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Category Archives: Revelation

Revelation 22 – The End (Evil Undone)

Does Revelation 21-22 fit what happened in Rome two thousand years ago?  Or does the book now speak of the final judgment to come?  I think that the answer is both.  It’s hard to say that it has no relevance to the Roman situation since we are told yet again in 22:7 that this return will come very soon.  Remember how in Revelation 20, we talked about the idea that Satan will have times in the future that he will regroup and return to try to destroy the people of God.  In a similar way, there will be time after time that God will rescue his people and let them join his victory.  In that way, the book of Revelation is a pattern that is repeated throughout history.  It makes sense that in the final Judgment Day that it will be a more complete version of what God has been doing all along.

Revelation 22 has many beautiful images of how the remaining damage that has been done by evil will now be completely undone.  The image of crystal clear water pouring forth for the people of God is an image of life.  Some think this indicates the Holy Spirit while others are reminded of Eden’s rivers or Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman that he would give her living water.  What’s clear is that this water is a source of life and blessing.  Those who drink it will never thirst again.  The tree of life reminds us of Eden, where God’s garden provided everything humans could want, before death or sin ever entered the creation.  And not just any fruit, but 12 kinds of fruit for each month (12 times a year).  Again, the number 12 reminds us of God’s people and we are supposed to realize that God is feeding his people and providing for them abundantly.

The curse will be lifted.  The curse immediately leaves me thinking of men working the land for food and women having pain in childbirth, but Revelation 22 doesn’t connect the lifting of the curse to either of those aspects.  Immediately after the curse is lifted we are told of an intimate relationship between God and his people where they can see his face and his name is upon their foreheads.  This is the fulfillment of communion and the relationship that is desired.

The book ends with several promises that all of this is true and will soon come to pass.  The letter, as soon as John finished it, was not to be kept secret, but sent throughout the churches warning them.  While some have said that Revelation uses images to keep Romans from understanding it, these final verses seem to contradict that.  There is an invitation that those who are outside the gates might listen and “come.”

At the end of the day, every single one of us has a choice.  This is good news and bad news in this.  The bad news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.  The good news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.

My prayer is that God will give me rivers of crystal clear, life giving water.  And my prayer is that you will ask for the water too.  Because that water washes all the pain of the dragon and the beasts away.  It heals.  It gives life.  It fills you with the love of the one who created love.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 21 – “Heaven is Great but its Not the End of the World”

We’ve read of the destruction of Rome, the destruction of earthly kingdoms, earthly rulers, and of all that is evil. What is next? What is there to look forward to? We try to find comfort where we live and in our leaders but we are assured that these things are temporary…no matter how great they might seem. To put hope in the governments and ideals that surround us where we are is to put hope in something that is temporary no matter how great it may seem. These chapters are sobering reminders that we are not at home here. We turn the page from the destruction of all things and open a new chapter that reveals life, true life. Life that is worth hoping in. Life that is worth living out the reality of now as we anxiously await its coming. We turn to Revelation 21 to see what this looks like.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…and there was no longer any sea.” I’m a mountain man myself but the sea is a close second in things I love about the beautiful world we live in. It may sadden us to read that there will no longer be a sea. I got to sail this past summer for the first time. The 25’ catamaran I was on was fast as it cut through the Caribbean. I felt alive. Why would there be no more sea? The sea, for the ancient world, is where evil spawns. We see the beast come from the sea. While it is something to enjoy while sitting on a beach or sailing, it is a terrifying thing to be sailing in a storm or to have a tsunami kick up a horrifying wave. The sea is relentless. The fact that there is no more sea means that evil has been conquered.

The Holy City, New Jerusalem, prepared as a beautiful bride now comes down to earth, God’s creation. God’s dwelling place has been restored to the earth He created as He intended it to be in the beginning. When God created the earth, He intended to dwell with His creation. When sin came into the world, God and creation became separated. Throughout scripture we see God pursuing His creation and dwelling amongst His people in limited ways, awaiting the day when He and His creation would be joined together again. First in the tabernacle, then in the temple, in the Church (the Holy Spirit within us), and finally when all has been conquered, God will restore His creation to how He intended it to be and dwell again with His creation. “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” I began asking the question in high school, “Why would God put us here on earth if He intends for us to be with Him in heaven?” Revelation 21 and 22 points us to the answer. God is finishing what He started in His creation, making all things right again.

The Christian walk is not one about going to heaven someday but one of heaven coming to earth to redeem its brokenness. When we receive the Holy Spirit we enter into a time of “already but not yet.” We have the reality of heaven within us, and where we go we take that reality with us. Where Christian live the world should look drastically different. We don’t “do good deeds” in order to “go to heaven when we die.” We do good deeds because we have heaven within us and we make this the reality wherever we are. When we see the brokenness of this creation we redeem it for God because that is what God is doing and would have us do. We give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, etc. all because the is what God is doing with the brokenness of creation. We make this the reality where we live while we await God doing this fully in the end. We live out our baptism daily, the death, burial, and resurrection, putting to death the brokenness of the old creation in order that it will be resurrected when Christ returns.

In his book Surprised by Hope, N. T. Write articulates this reality well:

“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

One of the biggest realities that should to be emphasized and reemphasized is that “there will be no more death.” Why do we have hope in this life no matter what the world, governments, and rulers throw at us? Death has been conquered. Nothing can be taken away from us because we have life in Christ. The resurrection is our reality. All that has the seed of God planted within it will be planted in the New Creation and made new again. Praise God that death has been conquered in Christ and all things will be made new again. Praise God that He desires to be with His creation. Praise God that he would remove death from us so that we might be made new. Hope in God not in the things of this world. There are plenty of things that are good here but don’t mistake them as God.

I want to end as Kent did yesterday with my continuing assessment of Revelation. I got this from Randy Harris who is a professor at Abilene Christian University. God wins! Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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Revelation 20 – Still a Picture

So up to this point in Revelation we have continued to recognize we are looking at pictures.  We see a red dragon, recognize that its a symbolic picture and seek to determine what truth is behind the picture.  We see a beast, recognize that it is a picture, and seek the truth behind the picture.  So now, we read about 1,000 years and a dragon and thrones, its a figure, an image that indicates a truth.  It’s also fitting that this is the conclusion of what we have been talking about (the fall of Rome) rather than something new.  

The first three verses show that Satan has indeed been defeated, is now chained and captive.  His defeat is complete.  Rome is destroyed.  The persecutor is no more.  Then verses 4-10 tell us what happens to the saints.  Although they suffered for a time, they have seen their enemy destroyed by Jesus and they now join him on thrones.  They are safe and secure from all alarms.  There is no more reason to fear or suffer.

The 1,000 years is not something that can be shown on a calendar.  Its a symbolic figure.  10=completeness.  10x10X10=1,000 or very complete.  So what we see here is that after the time of destruction of Rome is complete there will come another time when Satan will return to have another go at God’s people.  When?  Sometime.  Where? Somewhere.  The point is that although God defeated Satan and Rome, Satan will continue to wage war against the saints.  That’s why this book continues to matter to us today.  We need to know what the saints learned in Rome, that God will be faithful and will bring them through whatever trials face them.  God is greater than any force against us and God will be victorious and we can share in his victory.

However, the victory isn’t for everybody.  Now the celebration earlier in the chapter was figurative so this judgment is as well.  This judgment is still against Rome.  It’s telling us that Rome and the enemies of God and his people will suffer utter, irrevocable defeat.

I close with Ryan’s oft used assessment of Revelation because it certainly fits here as in other places: God wins, pick a side, don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 19 – King of Kings and Lord of Lords

The scene of Revelation 19 is one of celebration, of worship; a genuine response spilled out by those who truly understand the victory of God. I once heard worship defined as our natural reaction to who God is and what He is doing in this world. For worship to not be our natural reaction is to realize that we truly don’t understand who God is and what He is doing in this world. What we see in Revelation 19 is an outpouring of praise for God. Not because they have to. Not because that is what they are created to do. Not because they hope it brings them into His favor. They worship because in the fall of Babylon they see the great victory that God has. They see how mighty He is. They see that all that is destroying the world is being dealt with. Their overwhelming response from deep within them is to worship God.

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!”

The twenty-four elders and four living creatures fell down and worshipped God in agreement with the great multitude. All who are servants of God are invited to take part in this celebration, both great and small. In response to this invitation, there is a roar of praise rushing down like water:

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!”

The Church, the Bride of Christ, has made herself ready. This is time for celebration! The Lamb and His Bride are going to unite. The angel turns to John and tells him to write down that those who are invited to this great wedding are blessed. In this moment, John is surrounded by praise rushing down and falls to his knees to worship as well. The problem is that he has mistaken the one who has revealed God to him as the one to be worshipped. I don’t think we should take away that John worshipped an angel. In this moment, John represents the struggle that we often have of worshipping the messengers of God while thinking we have worshipped God. The humility of this angel is a good reminder to continually point people to God when they stop to praise us for how God has been revealed through us. We need to continually listen to God’s voice so that we know the difference between His voice and the voice of His messengers.

This chapter ends with the rider on the white horse who is called “Faithful and True.” His name is the Word of God. He has a name written on him that no one knows. The armies of heaven follow behind him on white horses wearing white. There are meanings behind all of the imagery here but I am completely at a loss. The main point that needs to be heard here is that all of the nations will fall at the hand of the rider on the white horse. All kings, generals, and the mighty will not be able to stand up to him. Where do you put your hope, in this nation or in Christ who is victorious? The Kingdom of God is bigger than the nation in which you live. We cannot confuse our nation with the Kingdom of God. The King will be victorious over the nations. He is King of kings and Lord of lords!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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Revelation 18 – Alas, Babylon! The Great City has Fallen!

We are continually reminded throughout Revelation that heaven is in control. Out of heaven comes an angel who illuminated the earth by his splendor. The world formerly was illuminated by the splendor of Babylon but has now become overshadowed. Like the mighty Titanic, no one ever thought Babylon would have ever fallen. People placed their hope, value, future, and identity in Babylon and now it is gone!

Babylon is significant for the Jews because when they were taken into captivity by Babylon many of them just accepted their new fate and stayed there. They adapted to their new surroundings and acted as though they themselves were from Babylon. The voice in verse 4 calls these people out of Babylon. Those who loved this great city of Babylon will mourn for her loss. With the loss of Babylon they too have lost all things. They have placed all of their value in this great city.

What kingdom do you live in? You are currently an exile in a foreign land, a resident alien. Every country that is not the Kingdom of God is Babylon. Have you decided to become a citizen of the place where you find yourself? Or, have you held on to your true identity as a citizen of God’s Kingdom? We continually have to evaluate our actions as well as the actions of the culture in which we reside. Have we assimilated? Do we look like everyone else around us? We are not concerned with Babylon because we are from a place that is greater. Alas, Babylon! The great city has fallen!

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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Revelation 17 – Great Prostitute

There are many theories about who the prostitute is in chapter 17, but what makes the most sense to me is that the book is continuing with its discussion about the fall of Rome.  In addition to being consistent with the rest of the book, there are other clues that fit with Rome being the harlot.

  • She sits on seven hills (17:9)
  • She rules the earth in John’s day (17:18)
  • She is a terrible persecutor of the saints (17:6, 18:20-24)
  • She is the leading commercial power on earth (18:3, 11, 15-19)
  • She is supported by the military power of Rome (17:3,7)
  • She is destroyed by her own military power (17:16-17)

For a discussion on the heads and horns, check out the blog on Revelation 13.  It appears that the book has been moving through the seals, trumpets, and bowls, with pauses for comfort and anticipation between each up to this point.  Now that we know that Rome is destroyed, the book is going to take a step back and actually give us a better explanation about how that is going to actually take place.  This explanation takes the form of the Harlot sitting on the beast.

I think it’s worth noting that most of the destruction that befalls Rome comes from it’s allies.  In other words, the chaos and destructive nature of evil will eventually cause the forces of evil to turn on itself.  In contrast, the Kingdom of God, the Church, is called to be a unified and coordinated community that works together to promote goodness and righteousness and justice throughout the earth.  So whenever you see the Church bickering, in conflict, and chaotic, what you are seeing is God’s people behaving like the forces of evil in this world.  And when that happens, I think we need to take a hard look in the mirror and get back to being the people of unity, grace and love that God calls us to be.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 16 – Shock and Awe

We’ve unsealed the seven seals and heard the blasts of the seven trumpets and now we watch as the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out on the earth.  As I read this, I am reminded of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 with a military offensive that was termed “Shock and Awe.”  The idea was that the attack would come so fast, and be so overwhelming, and so debilitate the enemy that they would be unable to stand against the US.  I remember watching on a tv in my OC dorm room as the bombs fell and the military raced towards Baghdad.  I couldn’t stop watching for days and slept little, watching round the clock coverage.  While I know many have strong opinions about the Iraq War, my intent is not to comment on the motives or execution of that war, but rather to comment on how the horrible and overwhelming force demonstrated in those days doesn’t come close to the images here in Revelation 16.

The time for warnings has passed and now God pours out his wrath on the earth to punish those who bear the mark of the beast.  The horrors again echo the plagues on Egypt with darkness, hail, storms, water turned to blood, and more.  It is devastating.  However, it is also reminiscent of the Creation with judgments affecting the water, the land, the skies, the sun, the darkness, and humanity.  It is complete and utter destruction of everything.  And on top of everything, these plagues are not coming one at a time as in Exodus, but seem to be piling on top of one another bringing exponentially horrific suffering.

And at several intervals throughout this terrible judgment, the angels stop the work of pouring out wrath to praise God and commend him for his righteous justice that is being brought upon the earth.  This is hard to imagine for people like me who live in a clean, orderly, society without violent oppressors.  But when you live in a corrupt world where the powerful bring pain to the powerless and the faithful are persecuted, you understand the need for God to cleanse the earth.  You pray daily for God to put things back the way they belong.  So when God brings this wrath upon the two beasts, sent by the Dragon, there is praise from the angels and rejoicing from the saints.  God is right.  God is good.  God takes care of his creatures and his creation, even when it means cleaning up his creation from some of his creatures.

The final bowls are setting up a great battle and even mention the battlefield Armageddon.  Some believe that this will someday be the location of a huge end-of-time battle.  However, when we get to this battle later, even though armies gather on both sides of the battle field, only Jesus fights.  This isn’t a battle between humans.  This is a battle between Jesus and the enemies of his people to restore order to the creation and justice for God’s people.

To those who stand opposed to God and persecute his people…you are on notice.  God will bring justice.  God wins.  Pick a side.  Don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 15 – Another Pause

Before the removal of the seals, there was a break in the action, a calm before the storm.  Right before the seven trumpets were blown there was a similar pause.  Now, before the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out, there is yet another moment of the calm before the storm.  

A great audience has gathered, the victors over the beast are ready to see God’s justice done.  We are told of angels and of the plagues.  It is clear that this is all being done with God’s authority and is being done with full intention.  It is not an accident.  The judgment of God is about to be poured out on Rome, the representative of Satan in this world at that time.  The time for warnings has come and gone.  They were ignored and now the full judgment comes on the beasts and those who worshiped the beast.

It’s important to note that God’s people are to be safe and protected while God’s wrath is poured out on those who have opposed him.  God’s people need not fear, in fact we will soon find them praising God and rejoicing to see his righteousness being spread out over the world.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 14 – Harvest and Winepress

Revelation 13 told of the Dragon calling two beasts up who would bring chaos and destruction, especially to God’s people.  The last of these two beasts was like a lamb that forced people to worship the first beast.  And now, at the beginning of Revelation 14, we find hope again when THE LAMB appears.  And the hope is so great that the 144,000 (all of God’s chosen people) begin singing out a new song, a song worthy of this new deliverance, a song that thunders throughout the heavens.  The 144,000 are shown to be honest, faithful, and pure.

Three angels appear and make bold proclamations.  The first is a call to worship God, while the second speaks of the fall of Rome, and the third promises a similar fate for all of those who bowed down and worshiped Rome.  Then Jesus appears riding on a cloud, which is the ultimate way for a diving King to enter.  At that time, Jesus begins to reap the harvest of the earth.  Of course, this is no harvest of wheat and grain.  Throughout the Bible, the harvest is used to speak of the time when God will gather all of his people unto him.  This is a metaphor of great blessing, promise, and reassurance.  At that moment, Jesus does something else in addition to the harvesting; he begins to trod upon the grapes.

The image of Jesus stomping on the grapes is an image of judgment.  As the grapes that represent the unfaithful, especially Rome, are brought in, they are smashed and the wine reaches the bridles of the horses for 200 miles.  That’s a lot of wine, which is a symbol of the spilled blood to follow the judgment.  This is a sweeping and catastrophic judgment that is bring brought upon the enemies of the 144,000.

So in this chapter, we have the 144,000 singing a new song of praise and glory to the true lamb.  The lamb then gathers in all of God’s people through the harvest, while stomping out the enemies of God in the wine press.  For people who were being oppressed by Rome, this is a huge turnaround that shows that God is in charge and can be trusted to bring them through whatever trials and struggles come their way.  God will take care of his people.  God will remove their enemies.  All we do is praise him with a new song worthy of the remarkable acts of rescue and redemption that God carries out on our behalf.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 13 – Ten Horns and Seven Heads

In chapter 12 we had the epic battle between the Dragon and the baby, born of the woman.  As Christians, we live our lives celebrating the fact that the baby (Jesus) won and that the Dragon (Satan) was defeated.  But now the Dragon has turned its attention to attacking the followers (Christians) of the baby.  Chapter 13 tells us what that is going to look like.

If you are new to this blog or have missed some of our recent posts, you should know that we hold that Revelation is written regarding events that would happen very soon after its writing (because it says so) and that these events largely involved the Roman persecution of Christians and the eventual fall of the Roman Empire.  We are using Jim McGuiggan’s book on Revelation as our primary source for these posts.  This particular chapter requires familiarity with Daniel 7 and Revelation 17 to unlock some of the images.  Accordingly, here’s what’s going on in chapter 13:

The Dragon calls out two beasts who begin to wage war against the people of God.  The first beast has 10 horns and 7 heads (although later he gets an 8th head).  There is general consensus that the 7 heads represent the 7 hills of Rome and McGuiggan points out that they also represent 7 kings of Rome, just as the 10 horns of Daniel 7 represent kings.  The 10 horns represent 10 kings who were rulers of outside nations who allied themselves with Rome.  Daniel 7 also mentions the lion, bear, and leopard, which are kingdoms that will come before Rome and be devoured by Rome.  The second beast comes up out of the land and has a religious focus that requires the people of the world to worship the first beast.  This beast represents the cult of emperor worship that came to be common in the Roman Empire during the time Revelation was written.

For those of you who are interested in history, McGuiggan associates the following Roman rulers with the 10 (actually 11) horns of Daniel 7 and the 7 (actually 8) heads of Revelation 13.

Daniel 7

  1. Augustus
  2. Tiberius
  3. Caligula (Gaius)
  4. Claudius
  5. Nero
  6. Galba*
  7. Otho*
  8. Vitellius*
  9. Vespacian
  10. Titus
  11. Domitian

*In Daniel, there are the five who have fallen, then three who are uprooted.  These three are Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, who ruled for a very short combined two years.  As such, they are not included by John in Revelation 13.

Revelation 13

  1. Augustus
  2. Tiberius
  3. Caligula
  4. Claudius
  5. Nero
  6. Vespacian
  7. Titus
  8. Domitian

So these actual rulers of Rome from history are the ones who combine to make up the beast in Revelation 13.  The ones who require that they be worshiped are also part of the second beast that requires people to worship the first.  The number of the beast, we read in 13:18 is 666.  Certainly, the number 666 has been well used in horror movies and all kinds of things.  For the original audience, 6 was understood to be just less than 7.  Since 7 represents God’s completeness and authority, the number 6 was seen as “falling short.”  Three 6’s then is falling way short.  It is short enough to become evil.

So what are we supposed to actually understand from this chapter?

  1. You opponent is evil.
  2. Your opponent is human.
  3. He is evil, so have nothing to do with him.
  4. Remain faithful to Jesus.
  5. Your opponent is not divine.
  6. So do not be afraid of him.

Easy enough, right?  I suppose the question for us today is what in our world claims to be worthy of praise and worship that is actually only “falling short”?  How many of us have bought into the lie that there is something other than Jesus that must be worshiped?  While Jesus defeated the Dragon and the first beast (Rome) is no more, how many of us  continue to be tempted by the second beast that demands worship for anything other than Jesus?  It’s a scary thought.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Revelation

 

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