April 5, 2008 on 3:08 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on HOW SOON IS SOON?–1:3

When can we expect to see the fulfillment of Revelation’s prophecies? Are they past? Present? Future? Revelation 1:1 includes the idea of things which must “shortly come to pass.” What does that mean? Right away in John’s day (about 95 A. D.)? Would that make it irrelevant for today? Or does it refer to our day only? Or both? That raises an important question as to how to interpret the time element in apocalyptic prophecies (primarily Daniel and Revelation). There are three major schools of thought in the theological world, with some variations. One says everything was fulfilled long ago, so there’s nothing left to happen (preterist view). Another says no, nothing has happened yet, it all lies in the future (futurist—common to the dispensationalist view, i.e. left behind philosophy). The third says the prophecies begin at the time of the prophet and continue to unfold through the centuries till the end of the world and the coming of Jesus (historicist view). So how do we decide? Flip a coin? Pick the one you like best? Go by the latest religious best seller?

Actually, the Bible helps us out here. You may recall in the introduction, it was stated we would need to look at Daniel for help in interpreting Revelation (and the Bible is its own best interpreter). This is one of those times.

Daniel 2 is considered the “granddaddy” of all apocalyptic prophecy and establishes a paradigm (a pattern) that will hold true for all the long-span prophecies to follow. I won’t go into great detail about the chapter here (I may start another category on Daniel later on), but you can read the whole story for yourself. We will look for which of the three views Daniel uses as he interprets a king’s dream.

To put the story in a nutshell, the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) had a dream which he couldn’t remember. Ever had that experience? But because it seemed so important at the time, he called in his “think tank” (those who claimed to know everything about everything, including the ability to communicate with the gods) and asked them to tell him what he had forgotten. Of course, they couldn’t do it, and were finally forced to admit that only gods “whose dwelling is not with flesh” could do such a thing. It was obvious that human wisdom was a failure when it came to the things of God. Nebuchadnezzar was furious at that their inability to fulfill their claims. He ordered their execution.

Daniel and his friends were apparently not involved in the initial audience with the king and requested time to come up with the information the king wanted. Anxious to know, he granted the request. Daniel and his friends held a prayer meeting and God gave him the same vision he had given Nebuchadnezzar. Divine wisdom proved superior to human wisdom

But the critical part for our purposes now is how Daniel interpreted the prophetic dream—it is the same method used in his later visions. Nebuchadnezzar had seen a large statue in his dream made of a diversity of metals—head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, feet of mixed iron and clay. Now Daniel begins to explain their symbolism in sequence. In verse 38 he tells Nebuchadnezzar plainly, “You are the head of gold.” Very clearly he is saying that this prophecy begins during the time of the prophet. But then what? In verses 39 and 40 he states that Babylon will be followed by three other empires in succession. From our study of history of the Mediterranean region, we know that Babylon was overthrown by Medo-Persia, which was overthrown by Greece, which was overthrown by Rome. Verses 41-43 state that after the Roman empire, there would be a divided state of affairs among the nations. That happened as the barbarian tribes broke up the Roman empire and brought in a divided state that continues to this day. So here we see a continuous development of the prophecy through the centuries to the last days. Finally in verses 46 and 47 we see God coming to earth and destroying all earthly kingdoms and setting up his kingdom which shall never be destroyed. So the climax of the prophecy is the coming of Jesus and His new kingdom. Now, which of the three theological views of interpretation does Daniel follow in his outline of prophetic events? It becomes obvious that it fits neither the one which sees everything in the past nor the one which sees everything in the future. The only one remaining is the one which sees apocalyptic prophecy as a continuous unfolding from the prophet’s day till the climax of human history as we know it. In passing we note that just as human wisdom fails and only God’s wisdom prevails, so human kingdoms crumble and only God’s kingdom will last forever.

To come back to our original question—how soon is soon? In these prophecies it begins right away with the prophet’s time and extends to our own day and beyond. So, while much has already taken place, there are things still future as well. We want to note also that the prophecy of Daniel 2 climaxes with a vision of Jesus. He is ultimately the central figure in all bible prophecy. If we are not part of His kingdom, it doesn’t do us much good to understand prophecy. His great desire is that we join Him in preparations for His coming eternal kingdom.

As a footnote, the most common view of end times today is the futurist model, which has been popularized by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye (“Left Behind” series). For our purposes here, it should be noted that the Biblical model as we have seen in Daniel 2 is the historicist model. Consequently it is the one we will be using in this series. It actually encompasses both past and future, as well as the present, in its unfolding views, and provides a more balanced and accurate perspective, I believe.

Perhaps the more important question is, are we ready to meet our Lord and spend eternity with Him?


April 11, 2008 on 7:51 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on THE BEATITUDES IN REVELATION–1:3


In verse 3 of chapter 1 there is a special blessing mentioned. It is actually one of seven in the book of Revelation. You would expect seven to be typical of Revelation, wouldn’t you? There are a number of sevens in the book, such as 7 churches, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 plagues, etc. These seven blessings are similar to what we call the beatitudes in Matthew 5, only they are scattered throughout the book. We will take a look at them individually as we come to them, but in case you just can’t wait, here is a list of them:

1:3—to those who read, hear, and keep what is written in the book
14:13—to those who die in the Lord
16:15—to those who are awake (spiritually)
19:9—to those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb
21:6—to those in the first resurrection
22:7—to those who keep the words of the book
22:14—to those who do His commandments/wash their robes

The one we are interested in right now is the first one. There is apparently a special blessing in store for those who read the book or hear it (at the time it was written, very few people had the written word, most had to listen to it being read). But not if they only read it, but if they would keep the things written in it. In other words, they would take the words and lessons to heart. It would not be just an intellectual exercise or something to satisfy curiosity, but something applied to the personal life. That is the only way to experience the real blessing of this unique book. So look for ways to take its message to heart and apply its teachings to your own life. Note also that that same blessing is repeated again in the last chapter of the book, so it must be important to God.


April 25, 2008 on 8:15 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on SUMMARY CH 1:1-3


So what have we learned so far? Has it been worth it? Here are some of the points that we have touched on up till now:

• All heaven is involved in the communication process.
• The connection between God and His people is very close.
• Revelation is largely given in symbolic/code format.
• There is a “great controversy” going on for our loyalty.
• We have freedom to choose whom we will serve in this contest.
• The battle is real, but it is primarily a spiritual one.
• We serve one or the other of only two masters.
• There are other “alien” life forms.
• This was a visionary experience for John, typical for apocalyptic prophets.
• The long-term prophecies began to be fulfilled in John’s day.
• There is a continual unfolding of those prophecies till the end of time.
• There is a special blessing for those who take the messages to heart.

You can see how much we have gleaned already from just these three beginning verses. It pays sometimes to go slow rather than scurrying over the surface. Now let’s move on to verses 4-6, which can be seen to portray the gospel in a nutshell.


June 15, 2008 on 6:07 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on THE GOSPEL IN REVELATION–1:4-6

One might wonder why Revelation spends so much time on Jesus in chapter 1. Why not get right into the “good stuff,” like the Mark of the Beast and the Antichrist, etc.,–perhaps because it is more important to know Jesus(which is who the gospel is all about) than it is to know all the last day events (though the latter are certainly important to know as well). Knowing Jesus is a priority—if you don’t think so, consider these scriptures: John 17:3—“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Matthew7:22, 23—“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Furthermore, in Revelation 14:6, 7 the “everlasting gospel” is embedded in the first of three angels’ messages broadcast to the whole world just before Jesus comes (see ch. 14:14-20). That means it is still relevant for today’s world, even though there is much secularism and what is called a “post-modern” philosophy (I don’t disbelieve in God, I just don’t find religion necessary—I can do fine on my own, thank you).

But I promised we would find the gospel in a nutshell in the next few verses, so here we go.
Some commentators think verses 4-6 are part of an early Christian hymn. Since we don’t have hymnals from that time, I suppose that can’t be proved. But the structure does seem somewhat poetic, especially verses 5 & 6. Verse 4 introduces the Trinity concept—the Father (“Him who is and was and who is to come”); the Holy Spirit (the 7 spirits before the throne, 7 indicating completeness); and from Jesus Christ. We could profitably spend time on each of these three, but we’re looking for the big picture here. In verses 5 & 6 is where we can see the “gospel in a nutshell.” I see in these verses a parallel structure and poetic form. Keep in mind that poetry in the Bible doesn’t rhyme in sound (like “Mary had a little lamb, it’s fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go). Biblical poetry has its rhyme in thoughts, i.e. the same thought is expressed in different words. For example, here is Psalm 34:3: “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” You can see almost the same thought in the second phrase as in the first, the main idea of both phrases expressing the thought of exalting God. So the “rhyme” is in thought, not sound.

Note how three descriptions of Jesus in verse 5 are followed by three actions of Jesus, showing how these descriptions impact our lives spiritually. It says Jesus is 1) the Faithful Witness, 2) the Firstborn from the dead, and 3) the Ruler over the Kings of the earth. What are these talking about? First, the word for “witness” is the Greek “martyros.” You can easily see that is where we get our word “martyr,” i.e. one who witnesses to the death, one who dies for his convictions. Second, “firstborn from the dead” refers to His resurrection, followed by His return to God to begin His intercessory ministry in our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary. Thirdly, He is exalted to be ruler over the earth, with the actual physical possession taking place after the other work is done.

Now, how do these three descriptions impact us? Note the correlation with the three actions. 1) He loves us—that’s what motivated Him to become a faithful witness, giving up His life so we could live eternally. See John 3:16—“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 2) He washed us from our sins in His own blood—that’s what happened when He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to begin His intercessory ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, “He ever lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25. He symbolically washes us from our sins when we confess them to Him—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. 3) He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father—He now calls us to be like Him, to join Him in interceding for others (a priestly role) and promises us we can sit with Him on His throne some day—Revelation 3:21 (“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne…”).

To summarize all this, we could say Jesus came and lived a perfect life climaxed by His death on the cross, He rose again and intercedes for us, and He is coming back to take us to be with Him (that is another subject). We can’t tell the whole story in detail here—for a more complete picture of this, read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But now to come back to that first beatitude in Revelation pronouncing a blessing upon those who keep what is written in this book—this implies we are not interested simply in more information, but what difference it makes (which is what “postmodern” man is more interested in than simply a stated truth). In the case of these three verses, it means accepting the gospel message personally. If we haven’t, then the rest of the book could be scary. Jesus once said to listeners in His day (see John 5:39, 40), “You search the scriptures, thinking to find eternal life in them. But they are actually pointing to Me—and you won’t come to Me to receive that very life which only I can give.” Is it possible to be a Bible student and yet not be saved? Apparently one can be a Bible student and yet miss the whole point and purpose. If you’ve already accepted Christ as your personal Savior, then “Praise the Lord.!” If not, why not now? There is a great gift awaiting—the gift of eternal life with Jesus in a better place. The promise is sure, “Believe on [have faith in, trust in] the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31.


July 26, 2008 on 4:43 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on HOW WILL IT END?–1:7

“How will it end?” was the title of a book published in the mid 80’s with an atomic mushroom cloud pictured on the cover. Some years previous, a friend of mine and I ambitiously went into our community to do an informal survey on that topic. Our approach was as follows: “Some people think science and technology will save us and will eventually we will have utopia on earth (How does that look now?!). Others think the earth will be destroyed with atomic weapons (MAD—mutually assured destruction) or by a massive asteroid. Still others think the coming of Jesus will bring it to an end. What do you think?” Good questions. And there are more. Will it happen in my lifetime or is it hundreds of years in the future? And what about the popular “Left Behind” scenario—Is the end something that happens secretly (all of a sudden invisible?) Does it really matter? What determines how and where I end up? We will begin to try and answer those questions, though some will need to wait till later in the book of Revelation. But in verse 7 of chapter 1, we get sort of a movie trailer version of what is coming. And, of course, by now you know it is my premise that only the Bible has the trustworthy answers to such probing questions, so let’s have a look.

In verses 5 and 6 of chapter 1, we saw a description of Jesus’ work till now—His life, death, resurrection, and intercession. In verse 7 is revealed the climax of His ministry: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” What can we glean from this verse? First of all, it tells us He comes from above, with clouds, not suddenly appearing in various parts of the world. This reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 24:23-26: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand.
26“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.” He goes on to say in verses 27 and 30: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be….30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” This corresponds with our text in Revelation 1:7—“every eye shall see Him”—not just an elite few, but every eye. And it won’t be invisible—they will all see Him. Further, it will be noisy—note Matthew 24:31—a great sound of a trumpet, angels are with Him and they gather together His people from all over the world. Paul adds to this description in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Note—they are “caught up” (raptured—that’s what the word means) to meet Jesus in the air and then will forever be with Him. There is nothing here about secrecy or a second chance. In fact in Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 22:16 it says His reward is with Him “to give every man according as his work shall be.” In other words, they are either saved or lost at the time of His coming. Verse 11 even goes so far as to say there is no change after that time: “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” It is all a fulfillment of His prophecy to them as recorded in John 14:1-3: “ “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And 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.”

There is another interesting item in verse 7—“all they which pierced Him.” Apparently there is a special resurrection of those who were involved with His trial and crucifixion in fulfillment of His prophecy to them while He was on trial: Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 24:64.

Now back to our original questions. The first scenario is unrealistic and Biblically speaking won’t be a reality until God creates all things new: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” Revelation 21:1. If the second scenario were to take place, the above Biblical picture would be impossible as there would be no one left to welcome Jesus when He comes. While there may yet be terrible disasters to come, the Bible does not see the extermination of the human race before He comes. This leaves the third scenario, which I have just outlined in brief.

Will it happen in my lifetime? I like to believe so, especially in view of all that is happening in our world today. But I can’t say that for sure—I am not a prophet and the Bible doesn’t give dates for the coming of Jesus. Besides, I need to be ready to meet Him each day—none of us have a guarantee of tomorrow.

One more item worthy of thought—Jesus is coming for His people and He longs for them to be with Him. The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3 If we have an interactive love relationship with Him, we, too, can be among those who “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) “You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11.

There will be more information related to this topic later in Revelation (or which may be covered in a separate category of this blogsite). If you have questions, you can leave them in the comments section or see contact information at the About section.

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