Chapter 19 of Revelation: Praise, Fine Linen, and Truth

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns (Rev 19:6).

Why do brides wear white?

Three great themes of the Book of Revelation come together in chapter 19: the destruction of Babylon, the marriage feast of the Lamb, and Satan’s army at Armageddon.

Babylon is not directly mentioned here, but the apostle John describes the celebration in heaven over her destruction. In v 2 God’s judgment is praised; He has judged the great prostitute; and the blood of God’s servants has been avenged. The smoke from her goes up forever and ever (Rev 19:3).

The immorality of Babylon (v 2) is contrasted the righteous deeds of the saints (v 7).

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev 19:7-8).

The wedding feast is contrasted with a less-inviting feast. An angel calls out to the birds:

Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great (Rev 19:17-18).

The feast of the birds is prepared by the death of the Satan’s armies slain by the sword of truth from the mouth (v 21) of the one described as the Word of God (v 13; John 1:1).

The beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown alive into the lake of fire (v 20). The psalmist asks: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? (Ps 2:1). Revelation 19 gives a word-picture of what plotting in vain looks like.

But what is John saying to the church? Two lessons stand out. First, the army of God is led by Christ who is the Word of God (v 21). God’s enemies are defeated with the sword of truth. Second, we are reminded that God is the one who clothes us with righteousness (v 8; Ezek 16:1-13). We are blessed to be invited to this wedding party; blessed to be clothed in white (v 9).

Questions

  1. What is the response in heaven to God’ judgment? (vv 1-3).
  2. The word, hallelujah, is used nowhere else in the NT (vv 1, 3,4). What does it mean? Where else in the bible is it found? (Hint: Psalm 104:35)
  3. Three major themes appear in Revelation 19. What are they?
  4. Verse 10 has an interesting lesson. What it is it?
  5. Verses 11-12 have a number of symbols. What comes to mind?
  6. What is the significance of the name in verse 12?
  7. In verse 8, what color does the bride wear? How do we know? (Hint: v 14)
  8. What is the weapon used to defeat Satan and his armies? (vv 15, 21)
  9. What is for dinner and by whom? (vv 16, 17, 21)

Chapter 19 of Revelation: Praise, Fine Linen, and Truth

Also see:

Chapter 18 of Revelation: Babylon Revisited 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

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Chapter 18 of Revelation: Babylon Revisited

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities (Rev 18:4-5).

What exactly are the sins of Babylon?

The first thing to note is that v 5 uses two words for Babylon’s transgressions: sin and iniquity. Often the analogy for sin is the arrow that misses the target while the analogy of iniquity is a legal violation like adultery which breaks the seventh commandment (Exod 20:14).

Babylon is described as intoxicated, sexually immoral, possessed with demons, and engaged in luxurious living (v 3). Babylon is proud (her sins are heaped high as heaven; v 5) and she has induced others to share in her sinning (the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her (v 9)). And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth (v 24).

Most striking, perhaps, is the flaunting of wealth. Verses 11-13 list 27 types of luxury goods. Last on this list are slaves—human souls (v 13).

What is Babylon’s punishment? The judgment on Babylon is repeated three times. We are told that it will be burned (v 18), laid waste (v 19), and thrown down with violence (v 21). The mighty angel throwing down a millstone in this last verse brings to mind a statement by Jesus himself: but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt 18:6). The term, little ones, is a euphemism referring to disciples. The judgment was directed at those who taught false doctrine that led to sin.

Who then mourns for Babylon? The kings (v 9), the merchants of the earth (v 11), and merchants of the sea (v 17)—all who shared in her sinning. This image of Babylon is like the heroin addict whose funeral is attended only by the pusher who supplied him.

Do you think God takes sin seriously? Should we?

Questions

1. What is the difference between a sin and an iniquity? How about a transgression? (v 5).
2. What are the sins of Babylon? (vv 3, 5, 9, 27). Why the list in verses 11-13?
3. Who lives in Babylon?
4. What is the advice in verse 4? Why?
5. What is Babylon’s punishment? What three ways is it described? (vv 18, 19, 21)
6. Who mourns for Babylon? (vv 9, 11, 17).
7. Does God take sin seriously? Why?

Chapter 18 of Revelation: Babylon Revisited

Also see:

Chapter 17 of Revelation: Babylon

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

Continue Reading

Chapter 17 of Revelation: Babylon

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods
he has shattered to the ground (Isa 21:9).

What do you get when you cross a false trinity and a pornographic goddess? The answer is clearly Revelation 17.

The woman named here is explicitly associated with a great city, Babylon (v 18), yet the images are of Rome. For example, a well-known coin of this period pictures the Emperor Vespasian (AD 69 to 79) on the front and the goddess Roma on the back straddling the seven hills of Rome. Adding the beast from Daniel 7 completes our demonic image.

The message here is to picture graphically the unholy alliance between politics and religion in opposition to God. The image of an unholy city as a prostitute doing business with the world brings to mind a prophecy against the city of Tyre (Isaiah 23:17). The religious corruption of Israel by a woman of Sidon (a port city closely associated with Tyre) brings to mind Queen Jezebel—the prophet Elijah’s nemesis (1 Kgs 16:31).

Babylon is a city with a reputation. In Genesis 10:8-10, we read about the first empire builder, Nimrod, whose capital city is Babel. Genesis 11:1-11 records the story of Babel where the people wanted to make name for themselves and started building a tower to heaven setting themselves in opposition to God. Babel latter became known as Babylon.

Picturing Rome as the new Babylon brings to mind the story of Babel and its opposition to God which is explicitly stated in verse 14: They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful (Rev 17:14). The religious focus of this opposition is suggested in the cup image (an anti-Eucharist image), in the phrase—it was and is not and is to come—(an anti-Alpha and Omega allusion; Rev 17:8; 1.8), and in the image of a prostitute used by the prophet Hosea to picture a disobedient Israel (Hos 9:1).

John’s prophetic imagery pictures a society obsessed with sex and money allied with secular religion. Sex: marriages were breaking down; a defective love dominated—Roma spelled backwards is amor! Money: Rome was unparalleled in its wealth as it policed and colonized the known world. Religion: the Emperor cult tolerated any religion that did not challenge the power of the Emperor. Rome persecuted Christians because they claimed to worship a jealous (exclusive) God who refused to admit competitors (Exod 20:3-5).

Sound familiar?

Questions

1. What does the angel invite the apostle John to see? (vv 1-2)
2. Where does the spirit carry him? (v 3)
3. How is the woman dressed? (vv 4-5)
a. What is on her head?
b. What does this remind you of? (e.g. Rev 13:17).
4. Why does John Marvel? (v 6)
5. What is the story told by the angel? (vv 8-17)
6. What city is in view? (v 18)

Chapter 17 of Revelation: Babylon

Also see:

Chapter 16 of Revelations: Seven Bowls and Armageddon 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2jaUhI7

Continue Reading

Chapter 16 of Revelations: Seven Bowls and Armageddon

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name, for they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation (Jer 10:25).

Where God’s wrath is in view, there is normally a hardened heart. Who has a hardened heart here in Revelation?

Revelation 16 is all about God’s wrath and we know it is important because normally when the Bible repeats important topics. The seven bowls in judgment parallel the seven trumpets that we saw earlier in Revelation 8-10 and both reiterate the plagues on Egypt seen in Exodus (7-10). In each case, the parallelism is in the object of wrath: earth, sea, rivers, sun, realm of the wicked, the Euphrates, and the world1.

For example, the first bowl is a plague on the earth. Earlier we read: The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth (Rev 8:7). Now we read: So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image (Rev 16:2). In Exodus we read: Then the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt (Exod 9:22).

The other topic in Revelation 16 that generates much discussion is the battle at Armageddon. The problem is that Armageddon is mentioned nowhere else in scripture. The Hebrew suggests a reference to Har Mageddon which means Mount Mageddon. Two prominent interpretations are often cited.

First, several OT passages mention the battle in the plain of Megiddo—old Hebrew leaves out the vowels so the spelling is the same as Mageddon. Because the righteous King Josiah was killed there, it would poetic justice to have Satan’s armies defeated there (I Chr 35:22-23).

The problem that a plain is not a mount suggests a subtler translation of the Greek transliteration of Armageddon as the Mount of Assembly ( הַר־מוֹעֵ֖ד (Isa 14:13 WTT)) or, in other words, God’s holy mountain, Mount Zion or Jerusalem. This interpretation is interesting because God’s holy mountain is attacked by Satan, the king of the pit referenced in Revelation 9:11P1F2P. Thus, the parallelism between the trumpets and the bowls includes an interesting twist.

In Exodus, Pharaoh’s harden heart that is the target of God’s wrath (Exod 7:3-4). If a hardened heart brings wrath, how do we acquire a softened heart and keep it soft?

Object Trumpets Bowls Exodus

1 Earth Rev 8:7 Rev 16:2 Exod 9:22
2 Sea Rev 8:8 Rev 16:3 Exod 7:17
3 Rivers Rev 8:9 Rev 16:4 Exod 7:17
4 Sun Rev 8:12 Rev 16:8 Exod 10:21
5 Realm Rev 9:1 Rev 16:10 Exod 10:4
6 Euphrates Rev 9:13-14 Rev 16:12 Exod 8:2
7 World Rev 10:7 Rev 16:17 Exod 9:22, 19:16-19

References

Beale, G.K. 1999. The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelations. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Pages 808-810

Questions

  1. What prompts the angels to begin pouring the bowls? (v 1)
  2. Who is the beast? (Rev 13:1-2, 11)a.Where is he from? (Rev 11:7) b. What is his mark? (Rev 13:16-18; 14:9-11) c. Who opposes the beast? (v 1)
  3. Who are the unclean spirits? (vv 13-14) What do they look like?
  4. What is verse 15? (Matt 24:43)
  5. How do we understand Armageddon (v 16)
  6. What happens after the seventh bowl is poured out?
  7. What happens in verses 18-21?

Chapter 16 of Revelations: Seven Bowls and Armageddon

Also see:

Chapter 15 of Revelation: Heavenly Songs 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

Continue Reading

Chapter 15 of Revelation: Heavenly Songs

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed (Rev 15:3-4).

Why are songs special?

Revelation 15 makes numerous references to the Exodus experience. The seven plagues (v 1) highlights the plagues in Egypt (Exod 7-10). The sea of glass (v 2) highlights the crossing of the Red Sea (Exod 14:21). The tent of witness (v 5) and references to sanctuary (vv 5, 6, and 8) are allusions to the tabernacle during the wilderness period.

The people of Israel responded to God’s salvation from Pharaoh’s army in song: I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea (Exod 15:1). So begins the Song of Moses.

Songs form the language of our hearts.

In moments of tension—impending surgery or death—in pastoral visits, I encourage believing families to express their love in words, reading scripture, and singing hymns.

Actually, the hymns are often the most meaningful because they open up the heart. The Doxology is the most helpful because we have all memorized it.

Songs are perhaps the only form of meditation that most of us practice and the last thing we forget when struck with Alzheimer’s disease. I joke that you better learn some good hymns because otherwise your last memory to go may be the Oscar Mayer Wiener commercial!

Heaven must be a good place because everyone there is singing all the time.

What songs do you hold most dear?

 

Chapter 15 of Revelation: Heavenly Songs

Also see:

Chapter 14 of Revelation: The Wheat and the Tares 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

Continue Reading

Chapter 14 of Revelation: The Wheat and the Tares

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace (Matt 13:40-42).

I love agriculture. As a young person I spent summers with my grandparents living on the farm in Iowa. I learned patience watching the corn grow. I learned to drive stick-shift on a tractor. The Apostle John’s images of rural life speak the language of my youth.

Picturing judgment as a harvest, where the wheat and tares are separated and the tares burned, evokes both a message of patience and a reminder of justice. Harvest is a joyful time because for most of human history food was scarce. At the time of Napoleon, French soldiers were noticeably shorter than other Europeans because they starved—agricultural workers in France could not work an entire day for lack of energy. They were not alone. The practice of fasting during Lent is pre-Christian and evolved out of the reality of a lack of food at the end of winter in most of the pre-modern world. Tares were a threat to one’s life as well as one’s livelihood. In this context, burning tares—what we call weeds—is just.

Revelation 14 reports three signs. In the first sign (vv 1-5), we see the lamb and the 144,000 singing a new song—a song reserved for the redeemed. In the second sign (vv 6-11), three angels announce God’s judgment on Babylon (think Rome) and those that follow the beast. This includes a graphic picture of what God’s wrath will look like (vv 10-11). In the last sign, we see two more angels welding sickles used as instruments of judgment with grapes and a winepress adding to the graphic imagery of this judgment.

What is interesting is that these images of judgment remain part of John’s vision. The key verse is: Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Rev 14:12). We are given a glimpse of the future in order to inform our behavior today—endure, keep God’s commandments, and remain faithful.

The sickle and winepress images are an allusion to: Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great (Joel 3:13). The sickle allusion brings to mind the use of the hammer and sickle image by communist states in our own time because they were officially atheistic regimes. Their downfall highlights the paradox of Christianity—Satan was defeated at the Cross of Jesus Christ. Nowhere in the world is the church growing faster than in these formerly atheistic states. The conversion of Rome was equally dramatic.

In both case, just when things seemed the darkest, God intervened.

Questions

  1. What are the three requirements cited in v 12?
  2. List the three signs cited (vv 1-5, 6-11, and 10-11).
  3. What is the allusion with the sickle? (Joel 3:13)
  4. What is the teaching on the wheat and the tares? (Matt 13:40-42). How is Revelation different?
  5. What is the paradox of the cross?
  6. What is the new song being referenced in v 3? (Isaiah 42; Psalm 33, 40, and 144; Rev 5)

Chapter 14 of Revelation: The Wheat and the Tares

Also see:

Chapter 13 of Revelation: What is True Worship? 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

Continue Reading

Chapter 13 of Revelation: What is True Worship?

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

You are commanded … that when you hear … every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace (Dan 3:4-6).

What is true worship? What is not?

In her book, Just Give Me Jesus, Anne Graham Lotz (1-2) recalls a story of a conversation that her mother, Ruth Graham, had with the former head of Scotland Yard. She suggested that he must have handled a lot of the counterfeit money over the years. He responded: On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spend all my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I see a counterfeit, I can immediately detect it.

We see counterfeit worship in Revelations 13. The dragon, a sea monster, and an earth dwelling beast compose a counterfeit trinity complete with a counterfeit resurrection (vv 3-4). This is a blaspheming counterfeit (v 4). Everyone whose name is not written in the book of life worships this counterfeit trinity (vv. 4, 8, 12, and 16). Much like in Daniel 3, anyone not worshiping this counterfeit trinity ends up being persecuted (v 10) and this persecution includes loss of income (vv 16-18).

The Apostle John is lampooning Rome here. The seven heads in v 1 are widely interpreted as the seven hills overlooking the city of Rome. The Romans emperor cult had temples and statues all over the empire dedicated to emperor worship. The resurrection motif in v 3 is a parody of the myth that Emperor Nero was still alive even after he committed suicide in AD 68. Numerologists often interpret 666 as referring to Nero.

But, what is true worship?

In his book, The Air I Breathe (117), Christian musician Louis Giglio defines true worship as: centering our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on the Lord. What do we really worship? Giglio (13) writes: follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your loyality…[that] is what you [really] worship.

Revelations 13 is a dark chapter. However, for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecc 3:1). Satan’s counterfeit trinity is given authority for only forty-two months (three and a half years; 1,260 days; v 5). The appearance of exotic creatures (like Behemoth and Leviathan of Job 40-41) should also remind us of Genesis 1 where God creates them all and declares them to be good.

This implies that God is still sovereign.

References

Lotz, Anne Graham. 2009. Just Give Me Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Giglio, Louis. 2003, The Air I Breathe. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Publishers.

Caesar Nero (NRON QSR)

The Greek version of the name and title transliterates into Hebrew as (נרון קסר), and yields a numerical value of 666:
Resh (ר) Samekh (ס) Qoph (ק) Nun (נ) Vav (ו) Resh (ר) Nun (נ) Sum 200 60 100 50 6 200 50 666

Questions

  1. What does the symbolism of vv 1-2 refer to? (Daniel 7:2-6)
  2. What do the seven heads refer to? (v 1)
  3. What is the trinity? What is not? (vv 3-4)
  4. What is your definition of blasphemy?
  5. What do we see here? (v 4)
  6. What is true worship? What is not? (vv 4, 8, 12,16)
  7. What is resurrection? What is not? (v 3)
  8. What does the forty-two month timeframe imply? (1 Kings 18:1)
  9. What do exotic creatures remind us of? (Genesis 1; Job 40-41)

Chapter 13 of Revelation: What is True Worship?

Also see:

Chapter 12 of Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

Continue Reading

Chapter 11 of Revelation: Measures, Witnesses, and Arks

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

All is well that ends well.

We are told in v 14 that a second woe has passed. As you may recall, three woes were prophesied in Revelations 8:13. The first woe consisted of the torment of the demonic locusts (Rev 9:3-11). The second woe came with the release of the four angels (Rev 9:14-19).

Even as these woes are released, God’s purpose in exercising these judgments is repentance (Rev 9:20-21). This effort to redeem the unrepentant comes as a surprise—under the Mosaic Covenant, woes were nothing more than punishment for covenantal disobedience (Deut 28:15). God is doing a new thing (Jer 31:22 and 31).

In case you miss this point, Revelations 11 offers two glimpses of God’s love for sinners who repent.

The first glimpse is in vv. 1-2 where John is asked to measure the temple just like Ezekiel before him (Ezek 40-43). The purpose of Ezekiel’s measure of a heavenly temple was to build a likeness on
earth. If our bodies are the new temple of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16), then the temple may be easily measured!

The second glimpse takes the form of two new witnesses (Rev 11:31-3). What is the point of sending witnesses if the gates of heaven are closed? And who are these two witnesses?

Historically, Moses and Elijah have often been believed to be the two witnesses in view—just like Jesus met with them on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2). Metaphorically, Moses and Elijah are often thought to be representing the law and prophets—traditional divisions of the Hebrew scriptures. A Christian equivalent would accordingly be the Old and New Testaments.

Verse 19 is shocking from a Jewish perspective—God’s temple in heaven is opened so that all can see the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was normally kept in the holy of holies in the Temple. Only the high priest was allowed to visit it and only once a year after cleansing himself (Exod 30:10).

This opening of the temple is reward to the saints (Rev 11:18) and an allusion to the day of Christ’s death when: And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). The symbolism here implied that the saints are rewarded by given direct access to God.

All is well that ends well.

Questions

  1. Any things that you would like to share from your week?
  2. What is the purpose of the measuring rod in v 1?
  3. What is measured? (v 1)
  4. What is not measured? Why? (v 2)
  5. Who else in the bible has been assigned to measure things? What things? (Ezekiel 40-43)
  6. Where is the temple of God? (1 Cor 3:16)
  7. What do we know about the two witnesses? (vv 3-4)
  8. What is their purpose? (vv 3,7)
  9. What powers are they granted? (vv 5-6)
  10. What happens to them? Who do they remind you of? (v 7)
  11. How do people react to their death and resurrection? (vv 9-10, 13)
  12. Who are the witnesses? (Mark 9:2)
  13. What are the two woes mentioned? (v 14)
  14. What is different about these woes? (Deut 28:15…)
  15. What happens in verses 15-19?
  16. What is the significance of the Ark of the Covenant? (Mark 15:38)
  17. What is shocking about this situation? (Exod 30:10)

Chapter 11 of Revelation: Measures, Witnesses, and Arks

Also see:

Chapter 12 of Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2fEPbBK

Continue Reading

Chapter 12 of Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon

Clouds“The LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:14-15).

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of my favorite paintings as a young person was Saint George and the Dragon by Raphael (1504-1506) which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. In this myth, a young evangelist happens to come by when a town plagued by a dragon was about to feed the king’s daughter to the dragon. The evangelist slays the dragon and the king leads the town in committing their lives to Christ.[1] While the myth of Saint George does not follow the story in Revelations 12, it picks up on the spiritual warfare theme and, of course, involves a dragon.

In a similar manner, scholars believe that the Apostle John adapted a myth of the goddess Leto well known in the middle east to communicate biblical truth. In this myth, the Leto was pregnant with Apollo, the son of Zeus, when she was attacked by the dragon, Python, who knew that Apollo was prophesied to slay him. Zeus sends strong winds to carry her to a safe island which the god Poseidon hid under the water. Python could not find the woman and when Apollo was four days old, he found Python and slew him (Beale, 624). Not bad for four days old! Other commentators see parallels with the propaganda of Rome where the goddess Roma plays the part of Leto and her child, the emperor, plays the part of Apollo (Keener, 317).

While some might question John’s use of a pagan myth to communicate God’s word, the power of stories is obvious. Stories communicate deeply held, emotional truth. Author, John Savage (77-100), lists five genetic types of stories that people tell: a reinvestment story (like economist becomes pastor), rehearsal stories (past events informing present challenges), the “I know a man who” stories (project your story on a third person), anniversary stories (grief or passion that comes around periodically), and transition stories (stories with an obvious beginning, middle, and ending). Most biblical stories take the form of a rehearsal story—something from our communal past with ongoing meaning.

In working as a chaplain, identifying the story that someone is telling you allows you to connect with them on a deeper, emotional level. The same is true of groups, like committees and even churches. Individuals and groups all repeat their most important stories on a regular basis. Identifying these stories and relating them to scriptural stories helps give these stories greater spiritual power and comparing the two may help identify areas of potential growth. One church that I know, for example, is clearly a Barnabas church sending many young people in pastoral ministry, missions, and careers in Christian education. How might the story of Barnabas help them in their own self-understanding?

What can we learn from the story of the dragon in Revelations 12? First, the woman, thought by many to symbolize Mary the mother of Jesus, is protected by God (vv 5-6, 14, 16) and the angels (v 7). Second, the dragon has many names: devil, Satan, deceiver, and ancient serpent (Gen 3:14-15). Third, the dragon loses the battle in heaven and is thrown down to earth (Luke 10:18). Fourth, although the dragon roams the earth, the kingdom of God has triumphed (v 10). Fifth, the dragon continues to pursue God’s people (v 17). For a church under persecution, Revelations 12 provides hope that God offers protection and is actively present in this world, in spite of the dragon.

What stories do you repeat? Which biblical stories are most meaningful in your walk with the Lord?

Footnotes

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon.

References

Beale, G.K. 1999. The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelations. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Keener, Craig S. 2000. The NIV Application Commentary: Revelations. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Savage, John. 1996. Listening and Caring Skills: A Guide for Groups and Leaders. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Questions

  1. What constellation comes to mind in verses 1-3?
  2. Virgo means virgin in Latin. What virgin comes to mind?
  3. Who knows the myth of Leto and Apollo? What happens?
  4. What serpent (dragon) is being referred to? (Hint: Genesis 3:14-15).
  5. Who is the dragon a symbol for? (v 9)
  6. Who wins the battle in heaven? (v 10; Luke 10:18). How is he defeated?
  7. Who wins the battle on earth? (v 10).
  8. What is the point of all this?

Chapter 12 of Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon

Also see:

Chapter 11 of Revelation: Measures, Witnesses, and Arks

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2fEPbBK

 

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Chapter 8 of Revelation: Deja Vu

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

What does it mean to be silent before God?

One of the more stunning reminders of the horrors of modern war stands in downtown Berlin in Germany. It is called: Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (memory church—see right). The church, built between 1891 and 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II, burned to the ground by Allied bombing on the night of November 18, 1943, except for the broken west tower. After the war, the people of Berlin built a new church (see below), but left the west tower as a reminder of the horrors of war.

The prophet Zephaniah (1:7).writes: Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near…

Why is it so hard to remember?

What is most interesting in Revelations 8 are not the four trumpets, it is the reason for the delay in their sounding.

The apostle John writes: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel (Rev 8:3-4). The prayers of the saints delay judgment.

Do you believe in the power of prayer?

While some observers speculate that these are imprecatory prayers (damnation prayers such as Psalms 69 and 109), the delay of God’s judgment brings to mind the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44). The prayers of the saints here echo Abraham’s response on hearing of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (Gen 18:23).

Do you think that Abraham believed in the power of prayer?

The trumpets should also be familiar. The trumpet calls echo the plagues of Egypt in Exodus 9:22-25, 7:20-25, 10:21-23, and 10:12-15. For example, God commands Moses: Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt (Exod 9:23). Again, the allusion here is the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24).

Why is it so hard just to be silent before the Lord?

Questions

1. What does it mean to be silent before God? (Zephaniah 1:7; Psalm 32:3; Proverbs 17:28)
2. What image comes to mind when trumpets are blown in the bible? (Exodus 19:19; Joshua 6:1-4). How many times is the trumpet blown in Revelations 8 and 9?
3. What plagues do we hear about? (Exodus 9:22-25, 7:20-25, 10:21-23, and 10:12-15).
4. How do these scenes compare with the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13; Matt 24; Luke 21)?
5. What woes come to mind in Revelation 8:13? (Luke 6:20-27; Matt 23:12-30)

Chapter 8 of Revelation: Deja Vu

Also see:

Chapter 7 of Revelation: Heavenly Worship 

Chapter 9 of Revelation: The Paradox of the Cross 

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2fEPbBK

Continue Reading
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