Chapter 22 of Revelation: Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed…The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden (Gen 2:8-10).

What is your picture of heaven?

I think that rural people dream of a heavenly city while urban people long for the solitude of a garden. Here the Apostle John has a vision of a heavenly Zion with the garden of Eden planted right in the middle of it.

Yet it is the image of God himself that dominates John’s vision: The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory (Isa 60:19). The headwaters of the river of life proceed precisely from God’s heavenly throne (v. 1).

Even here salvation is not universal. The angel says: Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy (v. 11). Our own hearts testify to the judgment that awaits us if we forsake the Lord by our actions.

For example, do we long for, like John: Come, Lord Jesus (v. 20)? Or is our lament reserved for the latest Apple IPhone?

Judgment does not escape those who arrogantly add and subtract from these prophecies—plagues are decreed! False teachers beware! Even Balaam refused to prophesy for love of money or to curse God’s chosen (Num 24:10). Are we as wise?

Revelation is not a book to be read with a spirit of complacency. We are presented with stark images and hard choices. Our guidance is, however, simple:

Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book (v. 7).

Questions

1. Describe the river of life. What is significant about it? (vv 1-2)
2. What curse are we talking about in verse 3? (Hint: Genesis 2:16-17)
3. How do you know you are saved? (v 4)
4. What is the significance of God providing the light in heaven and the absence of night? (v 5)
5. What is true? Who is blessed? (vv 6-7)
6. What mistake does John make a second time? Why is it important to know? (vv 8-9)
7. Who is the angel and what does he say? (vv 10-20)
8. What is odd about verse 11?
9. What does the word, recompense, mean or imply? (v 12)
10. What does Jesus say about time? How do you interpret it? (v 13)
11. What is the warning about adding and subtracting? (vv 18-19) Who is Balaam? (Num 24:10)
12.What is your favorite picture of heaven? Why?
13.What questions would you like to pose about the Book of Revelation?

Chapter 22 of Revelation: Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!

Also see:

Chapter 21 of Revelation: Home Sweet Home 

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 21 of Revelation: Home Sweet Home

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and
the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD (Isa 65:17-25).

Home! Sweet Home! is the name of hit song written in New York City by John Howard Payne in 1822. Then as now, for most of us nothing is so sweet as place where we grew up—even if only because we possess a selective memory! And God knows this! So the vision of heaven given in Revelation is familiar, yet different in exceeding expectations!

So we groan for our redemption and all of creation groans with us (Romans 8:22-23). As the Apostle Paul reminds us: our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). Here on earth we are sojourners, travelers, exiles—not even permanent residents! (1 Peter 2:11). So in Revelation 21, we get a glimpse of our eternal home.

Heaven in John’s vision is the new Jerusalem. For Isaiah, the dream of a new Jerusalem had an earthly address—a place where the Babylonian destruction would become a distant memory. In John, the new Jerusalem also had an earthly address—a place where the Roman destruction would become a distant memory.

For us the new Jerusalem does not have an earthly address, but is truly an answer to the prophecy: And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people (Lev 26:12). The presence of God is transformative: heaven is a radiant cube lit by the glory of God and watered from the spring of life freely given (Rev 21:6, 11, 23).

In verses 15-17, we see an angel again with a measuring rod, much like in Ezekiel 40-42. The purpose is not stated but may be to show the heavenly city dwarfs earthly imitations in size and splendor. For it houses the redeemed of all eternity.

This week I attended the funeral of the son of a close friend. In the eulogy, the pastor read from the Gospel of John: In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)

Our comfort with John 14 arises not because we gain a new address or get a glimpse of the real estate, but because we know that God will finally reveal his full glory. And: he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore (Rev 21:4).

Knowing who God is, how he keeps his promises, and how life’s story truly ends, our joy is complete even in the presence of death.

Questions

1. Why does John say that the sea had passed away? (v. 1)
2. How does John describe the new heaven? (vv. 1-2)
3. What are the attributes of a new bride that are similar to heaven? (v. 2)
4. What are 5 things that are special about heaven? (vv. 3-7)
5. Who are excluded from heaven and what is their fate? (v. 8)
6. What does heaven look like? (vv. 10-1, 16-21)
7. What is missing from heaven? (vv. 22-23)
8. What is the effect of heaven on the nations? (vv. 24-27)

Chapter 21 of Revelation: Home Sweet Home

Also see:

Chapter 20 of Revelation: The Binding, Millennium, and Judgment 

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 20 of Revelation: The Binding, Millennium, and Judgment

CloudsBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD (Ezek 37:13-14).

How do you view the future?

Because we know that the future is in Christ, we can afford to live life to the fullest and take risks to advance the kingdom of God. According to Apostle Paul, the full armor of Christ, includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of Spirit and helmet of the hope of salvation (Eph 6:13-17; 1 Thes 1:8). Revelation 20 focuses on that hope.

Like the previous chapter, Revelation 20 has three themes: the binding of the Satan (vv 1-3), the millennial rule of the saints with Christ (vv 4-6), and the judgment, including the final defeat of Satan (vv 7-15).

The binding of Satan parallels the account of the dragon that we saw in Revelation 12:7-11. There we are told, for example, that the angel binding Satan is Michael. The eschaton begins, however, with the work of the church as we learn from Christ himself– I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven–as he receives the report of the seven-two evangelists (Luke 10:17-18).

Verse 4 holds the key to understanding the millennial rule of the saints. Where did the Apostle John see thrones, and souls of the martyrs, and resurrected saints? Clearly, John’s vision is a vision of heaven. In heaven, the millennial rule of Christ has already begun.

The judgment scene has an interesting twist. Satan is released and he deceives the nations (especially Gog a prince from Magog (Ezek 38:2)) into rebellion against God at Armageddon, as we have seen before in different forms (Rev 11:18; 16:16; 19:17-21). The idea that Satan works God’s purposes, of course, is a theme in Job 1.

The future belongs to Christ. From beginning to end, our God reigns (Isa 52:7). We are not to fear. In the meantime, put on the full armor of Christ.

Questions

  1. How do you view the future?
    a. What does the end of times look like?
    b. How do we live in view of this vision of the future?
  2. What is the nature of Christian hope?
  3. Revelation 20 has three main themes. What are they? (vv 1-3, 4-6, and 7-15)
  4. What does the binding of Satan remind you of? Have we seen it before?
  5. What does the millennial rule of Christ look like? (v. 4)
  6. How does judgment take place?
  7. Who is Magog? (Ezek 38:2)
  8. Who is in charge? (Isaiah 52:7)
  9. What is the lesson of the armor of Christ? (Eph 6:13-17; 1 Thes 1:8)

Chapter 20 of Revelation: The Binding, Millennium, and Judgment

Also see:

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

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 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

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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

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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 world.

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

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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?

Questions

1. What is a plague? (v 1; example: Exod 7:19)
a. What is the wrath of God? (v 2; examples: Exod 22:22-24; Rom 1:18)
b. How does God’s wrath differ from our anger? (Matt 5:21-26; Jms 1:19-21)
2. What images comes to mind with the sea of glass? (v 2; Exod 14:21).
3. Why are songs important?
a. What is the song of Moses? (v 3; Exod 15:1)
b. What is the song of the Lamb (v 3; Rev 5:9-14)
c. What song is song here?
d. What songs have you memorized? Why?
4. What does the phrase–sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven (Rev 15:5 )—imply?
a. What is the tent of witness? (v 5; Exod 26)
b. What does the phrase–filled with smoke from the glory of God (Rev 15:8)—bring to mind? (Isaiah 6)

 

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

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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

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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

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