Friday, December 28, 2012

Conditions in Churches When John Wrote

John wrote to "the seven churches that are in Asia" (Revelation 1:4), specifically, churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Revelation 1:11) . These cities were in the Roman province of Asia, the western part of modern day Turkey, across the Aegean Sea from Greece. He wrote as a partner in tribulation while confined to the island called Patmos, a small Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea about 35 miles west of Miletus.

Conditions in the churches of Asia at the time of writing can be inferred from the letters to the churches in chapters two and three. Two churches faced hardships caused by Jews. The church in Smyrna faced tribulation and poverty and slander by the Jews. As a consequence, some of them would be tested and imprisoned for ten days (Revelation 2:9-10). The church in Philadelphia had kept Christ's word and not denied his name while they also endured hardships caused by the Jews (3:8-10). In a third church, certain men found to be false apostles may have had Jewish connections (2:2). Hardships created by Jews were not new but no longer seemed to constitute the majority of the hardships as they had during the lifetime of Paul.

In one church, the church in Pergamum, a saint by the name of Antipas had been slain because he held fast to the name of Christ and did not deny the faith (2:13). The explanation for his death was that Satan dwelled in Pergamum (an allusion to Pergamum being a center of worship for Asklepios, whose symbol was a serpent) and that Satan's throne was there (an allusion to the seat of the Roman Proconsul and to the first temple of the Imperial cult in Asia). Apparently Antipas had offended Roman and religious authorities in some manner. Still, persecution resulting in death must have been comparatively rare at the time because Antipas is the only one mentioned in the seven letters as dying for the faith.

Two churches had compromised with the pagan world in order to participate in the social and economic benefits enjoyed by those who gave at least a token recognition of the patron gods of the cities and trade guilds. Although those in the church in Sardis had soiled their garments by compromising with the pagan world (3:4), they had gained a reputation for being alive (3:1). They were no longer social outcasts in fear of their lives. Although Jesus considered the church in Laodicea to be shamefully naked and destitute because of her compromise with the pagan world, the church herself said, "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (3:17) making herself uncomfortably like Babylon the Great in 18:7 and 16. By compromising with pagan society, Sardis enjoyed security, and Laodicea enjoyed economic prosperity.

False teachers in several other churches were advocating compromise with the pagan world. In Pergamum, false teachers held the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans who taught people to eat food sacrificed to idols and to practice sexual immorality (2:14-15). The Nicolaitans were also active in Ephesus (2: 6). The church in Thyatira tolerated the prophetess Jezebel, who bore the family resemblance of the Great Prostitute in Revelation 17. Jezebel also encouraged the saints to compromise with the pagan world (2:20). The faithful in all three cities, however, were commended for their patient endurance (2:2-3, 13, 19), which apparently meant that they shared the hardships of being social outcasts and living in poverty rather than compromising their faith.

Taken together, these accounts give a picture of some Jewish persecution in two cities (Smyrna and Philadelphia), imperial and pagan persecution in one city (Pergamum), and the seduction of pagan wealth and pleasure in five cities (Sardis, Laodicea, Pergamum, Ephesus, and Thyatira).   Therefore, we should look for a time when there was some persecution from both Jewish and imperial sources, but when the greatest threat to the churches was the seduction of pagan culture.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Objections to the Apostle's Authorship Answered

The first to question the Apostle John as the author of Revelation and suggest it was written by another John was Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria from AD 248 until his death on November 17, 265. Eusebius says that Dionysius questioned the Apostle John's authorship of Revelation for several reasons.[4] One reason was because the author's writing style differs from the style of John in the gospel. Although it must be admitted that there are significant differences in style, there are also some significant similarities in imagery and diction ("Word" and "Lamb" used for Jesus, reference to Jesus being "pierced," "water of life," "him that thirsts," "true," and "overcome/conquer").[5]

A second reason Dionysius questioned that the Apostle wrote Revelation was because John did not include his name in his other writings while Revelation mentions the name of John several times both at the beginning and at the end (Revelation 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). This reasoning, however, overlooks that none of the authors of the four gospels identify themselves in the text of their gospels. Furthermore, 1st John is not really an epistle, which generally names the author, but more like a doctrinal address. Preachers don't often identify themselves within their speeches. On the other hand, 2nd and 3rd John are quite intimate letters in which the writer is identified by details within the letter.[6] Hence, it should not be surprising to see John include his name in Revelation which mimics the opening and closing of epistles such as those of Paul.

Despite the objections of Dionysius and some modern scholars, the witness of the early church that the Apostle John wrote Revelation is accepted, and any differences are accounted for by differing genre, occasion, and purpose.[7]

[4] Eusebius, Church History, Bk. VII, xxvii.
[5] Alan F. Johnson, "Revelation", The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 405. Steve Gregg, Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 14. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 35.
[6] Ray Summers, Worthy Is the Lamb: An Interpretation of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1951), 73-79.
[7] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 34-35.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Author of Revelation

The author introduces himself as "his (God's) servant John" (Revelation 1:1). In the epistolary greeting, he calls himself simply John (Revelation 1:4) as if the recipients of the letter would know who he was. Indeed, he continues by saying that he was their "brother and partner in the tribulation" (Revelation 1:9). Therefore, it appears that he was well-known in the churches of Asia Minor and that they would have no difficulty identifying him.

The early church was nearly unanimous in identifying the Apostle John as the author of Revelation. Justin Martyr (100-165 AD), who lived in Asia Minor shortly after the time of John the Apostle, writes, "And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him…." [1] Irenaeus (130-202 AD), who was born in Smyrna and later became a bishop in what is now Lyons, France, frequently quotes Revelation which he attributes to John.[2] Eusebius records these words of Origen (185-254 AD):
Why need we speak of him who reclined upon the bosom of Jesus, John, who has left us one Gospel, though he confessed that he might write so many that the world could not contain them? And he wrote also the Apocalypse, but was commanded to keep silence and not to write the words of the seven thunders.[3]
Most conservative Bible scholars take the Apostle John to be the author of Revelation.

[1] Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho (81).
[2] R. J. Utley, Volume 12: Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation. Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001). 11.
[3] Eusebius. Church History, Bk. VI, xxx, 9.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Joy in Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 19:1-5

A great multitude in heaven rejoices because God has avenged the blood of his servants by judging the great prostitute.  They rejoice again because they see the smoke from her rising up forever and realize that her judgment is final and eternal.  Never again will they suffer from her violence or fear her deception. 

Finally, the twenty-four elders, representing all saints from both the Old and New Testament ages, and the four living creatures, representing all living creation, fall down and worship God.  A voice from the throne commands all God's servants, all who fear him whether great or small, to praise their God. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Babylon's Judgment Is Final and Complete

Reflections on Revelation 18:21-24

Next, a mighty angel demonstrates the finality and declares the completeness of the judgment of the great prostitute, Babylon. The finality of her judgment is shown by the angel throwing a great millstone into the sea from which it will never rise again just as Jeremiah declared, "Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more" (Jeremiah 51:64).

The completeness of Babylon's judgment is shown by the total silence and darkness that encompasses her. Drawing from several Old Testament passages concerning God's judgment of several wicked cities,1 John says that the sounds of musicians, craftsmen, bakers, brides, and bridegrooms will be silenced and that every lamp will be extinguished in Babylon.

Finally, the mighty angel reiterates the reasons for Babylon's judgment: her princes were rapacious merchants, her sorceries deceived the nations, and her streets were stained with the blood of prophets and saints. The question of those who were slain, "How long?" has now be answered (see Revelation 6:10).
- - - - - - - - -
1 Isaiah 14:11 concerning Babylon, Isaiah 24:8 concerning the whole earth, Ezekiel 26:13 concerning Tyre, and Jeremiah 7:34; 25:10 concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lamentation and Joy

Reflections on Revelation 18:9-20

Three groups which have profited from their relationship with the prostitute Babylon lament the fall of her who in pride said she would never be a widow in mourning. Those groups are the kings of the earth, merchants, and seafaring men.  The laments of these three remind us of the laments of mariners, inhabitants of coastland, kings, and merchants over the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 27:29-36. 

The kings of the earth mourn because they have purchased the favor of (committed sexual immorality with) Babylon and her gods by plundering their own people.  Now Babylon, like Jerusalem who had also played the part of a prostitute (Ezekiel 16:15-22), is stripped of her luxurious clothing and destroyed (compare with Ezekiel 16:35-40).  

The merchants mourn because they had profited by carrying precious cargoes to Babylon, cargoes that were also carried to Tyre (compare Revelation 18:12 with Ezekiel 27:1-25).   Just as God stripped Tyre of its wealth because its pride had made her exalt herself as a god (Ezekiel 28:2 ff.), so God now strips Babylon of her wealth and destroys her. 

Finally, all who make their living on the sea raise a lament because the source of their income has been laid waste suddenly in a single hour. 

The section ends with the heavenly voice  which called God's people to come out of Babylon (v. 4) exhorting all God's people (saints, apostles, and prophets) to rejoice because God has judged Babylon on the behalf of all who had suffered and been slain (Note the punctuation in NASB, NKJV, NLT, and NET).  The wording is an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:43 where Moses says concerning God,

   Rejoice, O nations, with his people,
        for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
   he will take vengeance on his enemies
        and make atonement for his land and people. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Flee for Your Life!

Reflections on Revelation 18:1-8

The prostitute's love of luxury and wealth makes her the dwelling place for all kinds of evil demons, unclean spirits, and detestable beasts which are pictured to create aversion for one whose appearance is of luxury and wealth.  Kings and merchants, blinded by her glitter, do business with her and profit as middle men between the prostitute/city and the nations she exploits.  In this way, they commit immorality with her. 

John then hears a voice from heaven warning the saints to come out of Babylon lest they take part in her sins of greed and immorality.  The saints must flee the city just as Lot fled Sodom lest they be destroyed with Babylon the Great when God repays her for her sins. 

Just as the ancient cities of Tyre and Babylon were paid back for plundering other nations, so Babylon the Great, the archetype of all such cities, will be paid back double for  her sins.  The payback will be a surprise for her.  She thinks, "I am a queen, not a widow, and I will never experience grief" (compare with Babylon in Isaiah 47:7-8).  However, the Lord God judges her, and in a single day the nations she plundered will bring upon her torment, famine, and the conflagration which consumes her (Isaiah 47:9).   

Friday, September 7, 2012

Destruction of the Great City

Reflections on Revelation 17:15-18

As noted earlier, the prostitute Babylon the great is an archetype representing many cities.  She sits on many waters which are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.  She is faithless Jerusalem and vile Babylon in the Old Testament.  She is Rome in John's day, and there will be such a "city" at the end of this age.  The city desires to have a king to lead her in battle and provide her with luxuries and the spoils of war, and the beast provides her with those luxuries by means of his deceptive and violent rule.

In the end, the beast turns against the great city which he has come to despise.  He promises power to ten kings, nations formerly plundered by the military and economic power of the great city exercised by the beast, and they turn on the city because they hate her.

This shocking change of alliances is the undoing of the great city.  She will not enjoy her ill-gotten luxuries forever.  Just as the beast had looted others to provide her with luxury, so she will be looted by the beast and kings allied with him.  Thus, she will meet the end fitting of a prostitute.  Wives have been deprived by the gifts that she received from her lovers, and now her lovers will strip her, make her naked and desolate, and burn her with fire (compare with Ezekiel 16:36-43; Leviticus 21:9). 

We get a clear picture here of how God treads the winepress of his wrath.  He causes Babylon to reap what she has sown.  He causes the beast and the ten kings to do to her as she has done to others just as David writes in Psalms 9:7-12, 15-16 NIV,

         The LORD reigns forever;
            he has established his throne for judgment.
         He will judge the world in righteousness;
            he will govern the peoples with justice.
         The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
            a stronghold in times of trouble.
         Those who know your name will trust in you,
            for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

         Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
            proclaim among the nations what he has done.
         For he who avenges blood remembers;
            he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.

         The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
            their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
         The LORD is known by his justice;
            the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Mystery of the Beast Explained

Reflections on Revelation 17:7-14

The beast that carries the prostitute is godless, human government.  When the beast "was," it held the nations in darkness without knowledge of God before the time of Christ.  Christ defeated the beast that "was" so that now it "is not" because it is unable to keep the nations in darkness without the knowledge of God (Beale, p. 864).  However, he rises again from the Abyss (bottomless pit) to deceive the nations at the end of the age, and his kingdom is again shrouded in darkness.  Nevertheless, his renewed power lasts only a little while before he goes to destruction.

Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea
The seven heads of the beast are seven mountains, where mountains suggest the power or strength of the heads (Beale, p. 868).   The heads are also kings or kingdoms (Daniel 7:17, 23).   Seven does not suggest the precise number of kings but the complete number of such kings however many they may be (Beale, p. 869; Johnson, p. 559).  Five (numerous) kingdoms which held the world in darkness have fallen.  They are the beast who was and is not.  One kingdom is, and represents the beast who still persecutes the saints but is stripped of his power to hold the nations in darkness.  Another, the seventh, will come but he will remain only a little while before going into destruction. 

Just as the eighth day is the day of resurrection and the beginning of a new week, the last king will portray himself as an eighth, resurrected king who has recovered from Christ's deadly blow and who is able to usher in a new era.  Indeed, because he has renewed power to deceive the nations and plunge them into spiritual darkness again, ten lesser kings (the ten horns) will give him their allegiance in order to make war on the Lamb (compare with Revelation 16:14, 16).  John reassures the saints that although this king makes himself out to be something new, the eighth, he is of the seven, and like the former kingdoms he too will go into destruction (Johnson, p. 561).  The Lamb will conquer the beast and his allies. Those with the Lamb, those who are called and chosen and faithful even unto death, have waged war with the beast and conquered him. This answers the question asked earlier, “Who is like the beast (in strength - DM)? Who can make war against him?”  (Revelation 13:4 NIV).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Great Prostitute

Reflections on Revelation 17:1-6

The long anticipated judgment is finally revealed in detail.  The judgment of the great prostitute, who is called Babylon the great, is an elaboration of the great battle and judgment of the Babylon the great (Revelation 16:19) in the sixth and seventh seals (cf. Beale, p. 847).  Furthermore, the prostitute's title, Babylon the great, connects her judgment with the announced fall of Babylon the great in Revelation 14:8 and shows that her judgment is part of the harvest (judgment) of the earth.  This great  prostitute is drunk on the blood of the saints and martyrs (witnesses) of Jesus suggesting that her judgment is the long awaited vindication of the souls of the faithful witnesses under the altar who cried out to God to avenge their blood (Revelation 6:9).

The great prostitute rides a scarlet beast full of blasphemous names and having seven heads and ten horns which connects her with the beast out of the sea (Revelation 13:1).  Her costly apparel shows that she can buy and sell like those who have been persuaded by the second beast, the false prophet, to receive the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17).  Hence, her destiny is wrapped up in the destiny of the beast and false prophet.

Rome: Mausoleum of Hadrian
The great prostitute is the antithesis of the radiant woman in Revelation 12:1.  The radiant woman represents God's faithful people through whom the Messiah comes and who are faithful in their witness to the Messiah and obedience to him.  The great prostitute is the mother of prostitutes and represents all those who are unfaithful to God and sell themselves to those who are not gods but blasphemously claim divine honors (the beast).  Her idolatry is fueled by her pride and desire for power and luxury with which she gaudily adorns herself like the faithless daughters of Zion (Isaiah 3:16-23).  She shamelessly commits violence and sheds the blood of the saints who are faithful witnesses of Jesus.

Babylon is not just one city, but an archetype representing many cities.  Allusions to Tyre (a city which prostituted herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth; cf. Rev. 17:2 with Isaiah 23:17), Babylon (a city which was pictured as sitting on many waters and holding a golden cup in her hand; cf. Rev. 17: 1, 4 with Jeremiah 51:13, 7), and idolatrous Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:21) in describing the prostitute universalizes her or makes her an archetype (cf. Johnson, p. 555).  Such a city will exist at the end of the age and be destroyed at the coming of Christ just as all such cities which existed throughout the ages have been destroyed. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gathered for Destruction

Reflections on Revelation 16:12-16

When the sixth bowl is poured out, the great river Euphrates is dried up.  The Euphrates was a boundary that separated Israel from the godless kings beyond it.   For it to be dried up suggests that God removes some boundary that has prevented the nations from annihilating the saints, but the reader should not think that God is abandoning his faithful people.  Instead, he uses the nations' initial victories and resulting overconfidence to lead them to their destruction.

Three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.  In other words, Satan, human government, and false religion work together to convince the godless nations to unite in destroying the saints.  However, what the nations think is a battle to destroy the saints is the battle on the great day of God the Almighty when he will defeat all godless nations.  The article before "battle" suggests that this is the one mentioned earlier in 11:7 and 13:7 when the beast made war with the witnesses/saints and killed them.  This same battle will be referred to again in 19:19 and 20:8-9.
Looking across the Valley of Jezreel toward Mt. Gilboa from Megiddo
The unclean spirits deceive the kings of the whole world and gather them at Armageddon.  This part of the vision is based on Zechariah 14:2 and 12:3-4 where God gathers the nations against Jerusalem in order to destroy those nations.  In Revelation, the gathering place is Armageddon which was in the heart of Israel's homeland, perhaps drawing on Ezekiel 39:2, 17 where God assembles the nations on the mountains of Israel where they will be judged.   Thus, the gathering of the nations' armies at Armageddon is the same as the gathering of the nations to surround the saints and the "beloved city" in Revelation 20:9 .  Abiding by the principle that John uses Israel as a metaphor for the saints who have been set free by the blood of the Lamb, the gathering of the armies at Armageddon suggests that the nations will attack the camp of the saints or the church.  However, the kings of the nations have been deceived.  They have eagerly swallowed the lie that they can destroy the saints, but God Almighty is gathering the nations around the city (the church) as a harvest so that he can tread the winepress of his wrath (Rev 14:14-20).

Although God is working things out according to his will for the good of the saints, the sixth bowl poses some danger to the saints.  Their lives seem more endangered than ever before, so they must be especially vigilant lest they be caught off guard when the Lord returns unexpectedly like a thief.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Darkness Covers the Beast's Kingdom

Arch of Constantine in Rome
Reflections on Revelation 16:10-11

The fifth bowl is poured out on the throne of the beast which ascended from the bottomless pit (see Revelation 11:7; cf. the fifth trumpet in 9:1-2).  This beast, as stated earlier, represents human, godless government.  The beast's kingdom, or human government, is plunged into spiritual darkness.  People do what is right in their own eyes rather than obeying God's commands, so they suffer the due penalties of their errors and are covered with sores which cause them great pain.  Human government is powerless to protect its people from the retributive acts of God.  Consequently, the impenitent people curse God.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Bowls of Wrath

Reflections on Revelation 16:1-9

The plagues brought on the earth when the bowls are poured out are called the "last" plagues (15:1) because each one follows and completes one of the trumpet plagues. Thus, the 1st bowl completes the 1st trumpet, and the 2nd bowl completes the 2nd trumpet. Both the 7th trumpet and the 7th bowl point to the final judgment. Thus, the trumpets and bowls run parallel to each other. We should not think of the 1st bowl following the 7th trumpet. Both the trumpets and the bowls show God hearing and responding to the petitions of the saints. However, when the bowls are poured out, God is no longer "pulling punches." The wicked have proved obstinate, and God fully vents his wrath upon them.

# Trumpets Bowls
1 1/3 Earth Earth
2 1/3 Seas Seas
3 1/3 Fountains & Rivers Fountains & Rivers
4 1/3 Sun, Moon & Stars Sun
5 The Bottomless Pit The Beast's Throne
6 Euphrates Euphrates
7 Lightning, Earthquake & Hail Lightning, Earthquake & Hail

Both the first trumpet and the first bowl bring plagues on the earth. However, the plague brought by the bowl is more extensive and the objects of God's wrath are identified clearly as the people who bear the mark of the beast and worship his image, that is, people who have put their trust in human government.

The second and third bowls poured out on all salt and fresh water are also more extensive than the corresponding trumpets. In them God is completing his wrath against those who have shed the blood of saints and prophets.

Park near the Spring of Harod where Gideon camped
The fourth trumpet causes the sun, moon, and stars to be darkened, but the fourth bowl causes the sun to scorch people with fire. The result of the fourth bowl is that people curse God and continue in their obstinate refusal to repent.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Victors Refined by Fire

Reflections on Revelation 15:1-8

The prayers of the saints for relief from hardship have been answered, and John sees them singing praise to the Almighty God who has delivered them.  They sing the song of Moses, who delivered Israel from their cruel Egyptian task masters, and sing the song of the Lamb, who delivered the saints from the oppression of godless nations.

The victors are standing beside (Greek, on) the sea of glass.  The sea of glass stands before the heavenly temple (Revelation 4:6).  The glass is mingled with fire suggesting that those who stand on the sea have been refined by fire.  (Beale argues that fire in Revelation symbolizes judgment rather than refinement, but "refined in a furnace" in Revelation 1:15 and "refined by fire" in 3:18 suggest otherwise.)  The victors conquered the beast by coming through the fire that destroyed the dross (evil nations) just as the Israelites passed through the plagues and sea which devastated Egypt and destroyed its army.

John sees the sanctuary in heaven being opened.  Out of it come seven angels with the seven bowls filled with the wrath of God.  The sanctuary is filled with the glory of God, and no one can enter it until the seven angels have poured out the wrath of God which culminates in the victory of the Lamb.  Before the Lord rewards the saints, he wants the saints to be assured that even in the hardships they endure God makes a distinction between the wicked and the righteous just as he made a distinction between Egypt and Israel (Exodus 8:22-23; 9:4, 26; 10:23; 11:7) when he protected the land of Goshen, where his own people lived, from the more severe plagues.  The plagues which follow fall on those wearing the mark of the beast and worshiping his image, on those who shed the blood of saints and prophets, on those who refuse to repent and give glory to God, on the throne of the beast himself, and on the great city, Babylon the great. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Harvest

Reflections on Revelation 14:14-20

The opening of the seven seals and the sounding of the seven trumpets ended with God's judgment.  After revealing God's enemies, John again reassures the saints that those enemies will be judged, so this section, like the previous two, ends with God's judgment. 

This time, the judgment is pictured as a harvest.  The righteous are gathered safely on Mount Zion (14:1), but outside the gates, the harvest is ready.
The picture of the harvest is based on a couple of passages in the Old Testament.  Joel 3:12 speaks of the nations being gathered in the Valley of Jehoshaphat outside the holy city for judgment.  At that time, God commands, "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great" (Joel 3:13 ESV). 

The grapes are gathered and trampled in the winepress of the wrath of God.  The Lord himself says, "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come" (Isaiah 63:3-4).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Last Chance

Reflections on Revelation 14:6-13

The three great enemies of God and his saints have been identified, and those who stood against them and won the victory have been pictured.  How can those who are yet living join the victors?  Three angels make announcements which the living need to hear.

The first angel proclaims the eternal gospel, the good news of salvation, which is for every nation, tribe, language, and people.   All unbelievers who dwell on the earth are admonished to fear God and worship him because the hour when he judges the nations has come. This is their last chance.

The second angel announces the fall of Babylon, the great godless city which causes all nations to commit sexual immorality by forsaking God and worshiping those things which are not God. The last chance has passed. (John will tell more about Babylon and her punishment later.) 

Finally, the third angel announces God's judgment of fire and sulfur for all who worship the beast and its image or receive his mark. There are no more chances; punishment is final and eternal. 

The saints, who would keep God's commands and maintain their faith in Jesus must endure.  They cannot lapse into unbelief.  Only those who are faithful until death and die in the Lord will be blessed.  They are assured that they will rest from their labors because their faithful deeds will follow them.

Monday, August 6, 2012

144,000 Virgins

Reflections on Revelation 14:1-5

The enemies of God's people have now been fully revealed.  The first is Satan, the archenemy of God who wishes to usurp God's power and honor.  God put enmity between Satan and the woman, and between his seed and hers.  He is pictured as a great red dragon.  The second, Man aspiring to dominion over the earth apart from God, is the enemy of Christ, who rules the earth in harmony with the will of God.  He is pictured as a great and terrible beast which resembles the dragon and receives his power from him.  The third enemy is false religion which exalts the ways of man above the way of God.  He is a false prophet who undermines God's witnesses on the earth.  He is pictured as a lamb-like beast that speaks with the voice of the dragon.
John describes the enemies as a dragon and two beasts to expose their masquerades and emphasize their sinister characters.  Despite their deception and power, the saints need not despair.  Many have stood against them and won the victory.  The Lamb stands victorious on Mt. Zion, and with him are the hundred and forty-four thousand. 

These victorious saints standing with the Lamb have refused to wear the mark of the beast; instead, they have worn his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.  They have not worshiped the image of the beast, so they have not defiled themselves with women.  Although they have lived among men on the earth, they are redeemed from the earth and from mankind and so are now firstfruits for God and the Lamb.  They are the "cream of the crop," the best of all God's creation.   They are blameless because no lie is found in their mouths.  They have been faithful witnesses to God and the Lamb because they rejected the lie about the beast's power.

Jesus shows this picture of the victorious saints to John so that he can encourage the saints still engaged in battle on the earth.  Having taken a stand, they should continue to stand until that day they stand victorious with the Lamb on Mt. Zion.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Prophet of an Imperfect God

Reflections on Revelation 13:11-18

The third enemy is a beast rising out of the earth.  This beast looks like a lamb (Jesus), but his voice betrays him for he speaks like a dragon (Satan).  He is like all false prophets who appear to be sheep, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15).  Indeed, John later calls him the False Prophet (Rev 19:20).  He is the direct opposite of the two witnesses who prophesy for 1260 days.  Because his testimony is a lie, he has no one to confirm his testimony.  Still, he attempts to do for the beast what the two witnesses do for Christ; that is, he tries to make the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed (v. 12).  Therefore, the lamb-like beast performs great signs and makes fire come down from heaven, and he deceives those who dwell on the earth by telling them to make an image for the first beast.  That is, he causes people to give divine honor to human government and look to it as their provider.  Finally, he causes all who worship the beast to receive on their foreheads a mark, which is the name of the beast, and the number of a man.  This mark identifies them as members of a godless culture and enables them to buy and sell on the earth where the beast controls commerce.

This beast is any of the false teachers who hold the teachings of Balaam or of the Nicolaitans or of Jezebel, all of whom encouraged compromise with idolatry (Revelation 2:14-15, 20).  Idolatry is pictured as the worship of the beast from the sea and of his image. Accordingly, this second beast represents all forms of false religion, including apostate Christianity, which exalt human ways above the ways of God.  This broader application is suggested by two clues in the text.

First, the earth and its inhabitants who worship the first beast (v. 12) because this beast has deceived them (v. 14) come from every class of society (v. 16) and from every tribe, people, language, and nation (v. 7) and include all whose names have not been written in the book of life (v. 8).  Hence, it includes all false religions that exalt man's ways above God's ways. 

Second, the mark which the beast causes men to receive suggests the broader application.  The mark is the number six repeated three times.  Six always falls short of the perfect or complete number which is seven.  This incomplete or imperfect number represents man.  The Greek word man in v. 18 has no article, and can be translated "man" as well as "a man."  The lamb-like beast exalts man in the form of human government and deceives people into believing that that human government, the beast that arose from the sea, is a more dependable provider than God.  The mark identifies those who worship and rely upon the first beast for prosperity and security instead of worshiping and relying upon God.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When Government Usurps the Authority of Christ

Reflections on Revelation 13:1-10

The second enemy is a beast which rises out of the sea.  He looks much like the dragon, but his description is based on of Daniel 7 where Daniel saw four beasts which represent four great kingdoms.  Those four beasts were a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth terrifying beast.  Those four beasts combined had seven heads and ten horns.  John's beast is a terrifying seven-headed beast that has ten horns and the features of a lion, bear, and a leopard.  John's beast is a composite of the beasts in Daniel, and represents both Rome and all kingdoms of all time which oppose God and persecute his people. 

Just as the Son is the exact representation of the Father, the beast is the earthly representation of the dragon, Satan, and it is through this beast that the dragon makes war against the woman and her seed.  Just as God gave his Son a throne (Rev 3:21), so the dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority over every tribe and people and language and nation.  The Son rules the nations in truth and righteousness, but the beast rules by means of deception and death because his master, the dragon, has been a liar and murderer from the beginning.  Just as the dragon opposes God, so the beast intends to usurp the Son's position as ruler over the nations.  Just as the Lamb was slain but is now alive (Rev 5:12; 1:18), so the beast has a fatal wound to one of his heads, but his fatal wound is healed (13:3).   When the beast meets his death in one kingdom, he reappears in another.  Through the beast, which is godless government, the dragon challenges Christ's dominion over the earth.  Consequently, the second enemy is godless government in any place and any age which opposes God's people on the earth. For the churches in Asia Minor, the beast out of the sea is Rome.

The beast slanders God and the saints, and is worshiped by everyone whose name is not written in the book of life.  His deception and power over the lives of mankind lasts for a period of forty-two months.  This is the same time during which the two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth (11:3).  John has already told us that at the end of this time the beast will make war on the two witnesses and conquer them (11:7).  Now the beast is said to make war on the saints and conquer them.  The beast's victory over the two witnesses and the saints is one victory, and it is a temporary one.  Nevertheless, the sufferings and trials call the saints to endurance and faith so that they might enjoy an eternal victory through the resurrection from the dead.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Satan Cast Out of Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 12:7-17

When Satan fails to kill Jesus, the male child, and Jesus is caught up to God's throne, Satan also loses his place in heaven.  Until Christ's ascension, Satan had stood in God's presence and continually accused our brothers, but now he has no claim against them.  Christ's death has paid their penalty, so Satan no longer has any legal basis to accuse them. Michael and his angels prevail against the dragon and his angels and throw him out of heaven (see John 12:31-32).  Now all the brothers who were faithful in their testimony even unto death can rejoice before the throne because they conquered the dragon by relying on the blood of the Lamb. 

While heaven rejoices because the kingdom of God and authority of Christ have been asserted in heaven, woe is pronounced on the earth and sea because the devil has come down on them in great wrath.  With these words, John explains why the saints on earth are still suffering when Christ has displaced Satan before the throne of God.

On earth, Satan turns his wrath on the woman who had given birth to the male child and on the rest of her offspring who keep God's commands and are faithful in their testimony to Jesus.  Thus, the woman is the mother of all those in addition to Jesus who are children of the free woman (Galatians 4:26) and represents all God's faithful servants throughout the ages.
Although Satan pursues the woman, God protects her by giving her the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness where God would nourish her just as he had nourished Israel on manna in the desert after bearing them out of Egypt as on eagles' wings (Exodus 19:4).  She is nourished in the wilderness for a time, times, and half a time, which is the same time as mentioned in verse 6, the time between the ascension and return of Christ.  The serpent tries to destroy the woman with a torrent of slander and persecution, but the earth swallows it up. Satan may slander and persecute the church, but he will never defeat her.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Woman and the Dragon

Reflections on Revelation 12:1-6

Chapter twelve begins the fourth major division of Revelation.  It is also the central division in a chiastic structure, so it plays a central role in the unfolding plot.  In previous chapters, the saints have faced opposition and God has fought on their behalf, but the enemies remain shadowy figures.  In this fourth division of John's book, the enemies are fully exposed.  Once identified in this section, they will quickly be judged and sentenced to eternal punish in following sections.

The first enemy is a great red dragon.  In verse nine, he is called the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan.  God's archenemy is determined to destroy the woman's promised son who is to crush his head and rule the nations (Genesis 3:15).  The woman wearing a crown of twelve stars, the twelve sons of Jacob (cf. Genesis 37:9), represents God's faithful Israelite community through whom the Son came.   She includes Eve, Sarah, and Mary.  She is the antithesis of the Great Prostitute about whom we will read later (Revelation 17:1).

The great red dragon fails to devour Jesus, the male child, at his birth, and Jesus ultimately triumphs over him at his resurrection and is caught up into heaven to the throne from which he rules all the nations with a rod of iron.   The radiant woman then flees into the wilderness to be nourished just as Israel had been nourished on its journey to the Promised Land.  The 1,260 days of her sojourn begins at Christ's ascension into heaven and ends with Christ's return to judge the world.  The 1,260 days represent the whole period between Christ's first and second comings.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Last Trumpet

Reflections on Revelation 11:15-19

When the seventh trumpet sounds, the holy people are no longer broken, the holy city is no longer trampled by the nations, and the nations rage no longer.  The saints possess the kingdom because the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.  The Lord God Almighty has taken his great power and begun to reign.  He judges the dead, rewarding his servants and destroying the destroyers who killed the saints and plundered the earth to satisfy their greed.  More than that, the saints enter the presence of God and dwell there for the temple in heaven is opened revealing the ark of his covenant, which contains God's promises of redemption and salvation for his people.

The seven trumpet blasts assure the saints that God hears their prayers when they are hurting.  Even now, he is pouring out plagues on the wicked.  Because of these plagues, the wicked may heap greater afflictions upon the saints, but the stubborn rebellion of the wicked vindicates God's eventual punishment.   God will deliver the saints, just as he did the Israelites.

Just as the vision of the seven seals ends with the judgment of the nations at the return of Christ, so also the vision of the seven trumpets ends with the judgment of the nations at the return of Christ.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Death and Resurrection of the Two Witnesses

Reflections on Revelation 11:7-14

Although the message of the two witnesses can never be destroyed, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit, whose work will be described later in Revelation, makes war on them and conquers them.  Their dead bodies are left lying on the street of the great city, a term which refers to Babylon (see 16:9 and 18:21).  Spiritually, the great city is also called Sodom and Egypt, and it is said to be the place where the Lord was crucified.  These multiple images of Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem confirm that the outer court refers to all nations in the inhabited world.   Further confirmation is found in verses nine and ten where men from the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations look upon their dead bodies and rejoice because the two prophets had tormented those who dwell on the earth (see Beale, 1999, pp. 593 ff.).

The scene John sees in the vision is reminiscent of the desecration of Jerusalem by the Babylonians as described in Psalm 79:1-7.  John uses the Psalmist's language to describe what he sees.  The Psalmist says that the city is defiled and destroyed and that the bodies of God's people are left unburied on the streets of the city to be mocked by their enemies.  Like the souls under the altar in Revelation 6:10, the Psalmist asks, "How long, O Lord, until you pour out your anger on the nations who do not know you?"

The apparent victory of the beast over the witnesses does not last long.  After only three and a half days, a breath of life from God enters them, and they stand on their feet.  Again John uses language from the OT to describe what he sees.  Just as Ezekiel saw the return of Judah from captivity as the revival of dry bones by the breath of God which entered them and caused them to stand on their feet (Ezekiel 37:9-10), so John sees God's slain witnesses raised to their feet by the breath of life from God.  The allusion to Ezekiel's valley of dry bones suggests that the two witnesses represent all God's witnesses who are slain for their testimony.  After standing on their feet, a loud voice from heaven calls them, and they ascend into heaven in a cloud.  Immediately, a great earthquake strikes the earth, and a tenth part of the great city falls.  God vindicates his faithful witnesses.  Death is their victory.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two Witnesses

Reflections on Revelation 11:1-6

After eating the little book, John is given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple, altar, and those who worship there.  This vision assures John that even in this time before the blowing of the seventh trumpet, God has marked off an area which is safe from harm.  That area is described as God's temple, the altar, and all who worship at the temple are measured and protected.   As John made clear in the introduction when he called the saints of Asia Minor a kingdom and priests (1:6), the temple imagery is symbolic.  The temple is not the earthly temple where God's glory dwelled for a time, but it is the heavenly one not made with hands where God continues to dwell.  That the altar is included in being measured reminds us that the protection symbolized by the measuring is spiritual and eternal rather than temporal and physical, for under it are the souls of those who were slain for the word of God (6:9).  Those who have been slain or who worship there cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35).  They have nothing to fear from those who can kill only the body, for they cannot destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28).

On the other hand, the court outside the temple, which John is not to measure, is trampled by the nations for forty-two months.  This area is also called the holy city because the saints dwell there as long as they are in their mortal bodies.  This part of the vision explains why the saints suffer until the seventh trumpet is blown.  Just as the court outside the earthly temple was given to the nations to walk upon it, so the whole earth is trampled by the nations.  The saints suffer even while protected for eternity because they prophesy in the "outer court" or "holy city" which the nations trample and desecrate for forty-two months.

Forty-two months is the "time, times, and half a time" during which the power of God's holy people on earth is "broken" in Daniel 12:7.  (Three and a half "times" equals three and a half years; three and a half years with twelve months in a year equals forty-two months.)   In Revelation, the forty-two months is the entire time the message of Christ is proclaimed from the ascension of Christ (Revelation 12:5-6) until his second coming (Revelation 13:5 with 19:11-20).

During a period of 1,260 days (which is equal to the forty-two months with thirty days in a month), two witnesses prophesy in the outer court. Just as Jesus sent his disciples two by two so that their testimony might be verified, so God's living saints are pictured here as two witnesses.   They prophesy for 1260 days in sackcloth because they know the terrible destruction that awaits the nations which reject the word of Christ they proclaim.  Nevertheless, their testimony cannot be destroyed.  God defends their testimony with plagues and drought and fire from heaven just as he defended the words of Moses and Elijah so that a remnant of all nations might be saved by God's mighty power.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good News, Bad News

Reflections on Revelation 10:1-11

The seventh trumpet is not blown immediately after the sixth trumpet.  Instead, John sees a mighty angel coming down from heaven.  He is wrapped in a cloud (cf. Daniel 7:13), a rainbow is over his head (cf. Revelation 4:3), and his face shines like the sun (cf. Revelation 1:16) suggesting his close relationship with the Faithful and Holy One sitting on the throne and with his Son.  Unlike the seven thunders which are hidden or sealed, the angel's message is not sealed, but is open in his hand. 

The mighty angel raising his right hand to heaven and, swearing by him who lives forever and ever, declares that there would be no more delay but that the mystery of God previously announced to the prophets would be fulfilled when the seventh trumpet is sounded.  Two allusions to the Old Testament suggest that the mystery of God refers to vindicating his servants and bringing an end to their suffering.  In Deuteronomy 32:40-41, God lifts his hand to heaven and swears that he will take vengeance on his adversaries who oppress and corrupt his people.  Then in Daniel 12:7, a heavenly messenger raises his hands to heaven and swears that the suffering of the holy people would cease at the end of a time, times, and half a time.  Daniel did not understand, and the words were sealed (their meaning hidden), but now the angel reveals when the suffering of God's people would end:  it would end at the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet (Beale, 1999, pp. 537 ff.).

Immediately after this, a voice from heaven instructs John to take the scroll in the angel's hand.  The angel gives him the book and tells him to eat it.  He also tells John the book will become bitter in his stomach, but it will be sweet as honey in his mouth.  The message of God's judgment on behalf of the oppressed saints was sweet as honey in John's mouth, but upon reflection the message becomes bitter in his stomach. Judgment is a message of mercy to the oppressed, but it is necessarily also a message of condemnation to the oppressing nations.   This side of the message is bitter not only because the judgment is horrific, but also because the nations refuse to heed the warning. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Armies of Evil Spiritual Powers

Reflections on Revelation 9:13-21

When the angel blows the sixth trumpet, a voice speaks to him from the horns of the golden altar.  In the earthly tabernacle, the golden altar was the altar of incense, which stood immediately in front of the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Exodus 30:1 ff.).  Incense was offered daily on this altar, and the blood of a sin offering on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled on the horns of this altar once a year (Exodus 30:10; cf. Leviticus 4:7).  In the heavenly temple, the prayers of the saints are offered on the golden altar (Revelation 8:3), and the blood of Slain Lamb on the horns of that altar also pleads the cause of the saints and commands that the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates be set loose.

A vast army numbering 200,000,000 is unleashed on impenitent mankind and kills a third of them.  In the Old Testament, God sent the armies of Assyria and Babylonia, which were beyond the Euphrates, to discipline an impenitent Israel which had given itself to idolatry, violence, and theft. Here, the armies attack those who persecute God's people, but they do not repent.  Their impenitence vindicates God's coming judgment. 

Every war has a spiritual dimension.  In the sixth seal, the armies are the agents of evil nations, yet God uses them again to accomplish his divine purpose just as God used Assyria and Babylonia. 

I have seen similar things in my own lifetime.  Evil spiritual forces were certainly behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.  They should have served as a warning to the ungodly of our nation who promote and profit from pornography, convict those who oppose ungodly lifestyles of hate crimes, scoff at those who honor marriage, despise those who oppose abortion, arrest those who pray in public, and denounce the preaching of Christ as intolerance.  The attacks did not halt our nation's slide into unrighteousness.  If greater disasters destroy our nation in the future, the failure to change our sinful ways will fully justify God's judgment.  Like Habakkuk, we may wonder why God uses such evil nations to accomplish his purpose, but we must trust God's plan. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Giant Killers

Reflections on 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4-8

During the course of the Philistine wars, David's men killed four giants.  The first was Ishbi-Benob whose spearhead weighed almost eight pounds, half the weight of Goliath's spearhead.  He was threatening David, who had become weary, when Abishai, David's nephew, came to his rescue and killed the giant.  Abishai was also one of his mighty soldiers (see 2 Samuel 23:18-19), greater than the thirty but not as great as the three.  Sibbecai killed the second giant named Saph at a place called Gob.  Elhanan killed a third giant who is called Goliath here, but he is called Lahmi the brother of Goliath in 1 Chronicles 20:5.  Finally, David's nephew Jonathan killed the fourth Philistine giant, who was an unusual man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.
These exploits remind us that a Christians we must both stand alone against the multitudes opposed the knowledge of our God and our Savior and be willing to face the giants who would harm us.  God gives the victory to those who are faithful even to death. 

Hall of Fame (Part Three)

Reflections on 2 Samuel 23:24-39 and 1 Chronicles 11:26-47

Those who visit the Vietnam War Memorial often are looking for one specific name, perhaps a father, brother, or son.  Most of the other names on the wall are unknown to them, yet the list of names adds something to the meaning of the one name they are looking for.  Similarly, relatives of the men on David's list may not have known everyone on the list, but those relatives would have taken great satisfaction that one of their own family was included.
The following names in 1Samuel 23 are listed elsewhere in the story of David:  1) Asahel  and 2) Joab, David's nephews.  Asahel  (v. 24) was killed by Abner during the war between the house of Saul and David.  Joab (v. 37) led the attack on Jerusalem and became commander of David's army.  3) Naharai, Joab's armor-bearer (v. 37).   4) Jonathan (v. 32), the son of Shammah, who was one of the Three (2 Samuel 23:11-12).  5) Eliam and 6) Uriah the Hittite.    Eliam (v. 34) was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, who was one of David's most trusted advisers (2 Samuel 15:12).  Eliam was also the father of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3).  Uriah the Hittite (v. 39) was the husband of Bathsheba. 

Each month of the year, David had a different division of his army on active duty.  Each division consisted of 24,000 men.  Several of the thirty mighty men were commanders of these divisions:  Helez (2 Samuel 23:26) was commander of the division on duty during the seventh month of the year (1 Chronicles 27:10), Ira the son of Ikkesh (2 Samuel 23:26) was commander of the division on duty during the sixth month of the year (1 Chronicles 27:9), Abiezer  (2 Samuel 23:27) was commander of the division on duty during the ninth month (1 Chronicles 27:12), Maharai (2 Samuel 23:28) was commander of the division on duty on duty during the tenth month (1 Chronicles 27:13), and Benaiah the Pirathonite (2 Samuel 23:30) commander of the division on duty during the eleventh month (1 Chronicles 27:14). 

Hall of Fame (Part Two)

Reflections on 2 Samuel 23:18-23 and 1 Chronicles 11:20-25

Abishai was the brother of Joab and son of David's sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:13-14).  He had gone with David by night into Saul's camp (1 Samuel 26:6-9).  He had plotted with his brother Joab to kill Abner to avenge the death of Asahel (2 Samuel 3:30).  Whenever Joab divided the army, Abishai often commanded the second part (2 Samuel 10:10).  He had also slain the giant Ishbi-Benob when he was about to kill David (2 Samuel 21:17).  Here, he is remembered for killing 300 men with his spear, a feat comparable to the feats of the three mighty men.   Although Abishai was not numbered with the three might men, he was their commander.  

Benaiah's father, Jehoiada, was a priest and the commander of the soldiers from the family of Aaron who had gone to Hebron with the northern tribes when they made David king of all Israel (1 Chronicles 12:27).  As a priest, Benaiah had participated in bringing the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:16 ff.).   Although of a priestly line, Benaiah was a brave soldier.  He had slain two of Moab's best soldiers, killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and armed with only a club, he had disarmed an Egyptian and killed him with his own spear.  Benaiah was put in charge of David's bodyguard and of the standing army in the third month (1 Chronicles 27:5-6).

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Plague of Spiritual Delusions

Inscription for a pagan temple
marked out with a cross
Reflections on Revelation 9:1-12

The fifth trumpet sounds, and a star falls from heaven to earth.  The star is given the key to open the bottomless pit, which is the abode of evil spiritual forces.  The great smoke that ascends from the bottomless pit is spiritual deception and wickedness that darkens the light of God in this world (Hendriksen, 1967, p. 145).  Locusts come from the smoke, but instead of destroying grass, trees, and all that is green as the locusts did in Egypt, they harm only people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  The pain of sin and rebellion against God is said to be like the sting of a scorpion.  This plague is permitted to continue only five months.

Unlike locusts of the earth, these locusts have a king over them who is the angel of the bottomless pit called Abaddon or Apollyon.  The first name is in Hebrew and the second in Greek.  Both names mean Destroyer.
The fifth trumpet blast is the first of three woes (Revelation 9:13).  It is not merely a physical plague, but the powers of darkness are unleashed and used by God to accomplish his will.  The locusts are allowed to harm only those without the seal of God on their foreheads. The saints, like the Israelites in Egypt, are protected from the plagues.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lord Defends the Saints

Reflections on Revelation 8:6-14

What is the significance of the blowing of the seven trumpets in this vision? In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to make trumpets to call assemblies, to announce the Day of Atonement, and to call Israel to battle (Numbers 10:1-10). God promised to remember Israel and to fight for them when he heard the trumpet blasts.
View of Plain
from Mt. Carmel
And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. -- Numbers 10:9 ESV
Accordingly, Israel marched into battle against Balaam and the Midianites to the sound of trumpets, and God gave them victory (Num 31:1-7). God leveled the walls of Jericho when the trumpets were blown in the days of Joshua (Joshua 6:20). Gideon and 300 men blew trumpets and defeated an army as numberless as the sand of the sea (Judges 7:8). Nehemiah assured those working on the walls of Jerusalem that God would fight for them when they were attacked if they sounded the trumpets (Nehemiah 4:20). The trumpet blasts assure suffering saints that God will fight for them.

The trumpet blasts also assure the suffering saints that they will be victorious because the Lord will send out angels to gather them with a loud trumpet call (Matthew 24:31), and at that last trumpet call, the dead will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Each of the first four trumpet calls brings a plague on the earth similar to one of the plagues that fell on the Egyptians when God chastised them for afflicting his firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23). He responds similarly against those afflicting his firstborn ones during this age. A third of the earth is burned up when the first trumpet is sounded (8:7). A third of the seas become blood and a third of the ships are destroyed (8:8-9) when the second trumpet is sounded. A third of the fresh waters are made bitter (8:10-11), and a third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened for a third part of the day (8:12) when the third and fourth trumpets are sounded.

After that, John sees an eagle flying in the midst of the heavens. The eagle announces that the three calamities to follow will be even greater. He says, "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

God sees the suffering of his saints, hears their cries, and sends plagues on their enemies assuring the saints of eventual victory.

Monday, July 9, 2012

God Answers Prayer

 Reflections on Revelation 8:2-5

Throughout this age, saints give their lives for the word of God and the testimony they give for Jesus as was seen in the fifth seal. The opening of the sixth and seventh seals assured the saints that those martyrs would be remembered: Christ would return to judge the nations and gather the elect. But, what about those who suffer and are not killed? God does not ignore their plight, does he? No, the new vision, a series of seven trumpet blasts, assures suffering saints that they, too, are remembered before God. He hears the prayers of suffering saints throughout this age. Thus, the sounding of the seven trumpets is roughly parallel with the opening of the seven seals.

Model of Jerusalem; Herod's Palace
with the Temple in the Background
The vision of the seven trumpet blasts is introduced with the prayers of the saints ascending before God with the incense which an angel offers on the golden altar. This altar is not the altar of sacrifice from which the martyrs cried out earlier. Instead, it corresponds to the golden altar of incense before the veil in the Holy Place of the temple in Jerusalem. This altar, however, stands before God in the true, heavenly temple not made with hands. An angel, not a descendant of Aaron, serves at this altar. The prayers refer to the prayers of those suffering for their faith in Jesus. Their prayers remind us of the cries of the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25). The rising of the incense before God in his heavenly temple assures the saints that God hears their prayers just as he heard the cries of the Israelites.

After the angel offers the incense, he fills the censer with fire from the altar and throws it on the earth, and there is thunder, lightening, and an earthquake (v. 5), which foreshadow the judgments which God will send upon the earth.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book on David's Life Now Available

The name of David, king of Israel, occurs in the Bible more than the name of any other person. The righteousness and equity of his reign became the standard by which all other kings were judged, and the standard he set is surpassed only by Jesus, the Messiah.

City of David and Temple Mount, 1975
Reflections on the Life of King David is not a commentary in the sense of examining the text and explaining the meanings of the words and sentences. Instead, it examines a series of topics suggested by the text that are fitting for reflection and discussion. Hence, it provides discussion questions and personal reflections on short sections of Scripture, which will help people today to emulate David's good qualities and avoid his mistakes. At the same time, the book attempts to
  • Arrange events in David's life chronologically
  • Estimate David's age for each of nine periods in his life
  • Collate the events recorded in Samuel/Kings with the events recorded in Chronicles
My book is available at my publisher:

Link to my publisher
I would appreciate reviews or ratings after you read the book. (Well positive ones anyway. I am not sure how my ego would take a negative review.) The book will also be available on in six to eight weeks.

Silence in Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 8:1

I remember as a child having to answer my dad when he asked, "Son, did you do this?" I seldom wanted to answer the question, but I usually had to say, "Yes."

Theater in Samaria, 1975
Then Dad asked, "Why did you do it?" I never knew what to say, and usually said, "I don't know." Well, I usually did know, but I also knew that my reason would never stand up under Dad's judgment. Inevitably, I had disobeyed an explicit command or had known better than to do it. I could never argue with Dad's judgment. I could only accept it in silence.

The same is true when the seventh seal is opened, and God announces his judgment. Heaven is filled with silence. God's judgment is conclusive, no opposition remains, and the wicked are silenced.
But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him.
-- Habakkuk 2:20 NIV
The defiant, belligerent, and proud will have nothing to say on that day. Those who make excuses and those who cry "unfair" will also be silenced. Those who spurned the Lamb, or ignored him, will not say a word. The judgment of the Almighty is final (Beale, 1999, p. 447 ff.).

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gathering the Elect

Reflections on Revelation 7:1-17

The sealing of the tribes of Israel and the great multitude gathered before the throne from all nations corresponds to the gathering of the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other, in Matthew 24:31 and following verses.

The purpose of this section is to assure the servants of God that they will be kept safe when the Lamb pours out his wrath on the nations. Before that day comes, their number is completed and they are sealed on their foreheads that they might be protected (see Revelation 9:4). This picture is based in part on Ezekiel 9 where those who were distressed by the sins of Jerusalem were marked and protected from those who executed God's wrath against the city. Similarly here, the ones sealed are protected from the wrath of the Lamb.

The 144,000 from every tribe of Israel represent all of the saints of God on the earth at one time. Recall that John said earlier that Jesus has released us from our sins and "made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father" (Revelation 1:6). John takes the language of the kingdom and priesthood referring to Israel in the Old Testament and transfers it to the saints of all nations. The numbering signifies that the Lamb knows all who are part of his kingdom and that his wrath is delayed until their number is completed. The sealing signifies that they are protected.

The great multitude is from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues gathered around the throne where they praise God and the Lamb. They represent all of God's people of all time gathered at the end of the age. Those living at his return are united with those who died before his return (1 Corinthians 15:50-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The shift from the twelve tribes, representing God's people on the earth, to people of every nation and tribe and tongue emphasizes that Christ's kingdom has been conquering while the nations were fighting among themselves, and that his victory is completed with his coming.

One of the elders who stood before the throne confirms the identity of the great multitutde dressed in white robes. They were those who had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and come through great tribulation while the the nations were at war. Because they had been cleansed and faithful to their commander, they are before the throne of God in his temple. God dwells with them, trials are ended, tears are wiped away, and the Lamb leads them to the water of life. They live in the eternal kingdom of peace after the last enemy has been destroyed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Signs in Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 6:12-17

The opening of the sixth seal corresponds to the signs of the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24:29 and following verses. When the sixth seal is opened, the sun turns black as sackcloth, the moon turns red as blood, and the skies are rolled back like a scroll to reveal the coming of the Son of Man. Kings, generals, the rich and powerful, slaves and free men are all alarmed. They call for the mountains and rocks to cover them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. The judgment of the nations will soon be completed; the blood of the saints will soon be avenged.


Reflections on Revelation 6:9-11

The opening of the fifth seal corresponds to the time of tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:9 and the following verses. Details of that tribulation will come later. For now, the judgment of the nations has met resistance. The souls of those who have been slain for the word of God and their testimony about Jesus are under the altar.

The altar on which animals were sacrificed stood outside in front of the temple in Jerusalem. John, however, is not looking at the earthly temple made with hands, but on the spiritual temple built by God. On this altar in the spiritual, heavenly temple, the saints offer up their own lives as thank offerings to their God. Their lives are devoted wholly to God, even unto death. Still, in their sufferings and deaths, these cry out to God and ask, "How long before you judge and avenge our blood on the the inhabitants of the earth?" They are given white robes, signifying their reservations at the banquet of the righteous when the judgment of the nations is finished (Revelation 19:6-9). However, they are told to wait a little longer until the number of those to be killed is complete.

The purpose of the fifth seal is to assure those who are suffering for Christ that they have not been forgotten even though the battle continues to rage for a short time. Those who have died have a place reserved in the marriage banquet at the end of the age.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Written for Hollywood

Covenant of War, by Cliff Graham, is the second book in the Lion of War series. It appears to me to be written more with an eye to winning Hollywood contracts than faithfully portraying the lives of David and his mighty men who turned the hearts of a nation to heartfelt devotion to God for generations to come.

Graham warns readers that his novel is filled with violence and justifies it for two reasons. First, he says his novel is no more violent than Scripture itself. While Scripture does refer to many violent events, it is not filled with near as much graphic detail as Graham's novel. I personally find the graphic detail repulsive. Second, he suggests that the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that soldiers experience after battle may explain David's destructive decisions later in life. Scripture, however, explains his later actions as moral failure, not reaction to war trauma.

Graham also warns his readers that his novel includes scenes of sexual temptation. It was troubling to me that Graham leads the reader to believe that one of the heroes, Eleazar, visited a prostitute early in the book (p. 71) and then waits until Eleazar was dying at the end of the book (p. 330) to reveal that he had fled the prostitute's tent at the last moment. Throughout the book, Eleazar appears to be a hypocrite.

Graham writes primarily about David's mighty men, about whom we know very little. We know a great deal more about David, and he is a different person than the David in Graham's story. According to Scripture, David was 37 at the time he became king over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-5), not 30 as Graham says (p. 98). Scripture shows David to be a deeply spiritual person with strong moral character. He maintained his integrity in Saul's court despite being surrounded by intrigue. He refused to avenge himself on Saul even when he had opportunity. He did not allow his men to steal from those among whom they lived. He was moral because he was spiritual having a deep faith and trust in God. Graham portrays David as a man whose spirituality failed to give him moral strength.

Scripture shows David to be a compassionate leader. He was a shepherd of God's people. He defended the weak, bound up the wounds of the injured, and gave refreshment to the weary. He gave refuge to those who were discouraged, discontented, and in debt (1 Samuel 22:2). He protected a priest who escaped Saul's massacre of the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 22:20 ff.). Graham gives the impression that David's men were ruffians and outlaws. They may have been outcasts, but they were not outlaws.

Furthermore, David's men were not unruly and undisciplined as Graham suggests. Scripture portrays David as a strong, organized leader. Those who joined him at Adullam were not trained soldiers. They were men who were discouraged and in debt. They were afraid to take up arms against Philistine marauders, but David transformed them into an effective military force, probably with the help of some brave, and God-fearing soldiers from Gad and Benjamin whom he made officers (1 Chronicles 12:8-18). Before long, they saved Keilah from Philistine marauders and were protecting Judah's southern border from desert tribes. David did not permit his men to be divisive and insisted that all from the greatest to the least be appreciated (1 Samuel 30:22-25). Benaiah, captain of David's bodyguard and an army officer, was a priest (1 Chronicles 27:5-6). His closest advisers were the prophet Gad and the priest Abiathar (1 Samuel 22:5; 23:9). Prophets and priests continued to fill key positions throughout his reign to ensure adherence to the law (e.g. 1 Chronicles 26:29-32).

Finally, Scripture says that the northern tribes had been wanting to make David their king before Abner suggested it (2 Samuel 3:17-18; 5:1-2). While there may be some indication of tribal rivalries in Scripture, there is no suggestion of the deep suspicions and mistrust of David which Graham pictures.

Graham's book is a work of fiction. It may make a script for a Hollywood movie, but it is neither historical nor Biblical.  I rate the book as a one out of five.

Friday, June 22, 2012

War and Famine

Reflections on Revelation 6:1-8

The first four seals which the Lamb opens correspond to Matthew 24:6-8. Wars and rumors of wars, nations and kingdoms rising against each other, and famines and earthquakes are, Jesus says, the beginnings of travail.

When the first seal is opened, a rider on a white horse goes out to conquer. The horse is white because the pretext for war is almost always a just or righteous cause which masks the greed or pride of the one making war. The second horse is red. He takes peace from the earth and fills it with blood. War always leads to bloodshed. Next, John sees a black horse, and on it a man carrying pair of scales signifying that shortages and famine follow war. When the fourth seal is opened, a pale horse appears, and its rider is Death. Hades follows claiming all the dead whether they have died by the sword, famine, disease, or wild animals.

War and famine are under the control of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He uses the greed and ambition of the nations to bring the miseries of war upon them and to soften the nations for his conquest and judgment.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Lion and the Lamb

Reflections on Revelation 5:1-14

In the right hand of the one on the throne is a scroll which is sealed with seven seals. Then John hears an angel asking, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" At first, no one is found worthy to open the scroll, so John begins to weep. At that point, one of the elders informs John that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed and so could open the sealed scroll. The Lion of the tribe of Judah alludes to Genesis 49:8-12 where it refers to one of Judah's descendants whom all peoples would obey. The Root of David alludes to Isaiah 11:1-10 where it says that one of David's descendants would arise to judge the poor with righteousness, give equity to the meek of the earth, and slay the wicked until all the nations inquire of him. Therefore, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is a son of man who would bring all nations and people into obedience to him.

In Daniel 7:10, the books were opened when the court sat in judgment before the Ancient of Days. At that time, one like a son of man ascended with the clouds of heaven to receive a kingdom. Here Jesus, the Son of Man has ascended into heaven and will initiate the judgment of the nations by opening the first of several books to be opened (Revelation 20:12).

John turns to see the Lion, and sees instead a Lamb that had been slain. The allusion here is primarily to Isaiah 53. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God was wounded for the transgression of others; he was crushed for their iniquities. He who judges is also the one who has earned the right to make intercession. Even in judgment, there is hope.

The four living creatures and elders praise the Lamb as the one who has purchased people from every tribe and nation and made them to be a kingdom and priests who reign on the earth. Then a multitude of angels declare that the Lamb is a king worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. Finally, all creation joins in praising the Lord on the throne and the Lamb before it.

The contents of the sealed scroll will be based primarily on the discourse Jesus gave his disciples while on the Mount of Olives. It outlined his conquest and judgment of the nations and his gathering of the elect. The discourse is found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Notice the general order of the discourse:
  1. Wars and famines (Matthew 24:6-8; Seals 1-4)
  2. Persecution (Matthew 24:9 ff.; Seal 5)
  3. Signs in heaven and mourning on earth (Matthew 24:29-30; Seal 6)
  4. Gathering of the elect (Matthew 24:31; between Seals 6 and 7)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Heaven Opened

Reflections on Revelation 4:1-11

The Son of Man addressed current conditions in Asia Minor when he dictated the seven letters to the churches in chapters two and three. Chapter four begins with John seeing a door standing open into heaven and hearing a voice saying he would see things that must take place after this. While in the Spirit, John sees a throne and someone sitting on it. John sees what the Psalmist declared long ago: "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord on his heavenly throne " (Psalm 11:4 NIV), and that "his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19 NIV).

Over the throne, John sees a rainbow (v. 3), which is a sign of the God who keeps the covenant he has made with the saints just as the rainbow in the clouds was a sign that God would never again to destroy the whole earth with a flood. Flashes of lightning and peals of thunder (v. 5) remind us of God's mighty majesty when he revealed himself to Israel on Mt. Sinai. In front of the throne, John sees a sea of glass like a crystal (v. 6). It stands as a reminder that all who come into God's presence first must be cleansed and made holy. God has said, "I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy." (Leviticus 11:45 NIV).

Around the throne are twenty-four other thrones. Seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders who represent all of God's saints, both OT and NT saints, who participate in God's kingdom. The number twenty-four is the sum of the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles. Although they also sit on thrones, they are subject to the one God who sits on the great throne in heaven. They show their submission by descending from their thrones, laying their crowns before the Almighty, and prostrating themselves before him who is king over all. They give him all glory, honor, and power as the creator of all things.

Four living creatures also stand around the throne. They apparently represent all created creatures including wild animals (lion), domesticated animals (ox), mankind, and birds (eagle). All creation joins together in praising God:
You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Structure of Revelation

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
-- Revelation 1:3 NIV
John wrote Revelation to be read aloud. For that reason, he blesses the reader (singular) and the hearers (plural) in verse 3. A listener cannot see chapter headings or paragraph formatting to identify changes in topic, so he must listen for cues in the oral reading of the text. Some of those cues are lists (seven letters, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls) and repetitions (I saw, earthquake, and hail). These clues provide a structure for Revelation.

1. Seven Letters (the saints in distress)
     2. Seven Seals (things that must take place after this)
          3. Seven Trumpets (the Lord assists his servants)
               4. God's Enemies
          5. Seven Bowls (the Lord afflicts his enemies)
     6. Eternal Judgment (the end of the age)
7. The New Jerusalem (the saints in glory)

Sections 2 - 6 are not sequential. Instead, they all summarize this present age from the time of John to the coming of Jesus in judgment. Hence, the sections recapitulate earlier sections and are more or less parallel to each other (see Hendriksen, 1967, pp. 22-31; Beale, 1999, pp. 121-144). Furthermore, each section expands on some aspect of a previous section and elaborates more on the end of the age. The sixth section deals almost exclusively with the end of this age with Christ's final victory over his enemies. This progressive parallelism is based on the structure of Daniel where, for example, the four beasts in Daniel 7 are parallel to and expand on the four parts of Nebuchadnezzar's image in Daniel 2.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Family Bible Reading

Reflections on 2 Timothy 3:14-15
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:14-15
Timothy learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother at home. They began teaching him when he was quite young. We don't know how they taught him the Scripture, but I would like to share a little about the way we read Scripture to our children.
  1. Sharon read to our small children every weekday from Bible story books to teach them to sit quietly and listen. Most stories took just a couple of minutes. Sometimes they begged for more stories.
  2. We began reading directly from the Bible about the time our children entered kindergarten. We chose a simple version and read the same stories from it that we read in the Bible story book. The stories were more detailed and longer, but we kept the reading time to about five minutes.
  3. After a couple of years, we began reading the entire Bible story, but we tried to read no more than 10 minutes per day. Daily reading was hard enough without making it wearisome. By reading 10 minutes on weekdays, we could read the entire Bible story in a year. Here is the entire Bible story: Genesis, first half of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua through 2 Kings, Ezra through Esther, first half of Daniel, one of the Gospels, and Acts.
  4. We added a bit of variety from time to time. Occasionally we read a psalm or a proverb. We had the children take turns reading aloud.
  5. As our children grew older, we added other portions of Scripture to the Bible story. We never added much comment to our reading though sometimes we asked a few questions. Each time of reading ended with a short prayer.
What is gratifying to us as parents is that our children are reading Scripture daily to our grandchildren.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Glorious Task

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
-- Genesis 2:18
God made a helper for man he made one who was suitable (NIV, NASB), fit (RSV, ESV), meet (KJV, ASV), or right (New Century Version) for him. "Meet" in the KJV and ASV is not used in contemporary English, but it means more or less what the other translations say. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) defines it as "precisely adapted to a particular situation, need, or circumstance." Three other translations emphasize a different nuance suggesting a correspondence or likeness between the man and his helper. They say God would make for him a helper "as his complement" (Holman Christian Standard Bible) or "as his counterpart" (Lexham English Bible, Young's Literal Translation).

If man's task was merely to hunt ducks, a dog might be a suitable helper. If a man's task was to keep mice out of his house, a cat might be a helper meet or fit for him. Those, however, were not the tasks God assigned to man. God assigned man the task of increasing in number and ruling God's creation as God's stewards. For these tasks, neither a dog nor a cat was suitable. They were not suitable in part because they had no likeness to him and so could not be his counterpart. For this task, he needed a woman who was, like him, made in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).

Man needed woman to produce children, to nurture them, to teach them to respect God, and to train them to be stewards of God's creation. Both would have important and complementary roles each step of the way.  One person and one gender alone could not fulfill some tasks and would work at a disadvantage on others.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Help for the Future

The Lord God said, "It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him."
-- Genesis 2:18 NIV

When God saw it was not good for a man to be alone, he did not merely make a companion for him.  Companionship with its mutual comforts and pleasures is good, but God planned something more - a helper.  This implies that the man and his companion had a task.

What was the task?  The context mentions two related tasks.  First, mankind was given the task of ruling God's creation (Genesis 1:26) as stewards in submission to God's sovereignty (Genesis 2:15-17).  Second, as a means to that end, mankind was to increase in number and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28).  In short, their task was to produce, train, and equip children to rule God's creation as God's stewards.

This was no small task.  It could not be accomplished by one person alone.  Furthermore, two people could not accomplish it in one night alone.  It would take two people working together for years to raise children to a level of maturity sufficient to continue the task God assigned mankind.

Too often, contemporary debate about marriage, divorce, and homosexual partnerships has ignored God's intention and purpose.  God's primary intention was not to provide for an individual's right to happiness and satisfaction, but to provide for giving life and nurture to children who would carry on responsible stewardship over God's creation.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It is Time You Open an Account in Heaven

A friend of mine gave me Randy Alcorn's little book The Treasure Principle several years ago. It didn't take long to read, but it was not soon forgotten. I shared or gave the book to someone else, I am not sure which, so when I occasionally wanted to reread the book, I couldn't. Then recently I had opportunity to receive a free copy of the book in return for reviewing it on my blog.

I was not disappointed the second time through the book. The treasure principle is that all earthly treasures will either be lost or left behind, no exceptions, but earthly treasures can be exchanged for secure and eternal heavenly treasures (Matthew 6:19-21).

Our problem is that we are reluctant to exchange the temporal for the eternal. Mr. Alcorn offers six keys that will free us from the tyranny of our earthly treasures and open a storehouse of eternal treasures. First, understand that God owns everything and that we are merely managers of his property. Second, our hearts will go where we put God's money. Third, heaven is our home, not earth. Fourth, we should live not for the dot (the temporal) but for the line (the eternal). Fifth, giving is the only way we can free ourselves from materialism. Sixth, God prospers us not to raise our standard of living, but to raise our standard of giving.

I would highly recommend this book for personal reading and as a gift to others. You can read the first chapter here. I give the book 5 out of a possible 5. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.