"THE BOOK OF REVELATION" Chapter Seventeen This is a key chapter, for the mystery of the great harlot and the beast is explained, and one's understanding of this chapter will affect their interpretation of the rest of the book. John is carried away into the wilderness where he is shown the great harlot "Babylon", with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication and the inhabitants of the earth were drunk with the wine of her fornication. She is seen sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. She is dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls. In her hand is a gold cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. On her forehead is written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH Seeing the woman drunk with the blood of the saints (Old Testament saints?) and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, John marvels with great amazement (1-6). The angel then proceeds to tell John the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her. He begins with the beast first, described as one who "was, is not, and is to come" (ESV). This beast will ascend out of the bottomless pit (cf. Re 11:7) and go to perdition (cf. Re 19:20). The seven heads of the beast represent seven mountains upon which the woman sits. There are seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, and the other has yet to come. The beast is then described as the eighth king, though of the seven. The ten horns represent ten kings who give their power and authority to the beast, make war against the Lamb, and eventually turn on the harlot herself. The harlot is finally described as that "great city" (cf. Re 14:8; 16:19) which reigns over the kings of the earth (7-18). As indicated in the introductory material, my understanding of this book focuses on the fact that John is given this revelation at a time when the beast "is not" (Re 17:8,11). Whatever explanation one gives for the beast, it did not exist at the time of the Revelation! It had existed, and was to come, but at the time John was shown the vision, it "is not". One plausible explanation is that the seven (actually eight) kings represent Roman emperors, starting with Augustus. This would make Nero the fifth king, whose death in 68 A.D. left the empire in an uproar and may be the "deadly wound" referred to Re 13:3,12,14. Discounting Galba, Otho, and Vitellius whose insignificant reigns were short-lived during the turmoil, the sixth king ("one is") would be Vespasian who restored order to the empire. This would make Titus the seventh emperor and Domitian the eighth. The beast that "was, and is not, and will ascend" (NKJV) therefore depicts the persecuting Roman emperor, seen first in the person of Nero (the beast who "was") and later in the person of Domitian (the beast who "will ascend"). The ten kings who gave their power and authority to the beast appear to be vassal kings that supported the emperor in times of persecution. The identity of the harlot is still an open question in my own mind. I used to lean toward the view that the harlot represents Jerusalem, often supported in her persecution of the church by the Roman empire but then destroyed herself by Rome in A.D. 70. It is interesting to compare such verses as Re 17:6; 18:20,24; 19:2 with Jesus' statements in Mt 23:31-39. As foretold by Jesus in both Matthew and Revelation, God was about to avenge His apostles and prophets on this city "who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her" (Re 18:20; Mt 23:37). I still believe that Jerusalem is the focus of chapters 6-11. Many understand the harlot to represent the commercial and immoral spirit of Rome (not the literal city itself, for she was never destroyed as described in later chapters) which was instrumental in opposing the people of God. There is much to be said for this view. Re 17:2,18; 18:3,9,11 certainly seem to fit Rome. I now lean toward this view in keeping with the main idea of Rome as the focus of chapters 13-19. While the identity of the beast, the kings, and the harlot might be unclear in the minds of some, the outcome of the conflict described in this chapter is certain. In what may be described as the theme of this book, we are told that: "These will make war with Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." (Re 17:14) Comforting words indeed to those early Christians who were persecuted by both the Roman emperor and unbelieving Jerusalem! POINTS TO PONDER * The importance of this chapter in interpreting the book of Revelation * That the beast "is not" when the Revelation was given to John * The identity of the great harlot and the scarlet beast OUTLINE I. THE SCARLET WOMAN AND THE SCARLET BEAST (1-6) A. JOHN IS APPROACHED BY AN ANGEL (1-2) 1. One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls 2. Who offers to show him the judgment of the great harlot a. Which sits on many waters b. With whom kings of the earth have committed fornication c. With whom inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication B. JOHN IS SHOWN THE SCARLET WOMAN ON THE SCARLET BEAST (3-6) 1. He is carried away by the angel in the Spirit into the wilderness 2. There he sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast a. The scarlet beast 1) Full of names of blasphemy 2) Having seven heads and ten horns b. The woman 1) Arrayed in purple and scarlet 2) Adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls 3) In her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication 4) On her forehead the name written: a) MYSTERY b) BABYLON THE GREAT c) THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH 5) Drunk with: a) The blood of the saints b) The blood of the martyrs of Jesus 3. He marveled with great amazement when he saw her II. THE MYSTERY OF THE WOMAN AND BEAST EXPLAINED (7-18) A. THE ANGEL OFFERS TO EXPLAIN THE MYSTERY (7) 1. Asking John why he marveled 2. Saying that he will tell him the mystery a. Of the woman b. Of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her B. THE BEAST EXPLAINED (8-14) 1. The beast that John saw: a. Was, is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition b. Will be marveled by those by those whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world when they see it 2. The mind which has wisdom: a. The seven heads are seven mountains upon which the woman sits b. There are also seven kings 1) Five have fallen, one is, the other has yet to come 2) When the seventh comes, he must continue a short time c. The beast that was, and is not, is himself the eighth 1) He is of the seven 2) He is going to perdition (destruction) d. The ten horns are ten kings 1) Who have received no kingdom as yet 2) But receive authority for one hour with the beast 3) Who are of one mind, and give their power and authority to the beast e. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them 1) For He is Lord of lords and King of kings 2) Those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful C. THE WOMAN EXPLAINED (15-18) 1. The waters upon which she sits are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues 2. The ten horns (ten kings) on the beast a. Will hate the harlot 1) Make her desolate 2) Eat her flesh and burn her with fire b. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose 1) For them to be of one mind 2) To give their kingdom to the beast -- Until the words of God are fulfilled 3. The woman John saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The scarlet woman and the scarlet beast (1-6) - The mystery of the woman and the beast explained (7-18) 2) What did the angel tell John he would be shown? (1) - The judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters 3) How does the angel describe this woman? (2) - With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication - The inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication 4) List the description of the woman as seen by John (3-6) - Sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns, full of names of blasphemy - Arrayed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls - A golden cup in her hand, full of abominations the filthiness of her fornication - Written on her forehead: "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth" - Drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus 5) What was John's reaction to seeing the woman? (6) - Marveled with great amazement 6) What does the angel offer to tell John? (7) - The mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her 7) How is the beast described? (8) - He was, is not, and is to come - He will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition - Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world will marvel 8) What does the seven heads of the beast represent? (9-10) - Seven mountains on which the woman sits 9) What is said of the seven kings? (10) - Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come - When the seventh king comes, he must continue a short time 10) What is said of the beast that was and is not? (11) - He will be the eighth king - He is of the seven - He is going to perdition 11) What do the ten horns represent? (12) - Ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet - Who receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast 12) What else is said of the ten kings and the beast? (13-14) - The kings of are of one mind and will give their power and authority to the beast - They will make war with the Lamb 13) Why will the Lamb overcome the beast and the ten kings? (14) - He is Lord of lords and King of kings - Those with Him are called, chosen, and faithful 14) What do the waters upon which the harlot sits represent? (15) - Peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues 15) What will the ten horns (kings) do to the harlot? (16) - Hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire 16) Why will they do this? (17) - For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose and fulfill His words 17) How is the woman finally described? (18) - That great city which reigns over the kings of the earth
"THE BOOK OF REVELATION" Chapter Sixteen In this chapter the full outpouring of wrath upon the enemies of God is depicted. The seven angels with the seven bowls pour out "the seven last plagues" (Rev 15:1). Notice that these are not partial judgments, as with the seven trumpets described earlier (chs. 8-11). In the pouring out of these plagues "the wrath of God is complete" (Re 15:1). In the first four bowls, God's wrath is poured out on the earth, the sea, the rivers and springs, and the sun. Affected by these plagues are those who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image. God's judgment upon them is proclaimed righteous and just, because they had been guilty of shedding the blood of saints and prophets. Amazingly, their response is to blaspheme God, and refuse to repent and give Him glory (1-9). The fifth bowl is poured out on the throne of the beast and his kingdom, resulting in darkness. The painful suffering of the wicked continue, as does their blasphemy and refusal to repent of their deeds (10-11). The sixth bowl is poured out on the river Euphrates, preparing the way for the kings from the east. John then saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Described as the spirits of demons, they perform signs and gather the kings of the earth to the place called Armageddon, for the battle of the great day of God. At this point Jesus speaks both a warning and blessing, for those who watch and keep their garments will be blessed, as He is coming as a thief (12-16). The seventh bowl is poured out and a loud voice from the temple in heaven cries out, "It is done!" The declaration is followed by thunderings, lightnings, and a great earthquake. The great city was divided into three parts, and cities of the nations fell. Great Babylon was remembered by God, to give her the cup of the wine of His wrath. Every island fled away, the mountains were not found, and great hail from heaven fell upon men. The latter caused men to blaspheme God, unwilling to repent of their evil deeds (17-21). The seven bowls of wrath depict a judgment upon pagan Rome that is more final than the judgment depicted earlier with the seven seals and seven trumpets against unbelieving Jerusalem (Re 6-11). While God would not destroy unbelieving Jerusalem completely, the judgment against pagan Rome as a world empire would be total. Chapters 17-19 will elaborate upon the judgments upon the beast, the false prophet, and Babylon, identifying them in more detail, and describing their ultimate downfall. POINTS TO PONDER * What happens when the seven bowls of wrath are poured out * Upon whom the seven bowls are poured, and why OUTLINE I. THE PRONOUNCEMENT (1) A. BY A LOUD VOICE FROM THE TEMPLE (1a) B. TO THE SEVEN ANGELS TO POUR OUT THE BOWLS OF WRATH (1b) II. THE SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH (2-21) A. FIRST BOWL: TERRIBLE SORES (2) 1. The bowl is poured out upon the earth 2. Loathsome and foul sores came upon those who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image B. SECOND BOWL: SEA OF BLOOD (3) 1. The bowl is poured out on the sea, turning it to the blood of a dead man 2. Every living creature in the sea died C. THIRD BOWL: RIVERS AND SPRINGS OF BLOOD (4-7) 1. The bowl is poured out on the rivers and springs, turning them to blood 2. The angel of the waters declares God's justice a. His judgments are righteous b. For it is just due upon those who shed the blood of saints and prophets 3. Another voice from the altar also proclaims God's judgments as true and righteous D. FOURTH BOWL: MEN SCORCHED (8-9) 1. The bowl is poured out on the sun, giving the fourth angel power to scorch men with fire 2. Men were scorched with great heat a. They blasphemed the name of God who had power over these plagues b. They did not repent or give glory to Him E. FIFTH BOWL: PAIN AND DARKNESS (10-11) 1. The bowl is poured out on the throne of the beast, his kingdom became full of darkness 2. Men gnawed their tongues because of the pain a. They blasphemed God b. They did not repent F. SIXTH BOWL: KINGDOMS GATHERED AT ARMAGEDDON (12-16) 1. The bowl is poured out on the great river Euphrates a. Its water was dried up b. Preparing the way for the kings of the east 2. Three unclean spirits like frogs appear a. Out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet b. Which are spirits of demons, performing signs c. Who gather the kings of the earth to the battle of that great day of God Almighty 3. Jesus offers both a warning and a blessing a. He is coming as a thief b. Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments, lest he walks naked and others see his shame 4. The unclean spirits gather the kings of the earth to the place called Armageddon G. SEVENTH BOWL: GREAT EARTHQUAKE; THE GREAT CITY DIVIDED AND BABYLON REMEMBERED; CATACLYSMIC EVENTS (17-21) 1. The bowl is poured out on the air a. Followed by a loud voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, declaring, "It is done!" b. There were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and a mighty earthquake unlike any before 2. The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell 3. Great Babylon was remembered, to receive the cup of the wine of the fierceness of God's wrath 4. Great cataclysmic events occur a. Every island fled away and the mountains were not found b. Great hail fell upon men, and they blasphemed God because of the hail REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The pronouncement (1) - The seven bowls of wrath (2-21) 2) What did a loud voice from the temple say to seven angels? (1) - "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth" 3) Upon what was the first bowl poured out? What happened? (2) - The earth; foul and loathsome sores came upon those who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image 4) Upon what was the second bowl poured out? What happened? (3) - The sea; it became blood as of a dead man; every living creature in the sea died 5) Upon what was the third bowl poured out? What happened? (4) - The rivers and springs of water; they became blood 6) Why did the angel of the waters proclaim God's judgments as just? (5-6) - Because they had shed the blood of saints and prophets 7) Upon what was the fourth bowl poured out? What happened? (8-9) - On the sun; men were scorched with great heat 8) Despite these judgments, how did men respond? (9) - They blasphemed the name of God, and did not repent and give God glory 9) Upon what was the fifth bowl poured out? What happened? (10) - On the throne of the beast; his kingdom became full of darkness, and people gnawed their tongues because of the pain 10) What again is said about the response to these judgments? (11) - They blasphemed God because of their sores and pain, and did not repent of their deeds 11) Upon what was the sixth bowl poured out? What happened? (12) - On the river Euphrates; it was dried up, so the way of the kings from the east might be prepared 12) What did John see next? (13) - Three unclean spirits like frogs coming of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet 13) What were these, and what was their mission? (14) - Spirits of demons, performing great signs - To gather the kings of the earth to the battle of the great day of God Almighty 14) What warning and beatitude did Jesus give at this point? (15) - Behold, I am coming as a thief - Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame 15) Where were the kings of the earth gathered? (16) - To the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon 16) Upon what was the seventh bowl poured out? What happened? (17) - The air; a loud voice from the temple of heaven, from the throne, proclaimed, "It is done!" 17) What then occurred? (18-21) - There were noises, thunderings, lightnings, a mighty earthquake - The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell - Great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath - Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found - Great hail from heaven fell upon men 18) How did people respond to the plague of the hail? (21) - They blasphemed God, because the plague was exceedingly great
"THE BOOK OF REVELATION" Chapter Fifteen With the main adversaries identified (the dragon, the sea beast, the land beast, and Babylon) and the people of God reassured of ultimate victory (chs. 12-14), the full out-pouring of God's wrath is about to be shown. Chapter fifteen is a "prelude" to the seven bowls of wrath described in the next chapter. We are introduced to seven angels who have the seven last plagues in which the wrath of God is complete (1). Before the seven angels are given their bowls, however, John sees those victorious over the beast standing on a fiery sea of glass having harps of God. Singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, they praise God for His righteous judgments (2-4). This scene is reminiscent of the Israelites praising God for their victory over the Egyptians after crossing the Red Sea (cf. Exo 14:30-15:21). The seven angels with the seven plagues then proceeded out of the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven, clothed in bright linen and chests girded with gold bands. One of the four living creatures gave them seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God. At that point the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and His power, preventing anyone from entering the temple until the seven plagues were completed (5-8). Perhaps this scene was designed to convey that the time of God's longsuffering was over, and the outpouring of His wrath was the result of fulfilling the covenant He had with His people. God is about to avenge His saints! POINTS TO PONDER * How the stage is set for the final outpouring of God's wrath on the beast and those who follow him * The comforting scene of those victorious over the beast as they praise His righteous judgment OUTLINE I. PRELUDE TO THE SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH (1-4) A. A GREAT AND MARVELOUS SIGN IN HEAVEN (1-2) 1. John sees seven angels a. Having the seven last plagues b. In which the wrath of God is complete 2. John sees a sea of glass mingled with fire, and a great multitude a. It is those who have the victory over the beast, his image, his mark, and the number of his name b. They are standing on the sea of glass, with harps of God B. SINGING THE SONG OF MOSES AND OF THE LAMB (3-4) 1. The multitude is singing the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb 2. A song which praises the Lord God Almighty, King of the saints a. For His great and marvelous works b. For the truth and justice of His ways c. For He is worthy of reverence and glory d. And all nations shall come and worship before Him, for the manifestations of His judgments II. SEVEN ANGELS AND SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH (5-8) A. THE SEVEN ANGELS (5-6) 1. The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven is opened 2. Out come the seven angels having the seven plagues a. Clothed in pure bright linen b. Having their chests girded with golden bands B. THE SEVEN GOLDEN BOWLS (7-8) 1. One of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels: a. Seven golden bowls b. Full of the wrath of God who lives forever 2. The temple was filled with smoke a. From the glory of God and from His power b. No one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues were completed REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Prelude to the seven bowls of wrath (1-4) - Seven angels and seven bowls of wrath (5-8) 2) What great and marvelous sign did John see in heaven? (1) - Seven angels having the seven last plagues, in which the wrath of God is complete 3) Who was standing on a sea of glass mingled with fire? (2) - Those who have the victory over the beast, his image, mark, and number of his name 4) What were they doing? (3) - Singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb 5) For what were they praising the Lord God Almighty? (3-4) - His great and marvelous works - His holiness - His just and true ways - The manifestation of His judgments 6) What did John see after these things? (5-6) - The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven opened - Out of which came the seven angels with the seven plagues 7) What did one of the four living creatures give to the seven angels? (7) - Seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God 8) What happened to the temple at that point? (8) - It was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power - Preventing anyone from entering the temple till the seven plagues were completed
"THE BOOK OF REVELATION" Chapter Fourteen Following the troubling description of the beasts in the previous chapter, this chapter provides scenes which appear designed to reassure the saints to remain faithful to God. First there is the Lamb and 144,000 having the Father's name written on their foreheads, standing on Mount Zion. Singing a new song before the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders, the great company is described as male virgins, redeemed from the earth as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes, and are without fault before the throne of God (1-5). I suggest this is a picture of the saints triumphant in heaven (perhaps the blessedness of faithful Jewish Christians first depicted in Re 7:1-8; cf. also He 12:22-24). Both the number and descriptive terms are symbolic, illustrating the blessedness promised for those who will persevere in their faithfulness to God. Next comes three angels and their proclamations. The first angel and his proclamation may indicate that the gospel will continue to be spread (despite the efforts of the dragon and the beasts). People should therefore fear God and worship Him (not Caesar), for the hour of God's judgment has come (6-7). The proclamation of the second angel announces the fall of Babylon, described later in great detail (8). The third angel proclaims the terrible judgment and eternal torment to befall those who worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark (9-11). The three proclamations are then followed by an explanation that the patience of the saints consists of keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, with a voice from heaven telling John to write of the blessedness of those who die in the Lord (12-13). The chapter concludes with a depiction of two harvests. The first shows the Son of Man on a white cloud reaping the harvest of the earth (14-16). The second depicts an angel reaping the grapes of the vine of the earth, which are then thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God, producing a river of blood almost two hundred miles long (17-20). These two harvests may be different ways of describing the same judgment about to come upon those who follow the beast, or the first may depict that Jesus will safely harvest His own while God's wrath is being poured out on His enemies. I do not believe either represents that which will occur when Jesus comes at the end of time (though they may certainly foreshadow that great event). Instead, like the angelic proclamations they reassured the Christians of John's day that God's hour of judgment was soon to come upon their enemies (e.g., the Roman empire). POINTS TO PONDER * The series of scenes depicted in this chapter * How they may have provided comfort to the Christians of John's day OUTLINE I. THE 144,000 ON MOUNT ZION (1-5) A. STANDING WITH THE LAMB (1) 1. 144,000 together with the Lamb on Mount Zion 2. With the Father's name written on their foreheads B. SINGING A NEW SONG (2-3) 1. John heard a voice from heaven a. Like the voice of many waters b. Like the voice of loud thunder 2. John heard the sound of harpists playing their harps 3. The 144,000 sang a new song a. Before the throne, the four living creatures and the elders b. Which none could learn except the 144,000 redeemed from the earth C. DESCRIBED MORE FULLY (4-5) 1. They are virgins, who had not defiled themselves with women 2. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes 3. They were redeemed from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb 4. They are without fault before the throne of God, with no guile in their mouths II. THREE ANGELIC PROCLAMATIONS (6-13) A. THE FIRST PROCLAMATION (6-7) 1. By an angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel a. To preach to those who dwell on the earth b. To every nation, tribe, tongue, and people 2. Saying with a loud voice... a. "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come" b. "Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water" B. THE SECOND PROCLAMATION (8) 1. By another angel which followed the first 2. Saying... a. "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city" b. "Because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" C. THE THIRD PROCLAMATION (9-11) 1. By a third angel which followed the first two 2. Saying with a loud voice... a. "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand..." b. "He himself shall also drink of the of wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation" c. "He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone..." 1) "In the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" 2) "The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever" 3) "They have no rest day or night" -- "Who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" D. A WORD OF WISDOM AND A BEATITUDE (12-13) 1. Here is the patience of the saints: those who keep... a. The commandments of God b. The faith of Jesus 2. A voice from heaven saying... a. "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." b. "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." III. THE TWO HARVESTS (14-20) A. REAPING THE EARTH'S HARVEST (14-16) 1. The Son of Man sitting on a white cloud a. With a golden crown on His head b. With a sharp sickle in His hand 2. An angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice... a. "Thrust in Your sickle and reap" b. "For the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe" 3. He who sat on a cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and it was reaped B. REAPING THE GRAPES OF WRATH (17-20) 1. An angel came out of the temple in heaven, also having a sharp sickle 2. Another angel, having power over fire, cried with a loud voice to the angel with the sickle... a. "Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth" b. "For her grapes are fully ripe" 3. So the angel... a. Thrust his sickle into the earth b. Gathered the vine of the earth c. Threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God 4. The winepress was trampled outside the city a. Blood came out of the winepress b. Up to the horses' bridles, for 1600 furlongs REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The 144,000 on Mount Zion (1-5) - Three angelic proclamations (6-13) - The two harvests (14-20) 2) What does John see standing on Mount Zion? (1) - The Lamb and 144,000 with His Father's name on their foreheads 3) What does John hear? (2) - A voice from heaven, like that of many waters and loud thunder - The sound of harpists playing their harps 4) What were the 144,000 singing, and where? (3) - A new song; before the throne, the four living creatures and the elders 5) Who could learn the song? (3) - Only the 144,000 who were redeemed from the earth 6) How are the 144,000 described? (4-5) - They were not defiled with women, i.e., they were virgins - They follow the Lamb wherever He goes - Redeemed from among men, they were the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb - In their mouth was no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God 7) What did the first of three angels have? What did it say? (6-7) - The everlasting gospel to preach to those on the earth - Fear God and give Him glory, for the time of His judgment has come; worship Him 8) What did the second angel say? (8) - Babylon is fallen, because she made nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication 9) What did the third angel say? (9-11) - Those who worship the beast and his image, and receives the mark, shall drink of the wrath of God and be tormented with fire and brimstone forever 10) What does John say is the patience of the saints? (12) - Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus 11) What did a voice from heaven say? What did the Spirit say? (13) - "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now.'" - "Yes, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." 12) In the first of two harvests, who did the harvesting and what was reaped? (14-16) - One like the Son of Man sitting on a white cloud, with a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand; the earth 13) In the second harvest, who did the harvesting and what was reaped? (17-18) - An angel which came out of the temple which is heaven; the vine grapes of the earth 14) What was done with the grapes? What was produced? (19-20) - They were thrown into the great winepress of the wrath of God and trampled - Blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles for 1600 furlongs (184 miles)
"THE BOOK OF REVELATION" Chapter Thirteen This chapter reveals two agents the dragon (Satan) would use in carrying out his war against the people of God. The first is the beast from the sea. Described by John as having seven heads and ten horns, there were ten crowns on his horns and on his heads a blasphemous name. The beast was like a leopard, with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. One of the heads of the beast appeared mortally wounded, but was healed. To this beast the dragon gave his power, his throne, and great authority, and all the world marveled and worshiped the beast. Given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies against God, His name, His tabernacle, and those dwelling in heaven, the beast was also granted to make war against the saints for forty-two months. All on the earth worshiped him, except those whose names were in the Lamb's Book of Life. With this description of the beast and his activities, John gives a word of caution to the saints (1-10). John then saw the beast from the land, having two horns like a lamb and speaking like a dragon. With the same authority as the first beast, this second beast causes all to worship the first by deceiving them with great signs. Telling them to make an image to the first beast, he was given power to make the image speak and put to death those who would not worship it. This second beast also causes all to receive a mark on their right hands or on their forehead, without which they cannot buy or sell. John then adds a word of wisdom, in which he tells those with understanding to calculate the number of the beast, which is the number of a man: 666 (11-18). The identity of the first beast from the sea becomes clearer when we get to chapter seventeen. I agree with those who say this beast from the sea is the Roman Empire, personified in its persecuting emperors. The beast from the earth or land may represent the Roman Concilia, a committee set up in Asia Minor where the seven churches were located to enforce emperor worship at the time the Revelation was given (Summers). This they did by requiring a certificate that proved the bearer had been seen sacrificing to the idol of the emperor, without which one could not buy or sell in the marketplace. The significance of 666 should not be underestimated, as John encourages those with understanding to calculate the number. Unfortunately, through many ingenuous and fanciful ways people have come up with the number to represent just about anyone (e.g., the Pope, Hitler, Ronald Reagan). Keeping the context of Revelation and its time in view, the number 666 may be a cryptogram referring to "Lateinos" (which in Greek can be calculated to 666); and in turn points to the ruler of the Latin or Roman empire (Schaff, History Of The Christian Church, Vol. 1, p. 177). In Hebrew the number can be calculated to mean "Nero Caesar" (Adams). Taken more symbolically, the number may simply signify evil raised to its highest power (Hailey, Summers) as was the case in emperors like Nero and Domitian. POINTS TO PONDER * The two "beasts" that Satan would use in making war against the saints * The number of the beast and its mark consistent with the context of Revelation OUTLINE I. THE BEAST FROM THE SEA (1-10) A. THE BEAST DESCRIBED (1-3a) 1. Seen by John as rising up out of the sea 2. Having seven heads, ten horns, with ten crowns on his horns, and on his heads a blasphemous name 3. Like a leopard with feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion 4. His power, throne, and great authority given him by the dragon 5. One of his heads was mortally wounded, but healed B. THE ACTIVITY INVOLVING THE BEAST (3b-8) 1. All the world marveled and followed the beast a. Worshipping the dragon who gave authority to the beast b. Worshipping the beast because of his apparent invincibility 2. What the beast was given a. A mouth speaking great things and blasphemies b. Authority to continue (make war) for forty-two months 3. With this authority: a. He blasphemed God, His name, His tabernacle, and those dwelling in heaven b. He was granted to make war with the saints and overcome them c. He was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation d. All who dwell on earth would worship him, unless their names are in the Book of Life of the Lamb C. A NOTE OF CAUTION (9-10) 1. If anyone has an ear, let him hear 2. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword 3. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints II. THE BEAST FROM THE LAND (11-18) A. THIS BEAST DESCRIBED (11) 1. Seen by John as coming up out of the earth 2. With two horns like a lamb, but speaking like a dragon B. THE ACTIVITY OF THIS BEAST (12-17) 1. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence 2. He causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast a. Performing great signs, making even fire come down from heaven b. Deceiving the world by the signs 3. He tells the world to make an image to the first beast a. To which he is granted power to give breath b. So the image could both speak and cause those who do not worship it to be killed 4. He causes all to receive a mark on the right hand or on their foreheads a. Without which none can buy or sell b. Which is the name of the beast, or the number of his name C. A NOTE OF WISDOM (18) 1. Let those with understanding calculate the number of the beast 2. For it is the number of a man: His number is 666 REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The beast from the sea (1-10) - The beast from the land (11-18) 2) What physical characteristics of the beast from the sea are mentioned? (1-3) - Having seven heads, ten horns upon which are ten crowns - Upon his heads a blasphemous name - Like a leopard, with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion - One of the heads with a mortal wound that had been healed 3) What did the dragon give the beast from the sea? (2) - His power, his throne, and great authority 4) How did the world respond to the beast from the sea? (3-4) - They marveled and followed the beast - They worshiped the beast 5) What else was given to the beast from the sea? (5) - A mouth speaking great things and blasphemies - Authority to continue (make war) for forty-two months 6) When he opened his mouth, what did the beast blaspheme? (6) - God's name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven 7) What was granted to the beast from the sea? (7) - To make war with the saints and to overcome them - Authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation 8) Who would worship this beast from the sea? (8) - All who dwell on the earth, except those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life 9) What note of caution is given at this point? (9-10) - If anyone has an ear, let him hear - He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword - Here is the patience and faith of the saints 10) What were the physical characteristics of the beast from the land? (11) - Had two horns like a lamb, and spoke like a dragon 11) What did the beast from the land do? (12-14) - Exercise all the authority of the first beast in his presence - Cause the earth and those in it to worship the first beast - Perform great signs, even making fire come down from heaven - Deceives those on the earth by the signs, telling them to make an image to the first beast 12) What was granted to the beast from the land? (15) - Power to give breath to the image of the first beast - So that the image would both speak and cause those who would not worship it to be killed 13) What did the beast from the land require all to receive? Why? (16-17) - A mark on their right hand or on their foreheads - So no one could buy or sell unless they had the mark or name of the beast, or the number of its name 14) What note of wisdom is given at this point? (18) - Let those with understanding calculate the number of the beast - It is the number of a man; his number is 666
"THE BOOK OF REVELATION" Chapter Twelve With this chapter the transition is made from Christ's judgment on Jerusalem (chs. 6-11) to His judgment on Rome (chs. 13-19). To expedite the transition, we are told of Satan's effort to destroy the work of Christ and His church. We read of his failed attempt to prevent the male Child from being born and assuming His rightful place of authority as ruler of the nations (1-6). An effort to usurp that authority by waging war in heaven is thwarted, resulting in the devil and his angels being cast to earth. That prompts a loud voice in heaven to proclaim that salvation, strength, the kingdom of God and the power of His Christ has come. Because the accuser (i.e., the devil) has been cast down, those in heaven who overcame by the blood of Jesus and their testimony, and who did not love their lives to the death, could rejoice. But woe is proclaimed to those on the earth, because now the devil has come down to them and he knows his time is short (7-12). At first the dragon's efforts are directed toward the woman who gave birth to the child. However, she is given wings to fly to her place in the wilderness where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time (1,260 days, cf. v.6). Even the earth helped the woman, so enraging the dragon that he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, identified as those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (13-17). While the identities of the male child and the dragon are rather evident, who is the woman and the rest of her offspring? I suggest the woman represents the spirit of faithfulness in God's messianic community (perhaps best exemplified by Mary) who kept covenant with God. Called "the daughter of Zion" in prophecy (cf. Mic 4:10; 5:2ff; Isa 66:7ff), she produced not only Christ, but His first disciples as well, beginning with the faithful Jewish Christian community that escaped the fall of Jerusalem by fleeing into the wilderness (cf. Re 12:13-16). Satan therefore changed his attention from Jewish Christians in Palestine to Christians in Roman lands, i.e., the woman's offspring (cf. Re 12:17). Thus the chapter reveals why a period of great tribulation was about to come upon Christians, especially in Asia Minor (cf. Re 2:10). Satan was frustrated by being thwarted at every turn. Cast down to the earth, he would make every attempt to destroy the disciples of Jesus. Forces he would use are introduced in chapter thirteen. POINTS TO PONDER * The primary force behind the persecution coming upon the early Christians * Why the persecution of the early church was so intense OUTLINE I. THE WOMAN, THE CHILD, AND THE DRAGON (1-6) A. THE WOMAN WITH CHILD (1-2) 1. A great sign appeared in heaven, in which woman is clothed: a. With the sun b. With the moon under her feet c. A garland of twelve stars on her head 2. Being with child, she cried out in labor and pain to give birth B. THE DRAGON READY TO DEVOUR THE CHILD (3-4) 1. Another great sign appeared in heaven: a great, fiery red dragon a. With seven heads, ten horns, seven diadems on the heads b. With a tail which threw a third of the stars of heaven to the earth 2. Standing before the woman, ready to devour the child as soon as it is born C. THE OUTCOME OF THE CHILD AND THE WOMAN (5-6) 1. The male child is born a. Who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron b. Who was caught up to God and His throne 2. The woman fled into the wilderness a. Where she has a place prepared by God b. Where she is fed for 1,260 days II. SATAN THROWN OUT OF HEAVEN (7-12) A. A WAR IN HEAVEN (7-9) 1. Between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels 2. The dragon and his angels did not prevail a. No place was found for them in heaven any longer b. The dragon and his angels were cast to the earth c. The dragon identified 1) That serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan 2) Who deceives the whole world B. A LOUD VOICE IN HEAVEN (10-12) 1. Proclaiming victory for Christ and His brethren a. Salvation, strength, the kingdom of God, and the power of Christ have come 1) For the accuser of the brethren has been cast down 2) Who had accused them before God day and night b. How the brethren overcame the accuser: 1) By the blood of the Lamb 2) By the word of their testimony 3) They did not love their lives to the death 2. A call to rejoice, along with a warning a. For those in heaven, rejoice! b. For the inhabitants of the earth and sea, woe! 1) For the devil has come down to them having great wrath 2) Knowing that he has only a short time III. THE FAILED ATTEMPT TO PERSECUTE THE WOMAN (13-17) A. THE DRAGON'S ATTEMPT TO PERSECUTE THE WOMAN (13-16) 1. Cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child 2. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle a. That she might fly into the wilderness to her place b. Where she is nourished for a time, times, and half a time c. Safe from the presence of the serpent 3. The serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman a. Hoping to cause her to be carried away b. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing up the flood B. THE DRAGON'S INTENT TO PERSECUTE HER OFFSPRING (17) 1. Enraged with the woman he cannot reach, the dragon goes to make war with the rest of her offspring 2. The rest of her offspring identified: a. Those who keep the commandments of God b. Those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The woman, the child, and the dragon (1-6) - Satan thrown out of heaven (7-12) - The failed attempt to persecute the woman (13-17) 2) What great sign appeared in heaven? (1-2) - A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars - Being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth 3) What other sign then appeared in heaven (3-4) - A great fiery read dragon, with seven heads, ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads - Whose tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth - Who stood before the woman, ready to devour her child as soon as it was born 4) What child was born? What happened to the child? (5) - A male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron - He was caught up to God and His throne 5) What happened to the woman? (6) - She fled to the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God - She was fed for 1,260 days 6) What happened in heaven? Who did not prevail? (7-8) - War broke out between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels - The dragon and his angels 7) Who was this dragon? What was done with him and his angels? (9) - The serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world - They were cast out of heaven 8) What did a loud voice proclaim in heaven about Christ and the dragon? (10) - Salvation, strength, the kingdom of God, and the power of His Christ has come - The accuser of our brethren, who accused them before God day and night, has been cast down 9) How had the brethren overcome the dragon? (11) - By the blood of the Lamb - By the word of their testimony - By not loving their lives to the death 10) What are those who dwell in heaven told? (12) - To rejoice 11) Why was woe proclaimed to the inhabitants of the earth and sea? (12) - For the devil with great wrath has come down to them - For he knows he only has a short time 12) Cast down to the earth, who did the dragon persecute next? (13) - The woman who gave birth to the male child 13) What was given the woman? Why? (14) - Two wings of a great eagle - To fly into the wilderness to her place, from the presence of the serpent 14) How long was she nourished? (14) - A time, times, and a half of time 15) How did the serpent try to persecute the woman? Who helped her? (15-16) - By spewing water out of his mouth, to carry her away by the flood - The earth, by opening its mouth and swallowing up the flood 16) Enraged by his inability to persecute the woman, who did the dragon go to make war with next? (17) - The rest of her offspring - Those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Luke, the author of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts, by profession, was a physician. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the technical language of the Greek medical schools of Asia Minor. For example, of the four gospel writers, only Dr. Luke referred to Jesus’ ordeal as “agony” (agonia). It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat (idros), a much used term in medical language, and only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat as consisting of great drops of blood (thromboi haimatos)—a medical condition alluded to by both Aristotle and Theophrastus (Hobart, 1882, pp. 80-84). The Greek term thromboi (from which we get thrombus, thrombin, et al.) refers to clots of blood (Nicoll, n.d., 1:631; Vincent, 1887, 1:425). Bible scholar Richard Lenski commented on the use of this term: “‘As clots,’ thromboi, means that the blood mingled with the sweat and thickened the globules so that they fell to the ground in little clots and did not merely stain the skin” (1961, p. 1077).
The Greek word hosei (“as it were”) refers to condition, not comparison, as Greek scholar Henry Alford observed:
The intention of the Evangelist seems clearly to be, to convey the idea that the sweat was (not fell like, but was like drops of blood;—i.e., coloured with blood,—for so I understand the hosei, as just distinguishing the drops highly coloured with blood, frompure blood.... To suppose that it only fell like drops of blood (why not drops of any thing else? And drops of blood from what, and where?) is to nullify the force of the sentence, and make the insertion of haimatos not only superfluous but absurd (1874, 1:648, italics in orig.; cf. Robertson, 1934, p. 1140).
We conclude that the terminology used by the gospel writer to refer to the severe mental distress experienced by Jesus was intended to be taken literally, i.e., that the sweat of Jesus became bloody (cf. Robertson, 1930, 2:272).
A thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, can and has occurred. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis(“Hematidrosis,” 2002; Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747: Miller and Kaene, 1972, p. 419), this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394). During the waning years of the twentieth century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes. While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.
From these factors, it is evident that even before Jesus endured the torture of the cross, He suffered far beyond what most of us will ever suffer. His penetrating awareness of the heinous nature of sin, its destructive and deadly effects, the sorrow and heartache that it inflicts, and the extreme measure necessary to deal with it, make the passion of Christ beyond comprehension.
Alford, Henry (1874), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
Allen, A.C. (1967), The Skin: A Clinicopathological Treatise (New York: Grune and Stratton), second edition.
Barbet, P. (1953), A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books).
“Hematidrosis,” (2002), Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, [On-line], URL:http://www.mercksource.com/pp/us/cns/cns_hl_dorlands. jspzQzpgzEzzSzppdocszSzuszSzcommonzSzdorlandszSzdorlandzSzdmd _h_05zPzhtm.
Hobart, William K. (1882), The Medical Language of St. Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1954 reprint).
Holoubek, J.E. and A.B. Holoubek (1996), “Blood, Sweat, and Fear. ‘A Classification of Hematidrosis,’ ” Journal of Medicine, 27[3-4]:115-33.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lumpkin, R. (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.
Miller, Benjamin and Claire Keane (1972), Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine and Nursing (Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders).
Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed. (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Robertson, A.T. (1934), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press).
Sutton, R.L. Jr. (1956), Diseases of the Skin (St. Louis, MO: Mosby College Publishing), eleventh edition.
Vincent, M.R. (1887), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint).
From “In Place of God” to “God’s Place”
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Nearly one year ago we reported that many militant non-believers gathered in La Jolla, California for the first “Beyond Belief” symposium (see Lyons and Butt, 2007), which the scientific journalNew Scientist called “an ‘atheist love fest’” (Reilly, 2007, 196:7). The conference was held to discuss science, religion, and God, and specifically whether science should “do away with religion” (Brooks, 2006, 192:9). New Scientist writer Michael Brooks summarized the overall attitude of the attendees in the following words: “science can take on religion and win” (p. 11, emp. added). The participants were ready to roll up their sleeves and “get on with it” (p. 11). They were ready to put science “In Place of God,” as Brooks titled his article.
Fast forward one year to “Beyond Belief II,” and it appears some of the participants approached the idea of a Supernatural Being more cautiously. Even the title of a recent New Scientist article, which reported on the symposium, changed from last year’s arrogant heading, “In Place of God,” to this year’s more sober title, “God’s Place in a Rational World” (see Reilly, 2007, 196:7, emp. added). Michael Reilly gave some insight into the meeting by recording what one attendee, Edward Slingerland of the University of British Columbia, openly acknowledged:
“Religion is not going away,” he announced. Even those of us who fancy ourselves rationalists and scientists, he said, rely on moral values—a set of distinctly unscientific beliefs.
Where, for instance, does our conviction that human rights are universal come from? “Humans’ rights to me are as mysterious as the holy trinity.... You can’t do a CT scan to show where humans’ rights are, you can’t cut someone open and show us their human rights.... It’s not an empirical thing, it’s just something we strongly believe. It’s a purely metaphysical entity” (p. 7).
Although some at the conference naïvely believe that “[g]iven time and persistence, science will conquer all of nature’s mysteries” (Reilly, 2007, p. 7, emp. added), it is encouraging to know that at least one person alluded to one of the greatest proofs for God’s existence—the moral argument.
The fact is, morality exists and makes sense only if there is a God, because only God could have created it. All naturalistic explanations for the existence of morality have been shown to be inadequate. What’s more, scientists admit that they still cannot logically explain the existence of morals. In truth, the only logical explanation must be supernatural (i.e., the God of the Bible). [NOTE: To read more on the moral argument for God’s existence, see Jackson, 1995.]
Brooks, Michael (2006), “In Place of God,” New Scientist, 192:8-11, November 18.
Jackson, Wayne (1995), “The Case for the Existence of God [Part III],” Reason & Revelation, 15:49-55, July, [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=362.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2007), “Militant Atheism,” Reason & Revelation, 27:1-5, January, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3195.
Reilly, Michael (2007), “God’s Place in a Rational World,” New Scientist, 196:7, November 10.
Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Understanding the nature of God’s interaction with man is no small task. The sincere Bible student often comes across things in the biblical text that are puzzling. Others, who are perhaps somewhat less sincere, twist these initially puzzling passages “to their own destruction” (as described in 2 Peter 3:16). One such idea that has been abused is the alleged contradiction between how Jehovah dealt (and still deals) with the children of sinful people. Steve Wells, author of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, insists that there is a discrepancy in the Bible regarding this subject. He lists Exodus 20:5, which states: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Wells then presents Ezekiel 18:20 as a contradictory verse: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself ” (Wells, 2003).
Is there a legitimate contradiction between these verses? Or, to pose the question differently, “Is there any possible way that both these statements can be true?” The fact of the matter is that both statements can be true, without a contradiction occurring. What Mr. Wells and others who twist these verses into an alleged contradiction do not recognize is that there is a difference between bearing the guilt of a parent, and suffering negative physical and emotional consequences due to that parent’s bad decisions.
It often is the case that the children of wicked people suffer terribly. Sometimes these children suffer because the parent physically or emotionally abuses them (in direct violation of Scripture; cf. Matthew 7:12; Colossians 3:21). At other times, the child suffers as a result of the parent’s irresponsible behavior. For instance, suppose a man addicted to gambling wastes his salary on gambling, instead of using it to feed his family. As a result, his children suffer hunger, shame, and poverty.
Yet, even though the children of sinful people often suffer physical consequences, they do not inherit the sin of those parents. The book of Jeremiah provides an interesting commentary on this subject. In Jeremiah 16:1-6, God told Jeremiah that the prophet should not take a wife and/or have children in the land of Israel. God explained His reasoning to Jeremiah as follows: “For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place.... ‘They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried, but they shall be as refuse on the face of the earth’ ” (16:3-4). Why was this going to happen? Wells is quick to refer to this chapter, especially verses 10 and 11 where the children of Israel pose the question, “Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us” (vs. 10)? Wells then records Jeremiah’s answer: “ ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the Lord” (vs. 11). Wells, however, does not cite the very next verse (12), which states: “And you have done worse than your fathers....”
These Israelites were suffering due to the sins of their fathers—and due to their own sins. Their children were going to die gruesome deaths. The skeptic is quick to seize upon this fact, and demand that any time innocent children die, it is a travesty against justice that a loving God never would permit (a fallacious idea that I have refuted elsewhere; see Butt, 2004).
Do children sometimes die horrible deaths due to their parents’ wrong decisions? Absolutely. The Israelites had adopted the practice of sacrificing their own children to a false god named Baal (Jeremiah 19:5). The iniquity of the parents, then, can be visited upon the children in the form of physical suffering. But do those children bear the guilt of that sin? Absolutely not! Ezekiel wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20, emp. added).
Notice the words soul and guilt. Does the Bible ever insinuate, for example, that a child is guilty of idolatry because his parents were idolatrous? No (read Matthew 18:3-5; Luke 18:16-17). Bearing the guilt of sin is altogether different than bearing the physical consequences of the actions of others. As is often the case, the skeptic has confused the two, and has alleged a biblical contradiction where, in fact, none exists. This is yet another example in which the allegation against the Bible fails, but “the Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).
Butt, Kyle (2004), “The Skeptic’s Faulty Assumption,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2230.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/1cor/index.html.
What Does it Mean to Say Jesus is the "Son of God"?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
What does it mean to say that Jesus is the “Son of God”?
The New Testament employs a variety of terms in its effort to define the personal identity of Jesus. Strictly speaking, His name simply is Jesus (meaning “Yahweh is salvation”). Recognition of His messiahship quickly led His followers to call Him Christ (christos is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah), Christ Jesus, and the more common Jesus Christ. In addition, He also is called:
- Lord—an Old Testament designation for God, as well as a term of respect like “Sir”;
- Son of Man—the designation Jesus most often applied to Himself that can indicate “a human,” or point to a mysterious heavenly figure (Daniel 7:13);
- Son of David—an indicator of messianic lineage; and
- “I AM”—an apparent echo of the unutterable divine name (Exodus 3:14).
All of these titles make exalted claims for the Man from Galilee. For many Christians, though, Son of God is the most familiar term used to identify Jesus. This is understandable in light of passages like 1 John 4:15: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God,” and John 20:30-31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” There is power in the confession that Jesus is the “Son of God,” but what does it mean?
The earliest Christians were Jews who were familiar with at least two distinct applications of the term “son of God.” In the first place, the term had a general application to all Israelites. When their ancestors were held in Egyptian bondage, Moses was sent to Pharaoh with these words: “Thus says the Lord: Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me” (Exodus 4:22-23; see also Hosea 11:1). Through the years, Yahweh loved, protected, comforted, and chastened Israel, just as a loving parent would nurture and discipline children (Malachi 2:10; Isaiah 66:13; et al.).
The second usage was more specific. Historically, the term had a royal connotation for many nations of the Ancient Near East. It was commonplace for Egyptian, Babylonian, Canaanite, and Roman rulers to be called “son of God” (Fossum, 1992, pp. 128-137). These kings even were deified and surrounded by legends about their miraculous births—often including stories of gods copulating with humans (Sanders, 1993, pp. 243-245). This royal connotation also was known in Israel, although they did not deify their kings (O’Collins, 1995, p. 117).
When the New Testament writers referred to Jesus as “Son of God,” they sometimes employed the term in ways that echoed these two common uses. After those who threatened the life of the child Jesus died, Joseph was given instructions in a dream to return from Egypt to his homeland. When Matthew reported this event, he said it fulfilled Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (see Matthew 2:15). In other words, Jesus was God’s Son as an Israelite, and in a real sense, the True Israelite.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry began with a pronouncement from heaven: “This is my beloved Son...” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11). The same is heard at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). In the Gospel of John, the baptizer testified that Jesus “ranks ahead of ” him, and by virtue of the Spirit’s descending upon Jesus, he testified that Jesus is the “Son of God” (John 1:30,NRSV). These references are reminiscent of the decree of royal sonship (Psalm 2:6-7; see also Luke 1:32-33). When the Jewish leaders put Jesus on trial, they asked: “Are you the Son of God, then?” Satisfied with His answer, they told Pilate Jesus was claiming to be “a king” (Luke 22:70; 23:2). As Jesus died on the cross, the only accusation assigned to Him was, “This is the king of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). According to Paul and the writer of Hebrews, this regal distinction was especially manifest after Jesus was raised from the dead (Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4; Hebrews 1:5).
While Jesus’ identity certainly included these then-prevailing ideas of sonship, it is obvious they do not exhaust the significance of the term for Him. Over and again, Jesus referred to God as His Father (Matthew 7:21; 10:32; 11:27, et al.). Since the Jews also saw themselves as sons and daughters of God, this should not have bothered them. But it did bother them, precisely because they perceived Jesus to be making a unique—and seemingly blasphemous—claim of sonship.
This uniqueness reached its zenith when Jesus addressed God as “Abba, Father” in prayer (Mark 14:36). “Abba” was the word a Jewish child used to refer to his or her “original person of reference” (i.e., mother or father). This bespoke an “unheard-of closeness” between Jesus and God (Moltmann, 1993, p. 142). Jesus demonstrated this closeness throughout His life. And it was in this intimacy that Jesus’ sonship is best defined. Gerald O’Collins has observed:
[Jesus] not only spoke like “the Son” but he also acted like “the Son” in knowing and revealing truth about God, in changing the divine law, in forgiving sins, in being the one through whom others could become children of God, and in acting with total obedience as the agent of God’s final kingdom (1995, p. 126).
To see through the eyes of faith that Jesus is the Son of God is to see that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself ” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Finally, in the Gospel of John, Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son” Who was “sent” from the Father (John 3:16-17; 5:23; 6:40; 10:36). Clearly, this is a special claim. On one of those occasions, Jesus based His authority to heal on the Sabbath on the fact that His Father was working. This infuriated some of the Jews. John explained: “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
In summary, to identify Jesus as the Son of God is to acknowledge His genealogical connection to Israel, His right to the throne of David, and His unparalleled nearness to God. To confess that Jesus is the Son of God is to declare as true Jesus’ claim: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Fossum, Jarl (1992), “Son of God,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday).
Moltmann, Jürgen (1993), The Way of Jesus Christ (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress).
O’Collins, Gerald (1995), Christology (New York: Oxford University Press).
Sanders, E.P. (1993), The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin).