- Created on Friday, 01 October 2010 15:43
We’ve all had the experience of waking up after a strange dream and wondering what it all meant. The images of a dream often seem to come and go quite randomly and usually we can’t make sense of it all. Superficially, the book of Revelation can have the appearance of a bizarre and chaotic dream. According to Richard Bauckham, nothing could be further from the truth:
“The Apocalypse of John is a work of immense learning, astonishingly meticulous literary artistry, remarkable creative imagination, radical political critique, and profound theology… Revelation has been composed with such meticulous attention to detail of language and structure that scarcely a word can have been chosen without deliberate reflection on its relationship to the work as an integrated, interconnected whole.” (1)
- Created on Thursday, 30 September 2010 15:43
When my son Caleb was just beginning to talk, he toddled after me to watch as I sawed and hammered together some raised garden beds. The loud hammering scared him just a little so he watched from a distance and closed his eyes every time the hammer pounded a nail. “BAM! BAM! BAM!” went the hammer against the nail until suddenly the sound changed to the dull “thud” of a hammer smashing a finger. As I jumped to my feet, holding my finger in pain, Caleb came out of hiding from behind the tree. Running up to me with scorn on his face he hit my arm and said, “Daddy, say ouch! Daddy, say ouch!” He was scolding me for not saying the word “ouch” that in his short life he had come to associate with sudden and severe pain.
Children learn language mainly by hearing words as they are used in context. We never sat Caleb down as a toddler and formally explained the meaning of the word “ouch.” He learned to understand the meaning of this word by associating it with the painful response to a pricked finger or a stubbed toe. And, on this occasion, even though my finger throbbed with pain, I couldn’t help but laugh at his insistence and said, “Yes, Caleb – ‘ouch!’”
- Created on Wednesday, 29 September 2010 15:43
“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17
The throne-room scene of Revelation 4 and 5 becomes very significant when it is understood in the larger context of a cosmic conflict:
“According to the war-in-heaven theme, the throne of God is contested territory…John’s vision of the throne and of the One who sits on the throne recalls the initiation of the conflict and the ambition expressed [by the adversary].” (1)
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the uttermost height of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Is 14:13,14 NIV)
- Created on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 15:43
They called out to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the eyes of the one who sits on the throne and from the anger of the Lamb!...’ (Rev 6:16 GNB)
In this article, we would like to rejoin the conversation on Revelation by looking at the meaning of the sixth seal and “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:16).
Dr. Sigve Tonstad’s class on the book of Revelation has repeatedly outlined three main principles of interpretation. As we seek to understand God’s wrath in this passage, it is critical for us to have these principles firmly in mind:
Become a re-reader. The book of Revelation is not composed in a chronological manner. The seven seals, trumpets and bowls of wrath retell the same story but from different perspectives and with a different emphasis. The information we learn in chapters 15 and 20, for example, may allow us to understand chapters 3 and 5. When the reader has finished the book, she needs to apply the information learned at the end of the book to the beginning and vice versa.
- Created on Sunday, 06 December 2009 15:43
"When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Revelation 8:1)
"The LORD is in his holy Temple; let everyone on earth be silent in his presence." (Habakkuk 2:20)
Last time, we associated silence in heaven with our experience of “Shock and Awe” that God would win the cosmic conflict not by power or coercive force, but rather by condescending to become a human being, eventually surrendering his own life. There is perhaps one other dimension to this silence in heaven.
When we compare the seven seals, trumpets and bowls, there is a significant overlap. In particular, the seventh seal, trumpet, and bowl of wrath all involve a spectacular scene of the heavenly sanctuary. The seventh seal ends with “the golden altar of incense” and with “rumblings and peals of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:3,5). Similarly, the seventh trumpet ends with a scene of “the Covenant Box” and with “flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:19). And finally, the seventh plague ends with “a loud voice from the throne in the temple” and with “flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder, and a terrible earthquake” (Revelation 16:17-18).
- Created on Tuesday, 25 August 2009 15:43
When the United States military invaded Iraq several years ago, much was made of the overwhelming military force that was to have the effect of “Shock and Awe.” The seventh seal describes a “Shock and Awe” that is a polar opposite of this:
“When the Lamb broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Revelation 8:1)
30 minutes of celestial silence? What in the world is this referring to?
Thus far we have considered the invitation to the seven churches (which includes us) to come through the open door with John (4:1) and to gain understanding about the war in heaven and God’s plan to restore peace once again. In this scene, God is depicted in all of his glory, might and power, receiving praise from four living creatures and twenty four elders. Surprisingly, as none other than the Almighty God holds a scroll in his hand “no one in earth or heaven was found worthy to open the scroll” (5:3). We recognized that only in Jesus is God’s character fully understood and vindicated. When God became a “slaughtered Lamb,” praise in the book of Revelation escalated from merely “four” and “twenty four” to “thousands and millions.” God became a human being and subjected himself to the fate of a common criminal. In Jesus, we understand for the first time that God is not only all-powerful but also infinitely humble and forgiving – a God who can be trusted with infinite power. The breaking of the seventh seal brings us full circle back to this most critical understanding.
- Created on Thursday, 13 August 2009 15:43
“Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light!” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and last time we considered the reality that Satan, “the prince of this world” (John 12:31) has been allowed to establish his kingdom on earth. As we said, for the deceiver to be unmasked, he must be allowed to bring his foolish plans to their natural result and that is what we see as the four seals are opened. With the second seal we see that “Its rider was given the power to take peace away from the earth and to make people slaughter one another. So he was given a large sword.” (Revelation 6:4) The third seal reveals worsening human suffering and by the time we arrive at the fourth seal, Satan’s kingdom which initially seemed more appealing than God’s kingdom to a large angelic population, is revealed to be a failure and a fraud: “Its rider was named Death, and Hades followed close behind. They were given authority over one fourth of the earth, to kill by means of war, famine, disease, and wild animals.” (Revelation 6:8) War, disease, famine and death were the results of Satan’s rebellion against God. While God’s character was vindicated in the Person of Jesus Christ, the history of planet earth also reveals Satan’s violent kingdom as a sham – a complete and utter failure. In other words, not only did God need to vindicate his trustworthy character, but Satan also needed to be exposed.
- Created on Tuesday, 04 August 2009 15:43
The breaking of the first seal reveals “…a white horse. Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown. He rode out as conqueror to conquer.” (Revelation 6:2). A rider on a white horse must be good, right? In chapter 19 there is another rider on a white horse, but this time he is given the title “Faithful and True” and the rider is clearly Jesus Christ.
If we are going to positively identify the rider in chapter six we need to establish a number of important anchor points. (For the hundredth time, Sigve Tonstad’s book, “Saving God’s Reputation” was so helpful to me in understanding this – read it!)
1. The book of Revelation is the story of the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan.
Every previous article has reinforced this point. To recap: Revelation revolves around chapters 12-14 which tell the story of a “war in heaven” that began before the creation of our world. Last time we discussed the throne room scene in chapters four and five and that this should be understood in the context of a throne that has been challenged by a rival (Isaiah 14:13) who has subtly questioned God’s worthiness and right to rule. What is revealed by the seven seals, trumpets and bowls of wrath are the ongoing events in the struggle between Christ and Satan and with planet earth (whether we like it or not) and all the angels of heaven actively engaged.
- Created on Monday, 27 July 2009 15:43
In the previous articles, I’ve tried to make the case for understanding the book of Revelation as revolving around chapter 12 and the “war in heaven” motif. This world is a mess! The book of Revelation explains how the sin problem began in the first place, it clarifies for the reader what the real issues are in the great controversy, and finally it outlines God’s plan for winning the war and healing his children in the process.
Last time we discussed God’s invitation to the seven churches (which includes us!) to come through the open door with John (4:1) and to get the inside scoop. Remarkably, what we discovered is that God won the great controversy in the hearts and minds of his children by becoming a slaughtered Lamb. As we described last time, the evidence about a God of humility and kindness who would lay down his life for others triggered a chain reaction of amplified praise. Prior to the slaughtered Lamb in chapter four, we witnessed the praise only of four living creatures and twenty four elders. After the evidence revealed about God by the slaughtered Lamb in chapter five, however, this praise crescendos to now countless “millions and millions.” In this article I’d like to reinforce this idea by including some quotes of others on this subject. I will also expand a bit more on the importance of the throne scene imagery.
- Created on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 15:43
When George Bush Sr. was President (1988-92), the late Phil Hartman used to do a hilarious impression of his wife Barbara Bush on Saturday Night Live. During one of these skits, “Barbara Bush” was asked this question by an interviewer: “So tell me Barbara, you must be very proud of your son?” Barbara winced and of course the audience burst into laughter. She responded, “George is my husband, not my son.” The interviewer was unapologetic, however. She turned to the camera and said, “Well, I hardly think this is my faux pas! After all, she looks so much older than he does, don’t you think?”
On the surface, it would seem that an angel in the passage we are about to read, asks an equally embarrassing question.
Last time we considered the incredible invitation that is offered to the seven churches – the opportunity to come with John through the open door and to understand something of eternal significance. Let’s imagine that just now we are actually going to take this journey through the open door:
- Created on Monday, 13 July 2009 15:43
I was fortunate enough to be asked to give a series of neurology lectures for a cruise that has traveled from Copenhagen to Estonia, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, today Stockholm, and eventually on to northern Germany, Oslo and Amsterdam. Thus far our city tours have revealed a dramatic contrast between the “haves and the have not’s” in earth’s history. For example, our tour guide in St. Petersburg was describing the poverty and financial hardships in the history of Russia just as we arrived at Catherine’s palace which was perhaps the most decadent place I have ever seen. One gold covered room after another and another! I was amazed at first, but eventually reached a point where I was numb and could no longer generate much enthusiasm at the site of gold, fountains, and spectacular architecture. It was easy to judge and condemn Catherine…but then the reality hit that just because someone of extreme wealth did not help the poor and suffering does not excuse my own deficiencies in this area. By the way, the picture attached to this article is Catherine’s Palace. It does not begin to capture the wealth of this place!
- Created on Thursday, 02 July 2009 15:43
For just a brief moment, close your eyes and imagine the three compartments of the sanctuary and reflect on this question: If you had to spend a day in the sanctuary, where would you like to be? Would you choose to be near the Shekinah glory in the Most Holy Place or would you rather be in the outer court, shielded from God’s presence by as many veils as possible?
Many people have agreed with the words of Elihu who told Job, “I won’t ask to speak with God; why should I give him a chance to destroy me?” “God’s power is so great that we cannot come near him.” (Job 37:20,23) Sanctuary symbolism is often used to suggest that we need as many things as possible between us and God. For example, the function of priests has been described as necessary because we need someone “better” to put in a good word with God for us; the blood is sometimes depicted as shielding us from God’s wrath; and words like “propitiation” are used in association with the lid over the ark of the covenant (Romans 3:25).