The God Who Judges, the God Who Holds Us! P1

You may know that God is a God who gives us grace, comfort, and rest, but, did you know He is also a God of judgment?
Read Jesus’s Words in Matthew 11: 20-30

All too often we forget His holiness, righteousness, and right to judge. We forget we are responsible for our actions. We just go on with our meager lives without any forethought of the consequences or opportunities.

Yes, our God is a God of Grace. How wonderful and comforting to be able to allow Him to be our haven of rest, our comfort. Yet we cannot allow ourselves to neglect His full magnitude and character. All too often, we, as sinful humanity, place ourselves in the judgment seat, passing our Will and agenda to others. Perhaps we are correct in our assumptions, but, conceivably, we cannot see the hearts of others, or the facts.
We must be able to leave the judgment to Christ; He is perfect and all knowing, and we are not. We need to be willing and able to wait and rest in Him, His plan, and in His ways, not ours. Even in times when we suffer stress and confusion, even when we fail, He is there, holding us, loving us, and giving us His rest and grace beyond what we can fathom. When we surrender our yoke–that is, our Will and plans–over to His perfect rest, how splendid a Christian walk we will have; what an impact we can be!

• Look at this key word: “Rebuke the cities.” This is called a “judgment oracle.” It was common of OT prophets to condemn evil cities whose people had rejected God (Amos 3:2; Jonah. 4:11). Rebuke/ denounce are very strong words conveying justified indignation.
• In Jesus’ time, Tyre, and Sidon were considered the most wicked and pagan cities that had ever existed. Few to none of their inhabitants repented or acknowledged God (1 Kings 16:11; 17:9-24).
• The more knowledge you have, the more responsibility you have to use and practice it. That is why Moses was not let into the Promise Land; he disobeyed God. He knew better than anyone who ever lived not to do that! Fortunately, today we have Grace!

Even though Moses disobeyed God in a relatively minor matter in our perspective, God was still gracious, and showed him all that would come. What God sees as important, we sometimes skip. Remember, Moses knew better. And, when we sin, we know better too! Thus, the offence of striking the rock was bad enough for him to be excluded from entering the Promised Land. Moses had been face to face with God, and knew his duty and call. His anger broke the trust he had with God, resulting in grave consequences. Fortunately for us, we have Grace to further protect us (Ex.17: 6; Num. 20:8-11)!

How does knowing that God is a God of judgment, as well as a God of holiness and righteousness affect your faith and obedience?

What happens to a Christian’s growth and faith when all he acknowledges is God’s grace, and not the rest of His attributes?

Does John 14 teach a Rapture?

Many people in an attempt to prove a rapture will often cite the NIV translation of John 14:3, “Take you” as a proof that we will rise up to meet Jesus. First off, that would be cool and I am hoping for that. But, I have to be honest to the Text and only teach what the Bible, in proper context, acutely says from actual word meanings inductive analysis, especially what did that term(s) mean to a first century Jew and Roman. What we do not what to do is disrespect God and His Word by seeking, “what I want it to mean for me.” Because we will then, draw wrong conclusions and as Bible teachers lead people astray. What we want to do is appropriate and effectual applications from the Text of God’s most holy Word, then grow ourselves and the people that God gives to disciple deeper to His heart and true Truth for His glory. 

So what is going on in John 14?  

The NIV states, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Verse 3 

The NASB states, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” 

The Greek word is “paralambano”          it is a verb meaning “to take to,” as to take with one’s self, to join an associate or a companion (from Kittel’s “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” the definitive work in this matter). 

Remember context, this was Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” where He gives His most passionate and important instructions to His Disciples and us. He was facing betrayal and He turns to His Disciples to comfort them and says; do not be afraid or troubled! Trust in God; trust in Me. He then gives them a picture of hope by showing them a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. He is giving us a picture of the greatest carrot on a stick for us, Heaven, is that inheritance God is promising us beyond our scope of understanding. How incredibly wondrous this must be; our place and security is in Heaven to come and our joy can then be declared and lived out.

He was imparting one of His most important messages, to trust in God. He was giving a call to a personal relationship-unity with conviction with Himself, The Christ. “Trust” is a command to step up to faith, our response to the call of God with conviction in Him through times of danger and fear. Jesus wants us to grasp a picture of a righteous person’s proper dependence upon Jesus as He is exemplified. That He is our Sanctuary; He is the Eternal God on whom we can rely and not only give our life to, but also live our life for (2 Sam. 2:3; Isa. 8:17; 28:16; Psalm 118:22; Isa. 8:14-18; 28:16; John 13:36; Heb. 2:13).

In addition, Jesus was communing the importance to the pursuit of righteousness as like with one journeys through the wilderness of the tough times of waiting and confusion-even suffering. He is giving us a beacon and we are to focus on Christ. That he is Truth in this context means He fulfills the Law and teachings of the Old Testament. That He is Life, there is no existence without Him and there is no salvation without His atonement, redemption, and grace. Christians were first called “the Way” (Ex. 16:33; Lev. 10:2; 16; Num. 17:5; Matt. 7:14; John 1:1-4, 14; 3:16-18; 5:26, 33; 11:25-26; 18:37; Acts 4:12; 9:2; 19:9, 23; Rom. 10:14-15; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 10:19-20;1 John 5:12).

 Consequently, “to take” means a call to join our Companion because He is Lord, and referring that Jesus is our only way, the gate and stairway to Heaven; there is no other way to God except through Him. The real intended meaning was about the resurrection of the dead leads to a new life, our life after death that Jesus is able to provide by His death and resurrection. This passage has nothing to do with a rapture, it is all about Christ and we are to focus on Him not trends, trivialities or speculations.

With the context of heaven, this can also refer to the Second Coming or the new age of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. But, moreover, this is about Jesus as our Rescuer and Redeemer; He took on our human nature but without our sinfulness, and remained pure to pay the debt for our sins. In the process, His human nature voluntarily became lower than the angels, but as Fully God He is superior to them in essence, power, purpose, and distinction (Rom. 1:4; Heb. 1:1-4; 2: 7, 14-15).

Yet, this passage has been greatly abused by many so-called pastors who read it out of context and inserted their own feelings as truth. Rather, this is an invitation to radical faith. Jesus is saying we can trust in Him totally and completely with all we have now and for our future. Because, He is not just preparing a place for us in eternity, He is preparing us for eternity too! What we go through is not just about sin in an unfair world, it is the building up of faith and being that display a beacon to a dimly lit world that needs His Light.

Keep in mind, that the study of eschatology can be important, but, compared to issues such as prayer, Bible study, who Christ is, basic doctrine, faith development, living in the Spirit, and growing in character and service to our neighbors and people in need, it really is not that important for us to know or to teach! It is OK to disagree with non essential doctrine, as long as we do not divide over it!

What does Revelation 12:1-6 mean to us now?

 

In this passage, we see God, who cares and protects, and satan, who seeks to destroy. We see God, who sends a good King, and satan, who seeks to kill that King so he can be a bad king. This passage is very clear in its Jewish imagery as it is reminiscent of the struggle of satan who refuses to submit before God, who seeks to usurp God’s rule and plan, who desires to influence and control the world for evil, and who hates righteousness and all things of God. This is also a picture of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes to earth as a child; satan vehemently seeks to prevent His birth and destroy His redemptive plan and work. The woman is often seen as Israel who is called to mother and birth righteousness and be the example of God to the world (Psalm 2:9-12). 

In this passage, we also see God, who deeply loves us and has a plan, even against the most heinous evil powers, persecutions, and disruptions of liberty and life. God is in control! As a Christian, we are a deeply and truly loved child of God; we are accepted in Him and we have a plan that is in Him; thus, we have no need or reason to freak, fear, or to stress, for He is in control and is Sovereign. Satan cannot buffet against Him nor can he buffet against us when we are in Christ. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. What do you think the images in this text are, such as a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns wearing seven crowns? Why do most Christians prefer to speculate instead of researching to see what these images meant to the original audience and language?
  1. Why do you suppose John also uses the style of a Greek play and the mythology of the Greek gods?
  1. How and why does understanding the literature and metaphors—what the 1st century Jew saw—gives us a richer meaning of what the text (God) is seeking to communicate with us today?
  1. What happens when we refuse to interpret Scripture in the light of its context and word meanings or see that some of these imageries are deeply rooted in Judaism? (Remember, we can disagree, but never divide over these non-essential issues, and always discuss in love and respect.)
  1. How do you see the relevance of this passage to your life? How would you contrast satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith?
  1. Why does the Church struggle to stay faithful? What are the things that cloud our seeing His desire to lead His church in His precepts?

 

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

The Four Main Views of Revelation 12:1-6

 

The Preterist view: There are two prevailing views in the veracity of this passage. One sees it as the continual destruction of Jerusalem; Babylon represents Jerusalem as viewed from the throne room of God, while the Church is in conflict with worldly principles. The other view sees Babylon as Rome, the great persecutor of the saints, while the judgments still wage against Jerusalem. The woman is seen as the faithful Jews escaping Jerusalem. The Dragon is the beast from Daniel representing Old Testament Babylon. The birth of the child is seen as the birth of the Church, not the birth, life, or work of Christ. The Desert is the Jews’ escape, prior to the destruction. Others see this passage as the miracle of the safety of the Christians who all escaped the fall of Jerusalem. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as the middle of the Great Tribulation where the antichrist breaks his contact with Israel, shuts down the Temple, and becomes the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24. (However, this is not from the text, but speculation.) Others in this camp see this as an interlude when God is giving other descriptions of important events prior to the great judgment or outside of the timeline. The woman is seen by Catholics as Mary in her post- “assumption” (the Catholic view is that Mary is partially divine and exulted, because she is Mother of God, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.) role. Others in this camp see her as representative of the Church, or people who are faithful, or the professing Church. Male child is seen as the promise to overcome, or the Church triumphant. Others see it as Jesus and His Jewish heritage. The stars are a reference to Joseph’s dreams; others see this as the holiness of Christ. Few in this camp see the dragon as Satan; rather, they see it as a metaphor for the Roman Empire or an incarnation of the Beast of Chapter 13. The stars, in reference to the Dragon, are not considered literal stars; rather, they are seen as perhaps asteroids, airplanes, a look back to Satan’s revolt against God, or the evil political forces of the day. Devour is seen as Satan’s failed attempt to stop Christ. (It is interesting to note that their theories are very contradictory of one another.) The Desert is seen as the persecution of the Jews in the last days (with great debate on how, when, and where they will be refuges to, and concerned only with their speculations about the text). 1,260 days is seen as the last half of the Tribulation or the time of the persecution of the Jews. (It is amazing how one can read a passage and totally miss the point, or read in what one wants to see and ignore what is actually there.) 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as a metaphor and story of the birth of Christ, the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem, and the coming of His Kingdom and His ascension. Thus, this passage is not prophetic; rather, it deals with what has already taken place during our Lord’s life on earth and satan’s unsuccessful attempts to intervene and destroy Christ and His work. As with the Historicist view, the Idealists also see this passage as dealing with the internal affairs of the church and its struggle to stay faithful. The woman is faithful Israel, stars are Joseph’s dreams, the labor is the pains of the persecuted Church, The dragon is the evil political rulers, the stars are the rebellion of satan, and the child is Jesus, His birth, and the One who frustrates Satan’s plans. The Desert is God’s power, control, faithfulness, and care for the Church. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as another interlude to give us insights and information of events that have already taken place or covered prior in Revelation. Many see this as the struggle of the inward status and affairs of the church, its battle of inward corruption and missed opportunities and liberalism or apostate-ism, or becoming more secular and less spiritual. The woman is seen as the vision of the true and righteous Church, its promise, mission, and success. Giving birth is about the political struggles of the Church; the sun and stars are seen as the Romans and other outside influencers. Male child is seen as the children of the Church and the dragon is an image of Rome and/or satan or any persecutor. The stars are seen as the period of Rome in 313 A.D.—the great persecutions before the conversion of Rome. The child was snatched up is seen as the conversion of Rome in 324 A.D. and the rod of iron as the dominion of the Church afterwards.

Exegetical look into Revelation 12:1-6

 

  • Sign. Usually means something seen in the sky or an astronomical event. Here, it is an illustration, conveying an event that is unexpected and astonishing. As with most symbols and metaphors in Scripture, it is an expression with the intention of pointing to something beyond it (Luke 21:11, 25; Acts 2:19).
  • A woman. This refers to righteousness and motherhood (as Israel is portrayed as mother to the race), faith, and to the Christ. It is possibly a reference to “The Madonna,” Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was a very powerful symbolic image in ancient cultures, especially Judaism. This would have been a comfort to the struggling Messianic community. Classically, some, especially the Catholics, see this as Mary and the drama of the incarnation of Christ prior to His arrival on earth. (It is interesting to note that the Christian Scientists see this woman, her spirit, as the founder of their cult.) Is. 62:5.
  • Clothed. Referring to dignity and exalted Israel, or, to God’s glory.
  • Sun, with the moon. These are Jewish references to Abraham and Sarah, referring to the birth of the people of Israel, their hope, and blessings to come.
  • Twelve stars. This is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel and refers to Joseph’s dreams. In conjunction with the woman and context, it is clearly referencing Israel. Some see this as satan’s rebellion (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). This term or passage has nothing to do with astrology or the zodiac, other than it uses similar imagery for illustration sake but not as substance (Gen. 37:9-10; Lev. 19:26-28, 31; 20:6; Deut 18:9-14; Is. 8:19; 47:12-13; Jer. 10:1-2).
  • Pregnant. In contrast, a virgin meant someone who is faithful, and a prostitute meant someone who is pregnant and not married, denoting unfaithfulness. This is meant to contrast the heavenly with the evil, faithful and heavenly Jerusalem versus the harlot and oppressor Babylon, reviled in Israel for its destruction of the Temple, the theft of the Ark, and the captivity of the people (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 26:18-19; 54:1; Micah 5:3; John 16:21; Rev. 17:5; 21:2). 
  • Pain. As in struggle, good versus evil, our will versus God’s will, satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith. This can also mean the suffering of waiting for the Messiah to come and/or waiting for the second coming.
  • Give birth refers to the birth of the Messiah; it also denotes being saved, either as faithfulness, or being saved by Christ. It also meant for Jews, the captives of Babylon, traveling back to Israel to rebirth the nation and Jerusalem (Is. 54:1-4; 66:7-13; Micah 4:10; 5:2-3; Rev. 12:17).
  • Red dragon…. The term “dragon” literally means “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, and symbolizes monstrous evil (common in Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths), and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of satan who is the enemy of God, who is a terrifying and destructive beast, and who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. This image is not meant to terrify us, but show us how he works so we can beware and defend. This was also a metaphor for Babylon and the enemies of Israel and God. It is very unwise to read in meanings that are not there to this and other metaphors (apocryphal book “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7-9; 13:2; 20:2).
  • Seven heads. This represents domination, and also refers to astuteness and universal wisdom (Rev. 13:1).
  • Ten horns and seven crowns is the image of great power as well as battle and warfare, depicting how satan rises up to battle God, but he is sent to everlasting torment in Rev. 20:10!
  • Tail swept a third of the stars is a Jewish metaphor for the power of Heaven fighting on behalf of Israel. This also meant pouring rain and rebellion. This also referred to satan’s betrayal and rebellion and the fall of 1/3 of the angels under him. This metaphor also meant to sin or to fall into sin and be corrupted. For us, it can mean the rebellion against Christ (Judges 5:20; Is. 24:21; Dan. 12:3; Rev. 8:10).
  • He might devour her child. Satan was unable to prevent Christ’s incarnation and redemption, thus, he seeks to manipulate and destroy His followers (Matt. 2:13-18; Luke 4:28-29).
  • Gave birth …a son. Referring to deliverance, this metaphor also pointed to Augustus in Greek thought, and to a savior in Judaism and early Christianity. This theme was a great comfort to the early persecuted Church. This, in the early Church, referred to the Messianic enthronement of Jesus Christ, His birth, death, resurrection, and Lordship (John 16:21).
  • A male child. This is a perhaps a recoding of the fulfillment of Micah 5:3: Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. It refers to Christ’s incarnation, His role as Messiah and Savior, and how His triumph and accomplishments certify this fact (Is. 7:14; 9:6). As Jesus’ words state, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37-39).
  • Rule all the nations… Iron scepter. Meaning the coronation of a divine leader who will conquer evil. This doesn’t mean oppression or dictatorship; rather, it refers to a caring shepherd, and at the same time, God’s strength, authority, and right to rule (Rev. 2:27; 11:15; 19:15).
  • Child was snatched up to God. May refer to the ascension of Christ. In Greek myths, children were taken and hidden from their enemy until they were old enough, trained to defend themselves, and could go after their oppressors. The image here is that our God protects, and desires us to mature, be trained up, and be ready to defend (Psalm 2:6-9; Is. 9:6-7; Micah 5:3; Acts 1:9; 2:33; Heb. 1:1-3; 12:2).
  • Desert/Wilderness means “spiritual refuge,” and refers to how the people of God, after the Exodus, wandered for 40 years, their faithfulness and betrayal, and the grace of God. Also, their waiting for their inheritance of the Promised Land. In the Early Church, this was referred to as the period between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming. The Jews were expecting a deliverance from the Romans by a second Exodus (Hosea 2:14).
  • Taken care of means spiritual protection, as God promises His protection to a persecuted Church (Rev.13:5).
  • 1,260 days perhaps refers to the great tribulation of Daniel, but more likely is a metaphor for trials and troubles. This does not mean a literal number but a type of trouble such as persecution (Dan. 9:2-24; Rev. 11:2).

Revelation 12:1-6

Introduction 

The Women and the Dragon 

John now sees a most significant event as a women clothed in the brightness of the sun is standing on the moon and wearing a crown of stars; she is pregnant and in the pains of labor. Then, he sees a large, red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, wearing seven crowns. This dragon strikes down one third of the stars and throws them to earth, desiring to devour the baby to whom the woman is giving birth. The woman gives birth to the child who is to lead all nations, and he is taken away by God so the dragon cannot get him. The woman flees to the wilderness where she is cared for by God for a time. 

This passage is written in the style of a Greek play depicting the mythology of the Greek gods such as the struggle of Leto giving birth to Apollo and Python and the Egyptian account of their gods  Isis and Typhon as she gave birth to Horus.  John is using Jewish apocalyptic language. Understanding the literature and metaphors—what the First Century Jew saw—gives us a richer meaning of what the text (God) is seeking to communicate with us today. John uses this captivating style to show the struggle as God gives birth to Israel, Israel giving birth to Jesus, while Jesus is being opposed by Satan. This section also starts the “Third Cycle” of John’s Revelations/visions (Rev. 12:1-14:20). These images deal with spiritual warfare, the conflict of good and evil, of light and dark, rooted in history and with ramifications for the future. These passages also deal with symbolism that is deeply rooted in Judaism as well as the plan and work of our Lord and the heralding of His Second Coming. The application is our being and remaining faithful to our Lord and continuing our witness and maintaining character in the midst of persecutions. We are also called to bear Fruit in and with His light as His witnesses against the dark forces, to a corrupt and conflict- ridden world with all its trappings of contradictions and confusion (Eph. 6:10-20). 

How can you be better at remaining faithful to our Lord and continue your witness with character in the midst of the stresses of life? What about if things get real bad, such as persecution?