Tag Archives: Rome

Mark 13 – Context and a Pattern

Jesus starts out talking about the Temple and how it will be destroyed.  The Apostles ask when it will happen.  In response, Jesus goes on to warn the Apostles about trials and suffering they will undergo.  He also tells them, using apocalyptic prophetic style, what the signs are that this is about to pass.  Since we don’t ever use that style of speaking in grand images and pictures to depict things, especially God’s judgment, we often think this must mean the end of time.  However, verse 30 says plainly that all of this will come to pass before that generation passes away.  The reference to the abomination that causes desolation is from three different passages in the book of Daniel.  The mention of the sun and moon being darkened are from Isaiah.  Following on the criticisms of the Jewish leaders in chapter 12, Jesus is showing that they will not escape their failings.  God’s judgment will come as the prophets foretold in the past, and in that generation’s present.

…or is it?

Even though I understand that passage to refer to Rome’s eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it does still have value and significance for us today.  Daniel, Isaiah, and now Jesus all speak of times when God judges people and cultures who fail to be faithful.  These examples show us that God often works in patterns, doing in this day what he has done in times past.  But even those who are faithful will undergo trials, as Jesus plainly tells the Apostles in this chapter.  He tells them that they will be arrested, tried, and go through persecutions.  What’s important is to know that God is in charge.  He will take care of the Apostles when they undergo persecution.  Jesus is providing warnings to care for his people during the time of judgment to come.

God is in control.  Even when it seems like he isn’t, we have to know that he is.  He ends this section with a simple instruction, “Watch!” With all the questions currently circulation about the end of times, the wrong questions are being asked. It isn’t a question of “When” but of “Are you ready?”

I am comforted by v31. All kinds of things come along in life that demand your attention and we feel often demand our loyalty, this verse helps keep things in perspective. Heaven and earth, and everything in them, will pass away. All of your stuff will be kindling for the great big bonfire at the end. God’s Word will never pass away. If you find yourself being pulled this way and that by the things of this world that demand your attention, keep them in perspective.

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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Mark


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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 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 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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Revelation 1 – The Beginning of the End

Of course, when I say that this is the beginning of the end, I mean the end of the Bible and not the end of the world.  Despite popular opinion, I don’t think that Revelation tells us much about the end of time.  I think it does tell us about events that took place two thousand years ago that involved the victory of Christianity over Rome.  But before I go any further I want to acknowledge that Revelation is a challenging book.  Perhaps more than any other New Testament book has been open to a vast array of interpretations.  Because of this, Ryan and I wanted to find a good resource that would guide us through our reading of this particular book.  After considering several options, we agreed to use Jim McGuiggan’s study on Revelation.  We will be depending heavily on this book throughout our study of Revelation.  This will hopefully keep our discussions here consistent, informed, and beneficial.  If you would also like to get this book you can get it through Amazon here.

Jim McGuiggan is a preacher in Ireland and has worked in churches and the academy on many occasions throughout his life.  Many of you might know him from some of Bill’s stories since Jim was one of Bill’s teachers at the Sunset Bible Institute.  I want to share the first paragraph of the foreword from Jim’s book on Revelation in hopes it will excite you as much about this study as it did me:

“Revelation has one grand thrust.  Comfort in the knowledge of ultimate triumph!  It has an historical setting and deals with historical events.  It is Rome against the Church – it is Satan against Jesus!  The principles involved in the book – principles of good and evil – are timeless.  Truth will triumph whether in the first centuries or in these.  Evil will wage an unceasing war with truth.  The record of the victory of the Church of God over Rome stands for all time as a token of its deathlessness!  Of the supremacy of its Lord; the truth of its doctrines; the strength of its hope and the reality of its joys.”

Now, we need to go over some important first principles that will guide us through our reading of Revelation.

  • The book is written by John who is receiving a vision from Jesus while John is exiled on Patmos.
  • At the time John wrote the book of Revelation, he clearly stated at the beginning and end of the work that the events contained within “must shortly come to pass” and that they were “at hand.”  John says this four times in the book (Revelation 1:1,3 and 22:6,10).
  • These events that would soon pass tell of the struggle between the Church and Rome.  Using McGuiggan as a guide, we are placing the writing of the book during the later years of the Roman Emporer Vespacian to comfort the Church and deals with the triumph of the Church over Rome in two areas: 1) The destruction of Domitian (the beast out of the abyss) and 2) The ultimate destruction of the Roman Empire.
  • The book is written predominantly in apocalyptic speech.  This means that the book is written in symbols.  The numbers are symbolic.  The monsters and images are symbolic.  This was a common way to present prophetic writings, especially that involved judgments, as can be seen in Daniel, Ezekiel, or Zechariah.
  • The usual rule for interpreting scripture is to understand it literally unless forced to do otherwise.  This is reversed for apocalyptic literature where the rule is to understand it figuratively unless there is a good reason to do otherwise.
  • The book is not meant to bring terror to Christians.  In fact it is written expressly to provide comfort to the Church of God.  So if you are a Christian and Revelation scares you, then perhaps you’ve missed something in the past.

It’s tempting to say that Revelation doesn’t matter (as Ryan and I have actually been known to say).  But the truth is that it does and we are looking forward to honestly and fully considering the text and what it meant and means.  If you feel like it simply can’t be understood so shouldn’t be bothered with, then you question both God and the Church for including it in the Bible, since that decision was made long after the events in Revelation had transpired.  If they thought it was knowable and valuable, then who are we to disagree?  And if you think that if the book is about events that happen thousands of years ago, then what does that have to do with me?  Well, God delivered his people Israel thousands of years before even Revelation was written and certainly the events of the Exodus are valuable and meaningful for us today.  So hopefully our study of Revelation can help us to find meaningful, valuable lessons that will bring comfort and joy to us today.

Now that I’ve said all of that…we get to spend the next two days reading the only non-apocalyptic (literal) part of the book in John’s letters to the churches.

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Revelation


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Martyr’s Memorial


This cross has particular meaning for me. It is a memorial to all of the martyrs that were executed in the colosseums. I took it in ’06 while in Rome.

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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Photos, Uncategorized


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Acts 28 – An Odd Ending

During The Book of Acts

One of the odd things about reading the Bible is that it isn’t entirely in order, or what we would expect “in order” to look like.  By the end of this chapter, Paul has written both letters to the Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, a couple of letters to Timothy, one to Titus, and this other book called Romans.  To a certain extent, as we move forward into the New Testament, we will be moving backward into the story we’ve just finished.

In Rome

When Paul last met with a group of Jews, there was a riot, an arrest, several years of imprisonment, trials before three rulers and multiple assassination attempts.  But that doesn’t keep Paul from going straight to the Jews in and around Rome and telling them about Jesus and the Gospel.  He expects them to be as hostile as what he experienced in Jerusalem and Judea.  Instead, some listen and some reject his teaching (just like in Jerusalem) but then they all just go home.  There aren’t any riots.  Paul isn’t stoned or imprisoned.  Things are always political in the capital, where power is everything and reputations are at stake.  But when you get farther away from the power politics of Jerusalem, They simply listen, assess, discuss and go home.

While Paul spends the next couple of years in Rome under house arrest, this doesn’t seem to be too arduous.  In fact, the final phrase, that he taught with boldness and without hindrance would seem to indicate that these years of house arrest were some of the easiest in his ministry.  Preaching to people who don’t try to kill you is easy.

At least, that’s all until we start Romans on Monday.

Then the book ends.  Almost out of nowhere Acts is over.  It seems unresolved at first.  Paul is imprisoned after his appeal to Caesar and we want to know the verdict.  We don’t know how the churches are doing.  What ever happened to Peter?

But the point is that they aren’t the point.  The book isn’t about Peter or Paul.  It isn’t about the early converts.  The book is about the Kingdom.  It’s about all of the people and circumstances that led to King Jesus leading a group of men and women into becoming something great with his Holy Spirit power.  The end of the book is the moment that the Gospel has gone everywhere it needed to go.  While it feels like we have loose ends with Paul, everything with the spread of the Gospel has been accomplished.  If it was all neatly concluded, there would be a sense of completeness and finality to it.  As it is, Acts presents itself as a launch point and an invitation to pick up where Peter, Barnabas and Paul left off, to take the Gospel to my and your little corner of the world.

We start Romans on Monday!  What was your favorite thing about Acts?


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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Acts, Bible Blog


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Acts 27 – Confidence

A little over a year ago I went to Ireland by myself. I wanted to explore the beauty of the country and didn’t want to be limited to a tour so I rented a car. The closer I got to Dublin the more anxious I got about sitting on the right side of my rental car and having to navegate the streets while driving on the left side of the road. With each moment that my airplane got closer to that beautiful place I became a little more anxious about the reality of my situation. I had to drive. I was alone and would need to meet people. All of the road signs are in Gaelic. The closer I got to Dublin, the more resolved I had to become about what I had set out to do. In no way does this comepare to Paul’s situation but I cannot even imagine the resolve, focus, and confidence he had about the reality of his situation and what he was supposed to be doing.

How hard is it to tell a group of professional sailors that a storm is going to come up, their efforts will be futile, and they will lose everything? When they don’t want to listen and decide they should go anyway, taking you with them, you continue to remind them of this. Where does Paul’s information come from? Who does he think he is? Paul gives his credentials…his master stood beside him and told him not to be afraid because he is must stand trial before Caesar and God has graciously given him the lives that sail with him. Would that give you much comfort if you were the owner of the ship or one of his guards? Paul then basically tells them that even if they don’t have enough faith, or any at all, his faith was big enough to protect them.

How does your faith stand out among those trembling around you? Are you so confident in your journey and what must happen before you that when people see the storms building aroudn you they find peace in your faith? I don’t know exactly where all I am going in this world but I want to have confidence in Christ the way that Paul did.

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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Acts, Bible Blog


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