"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
Reincarnation and the Bible
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The American Heritage Dictionary states that reincarnation is the “rebirth of the soul in another body.” For many years, the belief in reincarnation was generally associated with eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. However, it is becoming increasingly popular to proclaim a belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, yet still maintain a belief in reincarnation. The obvious question arises from such a situation, “What does the Bible say about reincarnation?”
One straightforward statement that speaks directly to the idea of reincarnation is found in Hebrews 9:27-28: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” Without any vague terms, the writer of Hebrews explains that the general course of man’s existence is to taste death only once, and then be judged based on the actions that were accomplished in that one life. In order to underscore the number of times a person dies, the inspired writer declared that men die the same number of times that Christ was offered on the cross—only once. Such a statement goes a long way to prove that the Bible does not teach for reincarnation. (This verse deals with the generality of man’s existence, and excludes miraculous situations, where Christ, an apostle, or a prophet raised someone from the dead.)
Another biblical passage that militates against the idea of reincarnation is found in Luke 16:19-31. In this passage, Jesus told a story in which a poor man named Lazarus, and a rich man, both died. The Bible explains that Lazarus died and “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (16:22), but the rich went to “torments in Hades” (16:23). The text further states that the rich man “lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom” (16:23). Here we have three men who once lived upon the Earth but have died, yet we do not see their souls or spirits reinhabiting some earthly body. Instead, we see the three men—Lazarus, Abraham, and the rich man—in a fully cognizant state in the realm of the dead, separate and apart from any earthly ties. In fact, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to Earth to warn his brothers, but Abraham refuses. Therefore, if Lazarus had died, and his soul no longer was on Earth, then he could not have been reincarnated to another earthly body or person. Furthermore, Abraham’s presence in this “realm of the dead” shows that Abraham had not been reincarnated either.
Again, in Luke 23:43, Jesus told the penitent thief who was crucified next to Him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” One must ask, if the body of the thief was going to remain on the Earth, and the soul of the thief was going to be with Jesus in Paradise, then what part of that man would be left to reincarnate into another earthly body?
Matthew 17:1-13 poses yet another situation that speaks against the idea that reincarnation occurs. In this passage, Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus to a high mountain where Jesus was “transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him” (17:2-3). The presence of Moses and Elijah in this instance raises a very important question: If men are reincarnated, what were Moses and Elijah doing talking with Jesus? We know that the physical bodies of Moses and Elijah were not present (see Jude 9). Therefore, their spirits were present, which means that those spirits were not inhabiting some other earthly bodies. It is interesting to note that those who believe that the Bible allows for reincarnation sometimes use Matthew 11:8-14 to claim that John the baptizer was Elijah reincarnate, yet Matthew 17:3 proves that Elijah’s spirit was not in the body of John the baptizer. On the contrary, when Jesus mentioned that John had come in “the spirit of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), He simply meant that John had similar attributes to Elijah.
In looking at the Bible, one gets the clear picture that humans die only once, and that their disembodied spirits go to a “realm of the dead” to wait for the final judgment. The idea of reincarnation does not derive from nor can it be sustained by, the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible implicitly denies even the possibility of reincarnation. Because it is “appointed for men to die once,” we should be that much more diligent to make sure that the one life we live on this Earth accords with the will of the Divine Parent of the human race (Acts 17:29).
REFERENCESAmerican Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Check Out the New Advanced Bible Reader Program
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
At Apologetics Press, we are constantly trying to provide tools that can strengthen faith in God, defend the Truth, and spread the good news of Christ. About a year ago, we realized that various school systems use the Accelerated Reading program to encourage their children to read. In this “AR” program, which is nationwide, students read books and take tests that cover the material in those books. Depending on the length of the book, the tests are worth a certain number of points. Tests over longer books are worth more points; tests over shorter books are worth fewer points. Teachers and schools then reward the students based on the number of points they accumulate over a certain amount of time, generally a grading period or a school year. The program has been extremely successful in encouraging kids to read books that they might not otherwise read.
At A.P., we thought, “Why not use a similar system to encourage young people to read the Bible?” Thus, we came up with a program called Advanced Bible Reader, or ABR. This new program from Apologetics Press allows students to create a username and password of their own. They can then log on and take tests based on books of the Bible that they have read. Each test is worth a certain number of points based on how many verses the reading covers. All of the tests are composed of ten multiple-choice questions. When the student accumulates points by taking the tests, those points add up in the student’s accounts. At each 100-point segment, the student can download a beautiful, full-color certificate.
The biblical education potential of this program is unlimited. Bible class teachers at churches can use it to encourage their students to read the Bible. Homeschools can use the program to supplement their Bible education. Private schools can implement it school-wide and encourage the kids to read the Bible—just like they have been encouraged for years to read secular books. And the program is great for parents to promote Bible reading along with other work that their children are bringing home from school. In fact, the Lads to Leaders program recently incorporated it into their Bible reading program.
We hope you will take the time to check out the site at www.abrkids.net (or click on "Advanced Bible Reader" in the far left column on our site). Right now we have about 500 kids involved in the program. We believe that tens of thousands can benefit from it. If you are looking for a way to encourage kids to read and study the Bible, Advanced Bible Reader is a tremendous tool to use. If you have influence with any kids, whether your own children, grandchildren, or just kids you know, why not send them this link and encourage them to get involved?
Atheism’s Real Agenda: Censure and Termination
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In 2004, Sam Harris published his New York Times bestseller The End of Faith. In that book, Harris supports atheism as the only rational view of the world. He condemns all forms of religious faith, including and especially Christianity, as detrimental and potentially dangerous. He goes so far as to suggest that some beliefs are so serious that simply holding such should be a punishable offense. He stated:
The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others (2004, pp. 52-53, emp. added).In the immediate context, Harris is referring to militant Muslims whose religious beliefs lead them to kill infidels. Later in the book, however, we see another belief that Harris considers to be a punishable offense. On page 156, Harris discussed his view of political leaders who espouse Christian sentiments. He opined:
Men eager to do the Lord’s work have been elected to other branches of federal government as well. The House majority lead, Tom Delay, is given to profundities like “Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world. Only Christianity.” He claims to have gone into politics “to promote a Biblical worldview.” Apparently feeling that it is impossible to say anything stupid while in the service of this worldview, he attributed the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado to the fact that our schools teach the theory of evolution (2004, p. 156).
In this brief article we will not go into the facts that the Columbine shootings were inspired by evolution, that atheism is completely irrational, and that Christianity can be shown to be the only solution to the realities of this world. The sole purpose of this article is to show that atheism’s ultimate agenda is to censure those who espouse Christianity and to persecute the belief to extinction. The atheistic community is not a “live and let live” market place of ideas. Harris vividly manifests the fact that atheism views Christianity as a dangerous belief that should be quelled at all cost, including punishing those who espouse it. The “freethought” community’s idea of “freethought” is that all people are “free” to think how they like, as long as that thought process is atheistic at its core and excludes Christianity.
With atheism being one of the fastest growing beliefs in our country, it is time that Christians recognize the agenda of those leading the atheistic charge. If atheism has its way, according to bestselling atheist Sam Harris, it should be a punishable offense to publicly proclaim that Christianity is the only solution to humanity’s problems. Rue the day that atheism and its leaders become prominent enough to enforce such an agenda. For Christians, “now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans 13:11) and stand up for the Truth while we have opportunity.
Baptism and the New Birth
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
A major cleavage within Christendom pertains to the point at which the “new birth” occurs. Most of Christendom maintains that a person is born again, and thus has sin washed away by the blood of Christ, when that person “accepts Jesus Christ as his personal savior.” By this expression, it is meant that a person must mentally and/or orally decide to embrace Christ as the Lord of his life. Hence, the new birth is seen simply as a determination of the will—a moment in time when the person accepts Christ in his mind and couples that decision with an oral confession.
The passage in the New Testament that alludes specifically to being born again pertains to a conversation that Jesus had with a high-ranking Jewish official:
In an effort to avoid identifying “water” (vs. 5) as water baptism, many within Christendom in the last half century have proposed a variety of novel interpretations. For example, some have proposed that “water” is a reference to the Holy Spirit. While it certainly is true that John uses the word “water” symbolically to represent the Spirit later in his book (7:38-39), that fact had to be explained by the inspired writer. However, in chapter three, the normal, literal meaning is clearly in view, not only because water baptism throughout the New Testament is consistently associated with the salvation event (e.g., Acts 2:38; 8:12-13,36-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15,33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21), but even in this context, eighteen verses later, the term clearly has a literal meaning: “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23). Additionally, if “water” in John 3:5 is an allusion to the Holy Spirit, the result would be nonsensical: “unless one is born of the Spirit and the Spirit.”There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ ” (John 3:1-7, emp. added).
Another quibble offered in an effort to avoid the clear import of John 3:5 is that “water” is a symbol for the blood of Jesus. Of course, no rationale exists for making such a connection. Elsewhere John refers explicitly to water and blood, but clearly distinguishes them from each other in their import (1 John 5:6).
Perhaps the most popular notion, advanced only in recent years, is that “water” is a reference to a pregnant woman’s “water”—i.e., the amniotic fluid that accompanies the physical birth of a child. However, this suggestion likewise fails to fit the context of Jesus’ remarks. In fact, Nicodemus himself thought that Jesus was referring to physical birth (“mother’s womb”). But Jesus corrected his misconception, and contrasted such thinking with the intended meaning of “water and Spirit.” Indeed, Jesus would not have told Nicodemus that he needed to be born physically (“water”). He would not have included the act of physical birth in His listing of prerequisites to entering the kingdom. That would make Jesus say that before a person can enter the kingdom he or she must first be a person! What would be the point of stating such a thing? [Would it perhaps be to ensure that everyone understands that non-humans (i.e., animals) cannot enter the kingdom?!] Later in the same chapter, did John baptize near Salim “because there was much amniotic fluid there”?
If one cares to consult the rest of the New Testament in order to allow the Bible to be its own best interpreter, and in order to allow the Bible to harmonize with itself, additional passages shed light on the meaning of John 3:5. According to the rest of the New Testament, spiritual conception occurs when the Gospel (i.e., the seed of the Holy Spirit—Luke 8:11) is implanted in the human heart and mind (James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 6:17; 1 Peter 1:23). The Word of God, in turn, generates penitent faith in the human heart (Romans 10:17) that leads the individual to obey the Gospel by being baptized in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Hebrews 10:22). The resulting condition of the individual is that he or she is now a child of God, a citizen of the kingdom, and member of the church of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:4).
Additional verses in the New Testament clarify and cinch this meaning of John 3:5, pinpointing the “new birth,” while also allowing us to understand the activity of the Holy Spirit in the act of conversion. Consider the following chart (Jackson, 1988):
|1 Corinthians 12:13||Spirit||Baptized||Body|
|Ephesians 5:26||Word||Washing/Water||Cleansed Church|
|Titus 3:5||Renewal of Spirit||Washing of Regeneration||Saved by Mercy|
Notice that submission to the divine plan of salvation does not mean that humans save themselves by effecting their own salvation. Their obedience does not earn or merit their forgiveness. Rather, the terms or conditions of salvation are stipulated by God—not by humans—and are a manifestation of His mercy! When people submit to the terms of entrance into the kingdom of Christ, they are saved by the blood of Jesus and the grace of God—not their own effort! Water immersion is not to be viewed as a “work of righteousness which we have done” (Titus 3:5). When we submit to baptism, we are being saved by “the kindness and love of God our Savior” (Titus 3:4). We are being saved “according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5).
Jackson, Wayne (1988), “The New Birth: What is It?,” Christian Courier, 24:14, August.
Jesus Christ—The Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The inspired penman of Hebrews reminds us repeatedly throughout his epistle of the preeminence of Christ. The Lord Jesus is greater than angels; He is superior to Moses; He is higher than the Jewish high priesthood. His sacrifice is better; His everlasting covenant is better; His ministry is better. The eternal Savior (not expired Judaism) reigns supreme.
Jesus is preeminent for countless reasons. He is Divine and thus worthy of worship (Hebrews 1:5-9). He is the creator and sustainer of the Universe (1:2-3). His reign is “forever and ever” (1:12,8). He is without blemish (4:15; 9:14). He defeated death (13:20). He alone is the “author of eternal salvation” (5:9).
Jesus’ excellency is further established in Hebrews by appealing to the Lord’s amazing immutability. Near the end of the epistle, after an exhortation to remember one’s spiritual leaders (13:7), and prior to giving a warning against “strange doctrines” (13:9), the Hebrews writer reminds his readers of the precious, faith-building truth that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8).
Jesus’ Consistent CharacterSociety benefits greatly from the dependable and consistent character of its citizens. The steady marriage of a faithful husband and wife will only strengthen the foundation of civilization. The stable, strong, and reliable father gives his family a backbone upon which to lean that will not easily degenerate in difficult times. Faithful, spiritual leaders help keep churches grounded in the Truth, rather than led astray by false doctrine. But such dependable leadership is only found among those who genuinely strive to imitate the consistency of Christ (Hebrews 13:7-9).
By the very fact that Jesus is Divine, He is changeless. God said, “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). With the Father of lights, “there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Though the material universe will grow old and be changed, God said to Jesus, “You are the same, and Your years will not fail” (Hebrews 1:10-12; Psalm 102:25-27).
Christians should rejoice in the fact that, though “time is filled with swift transition,” our High Priest is perpetually dependable. Our Savior is endlessly steadfast. Christ revealed Himself as the perfectly consistent One. Though He “was in all points tempted as we are,” He was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus never once broke the old law, nor was His purpose to destroy it. He came to fulfill it perfectly and completely (Matthew 5:17-19), and through His unblemished sacrifice He established the new covenant (Hebrews 9:14-15).
Even the most difficult of circumstances never caused Jesus’ perfect character to change. Neither 40 days of fasting nor a face-to-face confrontation with the deceitful devil broke His resolve to live consistently with the Will of God. He did not use hunger, homelessness, or weariness as an excuse to become bitter and fickle. Jesus is the perfect foundation of the church because nothing could break His will to build her. Not torture or tears, not the betrayal of friends or the shadow of death, could shake Jesus’ resolve to offer salvation to a fallen world in desperate need of a steadfast Savior.
Jesus’ Consistent TeachingsJesus’ preeminence is further seen in His perfectly reliable instruction. Unlike the father of lies in whom “there is no truth” (John 8:44), Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). Unlike the contradictory and “strange doctrines” of false teachers, Jesus’ teachings are beautifully and powerfully dependable. His witness is true. His judgments are true. His counsel is perfectly consistent.
Though the Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees came to Jesus with phony flattery in hopes of entangling Him in His talk, truer words could actually never be spoken of Jesus: “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men” (Matthew 22:16). Proof of Christ’s genuineness and consistency on this occasion is seen in the fact that He immediately called out their hypocrisy before briefly and powerfully answering their question (22:18-22).
Jesus preached a consistent message that was so often about the importance of being consistent. The Sermon on the Mount is a discourse on authentic righteousness in which Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. Praying, fasting, making judgments, doing charitable deeds, etc. are important, but without the proper attitudes and motivations behind these actions—without being righteous on the inside—they profit us nothing (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Jesus would later rebuke the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites,” saying, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you…, ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:7-8). Outwardly many of the scribes and Pharisees appeared righteous, yet inwardly they were “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28). Jesus refused to overlook the inconsistency among the religious leaders of His day. His unchanging nature and consistent message were then, and are today, the greatest tools to fight the “various and strange doctrines” that so often carry men away from the Truth (Hebrews 13:9).
ConclusionMeditating upon the magnificence of the Messiah is faith building and inspiring. In the book of Hebrews, the Holy Spirit has given us a gold mine of motivation to lift up and serve Jesus as the Son of God. He reigns supreme, and His unwavering, unchangeable nature and message are to be loved and lauded. Praise God that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!”
*Originally published in Gospel Advocate, December 2014, 156:17-19.
“With God One Day is a Thousand Years”?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If I had a dollar for each time I heard someone use this phrase to add thousands of years to the biblical, six-day Creation, I finally might be able to purchase that newer model minivan my wife would love to have. It seems as if whenever there is a discussion of the days of Creation, someone mentions how those days may have been long periods of time. After all, the Bible does say, “With God one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” Does this phrase really support the Day-Age Theory as many suggest?
First, the Bible does not say, “With God one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” The apostle Peter actually wrote: “[B]eloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Peter used a figure of speech known as a simile to compare a day to a thousand years. It is not that one day is precisely equivalent to 1,000 years or vice versa. Rather, within the specific context of 2 Peter 3, one could say that they share a likeness.
What is the context of 2 Peter 3? In this passage, Peter reminded Christians that “scoffers” would arise in the last days saying, “Where is the promise of His [Jesus’] coming?” (vss. 3-4). Peter declared: “[T]he heavens and the earth...are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (vs. 7). Regardless of what the scoffers alleged about the Second Coming, Peter wanted the church to know that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise [of a return], as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (vs. 9). Sandwiched between these thoughts is the fact that the passing of time does not affect God’s promises, specifically the promise of His return. If Jesus promised to return 1,000 or 2,000 years ago, it is as good as if He made the promise yesterday. Indeed, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” With men, the passing of long periods of time generally affects their keeping of promises, but not with God. Time has no bearing on whether He will do what He said He would do: “a thousand years are like a day” (vs. 8, NIV).
Another point to consider is that Peter used the term “day” (Greek hemera) and the phrase “thousand years” (chilia ete). This in itself is proof that God is able to communicate to man the difference between one day and 1,000 years. (For similes to make sense, one first must understand the literal difference between what is being compared. If there were no difference, then it would be meaningless to use such a figure of speech.) What’s more, within Genesis chapter one God used the terms “days” (Hebrew yamim) and “years” (shanim). Many rightly have questioned, “If a day in Genesis is really a thousand years (or some other long period of time), then what are the years mentioned in Genesis chapter one?” Such a definition of “days” makes a reasonable interpretation of Creation impossible. The facts are: (1) God knows the difference between a day and a thousand years; (2) Peter and Moses understood this difference; (3) their original audience comprehended the difference; and (4) any unbiased reader today can do the same.
Finally, even if 2 Peter 3:8 could be tied to the length of the Creation days (logically and biblically it cannot), adding 6,000 years to the age of the Earth would in no way appease evolutionary sympathizers. A person could add 600,000 years or 600 million years and still not come close to the alleged age of the Universe. According to evolutionary calculations, one would still be 13+ billion years away from the Big Bang and four billion years this side of the formation of Earth. Truly, even an abuse of 2 Peter 3:8 will not help Day-Age theorists.