Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 9-11

· Brother and companion. John is addressing all Christians¾not just the seven churches, because the seven means “completeness” and represents us all. John is making it personal and caring, yet forceful in function.

· Suffering is a prevailing theme in Revelation (Rev. 2:9-10, 22; 7:14)!

· Endurance is a call to remain faithful and keep our trust in Christ no matter what comes our way in sufferings or temptations. We are to focus on His Way, even in persecution and stress. This theme is prominent in Revelation (Rev. 2:2-3, 13, 19; 3:10; 6:11; 13:10; 14:12; 16:15; 18:4; 20:4; 22:7, 11, 14).

· Patmos is a small, rocky island, eight-by-four miles, in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, then called Asia Minor. It was a Roman penal colony where inmates who were dangerous were sent and left there. John’s exile here could also been clemency by the governor because he could have been executed. Church tradition states they tried to execute John several times but failed. This also puts John in the position to perhaps denounce Rome, calling them “Babylon (chaps 17-18).” Eusebius, a “Church Father” and early historian (A.D. 265-340), states that John was released from Patmos under the rein of the emperor Nerva (96-98). This gives further credence for a late date.

· The Lord’s Day was a covert term to mean when the Early Church met for worship. It refers to the day of worship, Sunday, where Christ’s resurrection, victory, and Last Supper were celebrated. Many Christians were Jews and still participated in the Sabbath observances, too (John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 19:1-10).

· In the Spirit means “spiritual exaltation,” possibly as in charismatic worship. However, John did not solicit this vision; God gave it to him. The Holy Spirit provided John the visions and took him to places he could actually see. Thus, he is recording authentic images he saw in reality; this was no dream (1 Chron. 25:1-6; Ezek. 2:2; 3:12-14, 24; 8:3; 11:1, 24; Acts 10:10; Rev. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).

· Loud voice refers to the power of Christ and our duty to reverence Him (Job 37:5-6; Ezek. 1:24; 43:2; Dan. 10:6).

· Trumpet means God is preparing to give a command or the pronouncement of His Word (Ex. 19:16).

· Scroll means a piece of papyrus or parchment that is usually bound or sown together and rolled on a wood spindle, which codex’s in the second century (books) replaced. It refers to the power and eminence of His Word.

· Send it to the seven churches, as the text says, at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. They were 30 to 40 miles apart in a circular placement and this was also the most efficient order a messenger would literally take. This would disprove that the churches were merely symbolic!

· Seven churches. These are not allegories, but rather real, actual churches in Asia Minor whose tangible problems are the representation of ones we still have with us today. There were many more churches in Asia Minor at that time, as seven is symbolic for completeness, and thus applies to all churches in all times (See last week’s study and Background Article for more info).

This passage also points us that it is God’s power that leads¾not our ways or trends. The essential framework to build a healthy church is to understand that its prime purpose is to glorify Christ, not to please our comforts or ideas. We are to shine before Him by holding His truth, and shine for the Lord, making Him known in a dark world!

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Revelation 1: 9-20

Introduction

“The Vision of Christ”

The first vision! Jesus is proclaimed as the Priest, Judge, King, and Ruler of the Church. This is not theory, rather, reality with which we must connect. John is getting his people ready for his visions. To do so, John is demonstrating humility, making a connection to his people so they can have hope and endurance by the sharing of his sufferings and experiences and they will know he is still with them in spirit and in understanding. John was not living the good life while his people were being persecuted; he was in the frontlines of it all. He was a leader who led by example by going first to the destination to which he was leading others. Now that he has set a tone, he tells them of his incredible vision of Christ and His call to the leadership of the Seven Churches. Jesus is speaking to him in vivid imagery, commanding him to write it all down so it can be shared and used to further the Kingdom.

The image of Christ is breathtaking. It is not that of the humble servant, Son of man; now it is the immeasurable Sovereign of the universe standing in the heavens, holding the stars. He was blazing as radiantly as the sun with a voice that thundered as He held the Churches in His grip. John’s only response was to fall face down as dead in total reverence and humility to Christ’s Lordship. Christ, with His full mercy and grace, allows John to stand, gives him comfort, and gives him the important task of recoding His precepts. Verse 19 is interesting; it may set a tone for the meaning of Revelation, not necessary literally, but as imageries that have a meaning for a purpose that is for us now and will still be so in its culmination.

Context

In the Old Testament Tabernacle that Moses built and where the Jews first worshiped God, there was one lampstand with seven branches (in practice some Jews use six to nine branches, so not to duplicate anything that was in the Temple). This is now called the “menorah,” a prime symbol of Judaism today and used in “Chanukah.” This Menorah had seven branches that symbolized the assembly of believers and how God’s light shines to us (Ex. 25:31-40; Isaiah 42:6; Zech. 4:1-6; Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:14-16).

This passage displays God’s splendor in the best symbolic words and imagery available following the theme of Daniel chapter seven, where mere words are insufficient to convey who He is (Rev. 5:6; 14:14; 19:11-13). Obviously, this is a figurative, not a literal description of our Lord! Christ is shown as Supreme, and Head over the Church. He controls the Church. Does He control yours, or do you think you do (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:13-15; 5:23; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9)?

The Rule of Exegetical Eschatology

What is Exegetical Eschatology?

This is a from of interpreting “Apocalyptic” writing from what the Bible from what is plainly says, meaning “to draw from.” This is for serious or critical examination of a text of Scripture for the purpose of explanation, clarification, and interpretation.

For the authentic Christian, it provides a better framework of God’s principles and can be a shredder for its critics—as in those who oppose faith and reason or the Truth of Christ and His principles. This is done by examining the facts, details, and essence of a Bible text before making any conclusions. This means we engage the text with careful exegesis, uninhibited by theological prejudice, with an inductive process with open minds to discover God’s lessons for us. What does the original language, genre, and cultural analysis do, considering the original hearers of this work? What did that term mean to John and those seven churches, or what was Jesus saying in Matthew chapter twenty-four, not just what we may think it means today.Otherwise, our preconceived ideas will form our opinions rather than what the Word actually says.

This is how the Reformers, Calvin and Luther, did their studies (although they subscribed to the Historicist view), as well as Augustine (who was mostly a Futurist, but not like the Futurists today) and other great men. They were seeking His revealed truth inductively, applying literal interpretation (if the genre allows), and historical and grammatical exegesis, not mere human speculations and traditions. This is what we seek to do at Into Thy Word.www.intothyword.org

Thus, Biblical Eschatology looks at the whole text in its context and pulls out facts, examining the particulars, facts, and essence of a Bible text before making any assumptions or conclusions. Then, it interprets and applies them.

There are no false teachings or misleading ideas with this method as long as the exegete is honest to the text. The goal is sound, Biblical Theology from the honest exegesis of the Scriptures—not traditions but pure unadulterated truth—not one’s theological framework, but rather biblical truth (see Understanding Apocalyptic Literature for more information).

What does this all have to do with Christianty or church leadership? The sad fact is that too many of our churches are spending too much time and energy on speculative theology while completely ignoring the calls and commands of Christ. While we invent these particulars of nonsense, too many people go un-reached and thus un-discipled because of our foolishness. Let’s stop the nonsense and focus on that to which God has clearly and assuredly called us!

What is Biblical Eschatology?

Biblical Eschatology is the study of our Christian beliefs concerning end times and the Second Coming of Christ as taught by an exegetical analyses of Scripture. For us to go to the Bible, we have to realize it is a book written in a different language and to a different culture using images, symbols, and metaphors we may not know as well as we think today. Thus, we are to assume a passage is literal until we get to a term that does not make sense or fit. Saying to a non-English speaker, it is raining cats and dogs will not make sense to them, just as beast will not make sense to an America Christian two thousand years removed. So what do we do? Read the Bible right and seek its truth, leaving ours aside.

It is the application of what Francis Schaeffer said as “true-Truth!” What does the Bible really say? Not what I think truth is, but willing to lay one’s truth aside for an honest investigation should not be feared; if you are right, Scripture will pan you out.

If you are wrong, wouldn’t you rather be right on the side of the Bible, regardless of what others may think, or your own pride that may need to be swallowed? Then if you still feel your truth is correct and you did your homework, you are better off. But what usually happens is that we push our truth forward, ignoring logic, sound reasoning, and biblical exegesis such as, what did these terms and ideas mean in their original languages, set in their contexts, genre, and cultural meanings? What did these words from Scripture mean to the human authors used by the Holy Spirit as well as the hearers at the time, not from a newspaper today that is at a different time, culture, and language. This is what real effectual factual truth is in action and in application, asking the question what the bible clearly says in its actual meaning and context not what we think it should say.

Then we have the “popular problem,” or what many people today seek—to just relate it to their personal traditions or trends or theological ideas or worse feelings. “True-Truth” is mathematical and has a definitive answer; Scripture indeed has definitive answers too—If we are willing to look. Most of the time they are in plain sight, because the Bible says what it says and means what it means. But sometimes we get to a term such as “beast” and wonder what that is. So we must ask, what is that, and not assume. A little careful research in quality sources will reveal it and its real truth. Real truth is not always what my denomination or theological framework or my favorite preacher or author has to say, or some comparison of it. Nor is it my truth or what is relative to my feelings, personal thoughts, or ideas predicated by my hurts or outlook or worldview.

  • Real “Exegetical Eschatology” simply means we go to God’s Word and take from it and not read into it.
  • With “our” truth, we go to God’s Word and read in our will and ideas, what is in it for us, and respond to how we feel at that time with a careless attitude to what real truth is.

In true-Truth we go to the Bible as surrendered beings, seeking to know and glorify Christ because He is Truth as is His Word. This is the science of Inductive and Exegetical Methodology. We get to the real Truth as revealed in God’s Word versus what we want to or feel may be truth. After all, we are removed two thousand years from these times not to mention the language and cultural barriers from the original writings of the Bible from which we glean.

Many great expositors of the Bible have gotten End Times and Revelation wrong—Including me. Why does this happen?

We get lazy and do not do the proper exegetical work or just turn to our favorite mentor or preacher and take his findings at face value, never really carefully examining what and why we believe. Perhaps we just trust our favorite commentary or study Bible and forget they are the words of mere men who may have done a marvelous job at a logical strength for an Epistle like Romans and Matthew, but then took their brains out when they got to Revelation. I did this; I did not use my own Into Thy Word Bible Study Methods I had taught for over ten years before realizing my errors. I just trusted in the charts I received from a mentor. The rules of biblical interpretation were not followed, and misled and confused both others and us.

Biblical Eschatology is seeking what the Bible Actually Says

If we do not follow and use the proper “hermeneutical rules” to interpret the Bible we will end up with bad theology at best and cultism at worst, just as what has happened. Thus, to discover God’s lessons for us, what does the original language, genre, cultural breakdown to the original hearers of this work? What did that term mean to John and those seven churches, not just what we may think they mean today.

We must come to God’s Word with reverence and a surrendered will and seek its relevance using the appropriate tools. Furthermore, when we come to a theory or idea we test them with the same rules. In this way, we can effectively see what lines up to Scripture and what does not. (For more information see Exegetical Methods on our sister website http://www.intothyword.org/)

Are you captivated by End Times Theories?

Are you a committed Christian or a surrendered Christian?

Are you waiting for the Rapture? Are you concerned about the tribulation, when it will happen, and if you have to go through it or not? Does one theory of end times have you captivated while others make you mad? Is this what fuels your faith? Is this where your time is spent? If so, take a hard look in prayer and at the Scriptures. What is God really calling your focus to be? Look at Galatians chapter five, the Book of James, or any book of the Bible. Read it through, ask inductive questions to the text, and watch your faith grow and your life be transformed by the real indwelling of His Word and Spirit. If you are just fueled by emotional drama and sensationalism, your faith is weak and on a thin bed of ice on a hot day. There is nothing to hold or shape you, nothing to transform you and build faith, character, and spiritual and emotional maturity. Yes, excitement is fun and we do need it from time to time, but real faith is fueled in the crucible of our walk in Him and His work in us. It is not about what the trends are; it is what Jesus Christ is doing in you and your church. Do not be distracted from what true faith and real Christian living is all about!

The main point of Biblical, Exegetical Eschatology is to tell us not to be discouraged, but remain faithful and vigilant. We are to live our lives as if Christ were coming tomorrow, or preparing and planning as if He were coming a thousand years from now. We are not to be preoccupied with the details and trivialities. That is why Jesus did not give them to us. Rather, our faith development and steadfastness are far more impacting and real for ourselves and others around us!

We need to read the Bible so it is more impacting to us and so we can draw out more information for personal edification and teaching. We also have to be careful that our interpretation of Scripture is accurate in word and meaning before we make an application to it! We are never to ignore His words, and absolutely never to replace them with ours! It is not about what we think or wish for; it is about His will and His timing! Jesus can come at any time; He is not bound by the limits of our understanding of Eschatology. He is God, and His timing and control are sovereign!

Revelation and Exegetical Eschatology are about our genuine discipleship and growth in Christ and how He impacts us so we can impact others. In His time, it will be clear without dispute (Acts 1:7). Revelation continues to add to our spiritual growth and faithfulness and encourage the Church through persecutions and the daily stresses of life. What we have to know is plainly what we need to know. We do not need to know what He has not yet revealed, as our duty is to our spiritual formation and the expansion of the Kingdom, not idle speculations and argumentations. The purpose for our lives here is to learn and grow in Him over any theological agenda. What we learn in our preparations is far more valuable than what will come about. To live in a sin-infused world is difficult and we need the Savior and Lord to guide us through it. Our lives, circumstances, and experiences will bring us trials and testing before we learn the lessons we are taught. What we learn from Him will help us be vigorous, victorious, and able to overcome anything life or Satan can throw at us.

Do not be distracted from that to which Christ has called you! Do not waste your time in the particulars of eschatology; it really is not important. Christ commands us to know Him and make Him known, to grow in Him and help others grow, to worship Him and help others worship Him, too. If we spend our time in the debate of eschatology, we will ignore His more vital calls, such as evangelism, discipleship, and our own growth in Him!

More on “Exegetical Eschatology”

Exegetical Eschatology is using the Bible and logical thinking, not the minds of men’s theorems in disregard to reason. In this way, we can engage this subject properly and see a purpose other than just to satisfy our dogmatic assertions and speculations. Let us not bother with unwarranted calculations, to which we have no idea or call to do. Rather, let us seek His precepts so we can grow further in our spiritual formation and make Him known to others!

Why do so many people get Eschatology (the study of end times) and the Book of Revelation wrong or have crazy ideas or contradictory theories?

Basically, it is because (to say this bluntly), they have not read it or at least have not read it well! It amazes me how some pastors and Bible teachers can go to a text and not “read it,” but can be really good at “reading into it.” That is, instead of reading what is there, in its context, what the words say in the original languages and culture, we read in our theological ideas, frameworks, and presumptions, and thus totality miss what God is actually saying to us!

This is called Eisegesis or Isogesis which simply means “to lead in” or “read into the Text of Scripture” as in to place into the text one’s own presuppositions, ideas, and thoughts while ignoring what is actually there in order to satisfy one’s personal agendas and opinions. In practice, this is using our personal interpretation of what we want the last days to be about, and the agenda or sequence or meanings we get from our own presupposition. Inserting or expressing our own ideas and bias without seeking what God has or wants us to have is totally wrong at best and evil at worst. We are called to find what it means rather than what we want it to mean. So, when you look at any text of Scripture, your task is to seek the actual, intended meaning of the passage.

(See Approaches to Studying Scripturefor more information)

We are all human and all we know and see comes through our fallen filter made from depravity. We must still do the best we can do. It is always best not to bow to anyone’s reasoning, but take a clear look for ourselves. It is most probable that some aspects of each of these views will be in the tapestry of how the events have and will unfold before us. And, when they actually do, as Scripture indicates, all will be made clear to us (Matt. 24). But, whatever view we take or even if we have no view (and no view is as important as the honor and reality that He is coming; personally I do not subscribe to any of these four main views) will be dramatically expressed in due time, His timing, not ours (Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 1:3; 22:20). Thus, it is my endeavor to go into Exegetical Eschatology and the Book of Revelation and bring you what it says, not what others or I think it says.