What’s in a title?

February 19, 2008 on 9:43 am | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on What’s in a title?

With a deluge of information competing for our attention, sometimes an author tries to pick a clever title for a book to catch our eye, such as “Where Does a Mother go to Resign?” or “Plant a Geranium in Your Cranium”. But those who compiled the books of the Bible were living in a different age and weren’t so concerned about sound bites and catchy phrases. Consequently, the book we’re looking at is simply titled, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine” in the King James Version (hereafter referred to as KJV). That’s not a title John would likely have picked himself—he certainly wasn’t divine and he himself starts the book with the words, “The revelation of Jesus Christ…”

But what is a “revelation” anyway and why does this book carry that title? Another word used for this book is “Apocalypse,” a word we typically associate with the imminent end of the present world, usually in some type of violent ending. You may recall a movie title, “Apocalypse Now”, portraying such a theme. The term “Armageddon”, used in Revelation to refer to the final battle of earth’s history, is often connected with it. Actually, the original word translated “revelation” is from the Greek (the original language of the New Testament—hereafter referred to as NT) word “apokalypsis”. You don’t have to know Greek to see the linguistic connection there. It literally means “to take off a cover or veil, an unveiling,” sort of like taking off the covering of a new statue or painting at its dedication, which before was hidden by the cover. In other words, the book of Revelation (“apokalypsis”) is an unveiling, a revealing of things previously hidden to our vision—in this case, a revealing of the future to us.

You are, no doubt, anxious to know the future right now—What is the Mark of the Beast? Who is the Anti-Christ? What does 666 mean? etc., but please be patient. This book is encrypted in a coded language that must be deciphered before we can correctly interpret it. This is not like the fictional “Davinci Code,” but it is for real, and the Bible will give us many clues to help us along the way. We also need to go through the decoding process so you can be assured it is valid and not just someone’s wild speculation or made-up story.

But before Revelation gets into specifics about the future, it wants us to get better acquainted with the source of the book—Jesus. In fact, without the personal acquaintance, saving relationship with and commitment to Him, the rest of the book could scare us to death! And we would miss the whole point of Scripture. So God wants us to get to know the only One who can provide us true security in a terrorized world, and demonstrate a divine compassion beyond our understanding—desperate needs as we go through the mind-boggling events yet to come. It will be well worth our while to spend some time in the first three chapters of Revelation getting to know Jesus better. That must be relevant to us getting safely through the end-time or John wouldn’t spend so much time on it. The first chapter includes a special vision of Jesus. Chapters 2 and 3 show how He relates to His people all through the many centuries that follow His encounter with John, down to His people in the very last days of earth’s history—our day. Chapters 4-12 deal with mainly historical events from our perspective today (but were future in John’s day). Chapters 12/13 and onward emphasize primarily events of today and the future. You don’t want to miss out on any of this, so hang in there!

We need to keep in mind the setting of this book. It had been about 60 years since Jesus had promised to come back to get His followers. It is likely that only John was left out of the original 12 apostles. Christ’s followers were no doubt beginning to wonder about that promise—they had expected it to take place in their lifetime. And now the last of the “pioneers” was nearing the end of his life—what would happen next? Was Jesus still coming like He said? Was the promise still valid? What was He doing now, anyway? And what would happen to the church? Would it survive after John was gone? How would it all end? Revelation would provide some answers to these questions as well as reveal to them a picture of Jesus they were not so familiar with. In addition to all this, they were also facing a variety of issues in their own local congregations and needed some counsel, especially in view of the cosmic conflict as revealed in Revelation, counsel that still has meaning for us today.

And by the way, if you really want to know Jesus better yourself, be sure to read the 4 gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And read them not just for information, but for personal application.

DREAMS AND VISIONS–1:2

March 15, 2008 on 6:20 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on DREAMS AND VISIONS–1:2

Psychics, mediums, and channelers claim to be able to speak with the dead. A prophet claims to communicate with the living God. Just how does that happen? Revelation 1:2 speaks of “all things that he (John) saw.” How did he “see” these things—was he, as we sometimes say, “just seeing things”? Was he hallucinating? Was he taken bodily to heaven? Did God give him a Power Point presentation? In Old Testament times a prophet was sometimes called a “seer,” 1 Samuel 9:9–(“Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.”). In other words, he was one who could “see” things and events others could not.

In Numbers 12:6 God says, “If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak to him in a dream.” So what is the difference between a vision and a dream? As we know from experience, dreams typically happen while we are asleep, whereas a vision can happen any time, day or night. It usually happens while the prophet is awake. Daniel 10:17 also adds something Daniel experienced while in vision: “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. 17For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.” Apparently there is a supernatural aspect to the visionary experience—he could be alive and yet not be breathing. This is not the result of too much pickles and ice cream for supper, but rather it is a direct revelation from God to the mind of the prophet accompanied by supernatural phenomena. But the vision apparently seems real to the prophet—perhaps it is somewhat akin to “virtual reality” experiences, i.e. information and pictures are transmitted to the mind which the mind interprets as something actually being experienced. The prophet may not know whether it is actually happening or he/she is just “seeing” it. The apostle Paul one time tried to describe what it was like in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4: “1It is £doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—4how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” Apparently he couldn’t tell whether it was an actual experience or only something he was seeing on the video screen of his mind.

It may be somewhat like when you are dreaming—it seems real, you even experience emotions (like fear, joy), and may even attempt to move physically or try to speak (you have no doubt heard of someone talking in his sleep, or sleep walking), all in response to what the mind is projecting on its internal video screen.

So the prophet John didn’t just sit down and decide to write a best-seller. He saw in visions many symbolic representations of the future given to him by God which he then wrote down and tried to describe as best he could. He also provided a different picture of Jesus than we have previously seen. And due to the heavenly origin of the visions, we need to pay attention. They are not given for entertainment or to provide fodder for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. They are serious information for serious times.

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