness.  In the OT light represents truth in an intellectual sense and righteousness in a moral sense.  There is no separation of the physical and the spiritual as in the Gnostic teachings.

Jesus says he is the light of the world.  He is also the way, the truth and the life.  John says that men love darkness because of their evil ways and choose to avoid the light of Christ.  We are called to walk in light and not in darkness.  To ‘walk’ means to have a continuous attitude of mind.  For the believer who wanders into the realm of darkness, there is rescue through Jesus.  If we confess our sin God is able to forgive our sin through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.  He is the propitiation for our sins.  His blood continually atones for us in order to draw us back into his light.  If that were not so we would become bound for hell.

 

In today’s lesson we will study the issues of truth and the lie, of love and hate.  They are parallel to the issues of light and darkness, but John uses typical Hebrew parallelism to strengthen his argument.   

 

 

2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

 

 

 

 

How is one to know if he is truly a believer?  Here is a practical test.  The Apostle James has a similar test:

 

    James 2:18-20 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show     me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.     You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and     shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from     works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he     offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with     his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled     that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as     righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is     justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also     Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and     sent them out by another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so     also faith apart from works is dead.

 

This is the first characteristic of a true believer.  Common among the heretics was antinomianism, that is disregard for the law, especially the moral law.  They felt they were above the law and a law unto themselves.  In their spirit they considered themselves sinless and what their physical bodies did was irrelevant.  John uses some form of the word gnosis, knowledge, 25 times in this letter.  He contrasts the knowledge of the Gnostics from the knowledge that is true.  Knowledge of God in the Bible is not intellectual and speculative, but experiential and dynamic.  To claim that one knows God, but fails to keep his commandments is a liar.  The end results of the lie are found in Israel in Hosea’s day.

 

    Hosea 4:1-2 Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel,

        for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.

        There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,

        and no knowledge of God in the land;

        there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;

        they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

 

Wrong knowledge leads to wrong practice.  Obedience is not a condition for knowing God, but obeying his teachings should characterize one who possesses true knowledge.  

 

The way to know we are in him is to walk in the same way Jesus walked (imitatio Christi).

 

 

The New Commandment

 

2:7-12 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

 

Now is the second test of true faith.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.

John opens this section by calling his flock Beloved.  As he calls his congregation to love each other, he affirms his love for them.  The commandment to love is both old and new.  The 10 commandments are summarized by Jesus to require love for God and love of each other.

 

    Matthew 22:36-40

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,     “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and     with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is     like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments     depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

 

Although this commandment is new as taught by Jesus, it was already taught in the Pentateuch.  

 

    Leviticus 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you     shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  You     shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people,     but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

 

 

    Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk     in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and     sacrifice to God.

 

    James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You     shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

 

Love is the essence of the Gospel as taught by Jesus.  It was the primary obligation he laid on his disciples.  It is the primary obligation he places on us his church.  As with fellowship, it first requires a vertical relationship between the believer and God, and then a horizontal relationship with in the church body and extending to the world outside.

 

We do not receive eternal life by being obedient rather, once we are Christians we want to be obedient.  As our love grows darkness fades away and true light appears.

One cannot hate his brother and remain in the light.  Darkness blinds his eyes.  The hater has lost his way.  He is in a spiritual downfall (Isa 6:10).

 

The Biblical concept of ‘love’ (agape) is distinctive, insofar as it is associated with a God who enters into a covenant relationship with his people and maintains it with undeserved ‘steadfast love’ (Deut 7:9).  God’s essential activity is saving love (although divine love cannot be separated from divine judgment); and in NT terms we find this activity centered in the person and work of Jesus.  God has loved us in Christ, and we are therefore called to love others in and through him (1 John 4:8, 16).  In John mutual love is clearly grounded in the love of God, and is a sure sign of faith (v. 10).  … The verb philein (to love or to be a friend) is not used in 1 John; but it is used in the Fourth Gospel, where it can refer to the love of God, of Jesus or of the Christian.  As a result we should not attempt to draw sharp distinctions in meaning between the two verbs agapan and philein.

 

 2:12 I am writing to you, little children,

 because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.

 

 I am writing to you, fathers,

 because you know him who is from the beginning.

 

 I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

 

 I write to you, children,

 because you know the Father.

 

 I write to you, fathers,

 because you know him who is from the beginning.

 

 I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

 and the word of God abides in you,

 and you have overcome the evil one.

 

John is writing to his church, but he cannot be there with them.  He is remembering the families in his congregation, from the youngest to the oldest.  Each has a role to play in the church community.  He began this section in v.7 calling the church his beloved.  He is now expressing his pastoral heart.

 

The last three couplets should begin ‘I have written to you…’  The verb has changed from present tense to past tense.  John is reminding them of his teachings in an earlier letter and is now encouraging them to continue strong in the faith.

 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

He concludes this section with a stern warning concerning the teachings and practices of the heretics.

1 John 2:18 – 2:29  Warning Concerning Antichrists        November 28, 2016

 

We are living in a world with competing world-views.  We have espoused the Christian world-view as presented to us through the Bible.  To me this is the most satisfying position because it addresses the human condition most accurately.  It recognizes the sinfulness of man and our need for redemption.  It then presents a comprehensive plan for our redemption.  It also describes an understandable cosmology.  Logic and scientific findings support a creator god.  Some call it intelligent design.  We recognize that the creator is none other than Yahweh, the God of the Bible.

 

However the Christian world-view is challenged by other religious and a-religious views.  Islam professes allegiance to the god, Allah.  Almost 1/4th of all the peoples on earth follow his teachings through his prophet Mohammed.  Hindu’s, Buddhists, and many others have world-views that determine how they go through their daily lives.  In our country today the prevailing world-view is an amorphous amalgam of views that leans toward atheism and has no consistent rules that one can fall back on.  It is antinomian except for certain laws, like environmentalism and multiculturalism that are intermittently acknowledged. Most recently our Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren, said that the Constitution is unconstitutional.

 

The Apostle John was facing similar challenges in his day.  Mankind has not changed over the centuries.  In our country the view is ‘anything but Christianity’.  In John’s church teachers inside and out were twisting the true gospel to suit their own desires.

 

John is encouraging his churches to remain faithful to the gospel they received in the beginning, from the Apostle Paul and now from John.  He presents four conditions for ‘living in the light’.

    1. Renounce Sin   1:8-2:2

    2. Remain obedient   2:3-2:11

    3. Reject worldliness   2:12-1:17

Today he will address the fourth condition: Keep the faith   1:18-2:29

 

2:18-19 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.  Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  

 

The apostles as a whole were expecting the imminent return of the Christ. Prior to his ascension Jesus told them that he would be returning.   But also he said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).   The angels told them that he would return the same way he ascended.  

    Acts 1:10-11 Two men stood by them in white robes and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

 

The church will experience opposition in the time prior to his return.

 

    1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

 

    2 Tim 3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

 

    2 Peter 3:3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.

 

The antichrist will challenge the church.   In fact there will be many antichrists, and they are already around.  This happens regularly.  A glaring example is the transformation of the congregational church in the early 1800’s.  It was founded with Puritan roots, but then began to deny the deity of Christ and became Universalist, and then Unitarian.    The Universalists and Unitarians formally joined each other in 1961 to become the UUA.  They deny original sin, the deity of Christ, the existence of hell, and affirm heaven for all.  Harvard University was caught up in these heresies and has been unable to return to its orthodox founding.

 

    Matt 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

 

    1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

 

    Matt 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

 

The second coming has not yet occurred.  The church is still awaiting Christ’s return.  But the Christ did appear at the middle point of salvation history.  Salvation in the Old Testament was dependent on faith, but the role of the Law was primary as well.

With Jesus a new covenant is established in which the role of faith is predominant.  Christianity is a teleological religion and time is linear.  There is a beginning and an end, and the end we await is the return of Christ as King and ruler over all things.  John clearly has this eschatological outlook.

 

 

 

 

 

2:20-23 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.  I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father.  Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 

 

The word for ‘anointed’ is ‘chrisma’.  This can refer to the anointing of a king or high official.  Psalm 133 refers to the anointing of Aaron, with the oil placed on his head running down his beard and onto his robe.  It represents the blessing of the Lord.   The anointing could refer to the baptism of the new believers.  Much of the church teaches baptismal regeneration.  But here it sounds more like the baptism of the Holy Spirit that enters the life and heart of the new believer.  It is the Holy Spirit that will lead the believer in to the truth.  He will bear witness about Jesus.  John the Baptist tells his followers that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.  He will guide the true believer in all truth.  (John 15-16).

 

The truth (aletheia) is fully found in Jesus and his words.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  For the believers in the church the truth is a living reality of God, not just an intellectual and abstract formulation.  It is supremely revealed in Jesus, the Christ, and is shared by every faithful Christian.

 

The heresies in John’s day had two wrong views of the Christ.  Either he was God only and not man, or he was really a man, but not divine.  But orthodoxy required that he be very God of very God, and very man as well.  This was the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  These same heresies motivate the Universalists and the Unitarians in our day.  It seems to me that all Christian heresies have their roots in a failure to acknowledge the Trinitarian doctrine of the church.  Once the Trinity is weakened, then the doctrine of original sin falls away, man is not in need of redemption any longer, and sin itself changes to bad behavior or bad upbringing, or ignorance, and except for these aberrations, man is basically good.

 

2:24-25 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

 

John begins this epistle with the words: That which was from the beginning…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.  He now reminds his readers of that beginning and their response to it.   The gospel is true because it presents the true Messiah, sent by God to redeem his creation.  The church has responded to the message and is now called to abide in it.  If the gospel message of the true identity of Jesus has been accepted by the believer, and if this good news is allowed to control your theological understanding and control your moral practice, then the outcome is a deep fellowship with the Father and the Son, with the eschatological promise of eternal life.

 

Jesus had a similar conversation with the Jewish leaders in his day.

 

    John 8:31-38 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

 

    Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.  I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

 

2:26-27 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you.  But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

 

The heretics are teaching another gospel.  They are intent on drawing the true believers away from the true faith as taught by Paul and John.  Don’t you wonder why the heretics are so intent on drawing the true believers away from the faith?  Why can’t they just let the Christians be and go off on their own journey?  Is it because they want to justify themselves by bringing more people to their side?  Could they really believe they are right and they want to rescue the believers from their erroneous ways?  Is their heresy a product of supernatural forces at work on them and deceiving them (Eph 6:12)

 

    John 8:43-47 Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which one of you convicts me of sin?  If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

 

As I was looking through the Gospel of John for these quotes I thought that the churches John was addressing in the epistle could well have had the Gospel of John already, and were familiar with it.  They were probably the first recipients of the Gospel.  They probably had copies of the Gospel of Mark as well, because his was probably the first gospel written, probably around 65 AD.

 

2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

 

MONDAY MORNING NOTES - 1 JOHN 3

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1 John 3:1-24 Love as Primary Doctrine of the Christian Faith

December 5, 2016

Today we begin the study of the second division of the first Epistle of John. In the

first section of this letter John presented a true orthodox Christianity. He confirmed

its veracity because he was telling us what he learned directly from Jesus when he

was with him.

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—that which we have seen and heard we

proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed

our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

He then proceeds to describe God as light, in whom is no darkness at all. The true

believers are privileged to live in God’s light. John opens his gospel with a similar

message, this time saying that Jesus, the Word, is the light that shines in darkness.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word

was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through

him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,

and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the

darkness has not overcome it.

Thus God and Jesus are equal, and the light that comes from them is one light, even

as God and Jesus are one. This challenges the heresies that are assaulting the

church with their wrong views of Jesus. In the first division of this letter John is

addressing his church, but also is addressing the teachers and followers of a

different way. There is only one source of light, and all else is darkness.

In the second section of the letter John is addressing the church primarily. He now

affirms that God is their father, and is a loving father. The reason to remain true to

the original faith is because the believers have been transformed into children of

God. The relationship is filial and not merely intellectual. It is the work of the Holy

Spirit in their lives, a supernatural work. The heretics may depart from the true way,

but John’s congregations are kept on the right path by the continuous work of the

Holy Spirit in their lives.

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2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have

confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous,

you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

This is a transitional verse that represents the change from the theological

arguments of the first section to the personal teachings of the second. God’s

children are to abide in him with the expectation that the Lord will return for his

own. In preparation for the Lord’s return the believers are to practice righteousness

as they try to imitate Jesus himself.

3:1- 3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called

children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it

did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet

appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall

see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

In the first section the believers were encouraged to live in the light. The conditions

for living in the light are:

1. Renounce Sin 1:8-2:2

2. Remain Obedient 2:3-2:11

3. Reject Worldliness 2:12-1:17

4. Keep the Faith

Now they are being encouraged to live as children of God. A new condition now

appears. To live as children of God we are to:

1. Renounce Sin 1:8-2:2

2. Remain Obedient 2:3-2:11

3. Reject Worldliness 2:12-1:17

4. Keep the Faith

But also we are to: 5. Be Loving.

It is because of his love that the Father has called us. This opening verse is better

translated; consider ‘how lavish is the love which the Father has showered upon us!’

John’s excitement about the Fatherhood of God is evident. It is his love that

provided a way to escape from the death that is otherwise the fate of all mankind.

Out of love Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the cross. Our superficial

response to the teachings of the church is because of our superficial understanding

of the seriousness of sin. The reason tears often accompany repentance and

conversion is that the new believer recognizes the sinfulness of his sin.

In chapter 1 John tells us that Jesus himself is eternal life. In chapter 2 he warns us

that the last hour is upon us, but for those who put their faith in Jesus are promised

eternal life. We do not comprehend what eternal life encompasses, but we will see

Jesus on that day and all will be made clear. This eschatological hope should keep us

pure.

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The world does not understand the change that comes in the true believer.

Therefore it responds with hatred. The hatred is really a hatred of Jesus and God,

but it is taken out on the believer because he is physically present. There truly is a

division of humanity into those who belong to God and those who belong to ’the

world’. This accounts for the tension we see.

The hope (elpis) of the believer has two aspects. It has an aspect in this life, because

the believer is now a child of God. It is rooted in the knowledge of the truth and the

revelation that gives us light. We have been moved out of darkness into the light.

Col 1:9-14 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you,

asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual

wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully

pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the

knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious

might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father,

who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has

delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of

his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The second part of our hope is a future hope of Christ’s parousia, his return. He will

appear, we shall see him as he really is, and we shall be like him. At this moment we

will be totally transformed into the being God intended when he first created us.

This vision of heaven should reinforce our desire to walk today in ways pleasing to

God. So our salvation is not a future event, but an active process that is ongoing in

the present and is completed when Christ returns.

3:4-10 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is

lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is

no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has

either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever

practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of

sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason

the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God

makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on

sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of

God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is

not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

John continues to stress the ethical dualism between the believer and the world. He

has already discussed light and darkness. Now he differentiates righteousness and

sin, derivation from God and derivation from the devil. He compares sin with

lawlessness. Lawlessness is antinomianism, that is repudiation of the law. This was

a common teaching by the heretics. For them the spiritual was the only true state

and the law applied only to the physical. The physical was doomed to destruction

and so breaking the law had no spiritual consequences.

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Sin (amartia) and lawlessness (anomia) are often used as if they are synonymous.

However, lawlessness in the NT can serve as a description of the ‘Satan inspired

rejection of God and his law.’ The Apostle Paul speaks of the ‘man of lawlessness’. It

implies not merely breaking God’s law, but flagrantly opposing him (in Satanic

fashion) by so doing. It is the ultimate rebellion against God; it is taking sides with

Satan himself. It is not simply a synonym for ‘sin’ but a climactic definition of it.

Jesus appeared in order to abolish sin, to destroy the works of the devil. This was

planned before the earth was formed. John the Baptist said to his followers: ‘Behold

the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. Jesus death was the atoning

sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He came to abolish sin, not just bear it to

the cross. He is our redeemer and the redeemer of all mankind.

God’s opposition to human sin is demonstrated in Jesus appearing on earth with the

intent of destroying lawlessness. His life of righteousness and purity made him an

effective Savior for the world. We cannot understand why sin exists. We say it is

necessary do that we can have free will. But it existed before the creation and

continues now in heavenly realms. Revelation tells us of war in heaven (Rev 12:7).

Satan was the leader of the rebellion and he continues the rebellion here on earth.

His is a losing cause, but he remains powerful, especially when dealing with fragile

mankind (Isa 14:12-13)

The child of God, the person born again, cannot keep on sinning, because God’s seed

is implanted in him. If sinning is one’s settled habit he cannot be one who has been

born again, baptized by the Spirit and by fire. Sinning by habit separates the child of

God and the child of the devil. John is not teaching sinless perfection. Earlier he

makes provision for those who sin. But he emphasizes the objective of the born

again Christian is to mimic Jesus as closely as he can. If this is his studied habit, then

any deviance is corrected by confession to our faithful and just God.

Acting righteously is not simply a matter of performing actions that are right. There

must also be a righteous character from which the actions flow. This character is

God-given, not created by the believer. Many people perform good actions and do

good deeds. These are noteworthy, but if they do not come from a transformed

heart they have no eternal significance. John has in view through out this passage

that the Christian has a potential state of sinlessness (Ps 119:9-11).

John finishes this paragraph with an introduction to love as a principle of

righteousness.

Love One Another

3:11-15 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we

should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and

murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil

and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

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We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers

(adelphoi). Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother

(adelphoi) is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in

him.

In the first division of this letter obedience was emphasized. Now John addresses

his congregation more intimately and teaches that love of the brethren is the

primary attribute that confirms one’s true faith. The importance of love (agape) will

be emphasized for the rest of this letter.

He begins with the negative example of Cain. He was the first man born to Adam

and Eve. Yet he never sought God’s approval. He gave sacrifices, external religion,

but they did not come from a sacrificial heart. When he contemplated the murder of

his brother, Abel, God approached him face to face and begged him to change his

plan.

Genesis 4:3-7 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of

the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of

their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for

Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If

you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching

at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain is mentioned several times in the NT, but here John says that he was a tool of

the evil one. The driving force in his life was hate, not love. John then adds this non

sequitur, Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. It is true that the

world is vehemently opposed to the believers. The opposition, however, is not

against the individual believer or even the church, but is primarily against God

himself, and his Son, Jesus, the Christ. We see this anger seething in our own

country today, and it may at some time break out into generalized violence and

imprisonment of out spoken Christians (John 15:18).

We can know we have crossed over from death to life if we love our brothers. And if

we do not love, we remain in the land of darkness and death.

3:16-18 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay

down our lives for the brothers (adelphoi). 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.

The reason we are to love is because God is Love. He demonstrated his love for us

by the sacrifice of his only begotten Son (John 3:16), and Jesus has become our

example to follow, even in the face of death (John 15:13).

Our love, and therefore our faith, is to be expressed by our deeds. See James 2:14ff.

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3:19-24 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before

him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows

everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do

what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son

Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his

commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in

us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

In these verses John summarizes his teachings so far. They can be listed as:

 

1. The practice of love is a guarantee of Christian sonship.

2. God knows who the true believer is.

3. A clear conscience lets us relate confidently to God.

4. Faith and love are the sum total of God’s demands.

5. Obedience to the commands of God is the basis of living the Christian life.

6. The gift of the Spirit assures the Christian of God’s presence in his daily life.

First Letter of John Email.docx

Open with

1 John 4                       Test the Spirits            December 12, 2016

 

In last week’s lesson John emphasized the relationship between love and faith.  We have been called by the Holy Spirit to receive Jesus by faith.  To receive him is to align ourselves with his life by first abiding in him and then in walking as he walked.  We should be obedient to his teachings and to the moral teachings in the Bible.  We are to renounce sin as a guiding principle in our lives.  We are to reject worldliness that is the domain of the devil.  And we are to respond to God’s love toward us by being loving in our familial and community relationships.  John asks us to consider ‘how lavish is the love which the Father has showered upon us’.  Because of his love toward us that God provided a way to escape the death that was our due.  The soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).  Out of love Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the cross.  Our superficial response to this teaching of the church is because of our superficial comprehension of the seriousness of sin. 

 

This week John reinforces this teaching in verses 7-21.  He reinforces the relationship between faith and love with increasing urgency through this chapter.  But he begins the chapter with a renewed warning about the heresies that are challenging the true believers in his church.  We have noted that the first division of this epistle was directed at the false teachings that were developing in the church.  Gnosticism was in its infancy still, but it was drawing some true believers away from the faith.  John encourages the believers to carefully evaluate their teachings concerning who Jesus truly was.  One group of false teachers taught that the Messiah was only God and not man.  Jesus only appeared to be a man.  He was never crucified, because God cannot die (Docetism, dokeo, in Greek, meaning seemed).  Others, especially the Jewish believers, taught the humanity of Jesus.  He was the promised Messiah, but was a man and not God.  Both false views of Jesus led to a false Christianity.

 

In the 5th chapter John returns to his emphasis on the central importance of faith.  We are saved by faith alone (sola fide).  However, the faith has ramifications and conditions that determine if the faith is true or false.  In the end the two primary characteristics of the true believer are faith in Jesus as both man and God, and expression of the faith through love of the brothers, the neighbor, and all mankind. 

 

4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 

 

We have spent quite a bit of time in earlier lessons discussing the heresies that were challenging John’s churches in Ephesus and surrounding districts.  Reference is made to some of the heresies in the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.  

The heresies tend to center on the nature and person of Jesus.  Any teaching that diminishes either the humanity or the deity of Christ leads to a cascade of false teachings and immoral practices.  Such teachings are brought about by false spiritual influences, that John calls the antichrist.  Contemporary versions of some of the heresies are Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, even Islam.  The true believer knows the true nature of the Christ because the Holy Spirit has revealed it to him.  No one can ascertain such truth without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

 

4:4-6 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

 

A Christian is defined by one’s faith in Jesus, as Lord and Savior.  The first condition for living as a true Christian is to renounce sin (1:8-2:2).    The second condition is to remain obedient to Jesus’ teachings and to the Bible as a whole (2:3-2:11).  Now John presents the third condition, the rejection of worldliness. ‘Worldliness’ as seen by John is primarily a wrong attitude, a determination to be anchored to a society that does not know God (3:1).  John contrasts divine truth with worldly delusion.  The term ‘world (kosmos)’ here does not mean the physical world, but the false doctrinal views that are opposed to God, and rooted in Satan himself.  

 

4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

 

John took a small detour in this discussion to review the heretical teachings that are challenging the church.  They all arise from spirits that are opposed to the Spirit of God.  He now returns to his review of the conditions of true discipleship.  Until now there have been four conditions.  He now adds a fifth.  The true believer is to be loving.

 

The commandment to love one another comes directly from Jesus.  On the day before Good Friday we celebrate Maundy Thursday.  ‘Maundy’ means commandment.  Here Jesus gave a new commandment, the commandment to love.

 

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:     just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will     know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

The source of Christian love is God himself.  The commandment comes from Jesus.  The empowerment comes through the Holy Spirit. (See John 14:15-24).

The demonstration of God’s love is Jesus, who came to be a propitiation for our sins.  We have discussed ‘propitiation’ in the past and compared it to ‘expiation’ which some translations use.  Propitiation implies placation of God’s wrath.  Expiation refers to God’s mercy and forgiveness, rather than his displeasure with sin.  Jesus’ death did placate God’s demand for righteousness.  Mercy alone cannot save us because God’s justice requires compensation for sin.  In the OT it was a lamb, and now for us it is the Lamb of God.

 

4:13-17 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 

 

God has many characteristics enumerated in the Bible.  But of all his attributes the greatest is his love.  If we are to be his children, redeemed from the world system, then we should reflect his love to those around us.  

 

God sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Here ‘world (kosmos) does not carry the negative connotation we noted earlier.  This refers to place in creation that God set mankind to live and to work.  It has been invaded by Satan and his hosts and Jesus has entered it to destroy the works of the devil (3:8).

 

To ‘abide’ means to accept without objection, to sojourn, to remain stable in Christ.

We are to abide in Christ, but he in turn abides in us.  We abide in him by our confession of faith.  In John 15 Jesus likens us to branches on a vine that receive their sustenance from the vine itself.

 

    John 15:7-11 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you     wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.   As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.    Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.      These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

4:18-21 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

With John theology and ethics belong together.  The doctrine of God’s love must be demonstrated by us as love for our fellow man. 

 

 

1 John 5    Overcoming the World

 

5:1-4 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 

 

John keeps repeating the relationship between faith and love with increasing intensity.  He is working his way to an orchestral crescendo. The faith creed: ‘Jesus is the Christ’, is the basis of the Christian life.  It is the new birth.  It confirms one’s love for God and sets us on a path of obedience to the commandments.  It is best expressed by our love for the children of God, our fellow believers.  Faith, confirmed by our love of God and neighbor, is the victory that overcomes the world.   John has returned to the negative understanding of ‘world’ as all that is at enmity with God and his children.  

 

5:5-13 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.  And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.   Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.   And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

 

This reference to water and blood and spirit is understandably confusing.  The great theologians have struggled over this.  Water and blood have been taken to mean the sacraments, baptism and communion.  Or the water could be Jesus baptism and the blood his death with the spear thrust into his side.   Some suggest that this is the language of initiation of early believers into the faith, with anointing with oil (Spirit), baptism (water), and finally receiving communion (blood).  A more natural understanding brings all three witnesses to the Christ together confirming that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the true Son of God.  The Spirit descended on Jesus at the time of his baptism.  Jesus promised his disciples that the Spirit would come upon them after his death.   The Spirit descended on the church after Jesus death and resurrection and remains with the church to this day.   All three witnesses together confirm that Jesus is truly God and truly man and the true savior of mankind. 

 

Eternal life is promised to all who truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah and believe the testimony of God himself.  “But ‘eternal’ life is qualitative, not quantitive.  It may refer to the highest kind of spiritual and moral life, irrespective of time, which God enables the believer to share in relationship with Jesus.”  “It is a spiritual quality of life, which God gives to every believer through Jesus his Son.  It is not to be thought of as life prolonged to infinity, but as a sharing of living fellowship with the Father, in which the category of time re cedes before that of moral quality.”  (WBC vol. 51, p. 10, 287).  I am not sure I agree with this, but I thought I would throw it in for your consideration.

 

5:14-21 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  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.

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 

 

This section is an appendix to the whole letter.  It’s intent is to give the believers confidence in relation to their spiritual life, especially concerning prayer, and of their intellectual knowledge and understanding of the faith.  The Christian life includes renouncing sin, obedience to the Lord, rejection of worldliness, love of the church family and all mankind, and keeping the faith as a continuing process finally leading to eternal life.  We are to deal with sin in a brother, not by confronting him, but by bringing it to God through prayer. We are to be fully aware that there are forces of evil around us ready to assault us, but God keeps a protective wall around his own.  Finally, we are assured that the Son of God we have committed our lives to is truly God and eternal life.

 

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

 

 

THE BOOK OF REVELATION

 

February 27, 2017

 

Everyone seems to be intrigued by the Book of Revelation.  There is no end to commentaries on it, and no end to speculation on its meanings.  I am unable to offer any new thoughts that have not been expressed by someone at some time in the past, but maybe as we study through this important book this year, we will find it less obscure, and more understandable, and very relevant to our own day.  

 

The book was written to ordinary people to encourage them through difficult times spiritually, politically, and economically, and to assure them that the revelation that Jesus gave to his church will carry them through to a glorious conclusion.  In fact, the readers were new Christians for the most part, converts from Judaism, God-fearing Greeks, or pagans.  They were not Biblical scholars although many may have had some familiarity with the writings of the Old Testament.  And, of course, they had responded to the teachings of the Apostles, who were eyewitnesses to the life, teachings, and resurrection of Jesus.  This book is a call to faithfulness to the ‘faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

 

Bibliography

Beale, G. K., The Book of Revelation

The New International Greek Testament Commentary

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1999

 

Aune, David, Revelation

Word Biblical Commentary, 52

Dallas: Word Books, 1997

 

Weinrich, William C., Revelation

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

New Testament XII

Downers Grove, IL, Intervarsity Press, 2005

 

The author of the Apocalypse

 

The writer of the book identifies himself as John in 1:1, 1:4, 1:9, and 22:8.  The church has identified this John with the apostle John from the earliest days.  However, some have challenged this and have suggested that it may have been written by an early church father known as John the Elder, or by some of John’s disciples from the “Johannine school” in Ephesus who used the name John as a pseudonym.  The weight of evangelical scholarship considers the author to be John the Apostle, based on the language similarities to the Gospel of John; the Christology of Jesus as the Word, the Lamb, and the Son of man; and the Exodus-Moses motif found in both books.

 

But whoever the author might be, the true author is Jesus, the Christ, himself, as stated in the first verse: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.  He made it known by sending hiss angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw (1:1).

 

 

The Dating of the Apocalypse

 

The current consensus is that the book was written during the reign of Domitian, around 95 AD.  Some scholars date it as early as 65 AD, during the time of Nero.  If so, it would have preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, and would have implications on the interpretations.  Around the time of Nero Christianity was still considered a cult of Judaism, and therefore was privileged as a religio licita.  However, Christianity was starting to be distinguished from Judaism and this protection was quickly waning, as we know, by the persecution of Christians in Rome by Nero.

 

Therefore, although the earlier date is possible, the latter date has considerable support in the text and by scholars today.  I think the Book of Revelation was written after the Gospel of John and the epistles, and written by John the Apostle.  Also the churches to which the letters are addressed would not have had sufficient time to stray as much as the letters suggest by the early date.  They were just being formed around 45 AD.  Even at AD 95, they are only 30-50 years old.

 

 

There is reference to required worship of the imperial cult (emperor worship) in 13:4-8, 15-16; 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; and 20:4.  From our study of 1 and 2 Peter, we learned of the plight of Christians who would not acknowledge the Emperor as god, through the writings of Pliny.  

 

Pliny was the Roman governor in Pontus and Bithynia.  He wrote to Trajan, the Roman Caesar, around 113 AD, concerning the handling of Christians in his province:  

 

I have never been present at an examination of Christians.  Consequently, I do not know the nature or extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed.  Nor am I at all sure…whether a pardon ought to be granted to anyone retracting his beliefs, or if he has once professed Christianity, he shall gain nothing by renouncing it; and whether it is the mere name of Christian which is punishable, even if innocent of crime, or rather the crimes associated with the name.

 

For the moment this is the line I have taken with all persons brought before me on the charge of being Christians.  I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them.  If they persist, I order them to be led away for their punishment; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished.

 

Concerning an anonymous pamphlet which contained the names of a number of accused persons: among these I considered that I should dismiss any who denied that they were or ever had been Christians when they repeated after me a formula of invocation to the gods and had made offerings of wine and incense to your statue, and furthermore had reviled the name of Christ (“cursed Christ,” maledicerent Christo): none of which things, I understand, any genuine Christian can be induced to do.  Others, whose names were given to me by the informer, first admitted the charge and then denied it; they said that they had ceased to be Christians two or more years previously, and some of them even twenty years ago.  They all did reverence to your statue and the images of the gods in the same way as the others, and reviled the name of Christ (Christo maledixerunt).  They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this; they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, to commit no breach of trust and not to deny a deposit when called upon to restore it.  After this ceremony it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary, harmless kind; but they had in fact given up this practice since my edict, issued on your instructions, which banned all political societies.    This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture from two slave-women, whom they called deaconesses.  I found nothing but a degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths.

 

A great many individuals of every age and class, both men and women, are being brought to trial, and this is likely to continue.  It is not only the towns, but also villages and rural districts too which are infected through contact with this wretched cult.  I think though that it is still possible for it to be checked and directed to better ends, for there is no doubt that people have begun to throng the temples which had been almost entirely deserted for a long time; the sacred rites which had been allowed to lapse are being performed again, and flesh of sacrificial victims is on sale everywhere, though up till recently scarcely anyone could be found to buy it.  It is easy to infer from this that a great many people could be reformed if they were given opportunity to repent.

 

Trajan’s reply is interesting.  You have followed the right course of procedure, my dear Pliny, in your examination of the cases of persons charged with being Christians, for it is impossible to lay down a general rule to a fixed formula.  These people must not be hunted out; if they are brought before you and the charge against them is proved, they must be punished, but in the case of anyone who denies that he is a Christian, and makes it clear that he is not by offering prayers to our gods, he is to be pardoned as a result of his repentance however suspect his past conduct may be.  But pamphlets circulating anonymously must play no part in any accusation.  They create the worst sort of precedent and are quite out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

 

 

 

 

The Genre of the Apocalypse

 

We all think of Revelation as a book of prophecy, and more specifically an apocalyptic book.  In fact, its name, which we translate as Revelation, is also The Apocalypse.

 

Apocalypse – To unveil, take off a covering, reveal. 

                        A revelation made concerning the future.

Information that is newly disclosed, especially surprising or valuable     information.

The revealing of something previously hidden or secret.

A showing or revealing of divine will or truth.

 

However, we find immediately that it is also a letter, or a collection of letters, to specific churches in Asia Minor, known as Turkey today.  Apocalyptic literature is a more intense form of prophecy.  We find it especially in the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah in the Old Testament.  The revelations in Revelation are given to John directly from heaven, either by Jesus or by angels.  Many other prophets and cult leaders have claimed direct revelation from heaven as well, especially Mohammed who wrote his revelations down in the Koran.  Therefore, we need to be careful to evaluate anyone who tells us he has received word from extra-terrestrial beings, angels, or from God himself (e.g. Mormonism, Christian Science, and some recent Hollywood cults).  

 

The Society of Biblical Literature defines ‘Apocalypse” as a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality, which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another supernatural world.

 

Because the book has an epistolary form as well as prophetic-apocalyptic form, we can assume that it is directed to issues facing the early Christians in their present circumstances, and not just on future events.  It was intended to affect their behavior as believers, and it should do so for us as well.  How ought we to live, if these things be so? Peter asks this question in his second epistle:

 

2Pet. 3:8-13 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 

   Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

 

Major Interpretative Approaches

 

The Preterist View

 

Preterism – from Latin, praeter, beyond or after.

 

This perspective sees Revelation as a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  ‘Babylon the Great’ represents apostate Jerusalem that aids Rome in the persecution of Christians.  The beast in Rev 13 is Rome and Nero’s name in Jewish gematria is 666, the number of the beast.  

 

A second form of Preterist interpretation suggests that Revelation is a prophecy of the fall of the Roman Empire.  ‘Babylon the Great’ in this case is idolatrous Rome which persecutes the saints.  This view does not require an early date for the book, but one of the difficulties is to consider that the final judgment of the book was fulfilled during the fifth century.

 

The Historicist View

 

This view sees the prophecies as events occurring in the major events in church history.  Parts of the Apocalypse are seen as prophecies of the invasions of the Roman Empire by the Goths and the Muslims.  Further the corruptions of the papacy, the reign of Charlemagne, the Protestant Reformation and the destruction by Napoleon and Hitler are seen as predicted by John.   This view limits the prophecies to the Western church and ignores the rest of the worldwide church.

 

The Futurist View

 

In this view all the events from chapters 4-22 are to take place in the future, and at a time immediately preceding the end of history.  The most popular form is dispensational premillennialism, which interprets the prophecies in historical order, but still in the future:

  1. the restoration of Israel to its land   Genesis 15:7-21
  2. the church’s rapture to heaven   1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, 5:9; Revelation 3:10
  3. a seven-year tribulation   Revelation 7:14
  4. the antichrist’s reign2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  5. the assembly of the nations to fight over Jerusalem
  6. Christ’s second coming to defeat the evil nations
  7. Christ’s millennial reign
  8. Satan’s final rebellion at the end of the millennium and his defeat
  9. Christ’s eternal reign with the saints in a new heaven and a new earth

 

Prominent dispensational premillennialists include: J. Nelson Darby, C>I> Scofield, Harry A. Ironside, Donald G. Barnhouse, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, Charles Stanley, Normal Geisler, and Tim LaHaye.

Tim LaHaye wrote that “there are two keys to understanding the prophetic Word of God.  First, one must interpret the Bible literally unless the context provides good reason to do otherwise.  Second, we must understand that Israel and the church are distinct.  If a person fails to acknowledge these two facts of Scripture, all discussion and argument is fruitless. The issue s not so much prophecy as it is one’s view of Scripture and the church.”

 

A second form of futurism does not interpret the words quite as literally.  It can be called Historical Premillennialism.   The church is now the ‘New Israel’, and has replaced the nation of Israel as God’s covenant people.  God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were conditional, based on their obedience.  (Genesis 22:18; 2 Chronicles 33:8; Isaiah 1:19-20; Jeremiah 7:6-7).    Their persistent disobedience annulled the covenant.   References to “Israel” in Revelation refer symbolically to the church.  

God’s covenant of grace throughout the Old and New Testaments apply to all people who trusted in him.  These believers, embodied in the church today, are the “NewIsrael”.  (Matthew 19:28-29; Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16)

 

The revealing of the Antichrist will precede Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4),

and there will be no pre-tribulation rapture.  The tribulation will root out false members from the churches (Revelation 2:22-23).  Christians will have to endure the final trials, and will have to remain faithful and strong.  This was the view of many early church fathers, who envisioned an earthly millennium and the physical reign of Jesus Christ.

However, this interpretation would be a problem for the first century church, since it does not seem to be relevant to their day.

 

Church fathers who embraced this view– Lactantius (240-320), Irenaeus (130-200), Justin Martyr (100-1645), Papias (60-130), a disciple of the apostle John.

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up with the Scofield Bible and the teachings of many of Dispensational Premillennialists (premill-pretrib).  Next week we will discuss my current understanding of the Book of Revelation.

 

 

 

 

 

Dispensationalism

 

The number of dispensations discerned by theologians within Biblical 

history vary typically from three to eight (See History below). The three- and four-dispensation schemes are often referred to as minimalist, as they include the commonly recognized divisions within Biblical history. The typical seven-dispensation scheme is as follows:

  • InnocenceAdam under probation prior to the Fall. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Some refer to this period as the Adamic period or the dispensation of the Adamic covenant or Adamic law.
  • Conscience – From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge.
  • Human Government – After the Great Flood, humanity responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law in reference to this period of dispensation.
  • Promise – From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness. Some use the terms Abrahamic law or Abrahamic covenant in reference to this period of dispensation.
  • Law – From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD70. Some use the term Mosaic law in reference to this period of dispensation.
  • Grace – From the cross to the Second Coming. Ends with the wrath of God comprising the Great Tribulation. Some use the terms Age of grace or the church age for this dispensation.
  • Millennial Kingdom – A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centered in Jerusalem. Ends with God's judgment on the final rebellion.
  •  

Numerous purposes for this cycle of administrations have been suggested. God is seen to be testing humanity under varying conditions, while vindicating His ways with humanity in originally granting them free will. The dispensations reveal God's truth in a progressive manner, and are designed to maximize the glory that will accrue to God as he brings history to a climax with a Kingdom administered by Christ, thus vindicating his original plan of administering rule on earth through "human" means. The goal of the dispensations is summarized by Paul the Apostle in Ephesians 1:9-10, "He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth" (NASB)

 

 

 

 

 

John Nelson Darby

 

Darby is noted in the theological world as the father of "dispensationalism", whose eschatology was adopted and later made popular in the United States by Cyrus Scofield's Scofield Reference Bible.

Charles Henry Mackintosh, 1820–1896, with his popular style spread Darby's teachings to humbler elements in society and may be regarded as the journalist of the Brethren Movement. Mackintosh popularised Darby[16] more than any other Brethren author. In the early twentieth century, the Brethren's teachings, through Margaret E. Barber, greatly influenced the Little Flock or Church Assembly Hall of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.[17]

Darby has been credited with originating the pre-tribulational rapture theory wherein Christ will suddenly remove His bride, the Church, from this world to its heavenly destiny before the judgments of the tribulation. Thus the prophetic program resumes with Israel's earthly destiny. Dispensationalist beliefs about the fate of the Jews and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Israel put dispensationalists at the forefront of Christian Zionism, because “God is able to graft them in again,”[18] and they believe that in His grace he will do so according to their understanding of Old Testament prophecy. They believe that, while the ways of God may change, His purposes to bless Israel will never be forgotten, just as He has shown unmerited favour to the Church, He will do so to a remnant of Israel to fulfill all the promises made to the genetic seed of Abraham. In 1829 he predicted the rebirth of a nation Israel over 100 years before it happened, just by reading the bible (pgs. 141-160. Prophetic No. 1 Vol. 2. J. N. Darby. Stow Hill Bible & Tract Depot. Kingston-On-Thames 1829).

THE BOOK OF REVELATION

 

March 6, 2017

 

Today we will continue to consider the interpretative approaches to the book of Revelation, and its genre, and the place of the Old Testament in interpreting the visions of John.  Next week we will get into the text itself.

 

As an overview in our study of this book, we might consider that the story of the Bible is the battle between the ‘seed of the woman, Eve’, and the ‘seed of the Serpent’.  It is amplified in the battle between Abraham’s ‘son of flesh’, Ishmael, and the ‘son of promise’, Isaac; later Jacob and Esau; then Moses and Pharaoh; then Israelites and the Canaanites; Elijah and the prophets of Baal; etc.  Interestingly, today we are at war with the sons of Ishmael in the guise of Islam.  There is a war unto death between the church and Islam on one hand, and the church and materialist Marxism on the other.  The seed of Satan is very active today.  The book of Revelation describes this war.  John assures us that the conclusion will be victory for the church, but the battle will be bloody.

 

Last week we looked at the Preterist, the Historicist, and the Futurist interpretations of the book of Revelation.  Today we will continue with the Idealist view.

 

The Idealist View

 

This view sees the Book of Revelation to be a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and of Satan.  It depicts a timeless struggle.  However, if it is completely timeless, then there is no final consummation to history and no final victory for God through Christ.

 

Therefore the best View will be an Eclectic View including Redemptive-Historical Form and a Modified Idealism

 

The church has been living in ‘the last days’ since the resurrection of Christ established the church, and events in the history of the church are depicted in allegorical language, but are applicable to the experiences of believers throughout the church age.  There will be a final consummation and judgment, with salvation for the church.  I suspect such a time is rapidly drawing nigh.

 

This letter was probably much less obscure to the readers in the 1st century.  Apocalyptic literature was fairly common to the Jews, who would be familiar with the writings of Ezekiel and Daniel.  The express purpose of the letter was to ‘unveil’ Jesus Christ to the churches.  They needed to see how Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), was at work on behalf of his church in the time between his advent and the final consummation.  It is a call to endurance as the believers share in tribulation and trials directed toward the church.

“The book of Revelation is not an appendage to the Bible, unattached, unrelated, or different from the sum total of divine revelation.  This being so, we should expect the symbolism involved in the Apocalypse to be so directly related to the rest of the Bible that by proper interpretation we will find a confirmation of the old truth that the Bible is it own interpreter….

 

From the time sin entered the world, God determined He would prove His saving grace and love by sending salvation.  Biblical history shows His ability to overrule the powers of Satan and accomplish His purpose and will.   Evil, powerful though it may seem, is still subservient to good, and all things have, do, and will continue to work for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose….

 

The winds of change blow so furiously we often question the purpose of events to the point of doubt.  God speaks to us through the book of Revelation.  We are not to doubt!  Events of the future will be no less puzzling.  But rather than doubt, we are to look up and see the salvation provided for us through Christ, for our God remains the Alpha and the Omega.”    Clarence Vredevoogd (1926-2016)

 

The Genre of the Apocalypse

 

We all think of Revelation as a book of prophecy, and more specifically an apocalyptic book.  In fact, its name, which we translate as Revelation, is also The Apocalypse.

 

Apocalypse – To unveil, take off a covering, reveal. 

 

                        A revelation made concerning the future.

 

Information that is newly disclosed, especially surprising or valuable information.

 

The revealing of something previously hidden or secret.

 

A showing or revealing of divine will or truth.

 

However, we find immediately that it is a letter, or a collection of letters, to specific churches in Asia Minor, known as Turkey today.  Apocalyptic literature is a more intense form of prophecy.  We find it especially in the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah in the Old Testament.  The revelations in Revelation are given to John directly from heaven, either by Jesus or by angels.  Many other prophets and cult leaders have claimed direct revelation from heaven as well, especially Mohammed who wrote his revelations down in the Koran.  Therefore, we need to be careful to evaluate anyone who tells us he has received word from extra-terrestrial beings, angels, or from God himself (e.g. Mormonism, Christian Science, and some recent Hollywood cults).  

 

The Society of Biblical Literature defines ‘Apocalypse” as a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality, which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another supernatural world.

 

Because the book has an epistolary form as well as prophetic-apocalyptic form, we can assume that it is directed to issues facing the early Christians in their present circumstances, and not just on future events.  It was intended to affect their behavior as believers, and it should do so for us as well.  How ought we to live, if these things be so? Peter asks this question in his second epistle:

 

2Pet. 3:8-13 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 

   Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth gin which righteousness dwells.

 

The Use of the Old Testament in the Apocalypse

 

References are found to the Pentateuch, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, the major and minor prophets.  More than half of the references are from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Psalms.  Therefore, to properly understand the book of Revelation one must have a proper understanding of the Old Testament.  The references are not quotes however, but allusions, which make specific identifications difficult.  We must remember that much of John’s audience was very familiar with the Old Testament, and therefore able to relate to the references.  Also, John was relating ‘visions’ that came to him from God, so that the allusions to the Old Testament should be consistent with the ‘visions’ since they were coming from a common source.

 

The general themes of the Old Testament are movement from innocence to judgment, seduction and idolatry, tribulation and persecution of God’s people, divine protection, and finally from judgment to restoration.  We will see that this is the theme of Revelation as well, leading to final judgment and final restoration by the end of the book.  Consider the themes of ‘holy war’, ‘the day of the Lord’, ‘the abomination of desolation’, the ‘hymns’ of Isaiah, and the ‘serpent of old’.   We will try to correlate the Old Testament themes with the visions of John as we proceed through the book.

 

Ezek. 1:26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.  And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.  Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

 

 

Dan. 2:12-16 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed.  So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.  Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon.  He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel.   And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. 

 

Dan. 2:17-23 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might. 

He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding; 

he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him. 

To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

 

 

 

Dan. 7:1-10 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.  Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.  And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.  The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.  And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’  After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 

After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 

I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 

As I looked,

thrones were placed,

and the Ancient of days took his seat;

his clothing was white as snow,

and the hair of his head like pure wool;

his throne was fiery flames;

its wheels were burning fire. 

A stream of fire issued

and came out from before him;

a thousand thousands served him,

and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;

the court sat in judgment,

and the books were opened. 

 

Dan. 7:11-14 I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.  As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him. 

And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed. 

 

Interpretation of the Symbolism

 

John uses symbolism throughout this book, much of which is derived from the Old Testament.  In verse 1 John uses the Greek word semaivo, which is translated to make known.  The only other place in scripture that this word is used is in the book of Daniel when Daniel explains to Nebuchadnezzar that it was the God of Israel that made the dream known to him.

Dan. 2:28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

 

We are told in the introduction that the majority of the material in the book will be revelatory symbolism, and we should understand Revelation through this lens.  

 

The ‘beast’ does not just represent some historical or future force, but it is a symbol with a specific meaning, a human force that opposes God.  It is powerful and demonic, and oppresses God’s people.  Similar symbolism can be found in Daniel, esp. Daniel 7.

 

The plagues of the seals, trumpets and the bowls will be found to have correspondence to the plagues of the Exodus.  The Exodus plagues were real, but they carried significant symbolic meaning as well, and as symbols can describe subsequent divine judgments on ungodly humanity.

 

 

 

Numbers are usually symbolic in scripture, especially 3, 4, 7, and 12.

 

3 – Trinity

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus life, death and resurrection.

Body, soul and spirit.

Sun, moon and stars.

The one who was, and is, and is to come.

      Days Jesus was in the grave.

 

4 – Completeness, especially connoting something of the world or universe.

The four corners of the earth (7:1).

The four winds (7:1).

‘Adam’ represents 4 letters connoting from East, West, North, and South.

Days Lazarus was in the grave.

Every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

Four living creatures around the throne of God (4:6-8).

 

7 – Completeness as in:

Creation – seven days

Seven day weeks

Seven beatitudes

Seven fold wrath in Gen 4:15, 24; and Ps 79:12-13.

The Lamb with seven horns, seven eyes which are the seven spirits (6:6).

Judgment – seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls. (De-creation)

Seven churches addressed in Revelation.

Seven golden lampstands, seven stars.

Seven colors in the rainbow.

 

12 - The number of God’s people.

Times 12 indicates completeness, 144.

Times 1000 connotes vastness, 144,000.

The clans of Israel.

The number of disciples.

Number of gates in the New Jerusalem.

 

40 - Days and nights of rain for Noah.

Moses lived:

40 years in Egypt

40 years in the desert

40 years guiding the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Israel’s years in the wilderness.

Days Jesus was in the wilderness.

Days between the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus.

 

70 - Size of Jacob’s family that went to Egypt.

Years in Babylonian captivity.

Weeks of Daniel.

Number of times one should forgive.

Members in the Sanhedrin.

The years of a man’s life, threescore and ten.

Years of Soviet reign in Russia.

 

1000 - The time of the millennial reign.

Years Satan is bound.

Years, a very long time.

But also, only a day for the Lord.

A very large number, as of people.

Number of hills with the Lord’s cattle.

 

Revelation 1:1-8PROLOGUE March 13, 2017

 

 

We do not hear much preaching on the book of Revelation these days, except by certain sensationalist authors, and Christian televangelists, (and movies like Armageddon).  I have been thinking about this, this week, and would offer a possible explanation.

 

We could be living in the promised millennium today.  Never in history had such a large number of people lived in such luxury, safety, and ease.  Most of us do not need to worry about our next meal, or a roof over our heads, even when times are a bit more difficult than usual.  We can travel in safety and are protected by just laws.  Although we might worry a little bit about the final judgment it is so distant and theoretical that it does not inform our daily lives.  Because of this we are quite self-sufficient.  God is important enough to get us to church on Sundays, but we manage quite well on our own the rest of the week.

 

I am re-reading a biography of Genghis Khan right now.  The Mongols traveled four thousand miles from Mongolia across all of Russia, to attack Poland, Germany, Hungary, and much of the rest of Eastern Europe.  He would wipe out villages, pillage and destroy the walled cities, and decimate armies of tens of thousands of knights, with impunity.  This was certainly an Armageddon and great tribulation for the peoples involved.  And the people interpreted this as a judgment from God for their sins.  The book of Revelation was much more imminent for them, even as it was for the churches in Asia Minor that John addressed.  We can discuss this further in class.

 

_______________

 

 

Today we will begin the formal study of the Book of Revelation.   We will be referring to the preliminary information that we looked at the past two weeks, as we proceed through this book.

 

Also, we will divide the entire letter into eight segments as follows.  Different commentators have used different divisions, from four sections to seven.  However, I think we will find the following division useful.  Each segment is introduced by a verse that ties the preceding section to the following one.

 

1:1-3:22 Rev. 1:1-2 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

 

4:1-7:17            Rev. 4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

 

8:1-11:14 Rev. 8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

 

11:15-14:20 Rev. 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

 

15:1-16:21       Rev. 15:1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing,

seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

 

17:1-19:10 Rev. 17:1-2 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

 

19:11-21:8 Rev. 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

 

21:9-22:21 Rev. 21:9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

 

_______________________

 

 

 

Rev. 1:1-2 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 

 

The word ‘revelation’ is the word for apocalypse.  We looked at it in depth last week, and here is one of the definitions we used:

The Society of Biblical Literature defines ‘Apocalypse” as a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality, which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another supernatural world.

John is being given a heavenly commentary about what God has done in Christ.   John is to pass it on to the churches.  This revelation finds its roots in Daniel 2.

 

Dan. 2:25-26 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”  The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 

 

Dan. 2:27-30 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.  But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. 

 

Dan. 2:44-45 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.  A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” 

 

Dan. 2:46-47 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.  The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

 

For Daniel, what he saw was to occur ‘in the latter days’, but John says they must ‘soon take place’.  John expects that the final tribulation, the defeat of evil, and the establishment of the New Kingdom will begin in his own generation, and that it has already begun.  The Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ has already begun.  This book will tell us that the process is progressive until the final events occur.  This book was written so that believers would gain a heavenly perspective on redemptive history, and so be encouraged to remain faithful and obedient to Christ’s commands.

 

Rev. 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 

 

Blessing comes to the ones who hear with their ears, and then keep the commandments and teachings of Jesus.  The beatitude is repeated Rev. 22:7, Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.  Thus the blessing encompasses the entire church history, from inauguration through Jesus’ victory at the cross, to the final creation of a new heaven and new earth.

 

The time is near’.  It is near for each of us.  As the years go by, more and more saints are being gathered into the kingdom, and later in the book we will get a glimpse of some of them.

 

In 3:11, 22:7 and 22:12 Jesus repeats his promise: “I am coming soon.”

 

Rev. 1:4-5 John to the seven churches that 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 of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. 

 

John now writes his formal address to the churches of Asia Minor, with greetings from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (See Ps 89:27, 37; Isa 41:4, 44:6; Zech 4:2-7). The letter is written to seven churches, but the number ‘seven’ is the number of completeness or fullness, and therefore suggests that the letters are meant for the church universal.  The earth was created in seven days.  The judgments of this book are in series of seven: seals, trumpets and bowls.  They each mean complete, or worldwide judgment.

 

‘Grace and peace’ are typical greetings in the New Testament letters.  But these are the foundational truths of the church as well.  It is God’s grace that gives us life and membership in his new community, and peace is Jesus promise to his followers, even though: In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33)In the midst of the tribulation they are enduring and will endure, they can have peace that transcends this space-time history and that provides an eternal and trans-historical perspective.

 

 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Rev. 1:6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

 

This is a spontaneous doxology by John as he realizes the implications of the verses above.  Also we should note that the kingdom of Christ is present now, and the priesthood of believers is happening now, not in some, yet to be determined, future.

We are freed from our bondage to sin now through the sacrifice of Jesus.  That is the meaning of being born again.  Our freedom is inaugurated, but not yet completed.

 

Ex. 19:6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”  

 

“Precisely how the church is to exercise these functions is not yet explicit, but it will not be surprising to find that the answer lies in understanding how Christ himself functioned in the two offices.  He revealed God’s truth by mediating as a priest through his sacrificial death and uncompromising “faithful witness” to the world, and he reigned as king ironically by conquering death and sin through the defeat at the cross and subsequent resurrection.  Believers spiritually fulfill the same offices in this age by following his model, especially by being faithful witnesses, by mediating Christ’s priestly and royal authority to the world.” (Beale, p. 193).

 

Rev. 1:7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 

 

This verse is a mixture of two Old Testament verses and a verse from Matthew:

 

Dan 7:14 And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.

 

Zech 12:9-14 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”

 

Matt. 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

 

Rev. 1:8  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

God is sovereign over all creation.  The three-fold description from v. 4 is repeated here for emphasis.  Also the merism of Alpha and Omega highlights the same assertion.  

(A merism states polar opposites in order to highlight everything between the opposites.)  ‘The beginning and the end’, and ‘the first and the last’ are other merisms.  Ancient Hebrews used their alphabet, ‘from aleph to tau’, to encompass the whole law.  Merisms are found throughout Isaiah 41-48.

 

This claim is repeated in Rev 21:6 and 22:7.  God is the only omnipotent God, the creator of the heavens and the earth.  And we are accountable to him for all our deeds.  But besides being the omnipotent judge, he is the loving and gracious God who by his graces invites us into his eternal kingdom, even now.

 

 

 

 

Summary of End Time Views

 

Dispensational Premillennialism

 

Christ’s return - Jesus will return to earth after a 7-year period of tribulation and will rule during a thousand year millennium of peace on earth.

Rapture – The Christians living at this time will be taken from earth to be with the Lord before the tribulation and before Jesus physical return at the beginning of the millennium.  

Israel – All references to Israel in Revelation refer to the nation of Israel.

 

Prominent evangelicals with this view include: J. Nelson Darby, C.I. Scofield, Harry Ironide, Donald G. Barnhouse, Hal Lindsey, John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, Charles Stanley, Tim Lahaye.

 

Supportive Scripture references: 1Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10, Genesis 15:7-21.

 

Historical Premillennialism

 

Christ’s return – Society becomes increasingly evil, leading to the great tribulation.  Then Jesus will return to earth and literally reign for a1000 years.  Christians will be on earth through the period of tribulation to root out false believers, and will continue on earth through the millennial period.  

During Christ’s reign all creation will be restored to its original goodness.

Rapture – There will not be a rapture of the church before or during the millennial reign.

Israel – The church has replaced the nation of Israel as God’s covenant people.

God’s promises to Abraham were conditional and Israel’ persistent disobedience violated and nullified the covenant with Abraham.

References to Israel in Revelation refer symbolically to the church.

Prominent evangelicals with this view include: Many early church fathers includingPapias (60-130), Justin Martyr (100-165), and Irenaeus (130-200).   Modern supporters include: John Warwick Montgomery, George R. Beasley-Murray, Robert Gundry, and George E. Ladd.

 

Supportive Scripture references: Rom 9:6-8; Gal 6:16; 2 Thess 2:3-4; Rev 2:22-23; Isaiah 1:19-20; Jer 7:6-7; Matt 19:28-29.

 

 

Amillennialism

 

Christ’s reign – The millennial kingdom is not an event in the future, but Christ reigns now.  His sacrificial death and his resurrection confirmed his triumph over Satan, and Satan’s power on earth now is restrained.  The number 1000 is understood to represent a long period of time, not a specific number of years. 

Rapture – When Christ returns he will immediately defeat the powers of evil.  All will be resurrected and judged, and the believers and unbelievers will be delivered to their eternal destinies.

Tribulation – Tribulation is present throughout this time.  Great tribulations, disasters, wars, and persecutions have occurred throughout the history of the church.

Israel – Most references to Israel in Revelation are symbolic references to the people of God on earth, true believers from Israel and from the church (Rom 9:6-8).

Prominent amillennialists include: Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, G.C. Berkouwer, Herschel Hobbs, Stanley Grenz, and J.I. Packer.

 

Supportive Scripture references:  Ps 50:10; 90:4, 105:8; 2 Pet 3:8; Rom 11:13-15; Eph 2:1-4; Dan 12:2-3; John 5:28-29; Rev 13:7.

 

Postmillennialism

 

Christ’s return – Christ will return after the millennium.  The millennial reign described in Revelation 20:1-6 represents a long period of time when, through the preaching of the gospel, most of the world will come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Satan’s power will diminish and evil regimes will collapse.  The church will establish God’s kingdom on earth and usher in the millennium, a golden age.  Christ will rule through the power of the Holy Spirit and through his church.

 

Rapture – Christ will return to earth to find his kingdom achieved by the church.  There will be only a few stragglers who have not come to faith.  All people will be physically resurrected and the final judgment will occur (John 5:28-29).  Satan will be permanently bound and cast into hell.  

 

Prominent postmillennialists include: Jonathan Edwards, B.B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, R.L. Dabney, R.C. Sproul.

 

Supportive Scripture references: Mark 3:27; Ps 2:8; Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:34; Dan 2:35; Micah 4:1-4; Matt 24:14; Mark 13:10; Rom 11:13-15; Dan 12:2-3; John 5:28-29.

Revelation 1:9-20   John Commissioned to Write March 20, 2017

 

Last week I suggested in our introductory notes that we are now living as close to the millennial kingdom as any people in the history of the world.  I did not imply that the millennium is complete yet, but that the church has enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity since the founding of our country that acknowledged our dependence on and accountability to God.

 

We have political freedom, freedom of the press, and freedom to worship as we please.  We can build churches and mega-churches with impunity.  We live under the shelter of laws that are just and recognize their roots to originate from “our Creator” and from “nature’s God”, and not from the state.  We have food and shelter in abundance, and ease unheard of by Christians prior to our founding.  The Postmillennialists do have support for their position in western Christian society.

 

But all of this lays an extreme burden of responsibility on us and on our churches.  God did not give us all of this for our ease, but to allow us to use our wealth and resources to carry out the great commission. 

 

Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

 

 

Rev. 1:9-11 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

 

John’s experience of the kingdom includes tribulation and the need for patient endurance.  These three came as one package to the early church.  The believer is not merely a subject of God’s kingdom, but he is a partaker of the whole package.  In fact, John was now in exile for his faith.  But that did not limit God from speaking to and through him.  God had a message to the churches of Asia Minor, and John was to be his voice.

 

But for John to be the voice of God he had to be ‘in the Spirit’.  It is through the Spirit that God speaks to us, and if we are ‘grieving the Spirit’ in our lives, God’s voice cannot reach us.  

 

John was in the Spirit ‘on the Lord’s Day.’  The Sabbath was the seventh day for Israel.  It was the day God rested from the Creation.  But Christ arose on the Sunday following the Sabbath, thus making the 8th day the day of the New Creation, and the day of inauguration of his new kingdom.  Even as we are to partake of communion to commemorate his death until he comes, we should see each Sunday as a commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, until he return.

 

Matthew Henry advises us: Let us who call him “Our Lord,” honour him on his own day. The name shows how this sacred day should be observed; the Lord’s Day should be wholly devoted to the Lord, and none of its hours employed in a sensual, worldly manner, or in amusements.  Those who would enjoy communion with God on the Lord’s Day must seek to draw their thoughts and affections from earthly things.  And if believers are kept on the Lord’s holy day, from public ordinances and the communion of saints, by necessity and not by choice, they may look for comfort in meditation and secret duties, from the influences of the Spirit; and by hearing the voice and contemplating the glory of their beloved Savior, from whose gracious words and power no confinement or outward circumstances can separate them.

The voice John hears is like the voice heard by Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20), and by Ezekiel in Babylon (Ezek 1:4-28, 2:1-4).  This being so, the voice John hears has prophetic authority.       

 

 Here is a brief view of the Isle of Patmos.

 

Patmos

 

Geography

The small island of Patmos is about 7.5 miles (12 km) long from north to south and at its widest is 6 miles (10 km) from east to west. It is the northernmost island of the Dodecanese. With an area of 13 square miles (35 sq. km) and a circumference of 25 miles (37 km), the volcanic island presents a largely rocky and treeless landscape.

John's Exile

The book of Revelation explicitly states that it was written while John was on the island of Patmos. This is the only book in the New Testament where the place of writing is given. According to a tradition preserved by Irenaeus, Eusebius, and Jerome, John was exiled in AD 95 during the reign of Emperor Domitian. His exile ended upon the accession of Nerva in 96.

  

Holy Cave of Apocalypse

Rev 1:9 (ESV) “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

 

 

Roman Prisoners

According to Pliny and Tacitus, the Romans often sent their prisoners to islands. Tacitus mentions three islands in the Sporades by name: Donusa, Gyarus, and Amorgus. That Patmos was not listed indicates that it was not a primary place for imprisonment at this time. It is not clear if John was imprisoned on Patmos or banished here to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monastery of St. John

The most imposing building on the island is the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Constructed by Christodoulos in 1088, the monastery is located in the town of Chora overlooking the harbor. With walls 50 feet (15 m) high, it was built like a fortress because of the threat from pirates. The monastery was built on top of the remains of a 4th century AD church and an earlier temple of Artemis. An inscription that mentions the temple of Artemis is displayed in the monastery’s museum.

 

Traditions

A tradition says that John received the vision of Revelation from heaven verbatim and dictated it to his assistant Procorus, who wrote it down. Procorus is mentioned in Acts 6:5 as one of the seven original deacons. Many other traditions on the island are associated with miraculous works of John and are found in the Acts of John by Prochorus, a pseudipigraphal work that was written in the 5th century and attributed to John’s scribe(cf. Acts 6:5). 

 

 

 

 

Rev. 1:12-16 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and this face was like the sun shining in full strength. 

 

The first thing John sees as he responds to the voice, are seven golden lampstands.  The lampstands represent the church as a whole, even as the seven spirits represent the Holy Spirit in v. 4.   The roots of this vision are found in Exodus 25:31-40 and 37:17-24, and in Numbers 8:1-6.  More specifically we find the lampstand in Zechariah 4.  Here the lampstand represents all of Israel.

 

Zech. 4:1-10 And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep.  And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.  And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 

And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”  Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”  Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 

Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain.  And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ” 

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it.  Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.  For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. 

 “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.”

 

 The church as a lampstand is called on to be the light of the world, and the city on a hill, which cannot be hid.  This book of Revelation is the story of the attempts by Satan to extinguish the light, and of his failure to do so.  The prophesy of Zechariah (and of Haggai) encourages the Israelites who have returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  But it also looks forward to the New Temple, the foundation of which is laid by Christ’s death and resurrection, and will be fully realized in the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

The second thing John sees is Christ himself, in his royal and priestly splendor.  He has the appearance of the ‘little horn’ seen by Daniel in his vision of the four beasts (Daniel 7).

 

I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots.  And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 

 

As I looked,

thrones were placed,

and the Ancient of days took his seat;

his clothing was white as snow,

and the hair of his head like pure wool;

his throne was fiery flames;

its wheels were burning fire. 

A stream of fire issued

and came out from before him;

a thousand thousands served him,

and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;

the court sat in judgment,

and the books were opened.

 

His hair white like wool suggests his eternal being, the flaming eyes refer to judgment, and the feet of bronze refined in a furnace represent purity, and the voice like the roar of many waters is the voice of God in Ezekiel 1:24 and 43:2.

 

God is unchanging, and the New Testament and the Old Testament are words from the same God, so it should be no surprise that the visions of the Old Testament are consistent with the vision of John.

 

The ‘stars’ held in Jesus’ hand represent the church, just as the lampstands do.  Some commentators have suggested that the stars represent the church in its heavenly presence and the lampstands represent the church on the earth.  In any case, Jesus holds the church in his right hand.

 

One of the reasons for the church to meet weekly is to remind the believers of its heavenly existence, and the liturgy of the church on earth should reflect in some way the liturgy before God on his throne.

 

The sharp two-edged sword is found in Isaiah 11:4 and 49:2.

 

Is. 11:4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips she shall kill the wicked. 

Is. 49:2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword;

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow;

in his quiver he hid me away.

 

The sword is also the Word of God as we find in Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12.

 

Eph. 6:17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 

Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Finally we remember that Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.Matt. 10:34 

 

The sword for the early church was Rome.  But the church has experienced the sword throughout history, and we may well experience it in our own lives right here in our peaceful land. 

 

Finally the vision of Jesus face shining as the sun in full strength is the face of the warrior in Judges 5 and of the archangel, Michael, in Daniel 10, who was battling with the ‘Prince of Persia’ on his way to answer Daniel’s prayer.

 

 

Rev. 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

 

Once again we repeat the merisms from last week, ‘the first and the last’, ‘who died and is now alive forevermore’.  He has the keys, not only to Death and Hades, but to Heaven, as well.  He is the author and creator of all things, and John is reminding his churches that nothing can happen to them that is out of the control of Jesus.

 

Rev. 1:19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.

 

John is to write matters covering all of church history, past, present and future.  But the book will transcend historical time and uncover the meaning of existence and of history in its totality.  Thus the book will be as much historical as eschatological.

 

Rev. 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches.

 

The number ‘seven’ is repeated six times in this sentence.  Seven is the number of completeness.  The mystery of God’s victory over Satan will be totally revealed and accomplished through the church.

 

But isn’t it great to know that God’s churches have their own guardian angels watching over them while they are engaged in mortal combat with Satan and his minions.

 

 

 

 

Next week we will consider the inroads of Islam into Western Europe and into the US, and ask if this is not a judgment from God for our materialism and syncretistic Christianity.

Revelation 2:8-17    Letters to Smyrna and Pergamum        April 4, 2017

Jesus, the righteous and just judge is addressing his churches in these letters.  Last week we noted that Ephesus was commended for its doctrinal purity, but was warned that its enthusiasm to be witnesses to the Gospel and to Jesus Christ was waning and had to be restored.

This week we will study the churches in Smyrna and in Pergamum.   There is no criticism of the church in Smyrna, only praise.  But it is a church that is subject to great persecution.  This may be why it remains so faithful and pure.  The church in Pergamum has been faithful, even under persecution, but false teachers have arisen that are leading some of the believers astray.  The false teachings invariably include sexual immorality in one form or another.  This week’s news about Vice President Pence is that he commented years ago that he would not go to dinner with another woman without his wife being present.  Now this has become news.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-it-matters-that-pence-wont-have-dinner-with-a-woman-who-isnt-his-wife_us_58dd1740e4b05eae031d949c)  

The vilification that is being poured on him has been astounding.  Rather than being happy to have a man of integrity in such high office, he is described as a sexist prig who wants to put women subordinate to men again. 

As I read through these letters to the churches I wonder how anyone could be able to really please the Lord, and if all our efforts might not be in vain.  We are so easily led astray and so easily distracted from our meager service to the Lord.  The clothing of the Bride of Christ will be “the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev 19:8).  What will be our contribution to his garments?

SMYRNA

Rev. 2:8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

As ‘the first and the last’ Jesus identifies himself with God Almighty (See 1:8), and with eternity.  As the one ‘who died and came to life’ he identifies himself with mankind, and his temporal existence on earth.

Rev. 2:9 “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
The church at Smyrna seems to be a lower class church.  It was hard for believers to find meaningful employment because they did not participate in the pagan culture around them.  The imperial cult was very strong in Smyrna where there was more than one temple to the Roman religions.  The Romans would persecute them for failing to bow to the Emperor as god, and the Jews did not accept them into the synagogues.  The Jews considered the Christian worship of a crucified criminal as the divine Messiah a blasphemy.  (See Acts 26:9-11).  True Jews are those of spiritual Israel and those who confess the Christ (Oecumenius), (Romans 2:28-29).  

The Jews had a special dispensation from the Romans that allowed them to not worship Caesar.  They were religio licita.  Once the Christians were no longer considered a sect of Judaism, they lost their Jewish exemption and were considered an illegitimate religion.  Thus both Jews and Gentiles shunned the Christians.  Although they were economically poor they possessed spiritual wealth, and Jesus found nothing to criticism them about.

    2 Cor. 6:8-10 We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and     yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as     sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having     nothing, yet possessing everything.
 
    James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor     in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised     to those who love him? 

    1 Cor. 1:26-29 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise     according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, and not many were of     noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God     chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low     and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things     that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Rev. 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The persecution of Christians in Smyrna appears to be particularly severe.  Ten days means, ‘during your sojourn on earth’.  Jesus warns them that they will face martyrdom.  Polycarp, a student of John in Ephesus, became the bishop of Smyrna, and was martyred there.  

How would we do if called to be faithful unto death?

Polycarp - A Father of the Christian Church

Polycarp is a celebrated figure in the history of Christianity. A direct pupil of the apostle John, Polycarp lived between 70 and 155 A.D., connecting him to both the biblical apostles and the age of the early church fathers. Several ancient sources document the contributions of Polycarp to Christianity, including his letters written to the church at Philippi, in which he encourages the members to remain strong in their faith and to flee from materialism. He also instructs the members in the proper handling of financial dishonesty that was creeping into the church. Polycarp served as the bishop of the church at Smyrna (modern day Izmir), and was recognized as one of the early combatants of Christian heresies. He rejected the teachings of Marcion, an influential heretic who tried to create a "new brand" of Christianity by redefining God and rejecting Old Testament teachings. In his well-known thesis, Polycarp combats Gnostic heresies that were beginning to spread throughout the Christian church.

Polycarp - A Martyr for Truth

Polycarp's greatest contribution to Christianity may be his martyred death. His martyrdom stands as one of the most well documented events of antiquity. The emperors of Rome had unleashed bitter attacks against the Christians during this period, and members of the early church recorded many of the persecutions and deaths. Polycarp was arrested on the charge of being a Christian -- a member of a politically dangerous cult whose rapid growth needed to be stopped. Amidst an angry mob, the Roman proconsul took pity on such a gentle old man and urged Polycarp to proclaim, "Caesar is Lord". If only Polycarp would make this declaration and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar's statue he would escape torture and death. To this Polycarp responded, "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" Steadfast in his stand for Christ, Polycarp refused to compromise his beliefs, and thus, was burned alive at the stake.

Polycarp - A Relevant Testimony for our Lives

Polycarp's martyrdom is historical reality. He died for one reason - his unyielding faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet Polycarp's well-recorded death is only one of many lives that were given to reveal and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. In light of the cruel and torturous deaths of the first and second generation Christians, all theories that Christianity is a fabricated myth, created for the personal gain of its followers, must be rejected. Even today, many will die for a belief, but none will die for a lie. God allows the deaths of His saints not because He is a helpless or indifferent Lord, but because their deaths are powerful declarations of the free gift of life that is offered to us through the Person of Jesus Christ. If you have any doubts about the truth of Christ as revealed in the Bible, reexamine the biblical text in light of the willing deaths of nearly all of its writers, men who were eyewitnesses to Christ's life and ministry. Polycarp, like many other Christians to this day, was only able to die for Christ because he lived for Christ. His life was radically transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit -- the desires, worries, pains and fears of this world no longer bound him. Polycarp's life and death provides an inspirational example for all Christians. He gave his earthly life for Christ, and in the midst of his sacrifice, he gained eternal life. 

Rev 2:10b Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The crown of life is a metaphor for eternal life.  (Tim 4:8; 1 Pet 5:4).  It denotes participation in Christ’s heavenly, victorious rule.  The church may be persecuted by the Crown of Rome, or any other government, but the governments of this world will perish whereas the faithful believers will live eternally in Christ’s new kingdom.

Rev. 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

Christ was given full power over Satan and death through his resurrection.  He now holds the keys of death and Hades  (1:18).  Satan may still kill believers in this life, but he has no power over the life to come.  He will suffer the second death (20:14-15), but the faithful believer will not see death again.

PERGAMUM

Rev. 2:12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 

Jesus is very concerned by the apostasy in this church.  He addresses it as one who has the sharp two-edged sword, and in v.16 he threatens to use it against the church.  Jesus’ sword is two-edged.  “The two-edged sword is either the word of the gospel, which cuts the heart and separates the faithful from the unfaithful, or it is the relentless judgment against the impious” (Andrew of Caesarea).  Could Islam have been that sword then, and could it be the sword today?  

Rev. 2:13  “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

Pergamum was a dangerous place for the early Christians.  It is described as the place of Satan’s throne.  German archeologists excavated the city of Pergamum in the early 1900’s.  They carried a lot of artifacts from it to Germany where they reconstructed parts of the temple known as Satan’s Throne.  When Wayne Hoover and I were in Berlin on a Gideon’s mission, we went through Check Point Charlie into East Berlin.  We were able to go to the museum and see the throne.  It was a powerful and dramatic experience.
A temple had been built to Caesar Augustus and Pergamum was a ‘temple warden’ city for the state.
But it also contained a temple to Asclepius, the serpent god of healing.  The serpent was one of the emblems of the city.  Today it is the emblem of medicine.  Satan is called a serpent in Rev 12:9 and 20:2.  This may be why it is called Satan’s throne.

In this atmosphere the church was surviving and was holding fast to its witness, even though it suffered the martyrdom of Antipas.

Many Christian traditions believe Saint Antipas to be the Antipas referred to in the Book of Revelation, Revelation 2:13, as the verse says: "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth." The "faithful martyr" of Pergamon, "where Satan dwelleth". According to Christian tradition, John the Apostle ordained Antipas as bishop of Pergamon during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. The traditional account goes on to say Antipas was martyred in ca. 92 AD by burning in a brazen bull-shaped altar for casting out demons worshiped by the local population.


Rev. 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

As we have learned false teachers had arisen in the church that advocated compromise with the culture of the day, syncretistic worship of the pagan gods, especially the Caesars, and permitted a degree of sexual immorality.  Much of the Old Testament teaches through example and principle that this is wrong.  Israel had to be driven out of Jerusalem and into Babylon for 70 years because of these sins.  The Northern Kingdom was driven into oblivion for the same reason 150 years earlier.

Balaam and Balak
The main story of Balaam occurs during the sojourn of the Israelites in the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan River, at the close of forty years of wandering, shortly before the death of Moses and the crossing of the Jordan. The Israelites have already defeated two kings in Transjordan: Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. Balak, king of Moab,[3]consequently becomes alarmed, and sks Balaam to curse the Israelites. However, each time he prophesies he blesses the Israelites and does not curse.  Later, Numbers 25:1-9 describes how Israel engaged in sexual immorality and idolatry with the women of Moab, resulting in God's anger and a deadly plague. Numbers 31:16 attributes this to the advice of Balaam: "Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD."
Deuteronomy 23:3–6 summarises these incidents, and further states that the Ammonites were associated with the Moabites. Joshua, in his farewell speech, also makes reference to it. With God's protection taken from him, Balaam is later listed among the Midianites who were killed in revenge for the "matter of Peor." Joshua13:22 records that Balaam died "by the sword" during a battle for the Reubenite occupation of Moabite land.
Revelation also states that Balaam "taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel.


Rev. 2:15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

The teachings of the Nicolaitans was similar to the teachings of the Balaam cult, so the two were different factions with the same call to compromise with the pagan culture and to allow illicit sexuality and fornication.  We looked at the Nicolaitans last week.  With the pervasive sexuality of our culture today, it is easy to be drawn into these false teachings, or at least to take them lightly.

Rev. 2:16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
God sent a plague among the Israelites in the days of Moab that killed 24,000 Israelites.  He is threatening a similar fate for the false teachers and their followers.

Rev. 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

The Israelites were fed with manna for 40 years when they wandered in the desert.  It was described as resembling white bdellium stones (Num 11:7), or rock crystal.  A vessel filled with manna was placed in the Ark of the Covenant to remind the Israelites that there is eternal manna waiting for them.

The promise of ‘hidden manna’ is a metaphorical portrayal of end-time fellowship and identification with Christ that will be consummated with the marriage supper of the Lamb.  The church should rely on this heavenly manna for its sustenance rather than meat served to idols.

We do not know for sure what the ‘white stone’ means, but in the court of law a defendant may be given a black stone if he is condemned, and a white stone when he is acquitted (Acts 26:10).  Today we still speak of being ‘black balled’.

The white stone given to the believer who overcomes may be his ticket or pass to the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Whiteness is associated with righteousness throughout the Bible as in Isaiah 1:18: 
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
        though your sins are like scarlet,
        they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red like crimson,
        they shall become like wool.  
And Revelation 19:8-9:
     it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
    for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The new name written on the stone is the very name of God himself.
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (Rev 3:12)

Even as a bride takes on the name of her new husband, so we, as the bride of Christ, will take on ourselves his name.  The name is a mark of genuine membership in the true community of the redeemed (Isa 62:2, 65:13-16).

 

Revelation 2:18 – 3:6 Letters to Thyatira and Sardis April 10, 2017

The Book of Revelation is a book of prophecy written to specific churches undergoing

specific challenges. It is written with words of warning and with words of

encouragement to the churches of John’s day. It was not written with esoteric

information about things that will be happening in the remote future. However, it is

relevant to the church throughout history because it addresses issues that face the church

in every age.

The admonitions are to repent, to remain faithful, to persevere and to conquer.

Persecution is increasing against the churches addressed. The persecution is coming

from the state, from the Jewish community, and even from within the church in the form

of false teachings. I am impressed as we read this that there is no relief from the

persecution for the ones who remain faithful or who return to faithfulness. They do not

gain a life of ease or even a let-up by the opposition. All the promises as we go through

this book are in the afterlife. If you are faithful unto death you will receive a crown of

life (2:10).

Such persecution of the church has not happened in our American Christian experience.

It has always been far away where our missionaries go, but not here at home. It is very

real for the churches in Islamic countries today. But times may be changing for us, and

we ought to heed this book more closely so that we will be prepared spiritually for the

spiritual battle that is descending on us (Eph 6:10-12). In Matthew Jesus describes to his

disciples what the church should anticipate.

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying,

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and

of the close of the age?”

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will

come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And

you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this

must take place, but the end is not yet.

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there

will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the

beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will

be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and

betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise

and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of

many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as

a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt 24:3-14)

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The Church in Thyatira

Rev. 2:18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of

God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

Jesus is presented here as the divine judge who sees through us with perfect clarity.

There can be no cover-up in his presence. There is no place to hide. Jesus is called

‘the Son of God’ here for the first time. In chapter 1 he was likened to ‘the son of

man’.

Daniel’s three companions were joined by the ‘son of the gods’ when they were in

the furnace. Eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze is found in

Daniel 10:6.

Rev. 2:19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance,

and that your latter works exceed the first.

Rev. 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls

herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual

immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

The situation in Thyatira is similar to that in Pergamum. There is a faithful witness,

but some have been enticed into sexual immorality. Here the seductress is likened

to Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab in early Israel. She incited Israel to ‘fornicate’

through the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:31). Her teaching was similar to the

Balaam cult and the Nicolaitans. One could compromise with the culture of the day,

including its loose morality. Thyatira was a large economic hub with many trade

guilds. Each guild would have its own patron deity that would be honored with

feasts and banquets. The food at such events would first be sacrificed to the deity

and then served. To prosper in that culture would require participation in such

festivities.

What are the idols today with which we fairly easily compromise?

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Rev. 2:21-23 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual

immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery

with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will

strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches

mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

God gives even the false prophets opportunity to repent; however they do not

respond. Therefore, only judgment remains. Jezebel’s judgment was severe in the

Old Testament:

1Kings 21:23-24 And of Jezebel the LORD also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel

within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the

dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the

heavens shall eat.”

2:23b And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I

will give to each of you as your works deserve.

There is no escaping the relationship between works and judgment. There is no

easy salvation by profession of faith alone. This theme is found throughout the

scriptures. Salvation is by grace alone, even as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8, but

that is only part of what Paul says. Ephesians 2:10 says that the believer is created

in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in

them. Jeremiah 17:10 says: I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give

every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. And James 2:17,

24 and 26 tell us:

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… You see that a person is

justified by works and not by faith alone… For as the body apart from the spirit is dead,

so also faith apart from works is dead.

Rev. 2:24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have

not

learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any

other burden.

The battle is between God and Satan ultimately. The gods of the guilds and of the

pagan society the church was living in are real entities existing in the demonic-

satanic realm that surrounds us. The teaching of the false preachers was that since

an idol has no real existence in the world, then participation in a feast honoring an

idol couldn’t be harmful spiritually. This fails to see into the spiritual world that

Paul warns us about in Eph 6.

Rev. 2:25-27 Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and

who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he

will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I

myself have received authority from my Father.

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This refers us back to the 2 nd Psalm in which Jesus is portrayed as ruler of the

nations.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son,

lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

A monument to the church in Thyatira

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Rev. 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.

This may refer to Jesus’ messianic reign. See Isaiah 11:1-9, Numbers 24:14-17, 1

2 Peter 1:16-20.

Rev. 2:29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Philippi, came from Thyatira. (Acts 16:14). She was a

seller of purple, and Thyatira was known for its purple dyes.

The Church in Sardis

Rev. 3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has

the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the

reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

The ‘seven spirits’ is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows the church in truth, even

as the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, sees through us completely.

Therefore the assessment that the church is dead is true. One’s reputation can

continue long after one has died. So it is with the church. The judgment by the Holy

Spirit is based on one’s works, as noted above. Does the name Christian truly apply

to our church and to us? In these letters the works seems to be bearing witness in

the antagonistic society surrounding the church. There can be no growth in the

church without witnessing. The church might just as well be dead.

Rom. 10:13-14 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be

saved.” But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And

how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are

they to hear without someone preaching?

Rev. 3:2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not

found your works complete in the sight of my God.

Sardis had one of the largest and most important Jewish communities in Asia Minor.

Pressure to compromise and to keep silent was placed on the church from the Jews

as well as the pagans in Sardis. But the role of the church was to be bearers of light

to the city.

Eph. 5:11-14 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead

expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in

secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for

anything that becomes visible is light.

Rev. 3:3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will

not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come

against you.

 

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Matt. 24:42-44 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is

coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the

night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his

house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming

at an hour you do not expect.

There was still a spark of life left in the church. This needed to be fanned back into

flame. It was then, and is now, time to wake up. There needed to be a sense of

urgency. Otherwise God himself, as the Holy Spirit, would rise up against the

church, even as he did in Jeremiah’s time, against Israel.

Jer. 6:8-19 Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust,

lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land.”

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

“They shall glean thoroughly as a vine

the remnant of Israel;

like a grape-gatherer pass your hand again

over its branches.”

To whom shall I speak and give warning,

that they may hear?

Behold, their ears are uncircumcised,

they cannot listen;

behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;

they take no pleasure in it.

Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;

I am weary of holding it in.

“Pour it out upon the children in the street,

and upon the gatherings of young men, also;

both husband and wife shall be taken,

the elderly and the very aged.

Their houses shall be turned over to others,

their fields and wives together,

for I will stretch out my hand

against the inhabitants of the land,”

declares the LORD.

“For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest,

everyone deals falsely.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace.

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

No, they were not at all ashamed;

they did not know how to blush.

Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;

at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”

says the LORD.

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

I set watchmen over you, saying,

 

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‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’

But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’

Therefore hear, O nations,

and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.

Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,

the fruit of their devices,

because they have not paid attention to my words;

and as for my law, they have rejected it.

Rev. 3:4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their

garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

One is found worthy if is one is faithful in his walk and in his witness.

Matt. 10:38-39 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of

me.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find

it.

Rev. 3:5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never

blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and

before his angels.

The white garments refer to purity that has resulted from the fidelity of the faithful

being tested by a refining fire. Zechariah speaks of exchanging our ‘filthy garments’

for a clean ‘robe’. When the Sanhedrin examined priests, “those found with a

‘blemish’ were clothed in black and not allowed to serve, whereas one ‘in whom no

blemish was found clothed himself in white… and ministered”.

Rev. 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of

those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had

borne.

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long

before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the

number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who

were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Rev. 19:6-8 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like

the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying

out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

 

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The remains of a building that could have been the church in Sardis

Rev. 3:6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

The church at Sardis was described as being “dead”. It appeared to be alive – had “a

reputation of being alive” – looked spiritually vibrant on the outside – but was spiritually

lifeless. The church was Christian in name only. This recalls Christ’s scathing rebuke of

the Pharisees who “look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s

bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27).

Says G.R. Beasley-Murray: “The appearance [of the Sardis church] is that of a

beautifully adorned corpse in a funeral parlour, but the Lord is not deceived”. The

church needed to stir up the living Spirit of God in order to come to life.

What was dead about the church and what needed reviving? First, there was no

indication of persecution or trouble from outside forces. Neither was there any heresy

within, in contrast to some of the other churches. Things seemed to be peaceful and

religiously correct. Perhaps it was a church that was too good to be true. Its religiously

proper appearance may have only meant that it had fully and silently compromised with

the truth and the pagan society around it. G.B. Caird calls Sardis “the perfect model of

inoffensive Christianity” (A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, p. 48).

That might explain its calm and sedated outward appearance. George Eldon Ladd

defined the Sardis church as “a picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous,

busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power” (A

Commentary on the Revelation of John, p. 56)

Paul had described such Christians by saying they seemed quite religious but denied

God’s power in their lives (2 Timothy 3:5). This community of the living dead

needed the power of God to bring it back to life.

 

 

 

 

1

Revelation 3:7-22 Churches in Philadelphia and Laodicea

April 24, 2017

Today we will review the letters to the last two churches. Each letter is

prefaced by a special characteristic of the author, who is Jesus himself.

John is only the amanuensis. Each church is praised, and also

admonished, with words of encouragement and of grace. The churches

are facing very trying times, and most are doing their best to remain

faithful. The churches as a whole show characteristics of churches

everywhere and throughout all history. We should take the words of

praise and the words of warning seriously, especially as the spiritual

forces in the world today are moving back toward the blatant hatred

and persecution of the church that the churches of John’s day

experienced.

Western Christianity in Europe and unfortunately in the USA is losing

ground both spiritually and demographically. We are becoming a pagan

nation and are losing our status as a Christian nation. And the numbers

of white Anglo-Saxon citizens are diminishing because we are not

keeping a maintenance birth rate. Islam is moving into the vacated

space, much like it did in the churches in Turkey in the 600’s.

Rev. 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words

of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no

one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

The description of Jesus as the holy one, the true one, assigns to Jesus the

attributes of God himself, ‘the Holy One of Israel’ (Isa 40:25).

Is. 6:3 “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 

Jesus holds the keys to the kingdom of God.

Is. 22:22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of

David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and

none shall open.

Rev. 1:18 I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the

keys of Death and Hades.

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In fact the keys have been transferred to the church.

Matt. 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and

whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever

you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matt. 28:18-19 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in

heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make

disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father

and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

Philadelphia

Philadelphia, which means “brotherly love,” was situated in Lydia along

the Hermus River valley about 38 miles southeast of Sardis. It was

backed by volcanic cliffs and though the land was rich and fertile from

the volcanic residue, Philadelphia was a dangerous place to live due the

many earthquakes experienced by the region. Because of its location,

the city was in constant danger of earthquakes and experienced shocks

as an everyday occurrence according to Strabo. As a result, many of its

inhabitants chose to live in huts outside the city in the open country.

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Note the allusion to this in the promise of 3:12, “and he will not go out

from it any more.” Like Athens, Philadelphia was a temple warden and

gave to the emperor the title “The Son of the Holy One.” It is

undoubtedly for this reason the Lord is called, “He who is holy, who is

true” in verse 7.

Barclay points out another important historical feature about this city

and one also alluded to in the statements of the message to the church

there:

Philadelphia was founded for a special purpose and with a special

intention. It was situated where the borders of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia

met. It was a border town. But it was not as a garrison town that

Philadelphia was founded, for there was little danger there. It was

founded with the deliberated intention that it might be a missionary of

Greek culture and the Greek language to Lydia and Phrygia; and so well

did it to its work that by A.D. 19 the Lydians had forgotten their own

Lydian language and were all but Greeks … That is what the Risen Christ

means when he speaks of the open door that is set before Philadelphia.

Three centuries before Philadelphia had been given an open door to

spread Greek ideas in the lands beyond; and now there has come to it

another great missionary opportunity, an open door to carry to men

who never knew it the message of the love of Jesus Christ.

Rev. 3:8 ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door,

which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet

you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

The opportunity for witness is wide open for the church. The church

may not have been very large right then, but its growth was guaranteed

by the promise of the open door. Our prayer should be that the Lord

provide for us an open door to witness as we walk day by day. If our

hearts really want to witness, then the door will be opened. In the next

verse Jesus will make the Jews join in with the church, possibly before

the end time (Rom 11:11-36).

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Rev. 3:9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that

they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and

bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.

It is interesting how often Satan is mentioned in these letters. We do

not hear much of him in the rest of the Bible. But now that the church is

on the move, and the Lord is adding to the church daily in large

numbers, true satanic opposition is coming into focus.

He does not bother with churches or Christians who are like those in

Smyrna who have the reputation of being alive, but are dead.

The opposition from the Jewish community is very powerful. The Jews

were friends and allies of Rome in the economic structure of the day. It

is interesting how involved the Jewish community has been in banking,

diamonds, gold, and other economic enterprises throughout history.

(But also they have been very active in charitable enterprises in their

communities as well). But such Jews are not really Jews at all. Paul

describes them in Romans, and Jesus in John’s gospel.

Rom. 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For

not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all

are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but

“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is

not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the

children of the promise are counted as offspring.

John 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would

love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own

accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is

because you cannot bear to hear my word.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s

desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to

do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he

speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Rev. 3:10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will

keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try

those who dwell on the earth.

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This particular hour of trial could refer to the true end time persecution

of the church leading to Christ’s last advent. The church will be

persecuted, but the ungodly world system will be judged. I cannot help

thinking that these days could well occur in our own lifetime. Of course,

each generation has had similar thoughts, so take this with a grain of

salt.

Rev. 3:11-12 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one

may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in

the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own

new name.

The symbols of the ‘crown’ and the ‘temple’ mentioned in verses 11 and

12 are undoubtedly allusions by way of contrast with the games and

religious festivals that were a part of life in the city of Philadelphia. In

contrast with the instability of life in a city prone to daily earthquakes,

those who ‘overcome’ are promised the ultimate stability of being

rewarded with special privileges in the temple of God. This church may

picture the modern missionary era of church history.

Rev. 3:13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the

churches.’

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Laodicea

Laodicea was the chief city of Phrygia in the Lycus valley, strategically

located where three highways converged. It was thereby a highly

commercial and wealthy city. It was a city of wealthy bankers and

financiers. The many millionaires combined to build theaters, a huge

stadium, lavish public baths, and fabulous shopping centers.

In 60 A.D. Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake. Being highly

resourceful and self-sufficient, the people restored their own city rather

than receive a government loan from Rome. That was very

commendable and a far cry from what we find today in America.

However, it demonstrated a self-sufficient attitude that could have

detrimental spiritual results if carried over into their relationship with

the Lord.

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In addition to being a banking center, it was a manufacturing center for

woolen garments and medicinal eye salve, powders and other

medications. There was a great medical school there. (3:17-18).

They did have one inadequacy, however—their water supply. Laodicea

received its water through an aqueduct coming from a spring four miles

to the south. The waters of neighboring Hierapolis were famous as hot

springs and would have provided a contrast with the tepid aqueduct

water in Laodicea. By contrast also there was Colossae that had ice-cold

springs, but nothing like this was known in Laodicea. The water in

Laodicea was lukewarm at best.

Certainly, this church illustrates and speaks to the church in our time.

We are living in a period of materialism, consumerism, self-sufficiency,

do-your- own-thing kind of independence and individualism, religiosity,

and apostasy. Our faith is easily distracted and we can be left spiritually

lukewarm.

Rev. 3:14-17 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The

words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s

creation.

“ ‘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.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing

that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

All of the messages to the churches of Asia are extremely practical, but

perhaps none fits the conditions in both Europe and in North America,

as does the message to Laodicea, the church that had become so

lukewarm in its deceptive self-sufficiency. Regarding this condition,

MacArthur has given us an accurate picture. He writes:

One of the remarkable sidelights in the staggering political changes in

Eastern Europe is the fact of a vibrant Christianity that has emerged in

the midst of the suffering, persecution, and atheism of these Communist

dominated countries.

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By contrast, in free Europe where there has been prosperity and

democracy, the church is almost completely dead. The church has

ceased to have any impact on the society. Atheism and humanism have

taken over. Government and public policy is governed almost totally by

philosophies that are antibiblical and ever intolerant of the truth of

Scripture.

If you look at the U.S., you find much the same thing. Government and

the media, which affects the thinking of so much of America, are, for the

most part, liberal and intolerant of Christianity. Leadership in both

Europe and the U.S. are working for a one-world government while the

populace is preoccupied with their comfort and pleasure or the good

life. The moral climate or condition of both free Europe and the U.S. is

rotten to the core. According to a number of polls, if you compare the

values, priorities, practices, and pursuits of professing Christians and

non-Christians alike, you find very little difference on the whole.

Yet, much of free Europe and all of America owe their freedom, their

prosperity, and blessings to the preaching of the Word of God, to the

reformation in Europe, and to the ministries of men like the Wesley’s,

George Whitfield, and Jonathan Edwards in America.

What then is the problem? Is it freedom? Is it prosperity? No! But there

are inherent dangers in both freedom and prosperity, subtle dangers.

It is more than a curiosity that the church had flourished behind the

Iron Curtain while dying in the West. The church is flourishing in China

while it is lukewarm at best in the West. The reasons are clear. Lacking

any visible external threat to our faith, many in the free world have lost

any sense of the subtlety of the enemy and how he attacks. We have

grown careless and apathetic. We have become concerned more with

our own comfort and well being than with the command of Christ that

we should take up his cross (Luke 18:24-30) and follow in His steps

(1 Pet. 2:21).

The problem is that people simply can’t stand prosperity. With freedom

and prosperity comes the temptation to trust in our blessings rather

than in the Blessor. We become fat, comfortable, and self-sufficient. If

we have plenty, we tend to think we have need of nothing. If we do not

 

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have enough, looking at the wealth around us, we tend to think that

what we need is what others have—material blessings.

The problem is that men are putting their faith in the wrong thing - in

their material world, in treasures on earth. Christ told us in no uncertain

terms to do the opposite, to lay up treasures in heaven. Paul instructs us

in 1 Tim 6:17-19:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to

fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies

us with all things to enjoy. {Instruct them} to do good, to be rich in good

works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the

treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of

that which is life indeed.

In other words, in the words of the Savior, we need to lay up heavenly

treasures (Matt. 6:19f). Scripture warns us of this very problem over

and over again.

God warned Israel in Deuteronomy 6:10f against forgetting the Lord as

the source of their freedom and salvation. Nine times in Deuteronomy

He tells them not to forget what the Lord had done for them and 15

times He tells them to remember the Lord and His deliverance.

The Lord Himself in the message to the church at Laodicea warns and

instructs us against the deadening and lukewarm effects of trusting in

material wealth (the details of life) rather than pursuing a vital faith

relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Laodicean church was a church that had lost its impact on the world

because it had become occupied with the world and because it had left

the Lord standing outside. Whether one believes in the idea that the

seven churches of Asia portray seven historical stages the church would

go through or not, certainly this church illustrates conditions of the

church in the 21st century in a large portion of the world.

Rev. 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you

may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the

shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes,

so that you may see.

 

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The self-evaluation of the church in Laodicea could not have been more

wrong. But Jesus graciously offers opportunity for them to be purified,

and to return to righteous living (white garments), and to see again with

the eyes they received when they first believed.

Mal. 3:2-4 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can

stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’

soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify

the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will

bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of

Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of

old and as in former years.

Rev. 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and

repent.

Jesus’ counsel derives from his intense love for his church. If he meets

out discipline it is for the good of the church. To repent is to return to

the first task of the church that is to bear witness to the good news that

Jesus can transform you from death to life.

Rev. 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice

and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with

me.

This is a call to revival rather than to original faith. It is like the

relationship of lover and beloved in the Song of Solomon 5:2, the voice of

my beloved, he knocks on the door. Open to me, my beloved.

Rev. 3:21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my

throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

How can we overcome dependence on our own resources in this day of

material sufficiency and even wealth? How can we ever be conquerors?

Does the Lord have to take away all that we have, as he did to Israel in

Jeremiah’s day, to make it possible to be dependent on him again?

Rev. 3:22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the

churches.’ ”

Revelation 4     John’s First Glimpse into Heaven May 1, 2017

 

 

So far the Lord has been addressing real churches existing in real time with real issues and real solutions.  The letters address the situation in the churches of Asia Minor.  The churches are being challenged from without and within.  Some of the churches have lost their love for witnessing.  Others have become so enmeshed in the culture of the day that they have lost their effectiveness.  False teachers in the churches enticed members to succumb to the sexual temptations of the day, and thus they have been led astray.  Others have been attracted by the lure of riches.  On top of all their internal problems, the churches were experiencing increasing persecution by the state and by the religious institutions of the day, including the Jewish community.  All the churches have been addressed by Jesus himself through John the Apostle, with gracious offers to accept their repentance, but strong announcements of the consequences of failure to change their ways.

 

Today’s lesson begins two chapters dealing with things that must take place after this.  First we see through a door into heaven itself.  In the next chapter we see a Lamb to whom a scroll is given by God.  The churches will be encouraged to see that their faithfulness is not in vain.  There is in their future a new mode of existence that centers purely on the Christ.   John looks through an open door into heaven itself.  The deprivations and persecutions that the churches are now experiencing are part of God’s ultimate plan in some incomprehensible way.  Their faith will be vindicated.  The persecutors will be punished.

 

Rev. 4:1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

 

Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: 

 

 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; 

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 

Ezek. 1:4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.

 

Ezek. 2:9 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 

 

Zech. 2:1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 

 

Jer. 4:23-26 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;

and to the heavens, and they had no light. 

I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,

and all the hills moved to and fro. 

I looked, and behold, there was no man,

and all the birds of the air had fled. 

I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,

and all its cities were laid in ruins

before the LORD, before his fierce anger. 

 

Dan. 7:6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.

 

Jesus voice is the first one that John hears.  Jesus invites John to enter heaven through a door that has now appeared.  Once in heaven time is no more.  We enter a timeless dimension.  So we will be seeing what is still to take place, what is taking place now, and will soon see some things that have already taken place.  The vision is concerned with things ‘realized’ and still ‘unrealized’, but not yet fully consummated.    

 

Rev. 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

 

John’s view is immediately directed to a throne, that is the throne of All Mighty God, the creator and the ruler of the universe.  Everyone, it seems, wants to know what heaven is like.  We read books about heaven, we relish otherworldly experiences, and we think we would not care to spend eternity sitting on clouds with harps.

 

But John sees only God.  His mind is immediately off himself, and is turned to the one seated on the throne.  The throne is the final seat of authority in the universe.  

 

I am a little reticent to provide the pictures below because they are only one man’s attempt to describe what John saw, but you may open the link if you wish.  Also the site has a lot more material than the pictures of the throne room.

http://scripture-for-today.blogspot.com/2015/12/revelation-4-there-before-me-was-door.html

 

Dan. 2:28-29 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 

To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.  

 

Rev. 4:3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 

 

How does on begin to describe God?  We usually make God in our own image and think we have a handle on him.  But when the door to heaven is opened, what we will see will be very different, and probably unbearable.  The rainbow represents Gods unfailing promises to man, even as given to Noah after the flood.  John tries his best to describe what he sees, but can only refer to things most precious to man on the earth.  The throne of God will be mentioned 17 times in the next two chapters, and 38 times in the book of Revelation.

 

Ex. 24:9-11 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 

And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

 

Ezek. 1:26-28 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.  And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around.  And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 

Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

 

The precious stones represent the new heaven as seen in Rev. 21:9-27.   Jasper represents God’s glory (21:11).  

 

Rev. 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.

 

 God is not in heaven alone.  His chosen people and their leaders surround him.  The twenty-four thrones seat the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles.   The thrones represent the people of the Old Testament that are saved, and the peoples of the New Testament that are members of his new kingdom, thus all of the people of God.  Although we are still on earth, each of us that is born again also exists at this time in heaven.  (Remember, there are no clocks in heaven.  Everything is continually present.)

 

Rev. 4:5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 

God represents himself in fiery form throughout the Bible.  Everyone who sees him thus is stricken with fear.  I am afraid we have lost all sense of the fear of God.  We sing that Jesus is a ‘friend of sinners’, but we forget that he is the judge of sinners as well.

 

Exod. 19:16-18 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.  Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 

Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 

 

Ezek. 1:13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 

 

Rev. 8:5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. 

 

Rev. 11:19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. 

 

Rev. 16:18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.

 

Rev. 4:6-8 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.  And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

who was and is and is to come!” 

 

The sea usually connotes cosmic evil, and particularly the mass of unrepentant humanity.  The beast in 13:1 rises out of the sea.  The second beast, in 13:11, arises out of the earth.  The Red Sea was an evil barrier for the escaping Israelites, but God overcame the sea by dividing it in two (Exod. 14:16).  Maybe the sea of glass, like crystal, shows that God has overcome all evil and the sea has returned to its original intent.

 

Psa. 89:9 You rule the raging of the sea;

when its waves rise, you still them.

 

Psa. 95:5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

 

Is. 27:1 In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.

 

Dan. 7:2-3 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.  And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.

 

These four creatures differ from the ones seen by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.  Yet they have many similarities.  They are continually in God’s presence, and continually offer praise to Him.  Their eyes are all seeing.  Nothing is hidden from them.

 

In the wilderness, the tribes of Israel were divided into four groups and each camped around the tabernacle, north, south, east and west.  They were given designations with insignia on the priest’s breastplates of a lion, a stag (originally an ox), man, and a serpent (later changed to an eagle).  Could the creatures represent all animate life that will join in worship in the new creation?  

 

 

 

Num 2:2 "The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers' houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side.

 

 

Rev. 4:9-11 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever.  They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.” 

 

One of the purposes of the worship service here on earth is to reflect in its humble way the worship and praise that is happening continually in heaven.  Therefore, we should model our worship services after the ones we see in the Old Testament and in this Book of Revelation as we get a glimpse of heaven through the open door of verse 1.  Our real home is not here on earth, but in the heavenly kingdom.

 

I have been thinking this week that few of us really know how to worship.  Other religions understand worship more completely.  Think of worship in a Buddhist temple or a Hindu temple.  From what I have seen the worshippers seem to be fully immersed in their god, not just in their religion.  The same can be said for the worship of the Dali Lama.  I suspect many devout Muslims approach Allah more worshipfully than most Christians in our western Christian society approach God and Jesus on any given Sunday.  Also I am sure that Christians in the Middle East and in China and other places where persecution is common, know better than we how to approach God worshipfully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelation 5The Lamb and the Scroll May 8, 2017

 

Last week we got a glimpse into heaven as John looked through an open door.  There was a throne with God sitting on it.  The throne was surrounded by twenty-four thrones with twenty-four elders seated on the thrones.  The Holy Spirit was there along with four cherubim like creatures.  All were continually praising and worshiping God.

 

This week we see more details of what is happening in the throne room.  We see a sealed scroll in God’s hand and then we see a Lamb standing in the area before the throne that is surrounded by the 24 thrones.  What does all this mean?  We must remember that this is being written to newly formed churches to encourage the members that God is in control of their lives, no matter how dire their situation seems at the present.  As we are approaching dramatic changes in our nation’s condition, we should take encouragement from these words as well.

 

We will find that this scene affirms God’s sovereignty over all creation and over all history.  Christ’s death and resurrection inaugurates the last days, which will be consummated with final redemption and final judgment.

 

Rev. 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 

 

What do you think the scroll represents?  There are many references to scrolls (books – biblios) in the Old Testament.

 

Ezek. 2:9-10 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it.  And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

 

Is. 29:11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 

 

Dan. 12:1-4“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt, and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.  But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. 

Dan. 12:9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.

 

The scroll represents divine revelation.  Heretofore God’s purposes and plans have been hidden, but now, through Christ’s death and resurrection the plan is being revealed.  

As an aside, the Ten Commandments were written on both sides of the tablets given to Moses.  Exodus 32:15 - Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written.

 

Rev. 5:2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 

 

The scroll must contain very important information.   Is it ‘the Lamb’s Book of Life’?  Or is it the Old Testament, which until Jesus arrived was quite obscure?  Is it a book containing the events of the future ‘Great Tribulation’ leading up to the second coming of Christ?  Could it contain God’s plan of judgment and redemption of mankind?  Or is it a covenantal promise that turns all of creation over to the Lamb who is the worthy one? “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation, 

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.” 

But nobody has the authority to open it.  The deed to the earth was given to Adam.  He forfeited it to Satan through his sin.  A new Adam, a true and perfect human, will have to be the one to redeem the deed.  Last week we saw that God, Himself, is the only worthy one (4:11).  Who then could be sufficiently worthy?  

In Daniel we find that the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.  Will someone appear before the time of the end?

 

Rev. 5:3-4 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 

 

John first sees the world trapped in sin and without hope.  Therefore he weeps loudly.  How will his congregations be recompensed for their faithfulness?  How can the horror of Adam’s sin be expiated?   Is there no hope for mankind or for creation?

 

As we noted last week, once you are in heaven there is no time.  Past, present and future are all united in one present continuum.  John is seeing creation from the beginning of time to the end.  We will need this perspective to understand this book.

 

Weeping is often found in Scripture.  It is a valid emotion that expresses great sadness and pain.  As tough men we sometimes find it hard to weep.  But it would be good for us to weep as Jeremiah did for the sins of our people and of our nation.

 

John 11:35 Jesus Wept.

 

Matthew 2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah, 

weeping and loud lamentation,

Rachael weeping for her children;

She refused to be comforted

Because they are no more.

 

Psalm 126:5-6 Those who sow in tears 

shall reap with shouts of joy! 

He who goes out weeping, 

bearing the seed for sowing, 

shall come home with shouts of joy, 

bringing his sheaves with him.

 

1 Samuel 1:9 She (Hannah) was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.

 

Jeremiah 9:1 Oh that my head were waters, 

and my eyes a fountain of tears, 

that I might weep day and night 

for the slain of the daughter of my people!

 

Rev. 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 

 

As John looks more deeply through the open door, an elder points to one who can open the scroll.  It is the Messiah, the Lion of Judah, the Son of David, and the sinless one who suffered death on behalf of Adam’s progeny.  He is the only man with the right credentials.  He conquered Satan through his death, so he can claim the scroll.

 

The form of the scroll follows the Roman legal documents of John’s day.  The contents of the contract or testament are written on the inner pages, which are then folded and sealed, usually with seven seals.  The seals assure that the contents cannot be altered or modified.  A summary of the contents would be written on the back or outer sheet.

 

 

Rev. 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 

 

Now John sees a Lamb, not a Lion.  Although it appears to have been slain, it is standing, and not dead.  Again time does not affect heaven.  John has seen what was, and he wept loudly.  But now he sees what is happening in his day and his fears are relieved.  Before this chapter is over, he will see the future in which every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, will worship the Lamb.

 

Is. 53:6-8 All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned every one to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

 

The Lamb has seven horns that signify complete strength and power.  He has seven eyes, which are the seven spirits, which is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit sees all and fills the whole earth on behalf of the Lamb.  The Lamb conquered by being mortally wounded while defeating the enemy.  His sacrifice not only redeemed, but also conquered on our behalf.  Now the believers who are undergoing persecution can also conquer through their suffering.

 

Rev. 5:7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 

 

Dan. 7:13-14 I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him. 

And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.

 

John is seeing first hand what Daniel saw in his dreams and visions.  This passage in Daniel 7 is the only place in the OT that one approaches the Throne of God to receive authority.  The reign of the Father has been transferred to the Lamb, who will now rule the heavens and the earth.

Rev. 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 

 

The 24 elders might be modeled by the 24 orders of Levites who were commissioned to provide music in the worship in the house of the Lord (1 Chronicles 25:6-31). They were to make music with cymbals, harps and Lyres, thus each elder was holding a harp.

 

Note that the elders and the four living creatures bow down before the Lamb, as they did earlier before God, the Father. The Lamb receives the same worship and obeisance, as does the Father, making the Lamb equal to the Father.

 

The prayers of the saint make up the incense in the golden bowls.  See 6:9-11 and 8:4ff.

 

Rev. 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

 

Rev. 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 

 

Rev. 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation, 

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

The elders break out in song praising the Lamb and the redemption he completed on the cross.  They sing a new song.  In the OT a ‘new song’ is always an expression of praise for God’s victory over the enemy.  This song acknowledges Christ’s victory on behalf of believers from all peoples on the earth, over the powers of evil and of death.

 

The eternal kingdom has been inaugurated and is present already in this fallen world.  We have through God’s grace been invited into the kingdom, and thus are on the road to eternal life with God and the Son. 

 

2Cor. 5:15-17 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

 

Gal. 6:14-15 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 

 

 

Eph. 2:10-16 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down tin his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

Rev. 5:11-14 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 

 

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”  And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. 

 

Now John sees the end of history when every creature in heaven and on earth will worship the Lamb, even as Paul stated in Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Revelations 6:1-8     The Four Horsemen   May 15, 2017

 

For the past two weeks we have been looking with John through an open door that leads to heaven.  God’s throne is the central element seen, and the throne is surrounded by 24 additional thrones.  Four unusual appearing living creatures are seen.  And finally, John sees the Lamb that appears to have been slain, now standing before the throne.

 

Also, we noted that John sees the whole spectrum of time all at once, from the fall of mankind to the final events of time in which every knee in heaven and earth and under the earth and under the sea, join in praise and worship of the Lamb.  There is no clock any longer.  Every event of time is eternally present.  God sees all of history at once, and John is given a glimpse of what this entails.

 

The Lamb received a scroll sealed with seven seals.  We discussed the possible contents of the scroll, and then suggested that it contained the covenantal deed to the whole earth that originally belonged to Adam, but was taken from him by Satan at the time of the fall.

 

This week we will begin to see the scroll unsealed.  The unsealing is not a benign process.  All of Satan’s fury has been directed at the Lamb and subsequently to his body, the church.  Also, as sin took the deed to the earth from man; payment must be made by man to regain the deed.  That which Adam sowed, his children will have to reap.  It is not a pretty sight.

 

Rev. 6:1-2 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”  And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. 

 

We assume that the seals were opened sequentially because the language suggests that.  But it could be that the seals are all opened simultaneously.  All of the disasters have appeared continuously through out history, at times more violently, and at other times more benignly.   We in western Christian society have been privileged to live in the most benign period in history, because of the incredible moral capital bequeathed us by our forefathers.

 

Who do you think the ‘white rider’ is?  Is it a good force or an evil one?  Could it be the Christ, or is it Satan masquerading as good?  The term ‘white’ is used 14 other times in Revelation, always in a good sense.

 

In Rev 19:11-16 we see Christ sitting on a white horse and making war.

 

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 

And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

Jesus told us that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matt. 10:34  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

 

On the other hand, the horses that follow are definitely forces of evil.  We are warned of ‘false Christ’s’ and ‘false prophets’.  God is able to bring disaster to his people as necessary, as in Deut 32:23-26.  The white horse in Zechariah 6 accompanies the red horse, the black horse, and the dappled horse, all of which represent judgment on Israel.

 

The warfare could be spiritual as well as physical.  Ours is more spiritual.  John’s churches in Asia are facing both physical and spiritual warfare.

 

Rev. 6:3-4 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”  And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

 

The second horse, this time a red one, is summoned by one of the cherubim around the throne.  This horse has been around for a long time.  Peace is rare in the history of mankind and in the history of the church.  The church suffered under Pax Romana, did better when Britain ruled the waves, and has really had it well in our land.  Now it looks like this horse is on the move again.  

 

We must note, however, that the power to take peace from the world is permitted by heaven.  God is in ultimate control of all the horsemen, and of this horseman.  Persecution is part of God’s permissive will.  John’s flock must realize this.  It can act as punishment for the unbeliever, and as a purifying process for the believer.

 

Rev. 6:5-6 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 

And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” 

 

The third horse, the black one, represents famine in the world.  Food is weighed out with scales.  Remember how Joseph dealt with the seven years of famine in Egypt.  Famine was one of the judgments that the Lord would bring on Israel for disobedience.  

Read Leviticus 26.

 

Lev. 26:25-26 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.  When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.   

 

There was a noted famine around 90 AD.  The Christians in Asia would have been affected by this, as was the rest of the known world.  A denarius equaled a day’s wages, so that a little bit of grain exacted a very high price.  And the Christians were already suffering economic deprivation.  But the faithful believers were promised that in heaven they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore (7:16).

 

Not every famine is from a lack of food.  But every famine ultimately comes from God for the carrying out of his purposes.

Amos 8:11  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,

“when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

but of hearing the words of the LORD.  

 

Ezek. 14:13-14 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.

 

Rev. 6:7-8 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”  And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

 

Death and Hades are the domains of Satan.  In fact, the last enemy to be defeated will be death, according to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:50-58).  The dwelling place of Satan and his followers is Hades, or Sheol.

 

Hos. 13:14  Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?

Shall I redeem them from Death?

O Death, where are your plagues?

O Sheol, where is your sting?

Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

 

The mechanisms that God allows Satan to use to bring about death are the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts of the earth.  (Read Ezekiel 14).  God remains the sovereign.

 

However, the believer has passed from death to life.  Therefore Paul can state that death is swallowed up in victory 1 Cor. 15:54).  

 

Revelation 6:9-17    The Fifth and Sixth Seals

 

The Lamb is holding the scroll given him by God the Father.  The scroll has seven seals.  The Lamb was found worthy to open the scroll, and he has begun opening the seals, one at a time.  Each opening has cosmic consequences.  Four seals have been opened so far, and four horses and riders have appeared.  They represented conquest, war, famine, and death.  All of these plagues have been with us from the beginning.  If we calculate the reasons for men dying from the beginning of time, I would suspect that a quarter have died from famine or malnutrition, another quarter from disease and plague, and another from trauma and war.  The numbers dying of plain old age are pretty small in comparison. 

 

Now two more seals are opened.  However, rather than finding more afflictions, the fifth seal opens another window into heaven. A place is found under the altar that is filled with the souls of believers who have been slain for the sake of the gospel.  

 

However, the sixth seal sounds very much like a picture of the end of time, as we know it.  We shall see.

 

Rev. 6:9-10 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

 

Who are the souls under the altar?

What does it mean to be under the altar?

Is martyrdom required to reach the time of the end?

 

I cannot identify the souls represented here for sure. Since this letter is being written to churches that are currently undergoing persecution and martyrdom, I would say the souls are the martyrs from the local churches.  But, of course, they can and do represent all who have lost their lives for the faith.

 

We see them again in the next chapter and I suspect these are the same souls plus those who will still be martyred for the faith:

 

 

 

Rev. 7:13-17 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 

I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

Matt. 24:9  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.

 

Jesus promises persecution for his followers.  We have been living in a time warp in our country where persecution of the church has been negligible for the past 350 years.  I do not think this will last much longer.  I fear Satan is waking again and is on the move in our land.

 

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  

 

There were two altars associated with worship in the tabernacle and later in the temple.  The large altar outside was where the bulls and lambs and other sacrifices were slaughtered and burned.  It is at this altar the sins of the people were expiated daily and yearly.

 

The second altar was inside the temple, at the entrance of the Holy of Holies.   It was a special altar on which incense would be burned all year long.  It is under this altar that the saints are found.  Revelation 5:8 describes the prayers of the saints as incense rising up to God, so this is the appropriate place for the martyred saints.

 

Ex. 30:1-10  “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.  A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it.   You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. 

And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 

 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. 

You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it.  Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.” 

 

O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge…

 

This question is a very old one. Noah asked it, and his answer was within his lifetime.   David asked it in the Psalms.  Zechariah records an angel of the Lord asking the same question concerning Jerusalem. 

 

Zech. 1:12 Then the angel of the LORD said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’

Rev. 6:11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

 

The martyrs are given white robes.  White is the color of righteousness and righteous deeds.  It is the color of Christ and of his bride (Rev 19:6-8).  Therefore the Christian bride in a church wedding wears a white gown.  Isaiah promises the believer that his sins will be washed away and they will become ‘white as snow’. 

 

The robes are not given as a reward for faithfulness, but rather as a heavenly declaration of the faithfulness and purity of the believer, and an annulment of the judgment by the world that caused their martyrdom.

 

Rev. 3:4-5 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

 

Rev. 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 

Is. 1:18  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

 

Apparently there is a predetermined number of believers that God has established already that will make up Christ’s Bride.  

… until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

 

The Wycliffe Associates (Two thousand tongues to go) are motivated to translate the Bible into 2000 languages as their contribution toward hastening that day.  We certainly know that the number is increasing with each generation.  But although the number is a great multitude (see above 7:9-10), it might be small in relation to all the people who have ever lived, because Matthew tells that the way is hard to find. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matt. 7:14).

 

 

Rev. 6:12-17 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.  The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 

for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?

 

It is hard to read this without seeing it as a true end-time picture.  It sounds like the last judgment is about to begin.  But it could also refer to the moment of Jesus crucifixion.  At that moment all history changed.  Satan was defeated.  His judgment was established, and we will see the consequences of this near the end of this book (Rev 20).   The sky was darkened, and all history was rolled back like a scroll.  Now history made sense.  Jesus established himself at the true heir of mankind and of the earth, and he inaugurated his new kingdom.

 

John could well have understood what he was seeing from his reading of Isaiah and Joel.

 

Isaiah 34:1-4 Draw near, O nations, to hear, and give attention, O peoples!

Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;

the world, and all that comes from it. 

For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,

and furious against all their host;

he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter. 

Their slain shall be cast out,

and the stench of their corpses shall rise;

the mountains shall flow with their blood. 

All the host of heaven shall rot away,

and the skies roll up like a scroll.

All their host shall fall,

as leaves fall from the vine,

like leaves falling from the fig tree.

 

God is the God of history.  All things and events are under his control.  Nations rise and fall, but only with his permission and at his command.  The apocalyptic picture John sees has been seen by many a nation in the past, and especially by Israel itself.

 

Is. 40:15-18 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,

and are accounted as the dust on the scales;

behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. 

Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 

All the nations are as nothing before him,

they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. 

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 

 

Is. 40:22-23 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 

who brings princes to nothing,

and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

 

Joel 2:1-2 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, 

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains

a great and powerful people;

their like has never been before,

nor will be again after them

through the years of all generations. 

 

Joel 2:10-11 The earth quakes before them;

the heavens tremble.

The sun and the moon are darkened,

and the stars withdraw their shining. 

The LORD utters his voice

before his army,

for his camp is exceedingly great;

he who executes his word is powerful.

For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome;

who can endure it?

 

Joel 3:13-15 Put in the sickle,  for the harvest is ripe.

Go in, tread,

for the winepress is full.

The vats overflow,

for their evil is great. 

Multitudes, multitudes,

in the valley of decision!

For the day of the LORD is near

in the valley of decision. 

The sun and the moon are darkened,

and the stars withdraw their shining.

 

Matt. 24:29  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

 

This is how Jesus describes the end of the age.  Read Matthew 24.

Revelation 7:1-17        Heavenly Worship   May 22, 2017

 

Six of the seven seals on the scroll have been opened.  The sixth seal confirms that God will execute final judgment on the unbelieving world.  Although this has an ‘end times’ appearance, it also demonstrates God’s continuing justice and judgment on mankind.  It seems to be cruel and harsh, but we should see it as a picture of the consequence and horror of sin, in the world and in our own lives.  Even the whole physical universe, including the sun, moon, and stars, has been affected by the fall of Adam.

 

However, the believers have been and continue to be protected and preserved by God.  They cry ‘how long before you will judge…’ and they are encouraged to wait patiently a little while longer.

 

This week’s chapter is an interruption in the process of opening the seals.  The seventh seal remains unopened.  The believers are given further encouragement that they are sealed in the faith through their faith and faithfulness.

 

Rev. 7:1-3 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.  Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

 

Last week we noted that Satan is on the march today.  However, he is restrained by the ‘four angels standing at the four corners of the earth’.   He can only do what he is permitted to do, and no more.  John is encouraging the believers in his churches that the powers of evil and the power of the state are under God’s control. 

 

See also: Zech 6:1-8; Jeremiah 49

 

The seal of the believer is the Holy Spirit.  The divine seal empowers the believer to remain loyal to Christ and to keep from being part of the world system.

 

Eph. 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

 

Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

 

Rev. 3:10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

 

Rev. 7:4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 

Rev. 7:5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, confession

12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, son of vision

12,000 from the tribe of Gad, temptation

Rev. 7:6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, blessing

12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, prayer

12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, forgetting (of the past)

Rev. 7:7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, obedience

12,000 from the tribe of Levi, true priesthood

12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, reward

Rev. 7:8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, abode of strength, fragrance

12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, addition, gifts of grace

12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.   son of sorrow

 

The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted, possibly because of their special association with idolatry.  See Judges 18:16-19, 1 Kings 12:28-30; Hosea 4:17-14:8, cf. 5:9.

There are about 20 variants of the tribe lists in the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

144,000 

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/144000_(number) - mw-headhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/144000_(number) - p-search

 

144000 is a natural number

 

 

Christianity

 

The number 144,000 has religious significance for Christians because of its use in the Book of Revelation, where it appears three times:

  • Revelation 7:3–8 (ESV)

saying: "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until after we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
2,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

  • Revelation 14:1 (ESV)

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.

  • Revelation 14:3–5 (ESV)

And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. For it is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:B_Facundus_145.jpg

 

The numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are variously interpreted in traditional Christianity. Some, taking the numbers in Revelation to be symbolic,[1] believe it represents all of God's people throughout history in the heavenly Church.[2] One suggestion is that the number comes from 12, a symbol for totality, which is squared and multiplied by one thousand for more emphasis.  Others insist the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are literal numbers and representing either descendants of Jacob (also called Israel in the Bible) or others to whom God has given a superior destiny with a distinct role at the time of the end of the world.[3] One understanding is that the 144,000 are recently converted Jewish evangelists sent out to bring sinners to Jesus Christ during the seven year tribulation period.[4]

 

Preterists believe they are Jewish Christians, sealed for deliverance from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D

 

Dispensationalist Tim LaHaye, in his commentary Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain (Zondervan, 1975), considers the 144,000 in Revelation 7 to refer to Jews and those in Revelation 14 to refer to Christians.[5]

 

 

 

Jehovah's Witnesses

 

Main article: The 'anointed' (Jehovah's Witnesses and salvation)

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christian men and women from Pentecost of 33 CE until the present day will be resurrected to heaven as immortal spirit beings to spend eternity with God and Christ. They believe that these people are "anointed" by God to become part of the spiritual "Israel of God".[6][7] They believe the 144,000 (which they consider to be synonymous with the "little flock" of Luke 12:32) will serve with Christ as king-priests for a thousand years, while all other people accepted by God (the "other sheep" of John 10:16, composed of "the great crowd" of Revelation 7:9,14 and the resurrected "righteous and the unrighteous" ones of Acts 24:15), will be given an opportunity to live forever in a restored paradise on earth.

Individual Witnesses indicate their claim of being "anointed" by partaking of the bread and wine at the annual Memorial of Christ's death. Nearly 12,000 Witnesses worldwide—an increase of more than 3,000 since 1995[8]—claim to be of the anointed "remnant" of the 144,000.[9]The members of the Governing Body who exercise teaching authority over Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide claim to be among the anointed 144,000, and also consider themselves as a group to be the faithful and discreet slave of Matthew 24:45 and Luke 12:42.[10][11][12]

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that the sealing of the 144,000 are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.[13]

 

Skoptzists

The Christian Skoptsy sect in Russia believed that the Messiah would come when there were 144,000 Skoptsy believers, based on their reading of the Book of Revelation.[14][15]

Unification Church

 

The Unification Church founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon believes the 144,000 represents the total number of saints whom Christ must find "who can restore through indemnity the missions of all the past saints who, despite their best efforts to do God's Will, fell prey to Satan when they failed in their responsibilities. He must find these people during his lifetime and lay the foundation of victory over Satan's world".[16]

 

Islam

 

144,000 is alleged to have been the number of Sahaba of Muhammad, though other totals have been given.[17] The number is also given as the total number of prophets in Islam,[18] although this has also been reported as 124,000 or 244,000. The actual number of prophets or Sahaba (Companions) is not known, however, 25 prophets are mentioned by name in the Qur'an.

 

New Age movements

 

The number 144,000 is also significant in various New Age religious movements.

 

  • The Church Universal and Triumphant teaches that Sanat Kumara and the Lords of the Flame also brought 144,000 souls with them from Venus.
  •  
  • Raëlism also states that there are 144,000 chosen people to continue humanity in case of an upcoming disaster.[19]
  •  
  • The satirical Church of the Subgenius believes that somewhere between 144 and 144,000 people will be taken with the Xists aboard the pleasure saucers.
  • References

 

    1.  "144,000 sealed in Apocalypse [Revelation] 7:4ff; 14:1 ff: This is 12, the number of the tribes of Israel, multiplied by itself and then multiplied by 1000, the number of a military unit in the ancient Israelite army. The number indicates the fullness of Israel; the Church in the New Testament is conceived as the fullness of Israel, and this is the heavenly Church in its final completion." – Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J., p. 621.
    2.  "The earth-dwellers will stand in rebellion against God, but the 144,000 as slaves of God will faithfully proclaim the gospel." Robert L Thomas, "One Hundred Forty-Four Thousand: Who Are They?", Ankerberg Theological Research Institute
    3. "144,000 are Jewish evangelists."
    4. http://www.discoverrevelation.com/Rev_14.html
    5.  What does the Bible Really Teach?, ch. 8, p. 79
    6.  Rhodes, Ron (2009). Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Harvest House Publishers. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7369-2451-1.
    7. "Questions From Readers". The Watchtower: 30. 15 August 1996.
    8. Annual report, Yearbook, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 2012
    9. http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/activities/events/annual-meeting-report-2012/
    10. "The Faithful Steward and Its Governing Body", The Watchtower, June 15, 2009, pages 23–24.
    11. 2011 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 51
    12. Doctrine and Covenants 77:11
    13. Heretz, Leonid (2010), Russia on the Eve of Modernity, New studies in European history, Cambridge University Press, p. 92, ISBN 9781139470667, The day of the Skoptsy's final triumph would come when their ranks reached the number of 144,000 (Revelation 7:4).
    14. Brackney, William H. (2012), Historical Dictionary of Radical Christianity, Scarecrow Press, p. 293, ISBN 9780810873650, The Skoptsy were perfectionists and Millennarians. Their practices were to lead them to qualifying for being admitted to a Millennial kingdom, which would begin when there were 144,000 Skoptsy believers (inspired by Revelation 14:1–4).
    15. Exposition of the Divine Principle, p. 144.
    16. Hughes, Thomas PatrickA Dictionary of Islam, "Ashab"
    17.  Wherry, Elwood Morris & Sale, George. A Comprehensive Commentary on the Qurán
    18.  The message, Intelligent Design, page 298
  • This page was last edited on 8 May 2017, at 19:52.

 

 

Rev. 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

 

The 144,000 are representative of the whole church and show that the church is the true Israel.  Now we see what the real number of redeemed mankind is.  It is a great multitude from every nation that cannot be numbered.   They sing the same song that was sung in 5:13-14, possibly the second verse.

 

The ‘great multitude’ reminds us of God’s promise to Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.

 

Gen. 22:15-18 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

 

Gen. 17:4-6 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.

 

Rev. 7:11-12 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 

 

The entire heavenly host joins in the song.  This is a ‘new song’.  In the OT a ‘new song’ is always an expression of praise for God’s victory over his enemies.  This song celebrates Christ’s defeat of the powers of evil and sin, and the salvation he has accomplished.  We should note that the virtues here attributed to God are also the virtues found in the church, the body of Christ on the earth.

Rev. 7:13-14 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 

 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

 

Caesarius of Arles: These are not, as some think, only martyrs, but rather the whole people in the church.  For it does not say that they washed their robes in their own blood but in the blood of the Lamb, that is, in the grace of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  As it is written, “And the blood of his Son has cleansed us(1 John 1:7).

 

 

Rev. 7:15-17 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

 

This sounds like the words of a second hymn, sung by the congregations of John’s churches.  Like all great hymns this gives the congregation a glimpse into God’s kingdom, both the kingdom to come and the present kingdom that is the church on earth.   We should put this to music, but I suspect it has already been done by saints like Isaac Watts or the Wesley’s.

 

In fact, I found it in my 1844 edition of “The Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, of the Rev. Isaac Watts, D. D.  I will bring it to class Monday morning.

 

Revelation 8:1-13 The Seventh Seal June 5, 2017

 

Until now there has been a lot of activity in Heaven as John looked through the door into it.  There was music, active creatures and elders, myriads of angels, martyred saints, prayers, songs of worship, and for the past two weeks the pounding of hoof beats.

Today the seventh seal is released and it is accompanied by silence.  Some commentators suggest that the seal had no content.  I think will find quite the opposite today.

The sixth seal was opened in chapter 6.

 

Rev. 6:12-17 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.  The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?

  

Last weeks study of chapter 7 was an interlude, an interruption, placed to encourage the believers that God is on the throne and that all they are suffering will be well rewarded.  

 

Now the last seal is opened.  The sixth seal sounded like a description of final end times.  The 7th seal expands this view.  It occurs during the final judgment.  Although the final judgment was inaugurated at the crucifixion it is not complete until the last and final day, which is still ahead of us.

 

Rev. 8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

 

Was there silence before creation? Was there only the triune God prior to creation?   We do not know, but we know that creation was initiated by God’s speaking.   There are times of silence spread throughout the Bible.  We are asked to be still so that we can hear God’s voice.

 

In the OT silence is often associated with divine judgment.

 

Psa. 115:17  The dead do not praise the LORD,

nor do any who go down into silence. 

 

Psa. 31:17 O LORD, let me not be put to shame,

for I call upon you;

let the wicked be put to shame;

let them go silently to Sheol. 

 

Is. 47:5  Sit in silence, and go into darkness,

O daughter of the Chaldeans;

for you shall no more be called

the mistress of kingdoms.

 

Amos 8:2-3 “The end has come upon my people Israel;

I will never again pass by them. 

The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”

declares the Lord GOD.  “So many dead bodies!”

“They are thrown everywhere!”

Silence!” 

 

Lam. 2:10  The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground in silence;

they have thrown dust on their heads and put on sackcloth;

 

Zech. 2:13  Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

 

Hab. 2:20 But the LORD is in his holy temple;

let all the earth keep silence before him.”

 

Zeph. 1:7-8 Be silent before the Lord GOD!  

For the day of the LORD is near;

the LORD has prepared a sacrifice

and consecrated his guests. 

And on the day of the LORD’s sacrifice—

“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons

and all who array themselves in foreign attire.

 

Silence is a sign that the Lord has heard the saints’ prayers from chapter 6:10-11.  Judgment is imminent.   But the silence is in heaven.  Therefore it must be the angels that are silent.

 

The Jewish scholars found silence in heaven in the Exodus story.  See Exodus 15:1-18.  There was silence when the angel of death passed over Egypt.  But then judgment was meted out on the Egyptian army that pursued the Israelites.  God as warrior triumphed over the enemy, even as he will over the enemy in Revelation.  We will find parallels to the Exodus story in the plagues of trumpets in Revelation.

 

There was 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew.  Then John, the Baptist, appeared to break the silence, and Jesus appeared to destroy the enemy.  I contend that there was silence in heaven for the hours Jesus was on the cross.

 

 

 

Silence can be an indication of a revelatory announcement by God.  In Ezekiel 1 the four living creatures would stand still so the voice of God could be heard.

 

Ezek. 1:22-28 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads.   And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. 

And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 

And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 

 

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 

And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 

Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

 

There is silence in the temple liturgy when the incense is offered.  The order of service in the temple roughly resembles some of the images in Revelation.

  1. Trimming of the seven lamps (Rev 1-3)
  2. Slaying of the sacrificial lamb (Rev 5:6)
  3. Pouring of the sacrificial blood at the base of the altar (Rev: 9)
  4. Offering of incense during a time of silence and prayer (Rev 8:1, 3-4)
  5. Burnt offering and drink offering (Rev 16:1)
  6. Sounding of trumpets (Rev 8:6)
  7. Singing of psalms (Rev 19:1-8)

 

It is not entirely clear why the silence lasts ‘for about a half hour”.  The rest of the book suggests that the final judgment will be sudden and unexpected.  We see such suddenness in the final judgment of Babylon, which is to occur in ‘one hour’.

 

Rev. 18:10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,

you mighty city, Babylon!

For in a single hour your judgment has come.” 

 

Rev. 18:16-17 “Alas, alas, for the great city

that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet,

adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 

For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” 

 

Rev. 18:21-24 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,

“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,

and will be found no more; 

and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,

will be heard in you no more,

and a craftsman of any craft

will be found in you no more,

and the sound of the mill

will be heard in you no more, 

and the light of a lamp

will shine in you no more,

and the voice of bridegroom and bride

will be heard in you no more,

for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,

and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 

And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,

and of all who have been slain on earth.”

 

Rev. 8:2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 

 

Jewish apocalyptic writings list seven well-known archangels, which include Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel, and Remiel.  It may be these are the angels John saw.  They are holding trumpets, but still the picture is one of silence.  It is not until the 6th verse that they prepare to blow them.  One gets the sense that this is a real silence anticipating a real and final judgment.  The Bible names only two archangels, Michael and Gabriel.  Do you know where they are found?

 

 

Rev. 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 

 

John’s eyes move again to the altar of incense where the martyred saints are standing.  The angels are preparing the censer and as noted in the temple liturgy, there is silence around the altar.  The saints are waiting in breathless anticipation for the answer to their question, “How long?”  Note that the prayers of the saints augment the incense.  Can we hasten the second coming by our prayers, or hinder it by not praying?

 

 

Rev. 8:5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

The seventh seal was opened and suddenly there was a deep silence in the whole universe.  Not a sound was heard in heaven.  There was no voice from heaven on earth.  The prayers of the saints were rising to God with the incense from the altar.

 

Now the silence is broken, first with peals of thunder and rumblings, and then with the sounds of seven very consequential trumpets.  God is on the move.  The prayers of 6:9-11 are about to be answered.  

 

The first four seal judgments were primarily trials to test the faith of God’s people.  The trumpet woes seem to be directed toward the unbelieving persecutors of the church.  These have a rough parallel with the plagues that came upon the Egyptians in the events preceding the Exodus.

 

There is a progression of intensity of sounds and activity in Revelation:

 

4:5  ‘flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder’

 

8:5  ‘thunder, rumblings flashes of lightning, and an earthquake’

 

11:19 ‘flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail’

16:18-21 ‘flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake…and great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each’

 

This is how the Israelites experienced God in the wilderness.

 

Ex. 19:16-18 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.

 

Psa. 77:18-19  The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;

your lightnings lighted up the world;

the earth trembled and shook. 

Your way was through the sea,

your path through the great waters;

yet your footprints were unseen.

 

Rev. 8:6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. 

 

In the Old Testament trumpets predominantly indicate:

 

1. The gathering of God’s people (see Numbers 10:1-10)

2. An alarm that holy battle is to be engaged  

(See Jeremiah 4:5-31)

3. To signal a retreat (2 Sam 2:28, 18:16, 20:22; 2 Kings 9:13)

4. Judgment (see Ezekiel 7:1-27)

5. A victory won, or salvation (see Joshua 6:1-27)

6. To signal the announcement of good news 

7. Eschatological judgment, or salvation (Joel 2:1-32)

8. A means of warning (Numbers 10:1-8; Ezek 33:3-6)

9. To signal an attack(Num 31:6; Judges 78-22)

10. A cry to God for help (Num 10:9)

In the New Testament the trumpet is sounded to indicate the return of Christ and the ingathering of his people.

 

Matt. 24:30-31 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 

1Cor. 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

 

Rev. 8:7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth.  And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 

 

Ex. 9:22-25 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.” 

Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.  There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.  The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast.  And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.

 

God’s intention in bringing the plagues on Egypt was not to turn the Egyptians to him, but rather to further harden their hearts.   The plagues were suited for the particular gods of the nation.  Josephus states that one reason for recounting the exodus plague is to warn mankind in general that when man offends God as the Egyptians did, they will be punished in a similar way.  The Exodus plagues, therefore, are physical and literal examples of the theological and typological model for the trumpets.

Amos 4:10  “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;

I killed your young men with the sword,

and carried away your horses,

and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;

yet you did not return to me,”

declares the LORD.

 

Rev. 8:8-9 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.   A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

 

The great mountain probably represents a wicked nation or group of nations (See Ezekiel 35).  In Revelation 11-18 the kingdom is to be identified as ‘Babylon” that holds sway over the evil world system. 

 

The ‘sea’ represents the entire unbelieving world.  The first beast (Rev. 13) will rise out of the sea.

 

Rev. 8:10-11 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.   The name of the star is Wormwood.  A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

 

Ex. 7:20-24 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 

And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.  But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.  Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.

 

As the judgments are being meted out the Egyptians hearts are hardening.  Is this happening in our own country today, and in our world today?  To be sure some hearts are turning to the Lord, but the opposition against the church and the marginalization of believers is increasing.  Unfortunately, even as the believers suffered with everyone else as the seals were being opened, so the believers will suffer the trumpet judgments with everyone else.  However, for the believers it is redemptive and for the unbelievers it is God’s judgment on them.  The believers are experiencing the last Exodus.  The unbelievers are becoming more obstinate and hardened.

 

The ‘great star’ may represent an angel guardian of the evil kingdom.  Satan fell from heaven as a star in Isaiah 14:12-15.

 

Is. 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!

Rev. 8:12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. 

 

Ex. 10:21-23 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.  They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.

 

In Moses’ day the whole nation of Egypt was cast into darkness.  The Egyptian sun god was Ra, of whom pharaoh was considered an incarnation.  As the fourth trumpet is sounded only a third of light was extinguished. This suggests that the judgment of the trumpets in not complete.  There still is room for repentance for anyone who responds to the plagues appropriately.  However, Jesus warns us: And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).

 

The judgment on Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s and Zechariah’s days was meted out in thirds.

 

Ezek. 5:2 A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them.

 

Zech. 13:8-9 In the whole land, declares the LORD,

Two thirds shall be cut off and perish,

And one third shall be left alive. 

And I will put this third into the fire,

And refine them as one refines silver,

and test them as gold is tested.

They will call upon my name,

and I will answer them.

I will say, ‘They are my people’;

and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”

 

The first four trumpets affect the created order including creation of light, of the earth and sea, and of man. It appears that the creation order is being undone, a sort of ‘de-creation’.

 

But as the old creation is being taken down, a new creation looms in the future, even as the plagues on Egypt finally brought the Israelites into the Promised Land.

 

Rev. 8:13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

 

This will be next week’s lesson.

Revelation 9The Fifth and Sixth TrumpetsJune12, 2017

 

Last week four trumpets sounded.  They wrought havoc on earth and possibly on the universe itself, but most men were spared the consequences.  The intent of the trumpet plagues was primarily to be a warning to unbelieving man, and it was possible that they were redemptive for some.  The trumpets resembled the seventh, first, and ninth plagues of Egypt (Exodus 9:22-26; 7:20-21; 10:21).  The response of Pharaoh and the Egyptians was a hardening of their hearts rather than turning to the living God.  At the same time the plagues were directed to the redemption of the Israelites, God’s chosen people.

 

As you recall, the intent of the seals that were opened was to bring the believers to repentance and to strengthen them in their faith.  The unbelievers could still be drawn to the faith as well.  With the trumpets, turning to the faith will be harder, and most hearts will be hardened as in the days of Moses.

 

Today’s lesson begins with the ominous words of the 13th verse of chapter 8: Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

 

Rev. 9:1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.

 

John did not see the star fall from heaven to earth, but he saw the star that had fallen.  Isaiah likened Nebuchadnezzar to such a star that would descend on the Israelites.  We consider the star in Isaiah 14 to be Satan himself.

 

Is. 14:12-15 “How you are fallen from heaven,

O Day Star, son of Dawn!

How you are cut down to the ground,

you who laid the nations low! 

You said in your heart,

‘I will ascend to heaven;

above the stars of God

I will set my throne on high;

I will sit on the mount of assembly

in the far reaches of the north; 

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.’ 

But you are brought down to Sheol,

to the far reaches of the pit.

 

Is this the star that John saw, or was the star another nation still to come likened to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar?  We will see Babylon again in chapter 18.

 

Luke 10:17-20 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”  And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

  

Rev. 9:2-3 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.  Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.

 

Once again Tolkien portrays this pit in dramatic and understandable pictures.  Frodo must exert super-human effort to assault the fire mountain, and it is possible only by the ‘magic’ of Gandalf (a force outside of himself).  The forces of evil swarm the earth as they attack the city of men.  But in the end, despite all odds, the forces of good prevail.

Smoke arises from this pit as a mockery of the incense that rises to God from the true altar.

 

The abyss, the bottomless pit, must be a horrible place.  Even the evil spirits begged Jesus not to send them there.  Yet out of this pit arise the scourges of mankind from the day of Adam to our present day and to the ‘last day’.

Luke 8:29-31 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.)  Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 

And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.

 

But from this we are reassured that God and the Lamb are in control of Satan’s realm.  God is working out his purpose on the earth, and the believers should be encouraged by God’s ultimate sovereignty over evil.

 

 

Rev. 9:4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 

 

The first four trumpet plagues were directed at the physical world, and mankind only indirectly.  Now the trumpet woes are directed at unbelieving man, and all who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

 

Rev. 9:5-6 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.  And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.

 

Could this torment be psychological in nature, since one does not die?  Could it be men driven by guilt that is not expiated?   Could Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome be part of this?  What drives one toward suicide?   

 

Deut. 28:27-29 The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, and with tumors and scabs and itch, of which you cannot be healed.  The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind, and you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you.

Is this happening to us as a nation as we lose our Biblical foundations and no longer have a moral or even a political reference point for our actions and decisions?  In the Book of Judges the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals (2:11)…  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (21:23).

 

Rev. 9:7-10 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.  They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.

 

In Joel invading nations are likened to locusts.  Read the entire prophecy of Joel (Only 3 chapters).  The locust plague on Egypt appears to be real locusts.  Could they be helicopters or drones in Revelation 9?

 

Joel 1:2-6 Hear this, you elders;

give ear, all inhabitants of the land!

Has such a thing happened in your days,

or in the days of your fathers? 

Tell your children of it,

and let your children tell their children,

and their children to another generation.

  

What the cutting locust left,

the swarming locust has eaten.

What the swarming locust left,

the hopping locust has eaten,

and what the hopping locust left,

the destroying locust has eaten. 

 

Awake, you drunkards, and weep,

and wail, all you drinkers of wine,

because of the sweet wine,

for it is cut off from your mouth. 

For a nation has come up against my land,

powerful and beyond number;

its teeth are lions’ teeth,

and it has the fangs of a lioness.

Ex. 10:12-15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.”  So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 

The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again.  They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

 

 

 

  

 

Rev. 9:11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

 

Abaddon is the Hebrew word for destruction and Apollyon the Greek word for destroyer. 

The name Apollyon is like ‘Apollo’ the Greek god who may have been symbolized at times by a locust.  The name Apollo means to destroy or to torment.  The emperor Domitian claimed to be an incarnation of Apollo, and the early church considered Domitian to be directed by the devil himself.  Therefore the king over the bottomless pit is a satanic figure (the prince of Gehinnon) or Satan himself.

 

Rev. 9:12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. 

 

Rev. 9:13-14 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 

 

A voice comes from the four horns of the golden altar as the sixth trumpet is sounded. The horns represent power, and four represents completeness.  Does this mean that the full power of God is now responding to the prayers of the saints under the altar (Rev. 6:10)?

 

And four angels had been bound at the great river Euphrates.  Now they are released.

Are these ‘angels’ demons that have been restrained by God until now like the demons confined to the abyss in 9:1-3?  And does the number four suggest that Satan will no longer be restrained?

 

Rev. 9:15-16 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.  The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 

 

The demon angels have been prepared for this very moment in real time.  Their involvement will cause a great slaughter of mankind. The troops number 200 million, about the size of China’s standing army.  It is an incalculable number.

 

 The judgment of Egypt in Jeremiah 46 describes Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of the land.  Could that be a mini version of the consummation war to come?

 

Jer. 46:5-6 Their warriors are beaten down

and have fled in haste;

they look not back—

terror on every side!

declares the LORD. 

The swift cannot flee away,

nor the warrior escape;

 

 

 Jer. 46:10 That day is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts,

a day of vengeance,

to avenge himself on his foes.

The sword shall devour and be sated

and drink its fill of their blood.

 

Jer. 46:22-23 “She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away;

for her enemies march in force

and come against her with axes

like those who fell trees. 

They shall cut down her forest,

declares the LORD,

though it is impenetrable,

because they are more numerous than locusts;

they are without number.

 

Rev. 9:17-19 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 

By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 

For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. 

 

Fire, smoke and sulfur portray a very destructive force.  We can easily imagine this today with our weapons of modern warfare.  Fire and sulfur rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham’s day.  Therefore this could mean warfare or natural disasters.

 

Gen. 19:24-25 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.  And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

 

Gen. 19:28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

 

Rev. 9:20-21 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

 

The trumpet plagues have not been so much redemptive as punishment of non-believers.  And here we see that for the most part the non-believers were hardened and did not repent.  They persisted in their idolatry, immorality and thievery.  Thus the judgments are deserved.  However, we also deserve these judgments save by the redemption that comes from faith in Christ as our redeemer.  The punishments we see in Revelation were all applied to Christ in our stead.  His suffering on the cross was no small event.

 

The role of idols fills the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  Although the idols are inanimate they represent demon forces and therefore are not ineffectual.  The demons can indwell individuals as noted above.  The can guide nations through their pagan leaders.  They can deceive believers, and so we need to be continually on guard.

 

The unrest we are seeing this very day in our world is demon inspired and supported, with the men involves as pawns in their hands.

 

Psa. 115:4-8 Their idols are silver and gold,

the work of human hands. 

They have mouths, but do not speak;

eyes, but do not see. 

They have ears, but do not hear;

noses, but do not smell. 

They have hands, but do not feel;

feet, but do not walk;

and they do not make a sound in their throat. 

Those who make them become like them;

so do all who trust in them.

 

Is. 6:9-10 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 

Make the heart of this people dull,

and their ears heavy,

and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,

and hear with their ears,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.”