Farewell to the Rapture?

23 01 2010

 

(N.T. Wright, Bible Review, August 2001.  Reproduced by permission of the author) 

Little did Paul know how his colorful metaphors for Jesus’ second coming would be misunderstood two millennia later. 

The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus — especially with distorted interpretations of it — continues unabated.  Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre[1].  Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal “rapture” in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been “left behind.”  This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith. 

This dramatic end-time scenario is based (wrongly, as we shall see) on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God.  The dead in Christ will rise first; then we, who are left alive, will be snatched up with them on clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). 

What on earth (or in heaven) did Paul mean? 

It is Paul who should be credited with creating this scenario.  Jesus himself, as I have argued in various books, never predicted such an event[2].  The gospel passages about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Mark 13:26, 14:62, for example) are about Jesus’ vindication, his “coming” to heaven from earth.  The parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth.  This, Jesus seemed to believe, was an event within space-time history, not one that would end it forever. 

The Ascension of Jesus and the Second Coming are nevertheless vital Christian doctrines[3], and I don’t deny that I believe some future event will result in the personal presence of Jesus within God’s new creation.  This is taught throughout the New Testament outside the Gospels.  But this event won’t in any way resemble the Left Behind account. 

Understanding what will happen requires a far more sophisticated cosmology than the one in which “heaven” is somewhere up there in our universe, rather than in a different dimension, a different space-time, altogether. 

The New Testament, building on ancient biblical prophecy, envisages that the creator God will remake heaven and earth entirely, affirming the goodness of the old Creation but overcoming its mortality and corruptibility (e.g., Romans 8:18-27; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17, 66:22).  When that happens, Jesus will appear within the resulting new world (e.g., Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2). 

Paul’s description of Jesus’ reappearance in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a brightly colored version of what he says in two other passages, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21: At Jesus’ “coming” or “appearing,” those who are still alive will be “changed” or “transformed” so that their mortal bodies will become incorruptible, deathless.  This is all that Paul intends to say in Thessalonians, but here he borrows imagery—from biblical and political sources—to enhance his message.  Little did he know how his rich metaphors would be misunderstood two millennia later. 

First, Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah.  The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence.

Second, he echoes Daniel 7, in which “the people of the saints of the Most High” (that is, the “one like a son of man”) are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up to sit with God in glory.  This metaphor, applied to Jesus in the Gospels, is now applied to Christians who are suffering persecution. 

Third, Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province.  The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city.  Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world. 

Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere. 

Paul’s misunderstood metaphors present a challenge for us: How can we reuse biblical imagery, including Paul’s, so as to clarify the truth, not distort it?  And how can we do so, as he did, in such a way as to subvert the political imagery of the dominant and dehumanizing empires of our world?  We might begin by asking, What view of the world is sustained, even legitimized, by the Left Behind ideology?  How might it be confronted and subverted by genuinely biblical thinking?  For a start, is not the Left Behind mentality in thrall to a dualistic view of reality that allows people to pollute God’s world on the grounds that it’s all going to be destroyed soon?  Wouldn’t this be overturned if we recaptured Paul’s wholistic vision of God’s whole creation?              
           

 http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Farewell_Rapture.htm 

[1] Tim F. Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind (Cambridge, UK: Tyndale House Publishing, 1996).  Eight other titles have followed, all runaway bestsellers.

[2] See my Jesus and the Victory of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1996); the discussions in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N.T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, ed. Carey C. Newman (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999); and Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), chapters 13 and 14.

[3] Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).





What does Revelation 12:7-12 mean to us now?

23 01 2010

 

This dragon, Satan, and his agents thereof seek to destroy and manipulate us. He wants others to be seduced to put their trust in him so their eyes are not on God or His ways. He wants his arrogance and pride to be contagious and be fuel for us, and for future Christians. When we seek what we want and forget God, or think we have a chance to do it better or on our own, he wins. There is nothing Satan desires more than for us Christians to run our lives our way, which are really his ways. He wants your church to be run by the will of people, governed by the trends of the day, and swayed by public opinion, where God’s Word is kept out of reach or in the dark by overt or just neglected ways. 

Take heart! The battle has been won, Satan score is zero; for God, the score is countless. The devil may have his anger and his bag of tricks, but He can’t have those who are in Christ. We are given the Blood of the Lamb; we have the backing and His authority to win over Satan’s ways and ideas. We can rejoice and live our Christian life fear-free because the devil can’t get what we do not give him. So, don’t give him anything—not your thoughts, plans, or agendas; let all of you be impressed in Christ and immersed in His Way. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. Why did war break out in Heaven? What do you think could be the motivations of the dragon and his evil minions? Why do you suppose that Satan thought he had or still has a chance? How do arrogance and pride versus the Way of God come into play here?
  1. What are some of the things that are taken away from us when we are seduced by evil ways? How does Satan’s influence still prevail in the world? How do his ways “snake” into you and your church?
  1. Satan can do only what God allows for His purpose. So, why does God use him? How do you feel about it? How can this strengthen you, knowing that no harm can come when you are in Christ, and if it does, it is for our benefit?
  1. What happens to you and your church when you seek what you want and forget God or think you have a chance to do it better or on your own? How does Satan win us over?
  1. Why does Satan desire that we Christians run our lives our way? Have you ever considered that when we run our church by our will, by the ideas of people separate from biblical precepts, by trends of the day and swayed by opinion, we may be leading as Satan does? What can be done to make sure we do not manipulate our will and rationalize it as God’s will when we make decisions?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org





The Four Main Views of Revelation 12:7-12

23 01 2010

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as not in chronology with the previous and coming verses. Some see this as a literal war in heaven while others as a metaphor for something else. Some see this about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Others in this camp see this as the woman’s flight into the wilderness. Some see Michael and Jesus as indistinguishable, which is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, while others take what this passage says and believe they are representations or separate beings. The angels also receive varying meanings; some see them as the Apostles, others as demons, or a story to teach what is truth and what is false. Some see this as Satan’s fall and the conclusion to his power and influence on Christians, while others see that Satan is still active. Most see Satan as unable to go before God and accuse us because he has been thrown out of heaven. At the very least, most believe Satan is limited to what he can do because of the Cross. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as the battle of angels and demons in heaven as portrayed in Daniel 12. Some see this as the beginning of the great tribulation, or in the middle, while others see this as just pertaining to spiritual warfare. Others see this as Satan being cast out of heaven while others see it as the war over the attempt to stop salvation and the work of Christ. Some see this as a template of how Satan operates and seeks to battle Christians and/or the defeat of Satan. Others in this camp see Satan nurtured by the blood of the Lamb and our victory over Christ. Others see this as a story to keep our faith in times of persecution from Satan or from men. A short time indicates that this passage is about Satan being bound during the millennial kingdom before he is let out for the final time. 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as a retelling of the spiritual conflict of the previous passage in verses 12:1-6. Some see this as a play, depicting spiritually the events of how Christ prevailed with the cross and with His resurrection and atonement, while others see it mainly as the focus of the defeat of Satan. Most see all of this together and the state of the new age of the Covenant we have with Christ. Satan’s role here is seen as the accuser who seeks to bring condemnation, which Christ stopped and thus neutered his role to trick us before God and activity, but still has the power to influence us. Apparently, Satan may have had the role to bring condemnation to humans before God, but the work of Christ stopped that. Now, only our rejection of Christ brings condemnation. In the meantime, Satan will do all he can to bring it on to believers as much as he can and as long as he can; however, we do not need to fear this with Christ in us. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as metaphor of the struggle of the Church and its conflict with heathenism outwardly and apostasy inwardly, and the victory of the Church. They set the dates as during the Emperor Julian in 361 to 363; the casting out of the dragon was the expulsion of pagan Rome being replaced with Christianity, and the Church’s growth and spread. Yet, the troubles don’t stop for the Church; the struggles continue both inwardly and outwardly, but the Church will prevail!





Exegetical look into Revelation 12:7-12

23 01 2010

 

There was war in heaven. The ultimate spiritual warfare (John 1:5).

  • Michael. As the agent of Christ, he is depicted as God’s messenger and the Archangel, the advocate, and guardian angel of Israel. Here, he is the agent of Christ who vanquishes Satan. Many Jews at the time of Christ believed that Michael would save then from harm in the last days (Dan. 10:13-21; 12:1; Jude 9).
  • His angels. Those who are God’s messengers and agents, who are loyal, serve and worship Him.
  • Fought. The battle has been waged and has been won by our Lord. The language imagery is both an epic violent conflict and a judicial ruling. In Jewish thinking, all of humanity was divided up between those who follow the “Prince of Light” or those who follow the “Angel of Darkness.” The ultimate battle is portrayed that of classic good versus evil—God versus Satan. Although popular lore says these are equal powers, the Bible clearly shows us that only God is sovereign and Satan’s thinking he can take on God shows his depravity, stupidity, and desperateness.
  • Dragon. A representative of Satan or actually Satan. The context shows us it is Satan. This is a reference to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It is also a description of Satan’s ways and strategies to lead the whole world astray, and a destructive beast who seeks the total devastation of God’s people (Gen. 3; Rev. 12:3; 20:2).
  • And his angels. Those who follow Satan and evil, demons, and other evil spiritual entities are in view here (Rom. 8:37-39).
  • Hurled down means exclusion or expulsion. This, in context, is referring to the battle to prevent the finished work of Christ; it does not necessarily refer to the original pre-human casting of Satan out of heaven (2 Cor. 11:3).
  • Ancient Serpent means sharpness of vision, cunning, and being malicious. It was also a Jewish term meaning hostility against God’s people. Satan’s fate was to be crushed by the woman’s seed, who is Christ. This term refers to his “crookedness”, “craftiness”, and “deceitfulness.” This name reveals the first reference to Satan in the Bible, as he stalked and deceived Eve. His intention is malice, fury, and cruelty, all directed toward God’s truth and God’s people (Gen. 3:1; Is. 27:1; Rev. 12:9; 20:2).  
  • Devil. This term occurs in the New Testament only; it is a name for Satan that comes from the Greek word “diabolos” meaning a “traducer” and “false accuser.” It is also used for a person who throws things at other people. It means to accuse, slander, and lead astray (Matt. 13:39; Luke 22:31; John 13:2; Eph. 6:11; Rev. 12:10). 
  • Satan means “the accuser” in contrast to Michael being “an advocate.” Satan is the accuser of those who are righteous. He acts like a prosecuting attorney before God’s court to those he knows are innocent. In contrast, Jesus is the Defense Attorney. This term means “adversary;” he is the Chief Adversary both to God and to humans (1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1:2f; Job 16; Zech. 3:1-2; Matt. 4:10). 
  • Leads the whole world astray. This is the character of Satan and evil; his chief goal is to seduce us away from God by any means, such as tricking or tempting us with what we want so he can distract us away from Christ. 
  • Salvation… authority of his Christ implies that the Work of Christ on the Cross is finished; He came to do the work He did, it is done and completed, and He is the victor. He is the One who delvers and rescues us, versus Satan who does the opposite (John 19:30; Rom. 8:33-34; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14-15).
  • Accuser is Satan’s name in Hebrew. It is how he operates as our slanderer; he accuses and slanders those who are God’s children, and whose faith is in Him. Most likely, Satan no longer is able to go before God and accuse us because he has been thrown out of heaven. At any result or rule, he does not have sway over a person of faith (Job 1:9-11; Zech 3:1-5; John 16:11). 
  • They overcame. We have atonement by Christ’s blood for our sins, so Satan cannot use our sins against us although he still tries to by creating self-doubt and other tools of manipulation to deceive and seduce us. A wise Christian can stand against Satan’s accusations by faith and knowledge and by knowing and trusting in who and what Christ has done; Satan’s accusations have no power or merit and thus are no reason for us to be anxious about (Rom. 8:31-39).
  • Blood of the Lamb. This contains the essential, Christian salvation message. This is an image of how Israel was redeemed out of Egypt and led into the Promised Land. It was the blood of the Passover Lamb that protected them; now, Christ is the ultimate depiction and application of this¾Jesus Saves (Mark 10:45; 1 Cor. 6:20; Rev. 1:5; 5: 9; 7:14)!
  • Word of their testimony. This infers that we have a legal right, by what Christ has given, to be represented by Christ; His work covers and protects us from Satan’s accusations.
  • Did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. This was Jewish saying to mean “valor” and a willingness to be martyred and to profess faith and victory to overcome fear before going to war. This was recited before a battle to show allegiance and courage (Judges 5:18).
  • The devil has gone down to you. We have the opportunity and ability to either be influenced by Satan and evil or to turn our hearts to Christ alone. In Jewish lore, it was believed that Satan would be unleashed to fight against the people of faith during the End of Days.
  • He knows that his time is short. Satan’s authority and dominion are still under God’s sovereignty; he can do only what God allows for His purpose. Satan has lost and fights like a cornered animal as well as using all the weapons at his disposal to oppose God’s people and goodness. In the last days, he will become more intensely and hostile toward the people of God.




Revelation 12:7-12

23 01 2010

Introduction 

The War and Victory of Christ 

John now sees a great war between Michael and the angels of God and the dragon and his evil minions. They fought as if this evil dragon had a chance. It was the universe’s greatest mismatch, omnipotence versus arrogance, and pride versus the Way of God. The dragon, Satan himself, seeks to destroy by deceiving us to do his bidding, tricking us to think it is the best, most fun option, when in fact, all it does is devastate us, taking us away from family, opportunities, fullness, and Christ’s ever abundant love. Christ is triumphant; His blood and sacrifice prevails and is too much for Satan to handle. He can’t stand against the goodness of Christ. Thus, the dragon and his minion lost are defeated and thrown out of the Heaven. 

Mainly, this passage shows us the defeat of Satan and the victory of Christ! This can be applied to sin, disease, pride, spiritualism, or as it evidently means, spiritual warfare—a template on how Satan and evil seek to operate, a plan of the enemy. But, the bottom line is this; Christ is the Victor! His win has continual outcomes of triumph for the Christian, and judgment and consequences for Satan and those who follow him. This passage may be a depiction of the fall of Satan, the application of how he works, the battle of the Cross, or how he sought to steal the show and defeat Christ to prevent the salvation of the elect. Perhaps it is all of the above; but, the context clearly shows the prime meaning to be the battle of the Cross. Satan was just using the same old game plan as he did before, and Christ again proved victorious by His redemptive blood and resurrection. The point God has for us is this: the devil has his ways and plan and God has His; the devil has his facts and God has His Truth, The question is what will reign in you (Isaiah 14:12-14; John 12:31-33; Col. 2:15)? 

How do you handle a great crisis? Do you panic, come alive and take charge, or what? How is the way we handle a crisis like the way we handle Satan’s temptations?





What does Revelation 11: 15-19 mean to us now?

18 12 2009

 

Keep hope and Christ in mind, as well as the fact that God is understandable and approachable! In devastating times of stress and war, to fathom something such as the Temple or our Church being destroyed would make it seem that God had lost. But, the message here is that of victory. It is a call to trust in Him and continue our walk in faith. God is still in control and He does win. He allows things to happen as consequences for sin yet in His perfect plan, all things will come together to give Him glory (Psalm 2; Rom. 8). 

We are also shown that when all seems lost in our personal lives, when people and events come against God and His faithful, they really do not win. No enemy can do to us what God does not allow—nothing that could really, effectively, eternally hurt us. Those who do evil will be judged beyond what we could or would want to do to them. They get their deserved what is coming as we who are faithful get our reward. The key is to trust Him; be assured and confident that He is reigning and in control. 

These judgments are deserved. Do not mourn for those who are reprobates, who continually refuse to repent while dragging others down with them. These people want the judgment; they have begged for it by their refusal to reconcile to or recognize the Sovereign reign of our Lord and by their contradictory evil ways. They know better, but in spite of that, still sin. There is no sadness or grief on their part and there is none needed by those of us who are the faithful. The choice is before us; we can accept the love, forgiveness, and grace of our Lord or we can refuse. Next come natural consequences and justified judgments to those who are wicked, and the wonders of paradise to those who have received His election (Deut. 30:19). 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. How vast and magnificent is God is in your life? What metaphors, language, or feelings do you have for God’s omniscience? Why is it is our duty to heed His voice and reverence Him?
  1. What happens when we read in what we think and not take careful time to see what the context, cultural considerations, and word meanings are? Do you think that some of these theories of end times would be utterly ridiculous to the original readers and Author? Why, or why not?
  1. When all seems lost and people and events come against you, how can you have greater perseverance? What about if you better realized that God, not all the evil, will win? What about that God will not allow any enemy to do anything to us that can really, effectively, eternally hurt us (Psalm 34:11-22)?
  1. When bad things happen, we naturally desire vengeance. How does the fact that those who do evil will be judged beyond what we could or would do to them help you to have assurance and confidence to trust God to judge, that you do not need to take matters in your own hands or go against the civil law?
  1. How can you have hope and faith that even with suffering and the consequences of sin, His perfect plan, that all things will come together to give Him glory, will come to fruition? What will you do to gain more hope and faithfulness for your life?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org





The Four Main Views of Revelation 11: 15-19

18 12 2009

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as discords of the Roman war against Jerusalem, and the eventual downfall of Jerusalem from God because of civil and religious rebellion that already took place. Others see this as the story of the witnessing Church and the suffering and rejoicing it endured. The Kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdoms of God does not mean that everyone comes to Christ; rather, they see it as Rome sweeping away Jerusalem while in reality, the world still belongs to God and everything is in His control. Some see it referring to Christ’s ascension, that He is in control when we think He is not, and/or the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Others see it as the introduction and importance of the Christian world and the fall of Judaism. The judging of the dead is seen as the final judgment when Christ appears and/or God’s revenge on those who are evil and the vindication of the faithful and those who suffered. The Temple being opened is seen as figurative; the real, important Temple is in heaven, not on earth, and will be revealed to us in time and/or it refers to God’s glory. The Lightning….hailstorm is seen as the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The kingdom of our Lord is seen as Christ’s dominion and rule. As the kingdoms of earth are swept away, His Kingdom always remains. Others see it as Christ’s ascension or the fifth kingdom spoken about in Daniel.  

The Futurist view: There are varying views in this camp, but most see this as the herald to Christ’s second coming. The trumpet is seen as proclaiming it is here, the second coming. This view is contradictory for them, as most in this camp believe the rapture took place in Rev. 4:1 which is prior to these events (even though there is no Scriptural support for such a premillennial view). Thus, some see this trumpet as the end of the Millennium, which would contradict their theories on the coming chapters. Some see verse 18 as the accumulation of the entire Millennium. The Kingdoms of the earth is seen as a problem and discrepancy in their chronology, and thus, many speculative views, such as associating it with chapter 20 and the millennial reign, or seeing it as meaning that the earth is no longer under the control of people. The judging of the dead is also out of their sequence, because they teach a rapture that has already occurred; this happened prior to the Tribulation (neither are evident in the text). The common response is that after the tribulation, people come to Christ and this passage is talking about these people. 

The Idealist view: They see the Trumpet as God’s reign on earth and His eternal nature. The judging of the dead is seen as the stubborn and unyielding world versus the faithful and what Christ offers. This passage is also an interlude of praise to God and the Ark; lighting is seen as a metaphor for God’s faithfulness and His promises, as well as a display of God’s “artillery,” His power and control. 

The Historicist view: The trumpet is seen as the end of the age of papal interdiction and persecution of the faithful, and the treaty with the Turks in 1699.  The Temple is seen spiritually because it no longer exists. Others see the trumpet as the end of the first series of visions of John, demonstrated by praise, rejoicing, and worship. Others see this as the rejoicing of the journey’s end for the Church as the final judgment and close of the Church Age commences. Still others see this as the victory of Christ over the apostate Church, and some, the vindication of the faithful through times of trials and sufferings. Some see this as the beginnings of the French and/or American Revolution, while others say this has not happened yet. The earthquake is seen as the political upheavals that happened after the Reformation.





Exegetical look into Revelation 11: 15-19

18 12 2009
  • Sounded his trumpet refers to the arrival or accession of something or someone great, such as a king (1 Kings 1:34; Rev. 9:13). 
  • The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord. In John’s time, governments were worldly dominated kingdoms within kingdoms. The Jewish mindset and hope in their time was that they would one day be handed over to God and His Kingdom. It is all about His timing (Ex. 15:18; Psalm 2:2; 10:16; Isa. 9:7; Dan. 7:13-18; Zech. 14:9; 1 Macc. 2:57).
  • Twenty-four elders. Elders refers to those with authority, God’s representatives who are called to declare and serve Him wholeheartedly and righteously. In the early Church, the number 24 meant the 12 Israelite tribes of the Old Testament and the 12 apostles. This also refers to the Church as triumphant, and the entirety of all believers—the sum total of the Church. This can also refer to angelic beings who are also worshipping God (Rev. 9-11; 5:5-14; 7:11-17; 11:16-18; 14:3; 19:4). (see Rev. 4: 1-5 study for more info). 
  • The One who is and who was. God is the beginning and the end. This term refers to His sovereignty as He rules over all humanity at all times. Some see this as the start of the reign of Christ on earth; however, the text does not support that theory (Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8).
  • You have taken your great power. This does not mean God was not in control before or had not exercised His power. Rather, the acknowledgment of His present rule is already a “given” in Jewish thought. This is celebrating His future rule over all nations and our participation in it as His faithful (Psalm 2).
  • The nations were angry may refer to their panic and/or how corrupting was their sin. It is interesting to note that they are not afraid but angry, typical of rationalization, defiance, and preponderance of sin. It is always foolish to fight against God (Psalm 48:4).
  • Your wrath/anger points to the Judgment that is coming (Joel 2:11; Mal. 3:2). God’s wrath and righteousness are a reality. However, Christ covers our sin for us (Zeph. 1:14-18; Nahum 1:6; Mal. 3:2; Rom. 1:18; 3:9-23; 6:23; Rev.19:15). We have hope and assurance when our trust is in Christ. He is our hope, even when the very foundations of the universe are collapsing around and under us. When our hope is in Christ, nothing can shake us (Luke 12:32-34; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Heb. 12:25-29; Rev. 14:10-11; 16:15-21; 20:8-15).
  • Your servants the prophets. Referencing Dan. 9:6, 10; Amos 3:7; Zech 1:6.
  • God’s Temple. This metaphor refers to God’s preeminence and/or where God dwells, not necessarily an actual corporeal structure (throne). Nor does it say that the Temple will be rebuilt. It is an image of the Old Testament Tabernacle where the copy of God’s Throne Room, made for His presence, was made known. In the Near East culture of John’s audience, this had an extra meaning that contrasts with the mockery against the two witnesses. God’s Temple contrasts the pretentious dignity and prestige of worldly ways with God’s supremacy and the actuality that He is seated on His Throne in eminence and power. Now, John sees the real heavenly version in a corporal state that shows God in an understandable and approachable manner, as God “condescends” to us and John. This means that God “descends” to our level to make Himself known; He lowers Himself—makes Himself accessible—and gives us insight according to our level of understanding so we can perceive Him from our aptitude to recognize what is otherwise incomprehensible (Ex. 24:9-11; 25 (25:40)-40; 1 Kings 5-7; 22:19; 2 Chron. 2-4; Is. 6; Ezek. 1; 10:1; Dan. 7:9-10; Heb. 8:5-6; 9:1-14; Rev. 3:12; 4:2; 7:15; 14:15-17; 15:5-16:1, 16:17; 21:22).
  • The ark of his covenant represents the presence of God, His faithfulness, and atonement in keeping the covenant He made with His people even when they disobeyed Him. This refers to the main Jewish icon, the box chest, made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments and was placed behind the sanctuary curtain in the inner sanctum where the presence of God dwelt. This image could also represent the Ark going to war. It went missing after Nebuzaradan (meaning: “the captain of the guard” who invaded and captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple for Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:8-20; Jer. 39:11; 40:2-5). Here it is meant to display God’s dwelling and power and our reverence of Him. Now, it is Christ, who paid for our sin, with whom we have our covenant (Ex. 25:10-22; Lev 26:11-13; Duet 10:1-2; 2 Kings 25:8-10; Matt. 27:51; Heb. 9:23; 10:19-20; Rev. 3: 10-13; 4:6-8).
  • Lightning….hailstorm points to God’s supremacy and authority, the true God and His right of vengeance, His self-revelation, and His awesome majesty and power, and represents an important event, possibly the curse and plagues associated with mocking and disobeying God while worshipping the fake god, Zeus. It is our duty to heed His voice and reverence Him (Ex. 19:16-19; Job 37:5-6; Psalm 18:11-15; 77:18; Ezek. 1:4, 24; 43:2; Dan. 10:6; Heb. 12:18-29; Rev. 4:1-11; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).




Revelation 11:15-19

18 12 2009

Introduction 

The Seventh Trumpet 

The seventh angel now sounds his trumpet and loud voices echoing from the heavens proclaim that the entire world has now become a part of the Kingdom of God as Christ assumes His power and position. The twenty- four elders fall prostrate, worshipping and giving thanks and reverence to the Lord.  But, the woe commences too, as His wrath is let out to judge and destroy the evil and the wicked, and His grace is poured out to reward His faithful. He is the One who looks for the faithful and holy ones who have placed Him first, even in the midst of trials and troubles. Then, the world shakes as the precious Ark of the Covenant is exposed, displaying a spectacular show of eminence and power.

We are also shown a contrast between goodness and wickedness, between those who oppress and those who seek liberty, such as the faithful Jerusalem under David and Solomon versus the wicked one that crucified our Lord… 

Now comes the third terror, and woe commences as the seventh angel blows the trumpet, declaring to the whole world that the kingdom of God is at hand. This passage closes the “second cycle of Judgments” (See Background Article) that prepares the way for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ by showing us His Triumph and Victory as He rules (Rev. 8:2-11:19). John now shows the final trumpet and the end of the world as we know it. The language is poetic, but it is “imperative” that John demonstrates that this revelation is at the same level as that of Moses; thus, take heed!





Revelation Theme and Purpose

5 12 2008

Revelation is written to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey (Rev. 1:4, 11). The principle purpose for the writing is the encouragement and chastisement for how they were running their churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). John was fully convinced that Christ would triumph over the forces of Satan and his work in the world. He then exhorted them to be faithful and discerning between what is false and what is truth, and also warned them not to worship the Emperor or to comply with evil, apathy, or compromise. He restated the importance of discipleship and Christian formation so they (we) can be authentic Christians of excellence and distinction, bringing no disrepute to Christ or His Church.

Revelation is about the victory Christ brings, giving hope for those who are in Him and fear for those who do not know Him (Rev. 2:13; 19:20-21; 20:10-15).

As Christians, we can embrace Revelation rather than fearing it or the end times! God is the one who is in charge and in control. He has the big picture of the consummation of all humanity and history. He rules all of time and space, all events, and all actions; there is nothing in all of creation outside of His providence! Even in the darkest hours, God is in control. He will win and we who are in Him will be triumphant. Then, all of humanity will stand before the Throne, and all will be accountable; judgment for all who ever lived, rewards, condemnation, Heaven, and Hell await, and those who have oppressed His Church and children will be severely judged (Rev.1:12-16; 4:1-5:14)!

Revelation is just as much about how we are to live as it is about what is coming.

Our purpose is to understand that no matter what we have been through or will go through, God is in control and has our best interests in hand. Therefore, we can trust Him as we see His mighty hand throughout history and also in the future. We learn here on earth how we are to endure suffering and problems, not escape them, for there is no escape in a sin-infused world. Rather, it is how we discover and grow more from God’s work in us regardless of our situation that matters.

John knows what the church is going through, for he has personally experienced it. He has also experienced Christ firsthand and now has been receiving updated files from Christ in the form of seven visions. John’s visions bring hope as do all things in life when we are in Him. Our lives have significance and purpose; we are not alone for He is there with us. God is in command of all outcomes, the consummation, the fulfillment, the fruition, and the ultimate goal of His plan and purpose. Our call is to keep our churches in line with His precepts and in obedience (Rev. 4:1-5:14; 21:22-23; 22:5).

Revelation is also about the conflict between good and evil. It is both history and prophecy. It speaks to the first century churches of Asia Minor and it speaks to us today. For John’s readers, this book was also about what was going on in their day and in their churches. Knowing what is coming is important for our hope, but not vital to how we are to grow in Him or our faithfulness in staying firm to His truth.

Thus, John meets them head-on with the truth and with hope. He reassures them that Christ has not gone away, but He knows of their circumstances and has His plan for them. John gives them glimpses of the wonders of Heaven (Rev. 4-16). John is seeking to restore their confidence in Christ, and to persuade them to be encouraged and hold fast to their faith. He does not want them to fall prey to pagan practices and temptations or to false teachings, but, rather to focus firmly upon Christ so He is Lord over all fears and situations.

Christ has already secured the victory for life now and for eternity by His shed blood. Satan has been defeated and those who are evil and corrupt have been judged and sentenced (Rev. 5:9-10; 12:11; 19:11-20:10). We are victorious. We are made for eternity to be in Him, and our real hope and home is still to come (Rev. 7:15-17; 21:3-4).

The bulk of Revelation is dedicated to John’s seven visions in which Christ extols and rebukes the Church to get us to get our act together. John’s visions give us a depiction of things to come—a future history of the world through the Second Coming and into eternity. John also gives significant details in imageries. John not only gives us a glimpse of things to come, he also tells us how Satan operates and how to be on guard.

Revelation depicts how God is still in control even when Satan, the ultimate false prophet, the great dragon, and Beast is unleashed in his full power, causing insurmountable and suffering. Satan is seeking to lead the world astray now just as he will in his final act by seeking to not only blaspheme Christ, but trying to counterfeit Christ and provide us with a variety of misrepresentations. He seeks to attack God’s power and purpose and persecute those who are His (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Rev. 13; 17:1-9:10).Christ is the Divine Warrior who fights for us (Ex. 15:3; Isa. 59:16-18; 63:1-6; Eph. 1:13; Hab. 3:3-15; Zech. 9:13-15; 14:1-5; Dan. 7:1-8), and we can take hope because God is the One who is still seated on His throne and wins (Psalm 2:7; John 5:21-23; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 13: 1-10; 16:13; 17:14; 19:1-21).

At the same time, God has his remnant who remain faithful and true to Him, because fulfillment is in Christ, not in the false words and deeds of the false prophet (Rev. 12:11). The theme for the Christians in this age is to learn and to trust, to obey and remain faithful even against all odds, so we can remain spiritually pure and continue to grow. Satan seeks us to worship him; when he can’t, he seeks to disrupt us from who we are in Christ. Because Satan does not want us to be a good witness of Christ, he tries to sway us to only see our struggles, be seduced by the ways of the world, to conspire, fight, and gossip amongst ourselves, and to misunderstand or misuse our faith (Rev. 12:11; 14:4; 19:8; 21:9, 22-27).

Revelation is not a puzzle for which we must endeavor to find a code or secret meaning, nor is it a source book for our inclinations, theories, or conjectures.

Revelation is given so we can see God at work, His Wonder of Wonders, so we can pursue our faith with more diligence in trust and obedience, and to be prepared when He does return!






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