Saturday, November 29, 2014

Greeting - Revelation 1:4-5a

John to the seven churches in Asia; grace to you and peace from the one who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. [Translation by David Mills]
The greeting and doxology (vv. 5b-8) introduce Revelation like a letter or epistle, and the benediction in 22:21 closes Revelation like a letter. The letter is from the apostle John to the seven churches in Asia. The seven churches are seven literal churches in the province of Asia, but the number seven also suggests completeness so that all churches should hear and keep the words written by John.[6]

As in many epistles, the greeting introduces major themes which occur in the letter. One such theme is the exodus with the plagues poured out on Egypt. This them is introduced when John says that grace and peace are from the one who is and who was and who is coming. This eternal one is the I AM who intervened on behalf of his people to free them from slavery in Egypt. The I AM has not changed. He still is the one who is and who was and who is coming. He is the faithful, ever present God who even yet intervenes with plagues in the world on behalf of his saints (Revelation 8:6 ff. and 16:1 ff.) and who is coming to dwell with them (Revelation 21:2-4).

Grace and peace are also from the seven spirits which are before his throne. Again, seven represents completeness. The Holy Spirit bestows all gifts which enable God's people to live faithful lives and bear faithful witness to God and his son Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:3 ff.).

Finally, grace and peace are from Jesus Christ. He came to earth as the faithful witness of his Father, and for that witness he suffered and died. Because he was faithful, he became the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. This Jesus is a pattern for Christians who will also be raised from the dead and seated with Christ on his throne if they are faithful witnesses in the face of persecution and death.


[6] Seven is associated with completeness because God completed his work of creation and rested in seven days.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prologue - Revelation 1:1-3 (Part 2)

The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to show his bond-servants the things that must happen soon. He made it known when he sent it by his angel to his bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, to as many things as he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are the ones who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things written in it, for the time is near. [Τranslation by David Mills]
In addition to calling his document a revelation, John also calls it a prophecy. Prophecy is a word from God spoken by a man whom God had chosen. Hence, we often read of the "word of the Lord" coming to a prophet (1 Sam. 15:10; 1 Kings 21:17; Isa. 38:4; Jer. 1:1-2, etc.). By calling Revelation a prophecy, John is emphasizing that its words are from God.

Although Biblical prophecy is more concerned with speaking the words of God than with revealing the future, there is usually a connection between God's words and the future. Prophets often warn of God's impending judgment on those who disobey and promise future blessings for those who repent and obey. Consequently, the shape of the future depends on whether those who hear ignore his words or keep them in faithful obedience. By calling Revelation a prophecy, John reminds them that they should hear God's warnings and admonitions and that they should keep his commands. To keep means "to persist in obedience" or "to continue to obey orders or commandments."[5] Those who hear and keep the words of John's prophecy will experience God's blessing and favor in the future.


[5] BDAG, s.v. τηρέω; Louw and Nida, #36.19.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Prologue - Revelation 1:1-3

The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to show his bond-servants the things that must happen soon. He made it known when he sent it by his angel to his bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, to as many things as he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are the ones who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things written in it, for the time is near. [Translation by David Mills.]
John identifies this document as a revelation of Jesus Christ, which suggests that in it Jesus will fully disclose something.[1] That which he disclosed he also made known; that is, he explained it and made it clear [2] when he sent his angel to John who then bore witness to it. In this way, Jesus was able to show it to his bond-servants. To show simply means to present something to human senses so that it can be known.[3] Hence, those who heard the Revelation would expect to have Jesus make something known to them in a clear way so that they could understand it.

So, what is to be revealed? John says it is the things that must happen soon. John reemphasizes that the things revealed are near when he says the time is near at the end of the prologue.[4] Because the things that must happen will happen in the near future, a degree of urgency is created for hearing them and understanding them. These are not things in the distant future. These are things that those who originally received the message would experience.

John gives a clue to the kinds of things revealed when he writes the things that must happen soon. These words allude to Daniel 2:28 (LXX) where Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that God had revealed to him "the things that must happen in the latter days." Because John replaces "in the latter days" with "in a short time," meaning soon, he suggests that the latter days have arrived when God would set up a kingdom which would fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:44). John was a companion with his fellow bond-servants in the kingdom (Revelation 1:6, 9). Soon that kingdom would be filling the whole earth. Again, the message is urgent because those receiving the message are called to participate in the conquest and become conquerors or victors.


[1] BDAG, s.v. ἀποκαλύπτω and ἀποκάλυψις; Louw and Nida, #28.38. In the NT, a revelation is always a divine disclosure. God/Jesus either reveals or is revealed. Here Jesus reveals not so much himself as the things that must happen soon.

[2] BDAG, s.v. σημαίνω; Louw and Nida, #33.153. The focus of this word seems to be on the process of making something clear or understandable.

[3] BDAG, s.v. δείκνυμι; Louw and Nida #28.47. The context of this verb almost always mentions the person who receives the message, so the word seems to focus on the transfer of the message from the sender to the receiver.

[4] For an explanation of why this clause does not mean "things that must happen quickly," see 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), 182. 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), 416.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Key of David

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: "The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut." (Revelation 3:7-8a, ESV)
When the Assyrians were threatening the city of Jerusalem about 700 B.C., King Hezekiah, a descendant of David, entrusted the master key of the king's treasuries and armories to Shebna, who used his access for personal gain. Hezekaih stripped Shebna of his authority, and gave it to a better man, Eliakim (Isaiah 22:22). During the Assyrian threat, Eliakim was reliable, opening doors for those who needed it and closing them against those who would plunder the king's resources. However, he apparently could not support the weight of his responsibility after that threat ended (Isaiah 22:25).

Revelation uses that key to symbolize Christ's power to open the treasures of his heavenly kingdom to whom he wishes and close them to whom he wishes. In Revelation, Christ has not delegated that key to anyone who may prove to be unfaithful or unreliable. Instead, the Holy One has the key of David. The True One possesses the key that opens and closes the gates to the city and treasuries of the King. Those Jews who had denied the Messiah/Christ, could not claim entrance into the kingdom merely because they were Jews. The Messiah who held the key of David had closed the door to them, and no one could open it for them. On the other hand, those who had confessed Jesus as the Messiah would find that he had opened the door for them, and no one else could close it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Rod of Iron

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. (Revelation 2:26-27 ESV)
She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, (Revelation 12:5 ESV)
"From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty." (Revelation 19:15 ESV)
These verses allude to Psalm 2:7-9. In the second Psalm, the Messiah is given the nations as a heritage, and he will break them to pieces because they plot against him. The Psalm says, "I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.'" What is of special interest in Revelation (like the LXX) is that the verb "to break" in verse nine is translated as "to shepherd" (ποιμαίνω). The symbol of the Messiah's rod stands for his authority and power to subdue the nations in order to protect and defend God's people.

Revelation uses the symbol similarly; the rod of iron is a symbol of Christ's power and authority. As a symbol, it reveals that Christ uses his power and authority to protect the saints from their enemies and to subdue the unbelieving nations (cf. Psalm 110:5-6). Furthermore, he will share that authority with those who conquer and keep his works to the end.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Sword of My Mouth

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
-- Revelation 2:16 ESV; see also 1:16 and 19:11-16

Many symbols which reveal a spiritual truth in Revelation come from the sphere of a kingdom. One of those symbols is "the sword of my mouth." The picture involves a play on words. In OT Hebrew, people were slain with the "edge of the sword" which was literally the "mouth (pěh) of the sword (ḥereb)."  Isaiah made a play on these words when he wrote, "He made my mouth (pěh) like a sharp sword (ḥereb)" (Isaiah 49:2). Here, John accomplishes the same thing by changing the construction from "mouth of the sword" to "sword of the mouth." The "sword of my mouth" is a symbol for the words Jesus speaks. The words of Jesus are compared to a sword.

By comparing the words of Jesus to a sword, John reveals a spiritual truth about his words. His words are powerful. They can judge and give the sentence of death (John 12:48). In Revelation 2:16, the words spoken by Jesus will effectively bring judgment and death on those who follow Balaam and the Nicolaitans. We are not to think this picture refers to a bloody sword fight, but to the powerful sentence of a judge.  Likewise, in Revelation 19, Jesus does not engage the unbelieving nations in a bloody battle with a literal sword, but his word of judgment consigns them to eternal death (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8). His words are as powerful as a sword.

Lowery summarizes the comparison and its purpose with these words: "Symbols are commonly used to communicate abstract ideas in concrete ways. Revelation's symbols represent spiritual realities; thus the double-edged sword in Jesus' mouth (Rev. 1:16) represents power and truth, not an actual sword in his mouth."[1]

[1] Lowery, R., 2006. Revelation’s rhapsody: listening to the lyrics of the lamb : how to read the book of Revelation, Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., p. 215.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Symbols Reveal Rather than Conceal

John does not use symbols as a secret code to conceal anything. Rather, he uses symbols for common things, people, or experiences to reveal spiritual truths which are easily missed or forgotten. For example, he calls the churches to which he is writing "a kingdom" and "priests" (Revelation 1:6). John uses this symbol borrowed from the Old Testament to reveal the glorious nature of the church. In an age when the churches were being persecuted and oppressed, it would be easy to forget the glory of the church.

Later, John describes Jesus as the  "Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David" and then as "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain" (Revelation 5:5-6). He uses these symbols to emphasize the glorious position and ministry of their crucified Lord.

In the examples just cited, the symbols are drawn from two spheres: the kingdom and the temple. In fact, symbols relating to the kingdom and the temple recur so often that they form motifs or themes that will be considered in more detail in following posts.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Problems with Boasting

"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." (Proverbs 27:1-2, NIV84)

People boast
  • To get attention
  • To impress others
  • To get praise
  • To inform people how great they are
  • To intimidate others
  • To put others down
  • To compensate for insecurity
But boasting is a sin

  • It is presumptuous to boast about what we are going to do when we don't know the future (Prov. 27:1; James 4:13-17)
  • It is arrogant to boast that you are better or more important than others (Rom. 12:16)
  • It is ungrateful not to acknowledge the assistance of others and act like you did it all by yourself (1 Cor. 4:7)
  • It is deceptive to stretch the truth or to lie about what we did (Eph. 4:25)
Sennacherib boasted to the people of Jerusalem through his messengers. His boasts were intended to impress the people with his military accomplishments, intimidate the people of the city, exalt himself above both King Hezekiah and the Lord, and to declare what he would do to the city if they did not surrender. He was arrogant, blasphemous, and presumptuous. The people he insulted would survive while his own sons would kill him, the God he blasphemed would be glorified, and 185,000 of his soldiers would die during the night before he could march against Jerusalem or lay siege to it (see Isaiah 36-37).

"This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV84)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Faith and Patience

Reflections on Hebrews 11:13

In Strasbourg, France, a thief stole cognac, cookies, chocolates and caramels from his ex-employer, but couldn't wait to enjoy his loot. Police followed a trail of caramel wrappers to his hideout and arrested the litterbug. -Philadelphia Inquirer

Have you ever said, "I can't wait until …"? Maybe it is your birthday or Christmas.  Maybe it is the day you can drive or go on a date.  Whatever it is, you think you can't wait.

Joseph was 17 years old when God revealed in dreams that he would become a ruler to whom even his brothers would bow down (Gen. 37:1 ff.). There were probably times he thought he couldn't wait until his brothers bowed down to him, but he had to wait.  His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, and then he was sent to prison where he stayed until he was 30 years old.  How long would that have been?  Yes, 13 years.  Then Joseph became governor of Egypt, and another eight years passed before his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain and bowed down to him.  How long did he wait for God's promise?  Yes, 21 years!

David was not yet old enough to be a soldier when Samuel anointed him as God's choice to be the next king.  That means he was less than 20 years old when God promised to make him king (see Num. 1:3; 26:2).  There were probably times he thought he couldn't wait until he was king, but it didn't happen soon.  After spending several years as an outcast running away from King Saul, he finally became king when he was 30 years old.  How long did David have to wait to receive God's promise?  Yes, he waited more than 10 years.
Why were Joseph and David able to wait patiently for what God promised?  It was because they had absolute faith in God.  Faith enabled them to wait patiently for God's promise.
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God….  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city" (Hebrews 11: 8-10, 13-16, ESV).

Do you know how old Abraham was when God promised him the land he had gone to see?  Look in Genesis 12:4-7. (He was 75 years old.)  How old was Abraham when he died? Look in Genesis 25:7-8.  (He was 175 years old when he died.) So, how long did Abraham wait for God's promise?  He waited for 100 years and still had not received the land when he died.  God gave him something better than he could have ever had on this present earth.  He gave him a heavenly country and a city whose designer and builder was God.

God has also made many great promises to us.  Peter says that "according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13, ESV).  Satan does not want us to wait patiently for God's promises.  He tries to destroy our faith and tempts us to satisfy our desires with temporary pleasures in this world.  "For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:16-17, ESV). He wants us to replace heavenly treasures with treasures on this earth.  What he does not tell us is that those treasures rust, become moth-eaten, or get stolen.  He wants us to replace the joys of marriage, which we have to wait for, with the cheap thrills of pornography which inevitably robs the honeymoon of much of its thrill.  He wants you to replace the joys of eternity with the pleasures of sin that last for only a short season.  Then, those sinful pleasures rob you of eternal joy.  Don't let Satan rob you!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Free Kindle Edition

Free for three days only!  Kindle edition of Reflections on the Life of King David. After Monday, January 6, the cost will be $1.99 for the Kindle edition.

When God chose David to be the king of Israel, He said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David inspired Israel in battle, established Jerusalem as the capital of their nation, and focused their hearts on God with his psalms. Then just as he was defeating the last of the nation’s enemies, he committed a series of horrible sins which nearly destroyed him. He repented and recovered sufficiently to make extensive plans for the temple his son would build and to reorganize the priests and Levites in religious and judicial roles which would endure to the time of Christ. Finally, when “he had served the purpose of God in his own generation,” he “fell asleep and was laid with his fathers.” (Quotations are from Acts 13:22 and 36 in the English Standard Version.)

More is written in the Bible about King David than any other person with the exception of Jesus. His story is told primarily in the books of Samuel and again in 1 Chronicles. The first section of Reflections on the Life of King David collates the events recorded in the two accounts. An attempt is made to put the events in chronological order and to assign an approximate date to them. The second section is a series of reflections on the significance of those events for people in both his day and ours. A final brief section explains the reasoning behind the adopted chronological order and the assigned dates.