Zephaniah prophecied during the reign of King Josiah, which would be after Assyria sacked Israel but before Babylon sacked Judah. It’s difficult to find a more stern warning than Zephaniah’s. We immediately read of God telling Judah that he will wipe everything off the face of the earth. The day of the Lord comes up again, which is the day of judgment. His point is that it is closer than we may think.
Beyond Judah, God will neither turn a blind eye to the wickedness of foreign nations, especially Judah’s enemies. This is a good reminder that the whole earth is God’s, not just Israel or Judah. But all is not lost. After God pours out his wrath and judgment, he will turn the hearts of men to himself. He will always have a remnant reserved for himself. The final verses of chapter 3 does seem to look forward to a time that is not yet, when God will restore this world and remove the curse.
Haggai writes during the restoration process of the temple when the Jews return from the Babylonian exile. He and Zechariah (the next prophetic book) were contemporaries. Haggai’s main goal is to inspire the people to stay focused on the task at hand. For the context of Haggai’s ministry, think back to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Jews faced considerable opposition from the surrounding nations during their time spent rebuilding. Even as the people are still unclean and unholy, God will reverse this and do the work of making them clean and holy.
Zechariah is a longer book, but like Malachi, it was written relatively late in Old Testament history. Zechariah reminds us that salvation is open to all who call on the name of the Lord. Even before Paul, there was in a sense no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. Of course the old covenant made it so those groups related to each other in different ways than under the new covenant, but the point is that God is found by those who seek him. Zechariah even prophecies about the messiah, Jesus Christ. For example, Jesus fulfilled Zechariah 9:9 when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey the week he was crucified. We are reminded again and again that God has always had one plan of salvation and it centers on Jesus Christ.
While the books of the Old Testament are not necessarily arranged according to date, Malachi is the newest book of the Old Testament. There are only about 400 years between the writing of Malachi and John the Baptist. Malachi does not have a novel message. He is calling the people back to right worship of God. The people have become lazy in their worship, and Malachi is calling them to wake up and remember who it is they are worshiping. The book ends with a clear prophecy about the return of Elijah, which both John and Jesus affirm was fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist.
After the plagues of the seven bowls, John receives a third vision. He now is shown the immoral city, Babylon, portrayed as a woman of ill-repute. Adultery is a common Old Testament image of idolatry. Babylon stands for all those nations who prostitute themselves for nothing but monetary gain. The woman is seated on many waters, which is how Jeremiah describes the city of Babylon (Jeremiah 51:13). He also describes Babylon as making the whole earth drunk with its sin (51:7). The whole world is now joining together to worship the beast and turn against God. The scarlet beast is described in the same way as Revelation 13. The woman is seated on many waters, showing her to have a lot of influence over the world. She is also seated on the beast, showing her intimate relationship with the antichrist. The woman promises peace and luxury, but it’s all a lie to draw men away from God.
John marvels because he sees a beautiful woman, but he has been told about judgment. What’s the connection? The angel goes on to explain what’s going on. The beast was (it existed), it is not (it will be cast aside for a time), and is about to rise (the final battle). Its followers will be amazed to see it come back. The seven hills and seven rulers are seven world powers and their heads. Some have argued that the seven hills is Rome (the city built on seven hills), but they are also aligned with seven kings, which seems to draw a separate conclusion. The sixth kingdom must be Rome, which was in power during John’s lifetime.
Judgment takes place in that Babylon finally falls in chapter 18. The only things who reside in the city are demons and beasts. A voice calls for all who are in Christ to flee the city. Every power throughout the world who aligned themselves with Babylon will mourn Babylon’s fall. But the woman, the city, tells herself everything is okay. But the plagues are a sure thing. Every item John lists that no one is now buying is an item of luxury. This is how Babylon has lured in the nations. If you can get people to think primarily in terms of comfort, you can get by with just about anything.
Once we get to Revelation 19, we cannot avoid discussing the issue of the millennium. At the beginning of the millennium, there is a resurrection of the just. These resurrected saints will never taste death again. We will receive new bodies without the effects of a fallen nature.
I hold to the view called “historic premillennialism”. What follows is an outline of why I believe this view is the most faithful to a historical-grammatical-typological reading of Scripture.
Beginning in Revelation 12, we are introduced to the unholy trinity: the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon. In Revelation 19:11, Jesus returns (Faithful and True, v.11; The Word of God, v.13) riding on a white horse. He pours out the wrath of God on the unregenerate. The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lack of fire. Chapter 20 is an unfortunate chapter break, because the dragon is chained and thrown into the pit, a different place than the lake of fire. The lake of fire seems to be final, whereas the pit is a temporary holding cell. But this finishes the capture of the unholy trinity.
The destruction of the beast and false prophet (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2) and the thousand years of the dragon’s imprisonment is concurrent with the thousand years of Christ’s earthly reign. It seems best to me to understand Satan as inactive and unable to affect the world during the millennium. When Paul calls Satan the god of this world in 2 Corinthians 4, you do not get the impression that Satan is bound and inactive today.
After that thousand years, the dragon is released, deceives the nations again, but the dragon and his army is consumed by fire from heaven. The dragon is now banished to the lake of fire, where the beast and false prophet are already. It all reads like a sequence of events, of cause and effect. Christ’s return prompts the capture of the unholy trinity, which prompts the thousand years of Christ’s earthly reign, which ends with the release of Satan for his final destruction.
Historic premillennialism also reads Old Testament prophecy as being fulfilled in Israel until the apostles say that it was fulfilled in Christ. It does not make arbitrary distinctions between a literal fulfillment and a spiritual fulfillment that dispensational premillennialism does. Prophecy is fulfilled the way Scriptures says it is. IE, when Paul calls the church the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) and says that it is only in Christ that all of God’s promises are fulfilled (receive their yes and amen [2 Corinthians 1:20]), and Christ says that he fulfills the law the prophets (Matthew 5:17), we read the Bible through the history of redemption, seeing that God has had a plan to fulfill in Christ since the beginning.
But it also reads Romans 9-11 at face value and understands that there will be a great salvation of believing Israel at the end of the age (11:25-36), when all the appointed number of gentiles have been grafted in (11:11-24). The calling of Israel came before the law; it came to Abraham. This is the promise that God will not forget at the end of this age—Abraham will inherit the whole world (Romans 4:13). He will inherit this world, which makes sense of the millennial, earthly reign of Abraham’s true seed.
Historic premillennialism also stands with the other millennial positions (but against dispensational premillennialism) and sees no reason to think the Jews will rebuild the temple. Hebrews 10 is so emphatic that Jesus was the final sacrifice that to reinstate the sacrificial system would be disobedient to that passage. When the author of Hebrews says that the sacrifices were connected to the law of the old covenant, he writes, “He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (vv.9b-10). “Where there is forgiveness of these (sins), there is no longer any offering for sin” (v.18). “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (vv.26-27). The truth is that there is no more sacrifice for sin because Christ has accomplished all that was necessary to fulfill the old and instate the new. To argue for a reinstated sacrificial system is to misunderstand the purpose of the sacrificial system. It was tied to national Israel. In addition to this, we must read "Israel" in the sense that the apostles did, which usually refers to the church. But the whole relationship of Israel and the church is a topic best undergone in its own discussion.
After all the plagues, God now stands in judgment over individuals. Many books contain the name of the dead. One more book is opened, and it is called the book of life. This book contains the names of those who did not take the mark of the beast but the mark of God. Those who took the mark of the beast will follow the beast into the lake of fire.
But that is not the final word. The consummation of the world is God living among men. A new city, a new Jerusalem, descends from heaven. God’s holy city, where he dwells, is no longer beyond our reach but is on our street. No more sin means no more sadness.
The new city is described in a very particular way. It sits on top of a mountain, just like the original Jerusalem. It has twelve foundations and twelve gates. The foundations are named for the twelve apostles. The twelve gates are named for the tribes of Israel. God’s people are one. The city is enormous. Perhaps the most amazing part is that Christ is the temple. God gives the light, so there is no need for sun, moon, or stars. The gates never shut. The whole earth is the Lord’s. From the center of the city, from the throne of God, flows a river. The tree of life, from which we were forbidden to eat, is now for our healing. We will still bear the mark of God on our foreheads. We will finally see God face-to-face.
Christ promises his return is not far off. What that means in years is uncertain. But as we have seen throughout the entire book, nothing is left to chance. It will all happen in his good time. When he does return, we can know that the end will be swift, and we will be guarded for the new age. Come, Lord Jesus!
By using some obvious situations in nature, Amos shows that idolatry naturally leads to judgment from God. But in the same way that a shepherd rescues an animal from the mouth of a lion, so will God rescue a remnant of his people (signified by the two legs or corner of an ear instead of the whole animal) from the mouth of a lion. God shows Amos all the ways that God has called Israel to himself, but he also shows Amos all the ways the people have rejected him at every turn. But God’s anger is not forever. There will be a remnant which God will preserve in the midst of judgment to rebuild the city. Seek the Lord and live.
You might read chapter 6 and see the familiar words of justice rolling like water and righteousness rolling like a stream. Martin Luther King Jr. used this passage to rally support for the civil rights cause of the 1960s. In its proper context, Amos is calling for proper worship. Instead of going through the motions of sacrifices, just live the law that was already given.
Amos has nothing good to say, whether he’s addressing the northern or southern kingdoms. So far he has spoken more about the north, or Samaria, but he has plenty of scorn for Jerusalem, or Zion, in the south. The Judeans should not think that their proximity to the temple has any bearing on whether or not God accepts them.
Chapters 7-9 are visions of judgment. God hears the prayers of his people and relents from judgment. The point of holding a plumb line against the people of Israel is to see how straight they are, or rather, how straightly (I can make up words better than anyone) they follow the law. The law is the plumb line, measuring stick, and guide for their obedience. As God sees their failure to obey, he will send a day of mourning to them. Amos sees a basket of summer fruit, which signifies a harvest, or an end to their labor with an expectation of ease. However, instead of ease and comfort, God will send an “end” of them. “Fruit” and “end” sound alike in Hebrew, so there is a bit of wordplay going on.
Israel may be destroyed, but God’s anger is not forever. God promises to one day raise up the booth of David and rebuild it himself. The remnant will be preserved. This was seen first in the return from exile, again at the coming of Christ, and will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ.
Sometimes I assume that the problem God has with Israel/Judah is that they are mean people. But that’s not it. God is in covenant with Israel to bring blessing to the entire world. His plan is to redeem the world, bring about new creation, and restore humanity to our place of image-bearing rulers. With Israel’s sin as a violation of that covenant, besides it being an extenuation of the sin of self-exaltation that took place in Eden, how will God fulfill the covenant and plan of redemption with Israel being who they are when they keep bringing about the curses of the covenant instead of the blessings?
Edom is the neighbor-nation to Israel, and they have a fraught history. The Edomites are the physical descendent of Esau, while the Israelites are the physical descendants of his brother, Jacob. As Israel is being attacked by the Babylonians (pre-exile), the Edomites should have come to Israel’s aid. However, they “stood aloof” or turned a blind eye to their problems. So, the misfortunes of Israel will become the misfortunes of Edom. Edom will eventually be destroyed.
The story of Jonah is a familiar one. Jonah prophecies before either nation goes into exile. He is mentioned in 2 Kings 14, as well. Jonah’s background is quite important to understand his actions in the book. During the reign of king Jeroboam II, Israel was attacked by the Arameans because of his grandfather’s sins. The king of Assyria helps Israel to win against the Arameans. But there is still a general hatred of the pagans, especially if you should be grateful to them. God is showing compassion on the Assyrians, and Nineveh is one of their major cities.
Jonah hesitates to go to Nineveh because he hates them. He would rather God destroy them in his anger than show them compassion, so he runs. But God shows Jonah compassion and sends him on the same journey again. Jonah obeys this time, and he sees the Ninevites repent and be spared. While he knows that God has done the right thing, he is not happy about it. Jonah knows that if God sees them repent, his anger will subside. God is glad to show mercy.
There are a few other interesting parts of the book. We see the sovereignty of God in appointing a fish, a plant, a worm, and a wind, all to bring about his will. God does not just know the future; he determines it.
In Jonah’s prayer, we also get the sense that Jonah actually died while in the fish. He said the waters closed to take his life, he went to the land where the bars are closed, and his life was sent to the pit. But he believed in new life. He knew he would one day see the temple. As he was dying, his prayer went into the temple.
If it’s true that Jonah actually died, then it makes the connection between Jonah and Jesus even more strong. In Luke 11, Jesus says that his generation will receive no sign but “the sign of Jonah.” He is referring to the three days and nights in the belly of the fish being akin to the rising of the messiah on the third day. Does it not stand to reason that as Jesus was truly dead, so was Jonah?
Micah is from Moresheth, which is a small village near Jerusalem. He is writing before and shortly after Assyria attacks the northern kingdom of Israel, but he is writing to Judah. He primarily addresses the citizens of Judah and not the religious leaders.
God promises destruction in response to the idolatry of Judah. Micah writes to the ordinary people of Judah because the ordinary people are the ones oppressing their neighbors against God’s law. The ordinary people are calling for the preachers of the day to stop their preaching, such as Micah. Their rules are not addressed directly, but Micah does say the rules and prophets of Judah have failed in their job and will be removed from their offices.
But that is not the end. God will restore his people and his land. God will bring his presence back to his house on Mt. Zion. Not only Israel, but all people will flock to the temple. But what about when there is no temple? We read a gospel promise in chapter 5:2. Christ would be born in Bethlehem, one of the smallest cities in Judah. He will be born, but he will also be an ancient being. This is only fulfilled in Christ. This ruler will finally deliver the remnant of God’s people.
God promises restoration. The people seem to start getting the picture, and they ask what they need to do to please God. Does he need more sacrifices? What God actually demands is justice, kindness, and humility. Other than that, we must simply wait for God to act. He has promised restoration, and he will bring it about when his judgment has been meted out.
Nahum prophecies to the southern kingdom. One reason not to gloss over the prophecies of Nahum is that we come across one important attribute of God: jealousy. Yes, God is love, but God is also jealous, avenging, and wrathful. It is wrong for us to take vengeance, but not because vengeance itself is wrong. We are not in a place of authority to do so, but God is. And when his covenant has been cast aside by idolatrous people, he is right to seek vengeance for being wronged. Judgment is all too real, and we should not avoid the issue.
God deserves our complete devotion. Anything else is prideful on our part. No one is blameless before him. This is why divine justice is so horrifying—we deserve it. Nineveh will be wasted and forgotten. God will throw filth at them and treat them with contempt. This is not because God is mean; this is because unredeemed people are wicked. Sometimes we are so far in time away from such atrocities such as the world wars that we think humanity has improved. But instead of physical destruction, now we see moral and sexual destruction. Gay men are paying women to have children for them so they can take them from their mothers. Men are dressing like women and dancing provocatively for children. We are enshrining into law the ability to murder unwanted children in the womb, and there is a very vocal minority advocating for infanticide after birth. We film people having sex and sell it online. And we think God was too harsh in flooding most of us out of existence? We have the audacity to look back at civilizations like the Vikings and Mayans and think they were barbaric? Having filth thrown at us is just a small piece of what we’re due.
And this is where the short book ends. Sometimes there is a need to simply sit with our sin.
Much like between the sixth and seventh seals, there is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. Instead of silence (a sign of the response to judgment), there is a vision of a small scroll. By the description given, the angel giving the vision could be Christ (cloud, rainbow, sun, fire, and roaring voice). There have been seven seals, and there will be seven trumpets. At some unconfirmed point, there will be seven thunders. However, what these thunders refer to are kept a secret. He does, though, confirms that the next trumpet call will be the last and that it will arrive without delay. God’s patience with sinners is coming to an end. The request of the martyrs in chapter 6 is about to be answered.
Eating the small scroll harkens back to the prophet Ezekiel. John must receive the words before speaking them. The sweetness is that although many from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will come to Christ, the bitterness is that there will be many who do not. Not only will individuals reject Christ, but entire nations and their kings will, as well.
The vision of chapters 11-14 is what is called a “proleptic” vision. This just means it is a vision of the future, which will be known after the events of the various seven judgments.
Part of this vision consists of the two witnesses. There is debate on whether these are Jews or Gentiles. What gets measured is the temple, the courts of the priests, Israel, and the women. The court of the Gentiles is not measured. As in Zechariah 2 and Amos 7, measuring something is not about creating a blueprint but assessing its spiritual state. Should the city be preserved or destroyed? The inner court is found worthy, but the un-measured court of Gentiles is left alone. The whole world will attack Jerusalem and destroy her. But there is a distinction between what gets measured and what does not. What John sees is a remnant being guarded amidst persecution.
Forty-two months is 3.5 years. The vision of seventy weeks in Daniel 9 is really “seventy weeks of years”. It’s called a heptad. In Daniel 9:27, a prince makes a covenant with his people for one week, and for half that week (3.5 years) he puts an end to sacrifices and offerings. However, the events of Revelation must necessarily come after the events prophesied in Daniel 9. Instead of directly applying Daniel 9:24-27 to Revelation, we should more than likely do nothing more than make the connection of 3.5 years being a time of satanic power. Though it is described in various ways through different numbers, 3.5 years is the duration of time Jerusalem is oppressed in 11:2, the length of the ministry of the two witnesses in 11:3, the time of the preservation of the woman in 12:6 and 14, and the time the beast is given to rule in 13:5.
The oppressed people in Jerusalem will receive two witnesses, or prophets. I lean, although charitably, toward the interpretation that these witnesses represent the church preaching to the remnant of Jews being preserved in Jerusalem. The two witnesses are also called the two olive trees, two lamp stands (11:4), and two prophets (11:10). Even though the behavior of the witnesses pulls from Moses and Elijah (11:6), v.8 calls Jesus “their Lord”, which heavily implies that these witnesses are Christians. So it does seem as if the church is on the earth at this time, IE, a post-tribulation rapture.
John is clearly pulling from the visions of Zechariah 4, where he sees a golden lamp stand with seven lamps and two olive trees on each side. These olives supply the lamps with oil. In Zechariah, they represent Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor. The sin of the Jews was to reject their Lord, so God now sends the church to call Israel to believe. These witnesses cannot be harmed until the job is done. Elijah called fire down from heaven, and Jeremiah spoke words that were a devouring fire. Elijah stopped the rain from falling, and Moses turned the water to blood and brought the plagues. As John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Elijah’s return, so we do not need to think we will actually have a resurrected Moses and Elijah at the end of the age.
A beast was a common prophetic/last-days figure, so we shouldn’t be surprised that John just throws him in seemingly out of nowhere. We will learn that this beast will be the antichrist and try to steal worship from Christ. Once the mission of the two witnesses has reached completion, they will be killed. Jesus mentions this kind of persecution in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25. Paul mention the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2. He comes from the pit, as did the plagues of the fifth and sixth trumpets. That the witnesses die in war could just as easily be because of spiritual conflict, but they will definitely be physically dead. Their bodies will lay in Jerusalem. While I do not think we should go as far as the dispensationalist and argue that the city and temple will be rebuilt in the last days, we can surely say that Jerusalem will play a significant role before Christ’s return.
Laying in the street is a sign of a lack of dignity. The evil powers may think they have won, but the witnesses will be resurrected and ascend to heaven in bodily form. Their oppressors will see them ascend. For those not near enough to see it, there will be an earthquake to mark the occasion. Those who survive the earthquake give glory to God, which seems to imply repentance. This is the fulfillment of Romans 9-11; the Jewish people repent and believe! This is what the prophets have worked towards for so long. Think of the all the prophets God sent to Judah and Israel throughout their history. Their work is being rewarded.
Now we come to the seventh trumpet. In the “days of the trumpet” the end will be introduced. The fifth and sixth trumpet were woes 1 and 2; the seventh trumpet will be woe 3. The seventh seal seems to have consisted of the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet seems to have consisted of the seven bowls. The seventh trumpet begins with the revelation that God has taken this world to be his kingdom. The elders, as they did earlier, begin to worship him. As God’s kingdom is established, the world becomes even more aggressive—they rage. The rage of the nations and the wrath of God against them is simply a summary worship statement of what is about to happen.
The presence of a temple in heaven is not uncommon. This is where Christ entered with his blood on behalf of the elect. The ark is a reminder that God is the covenant keeper. It also shows us that we will see into the holy of holies in the age to come. There will be no temple, because Christ himself is our temple. God’s majesty is expressed in lightning and earthquakes.
One of the reasons I hold to premillennial return of Christ is that during his millennial reign, Satan is bound in the pit. Satan also seems to be inactive during that time. I struggle to see how Satan could be inactive in the present time as the amillennialist holds. In the vision of the dragon, the woman, and her seed, we will see how active Satan is. Instead of being a snapshot of time in history, this vision, or “great sign”, is indicative of the oppressive nature of evil (Satan, or the dragon) against the people of God, but God sustains them in the wilderness. I read this as an idealist; it is a picture of the whole age, not one moment in time.
The woman gives birth to a male child (12:5), who is Christ, who is then caught up to God’s throne (12:5, which I take to be Christ’s ascension, thought we must admit he did not ascend to escape the devil; otherwise, the male child becomes the church, which is even less likely). Thirty-plus years are passed over in a single verse. The woman (must be Israel) is sent into the wilderness (the dispersion of Jews) and nourished for 3.5 years. After AD 70, the Jews were dispersed around the known world (this is one argument for a late date for the writing of the book—AD 90s). The dragon and his angels/demons are cast from heaven, so he can no longer accuse the brethren/the church before God. The church has conquered over Satan. Satan cannot accuse the church any longer, so he somehow causes the dispersion (“the woman who had given birth to the male child”, v.13). She/Israel is guarded from Satan for 3.5 years (symbolic of Satanic rule). Satan makes war “with the rest of her offspring” (v.17), which is the church, who is even called “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus [not Moses].” There is a distinction between the woman and her offspring, which makes sense if they are taken as Jews and Gentiles. This cannot be entirely ethnic Jews. Both the woman and her offspring, who are scattered, who is distinct from the male child, are protected.
The presence of the dragon in heaven is a difficulty, but it is not unprecedented. The Accuser is in God’s heavenly court in the book of Job. What this looks like in reality, Satan will be barred from accusing God’s people of their sins any longer. The dragon’s presence on the earth sets up what comes later. But now, Satan is pursuing the woman again. By seeing the woman with wings, John is simply shown that the woman will be guarded miraculously by God. The woman is guarded, so the dragon now prepares to call for the beast who will come from the sea.
Again, beasts are common images for anti-Christian powers. Both the dragon and the first bast have ten horns and seven heads. We seem to be finally reading of the fourth, most wicked beast of Daniel 7. The blasphemous names represent idolatry, or demanding worship for himself that is only due to God alone (Daniel 7:25, Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:4). The beast has a head which truly had received a deathblow and yet had come back to life. There is no explanation given, but this beast’s “resurrection” of sorts draw a lot of attention and wonder. It is astounding that the nations will be astounded at the resurrection of the beast and not Christ. This goes to show the human heart is devoid of any ability to love God apart from God loving us first.
The beast is given the ability to rule for 42 months, or 3.5 years. During that time, he fiercely persecutes God’s people. He is not successful in converting the elect to himself, but he is successful in his persecution. The rest of the world will turn to the beast in worship. This is an advance warning of what will come; we must endure during that time, whether death or exile. But, because we have been marked out by God, we will stand.
The first beast came out of the sea, and the second beast comes out of the earth. His goal is to draw worship to the first beast. But this second beast is meant to be seen as an antichrist as well. It has horns like a lamb but the voice of a dragon. It has the appearance of the Christian religion with the content of devil-worship. This second beast apparently truly has the ability to make the statue of the first beast speak, which is itself a parody of the creative work of God. In the same way God marked his own people, this beast parodies that and gives his people his own mark. Between the two beasts, we see satanic control of worldly and religious authority.
Perhaps no other word or phrase in Scripture has been the subject of as much conspiratorial consideration as Revelation 13:18 and the number 666. I’m going to lay my cards out now: I think this is a situation where we will know the meaning when the time comes.
Ancient languages often did not have a separate numerical system, so they would use their alphabet to form numbers. Roman numerals is the prime example, but Hebrew did the same thing. This is called “gematria”. Every possible solution has been offered to understand 666. The most popular is that the number refers to Nero. However, that is only possible if you translate Nero from Greek into Hebrew and add his title of Kaisar, also translated into Hebrew, and if you use a variation of the spelling of Kaisar. Keep in mind that John is writing in Greek. This was not even considered an option until the middle ages. The first intelligent suggestion was given by Irenaeus, a prominent pastor writing in the late 100s, and he said the number came out to the Latin Empire. If the number is used like Babylon standing in for Rome, then the Latin Empire may be nothing more than a stand-in for a world power.
After the beast has persecuted the church and garnered worship from the rest of the world, John sees the elect, with the mark of God on their foreheads, and the Lamb on Mt. Zion, or Jerusalem. In the midst of horrendous persecution, God’s people are kept safe by the Lamb.
God’s patience is about to run out, but it has not yet. The angel flying above preaches the gospel yet again. John does not say “the” gospel, but we should probably not make too much of that. Paul does that from time to time. “Give him glory” is all about repentance, not just judgment. The world powers, represented by Babylon, are fallen. Those who followed the beast have been condemned. It is time for the great last-days harvest. The only way to understand the one “seated on the cloud…like a son of man” is Jesus Christ. An angel confirms to Christ that the harvest is ready; the number of the elect is full. He puts out his sickle, gathers not the church but the reprobate, and places them in God’s winepress. They will be smashed outside the city, and their blood will flow, fill the city as high as a horse’s back.
We have come to the end of the vision between trumpets six and seven, chapters 11-14.
This brief chapter serves a kind-of epilogue to the vision of chapters 11-14. The elect who did not obey the beast are praising God with Scripture! They are standing on the same sea of glass from chapter 4. The song of Moses is known as the song the people sung as they were saved in the exodus. We do not know what the song of the Lamb is unless verses 3-4 are in the fact that song. Either way, what we see is Old Testament saints and New Testament saints worshiping together.
The final plagues will come out of the seven bowls. Having the sanctuary filled with smoke is an image of the presence of God. In Exodus 40, Moses could not enter the tent because a cloud covered it and the glory of God filled it. The priests could not enter the temple for the same reason in 1 Kings 8. Ezekiel falls on his face and cannot enter the temple because the temple was filled with smoke in the temple of Ezekiel 44. Now, the heavenly sanctuary is covered in a cloud and the glory of God fills it.
The seven bowls are similar to the seven trumpets but are much more intense in nature. You’ll also see similarities between these plagues and the ten plagues of Egypt, or the city that oppressed the Hebrews. These plagues end with Babylon, the city that will oppress the elect, being destroyed. Also, perhaps the biggest difference is that these plagues are clearly stated to be targeted at those who bear the mark of the beast.
One of the ongoing conspiratorial effects of Revelation is that people think the drying up of the Euphrates river is a sign of the last days. If that were the case, then we’d had already gone through seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, and five bowls. The Euphrates river was one of the original boundaries of the promised land. When the river dried up, as it often did, it was easier for enemies to attempt invasion. Isaiah uses the same imagery in Isaiah 11. That’s the symbolism here. The kings of the east, the wicked kings, are gathering together in the name of the unholy trinity (the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet) to attack God’s people. Armageddon is not the name of a battle but the name of the place where the battle happens. “Har Megiddo” is where Barak and Deborah defeated Jabin and where Jehu defeated Ahaziah.
God sends an earthquake the likes of which the earth has never known. Babylon is devastated and broken into three parts. Entire nations collapse. Hailstones kill untold numbers of people, who curse God instead of repent. This is how given over to our own wickedness people are. God must do the work of regeneration if there is any hope of salvation.
God does not forget justice. He remembers Babylon, meaning he will not let all the evil done in the world go unpunished. This is the moment God’s people have been waiting for. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see evil destroyed.
Daniel 10-12 is one vision. Daniel has been attempting to understand the prophecy of Jeremiah and the 70 years of captivity. We’re not given the name of the being speaking to Daniel, but we know that he has been with the arch-angel Michael. These beings are called “prince”—Michael, who is the prince of Israel, along with the the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece. This carries the sense of something along the lines of a spiritual power. Evil spirits do in fact have a measure of control over godless nations.
We learn about the players in this vision by looking back. The Greek king whose kingdom will be scattered to the wind is likely Alexander the Great. After he died, four generals divided his kingdom among themselves. The king of the north is the Ptolemaic dynasty, and the king of the south is the Seleucid dynasty. These two empires fought constantly, and the land of Israel was geographically between them. After a series of battles and alliances, we come to a horrible king of the north, likely Antiochus IV. He won an important battle in Egypt, and as he went home, he ransacked the temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed unclean animals. Antiochus comes up against the Romans, but he is no match for them. He is not going to sit back as a loser, so he returns to Jerusalem, an easy target. He puts an end to the sacrificial system. This time, the Jews fight back in what is called the Maccabean Revolt of 167 BC, a well-documented event. The books of Maccabees in the Apocrypha recount much of it. The Jews had some help from the Romans, which resulted in Rome occupying the land. The Romans become extremely powerful, become known as the new king of the north, and defeat the Greeks. They will pillage Jerusalem and destroy the temple between AD 66-70.
The point is that all of these events have an “appointed time”. God has determined the future of his people. Israel’s “guardian angel”, their prince Michael, will deliver God’s people. Daniel 12:2 is a promise of end-times resurrection. The devastation of chapter 11 is not the final word. It is fitting that we are reading Revelation and Daniel together. Hopefully you see the promises of Daniel being fulfilled in Revelation. This is why I (charitably) think that the scroll Daniel is told to seal is the scroll which the Lamb is worthy to read in Revelation.
The first three chapters of Hosea deal with a living prophecy. The Israelites have descended into rank idolatry, which is spiritual adultery. God has Hosea marry a whore and have children. She will be unfaithful just has Israel has been unfaithful. God will use this prophetic act as a way of warning Israel about their impending punishment.
Hosea spends the rest of the book spelling out what this prophetic act means. He is clear about the specific sins of the people. If it seems as though Hosea jumps around a lot, it may be because these were separate prophecies he or a later editor published together. These accusations are the same as the other prophets, so I will leave you to read the book for yourself.
The main idea of the book is “the day of the Lord.” That day is the day of judgment. But because God is a God of faithfulness, he will always spare his people from his wrath, even if they are in the midst of it. Sometimes Joel speaks of “a day” or “the day”, and it refers to the same thing. Sometimes Joel speaks of a current day of judgment, and sometimes he speaks of a future day of judgment for both Israel and all nations. Judgment can be averted if the people turn to God in faith and repentance. Covenant-faithfulness is what assures the people that repentance can turn judgment into blessing.
A previous invasion of locusts serves as a prophetic type of a future foreign invader, likely the Babylonians in 586 BC. But even this destruction is not the end. In the same way Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak of a new covenant, Joel speaks of God pouring out his Spirit on his people (2:28-29). This is fulfilled, as Peter preaches, on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem.
If Amos has a single theme, it is “justice”. He also speaks, like Joel, of a “day of the Lord”. He lives in Tekoa, which is in Judah. Amos is not among those who live their whole lives as a prophet, but he is a shepherd of some kind. However, God uses this simple shepherd to send a great message. He writes before the fall of Judah and Israel.
The first six chapters are various “oracles” of judgment, or prophecies. In chapter 1, God sends prophecies concerning places outside of Israel and Judah. In chapter 2, Amos moves on to judgments against Judah and Israel. They are not exempt from judgment; in fact, they are held to a higher account because of their knowledge of God and their covenants with him.
If you’re reading this, you probably take Bible reading quite seriously, so you take study of the Bible quite seriously, as well. The book of Revelation has been interpreted in a great many ways, some more faithfully than others. It might be helpful to place my cards on the table before moving forward that I firmly but charitably hold to a historic premillennial view of Christ’s return. This view generally holds that the church will be present through the tribulation and judgment of the last days, but God will shield his people through it as he did before the Babylonian exile. Christ will return at the end of the tribulation, destroy the beast and false prophet, cast Satan into the abyss, and establish his millennial kingdom in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. The more popular view, somewhat held by default by many American Christians influenced by dispensationalism, is a pre-tribulational form of premillennialism. This view holds that Jesus will return before the tribulation and judgment to take his people to heaven for seven years. He will return with the church after the tribulation to establish his millennial kingdom. For a number of interpretive reasons, I believe the post-tribulational view of the rapture holds more water. Some of those I have mentioned in earlier posts, and it will come up throughout the comments on Revelation. If I had my druthers, I would like to be raptured beforehand to avoid the peril of the last days. But I believe that consistent interpretive methods (and reading the Old Testament as the New Testament apostles did) require me to hold to a post-tribulation rapture. However, as stated before, I hold this position firmly but charitably. This was the view of many in the church immediately after the time of the apostles. One church father, Polycarp, was himself a disciple of John, the author of Revelation, whose writings indicate a historic (although he would obviously not call himself that) premillennial view of the return of Christ. So, read on with this in mind. If you believe that Jesus is returning in his body to judge the living and the dead, we can learn from each other concerning the timing of that blessed hope.
The church in Sardis does not have much to commend. There is a remnant, however, who have stayed faithful. The church in Philadelphia is small but mighty. Some have argued that 3:10 is evidence of a pre-tribulation rapture, but it does not hold up under scrutiny. There is no warrant to apply one component of one church’s letter to the church at the end of the age. If we want to apply a component of one church’s letter to all the other churches, we must be consistent. Are we going to apply the components of Laodicea, a church with nothing to commend, to the other churches, and vice versa?
John begins his vision in the throne room of heaven in chapter 4. Another proof-text for a pre-tribulation rapture is “Come up here” in 4:1. If you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, you can do so with a clear conscience, but you must use good texts. A voice in heaven simply tells John, not all the church at the end of the age, to come up to heaven. This call takes place before the vision is even given. The purpose of his coming is to receive a vision, not to live in heaven forever. This is “interpretation by free-association”. Even then, John says that he was “in the Spirit”, as he was on the Lord’s Day, meaning he might have stayed bodily on the earth and was simply shown the vision in his mind.
I read the twenty-four elders as angelic beings of some kind. Some have tried to read this as twelve tribes plus twelve apostles, but if this were true, “elder” would be the first time this designation is used. Typically, “elder” in the biblical sense is an official in ancient Israel or as a pastor within the church. But God is often described as being surrounded by a heavenly court of angels. Later in chapter 7, there will be a series of angels, elders, and living creatures worshiping God around the throne (7:11-12). They are not praising God for salvation like the multitude are (7:9-10) but instead for his might. The point is that there little to nothing in the text itself to interpret the elders as the raptured church.
Lighting and thunder are common illustrations of God’s presence, so there is no mystery about who is seated on the throne. “Seven” has already illustrated the Holy Spirit, and the seven torches of fire do the same here. In Exodus 24, the pavement under God’s feet is described as perfectly clear sapphire stone, and the elders of Israel are the ones privy to this vision. The heavenly elders saw the throne room of heaven, and John is bringing the biblical imagery to fulfillment.
We read of living creatures in places like Isaiah 6 (seraphim) and Ezekiel 10 (cherubim). This is one means of God’s vigilance in keeping his eye on the world.
Chapters 5-8 consist of the seven seals. There is a scroll sealed with seven seals of wax, and each one will be broken in succession. Each broken seal is accompanied by some kind of disaster or plague. Daniel is told to seal up his vision of the end (Daniel 12:4), and this may be that vision. Ezekiel is also told to write on a scroll of “lament and mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2), but he is told to eat his scroll. I take this to be Daniel’s scroll. The problem is that no one is able to open it in heaven or on earth. But as close to the throne as possible, even before the elders, the Lamb who has the Holy Spirit is able to open it. Once the Lamb takes it, the elders burn incense, which is the prayers of the saints (and leads again to believe the elders are not saints themselves). Every creature in heaven and on earth is praising the Lamb.
The seals are opened in rapid succession. The first four seals release horses and riders who devastate the world’s systems, both agricultural and financial. The fifth seal looks back to heaven and sees martyrs under the altar, presumably the altar where the Lamb presented his blood to the Father. They are told to continue resting until the end of the end. The sixth seal is complete devastation of the earth and sky.
Between the sixth and seventh seal, John sees something else. It’s not necessarily an interruption, but it’s necessary information to understand what’s going on. God is guarding and protecting his people with a mark. This harkens back to Ezekiel 9 when God sends executioners into the city to kill the idolaters in Jerusalem. Six men are sent to kill everyone, but a seventh is sent out with a writing utensil to mark the foreheads of those who grieve the idolatry. They will be spared even in the midst of the judgment. God does not necessary remove his people from judgment, but he does spare them in the midst of it. In Revelation 7:5-8, we’re told just how many are guarded from the judgment of the seven seals—a predetermined remnant. This is the fulfillment of Romans 11, where Paul says that there will be a remnant within Israel at the end of the age who is elect and will be re-grafted in to the body. Only those who bear the beast’s mark, which is a cheap imitation of the mark of God, will endure the judgment (16:2). If Paul was referring to literal Israel in Romans 9-11 (which I think he was), then is John referring to the literal nation of Israel, as well?
The list of tribes does not match any Old Testament list. Dan and Ephraim are left out, but Joseph is there. While the New Testament does not have a verse that says, “The church is considered the spiritual inheritor of Israel”, it says as much in many places. For example:
Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Romans 2:28-29, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Romans 4:11, “He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.”
Philippians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”
Even in the seven letters of chapters 2-3, the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia had Jews were were Jews in name only and not true Israel (2:9, 3:9). Physical Israel is not the same as spiritual Israel. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6). I take the 144,000 to be a stylized way of identifying the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). If the 144,000 identify the ones with the mark of God before the tribulation, the multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 project the fulfillment of that promise to after the tribulation. Not a single one of the elect will perish in the great tribulation of God’s judgment.
The seventh seal is silence. That may not sound too threatening, but in passages such as Habakkuk 2:20 (“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.) and Zechariah 2:13 (“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”), silence is an image of the earth’s reaction to God’s holiness. God is bringing this age to a close, he is no longer in the temple but in heaven, and the only appropriate reaction is for heaven to keep quiet.
The seven trumpets begin immediately. The first trumpet destroys a third of the earth. The second trumpet sends a mountain into the sea, turning a third of it to blood, killing a third of sea life, and destroying a third of ships. The third trumpet is a great star (possibly what we’d call a meteor?) hurled to earth to make a third of the drinking water bitter so that many will die. The fourth trumpet darkens a third of the heavenly bodies. The first four trumpets have been about devastation on the earth, but the last three will focus on human life, as made clear by the eagle pronouncing three “woes” to those who dwell on the earth.
The fifth trumpet introduces an angel described as a star who falls to earth with a key to the bottomless pit, or the abyss. This cannot be Satan, because he would not be given the key to his own prison. This angel opens the pit to let out smoke and locusts. The locusts are told to harm only those who do not have God’s forehead mark. Their stinger will be incredibly painful, but it won’t cause death. Their physical description come straight from Joel 1:6 and 2:4. The angel of the bottomless pit is likely the one who let them out in 9:2-3.
The sixth trumpet releases the angels bound at the Euphrates river (the great river of Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 1:7, and Joshua 1:4). The fact that the angels are bound lends to the notion that they are evil and have been reserved for this moment. They must be the leaders of the horse-mounted troops. Their description is to identify them as wildly bloodthirsty and destructive. A third of mankind is killed. While the locusts of the fifth trumpet only tormented people with their stingers, the tails of these horses can kill. Perhaps the most incredible part of this trumpet is that no one who survives repents of their sin. This goes to show that mankind is hopelessly lost without God’s work on our hearts.
Ezekiel is closing out his vision of the restored temple. One reason not to take this temple as a literal blueprint is because of the water flowing out of the sides. If you read this description of the temple, flowing water, and trees, it sounds an awful lot like the new creation of Revelation 22. This is what I believe Ezekiel was shown. The flowing water is the water of life, and the trees also bear fruit in both visions (Ezekiel 27 and Revelation 22). Also in both visions, the fruit of the trees are for food and the leaves are for healing. Therefore, I do not think Ezekiel was seeing a third temple rebuilt in Jerusalem during the period of great tribulation at the end of the age (through I affirm a great end-time tribulation). I think Ezekiel and John were seeing the same thing—Christ is the temple in the new creation with life-giving water flowing from his sides.
Daniel is a young man of some noble standing taken into Babylonian exile. This book is full of visions ranging from Daniel’s near-term future to the end of the new covenant age. The book is often broken up into two sections: chapters 1-6 and 7-12. However, while that division is helpful, there are many connection between the two sections. When we read of beasts and nations, the visions throughout both sections are sometimes referring to the same things.
Daniel and his peers are taken into the court of Nebuchadnezzar to serve him. The first story of Daniel and his fellow Jews concerns their diet. The Jews followed strict dietary laws which the Babylonians did not respect. However, we read that God had compassion on Daniel and worked that the Babylonians would permit them to avoid the Babylonian diet and eat only vegetables. After a time of testing, they are found to be more fit and healthier than those eating the Babylonian diet. Even in exile, God shows grace to his people.
King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream he does not understand. Dreams are not all that common in the Old Testament, so when they appear, we might be able to trace a common theme between them. Daniel is able to interpret dreams much in the same way that Joseph was. The magicians of Nebuchadnezzar’s court are unable to interpret the dream, and to protect themselves, they try to kill all the other magicians from having a chance. Instead, Daniel requests an appointment with Nebuchadnezzar to interpret the dream for him. Not only does Daniel interpret the dream, but he is even able to recount the dream without being told any information.
In short, Nebuchadnezzar’s vision is of four successive kingdoms. Babylon is the kingdom of gold, or the head of the great image. After Babylon will come three more kingdoms, all of which will fall. But after those four kingdoms will come one set up by God himself, which shall never end. The sovereign God has made it certain and sure (2:45). Because of this, Daniel is promoted. Possibly motivated by this vision of a golden image, Nebuchadnezzar then makes a golden statue of himself and requires everyone to bow and worship it. However, the Jews refuse to bow to any idol, three in particular: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or the same three Jews mentioned with Daniel in chapter 1. Their punishment is to cast into a furnace and burned alive. However, as they should be in fiery torment, the officials notice a fourth figure in the furnace. It seems as though a pre-incarnate Christ was in the furnace with them. The three men are spared and show no signs of ever being in the furnace at all.
Perhaps the greatest part of the story is not their safety but their insistence that they will not bow down. They tell Nebuchadnezzar that God is able to save them, but if he chooses not to, they will still never bow to him. May we have such commitment!
In response to this miracle, Nebuchadnezzar has a moment of lucidity and praises the one, true God. He then has a second dream. He sees a massive tree that grows from earth to heaven that is chopped down at the command of an angel. It’s clear that this tree is Nebuchadnezzar, because in 4:15 the stump of the tree is called “him”. This stump of a man will wander and roam without his mental faculties for 7 periods of time. Daniel rightly interprets the dream for him. One year later, as he is talking to himself about his greatness, a voice from heaven sends him into the field to lose his mind. It is a humbling time for him. At the end of this judgment, he praises God for his authority and power.
Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson who has become king. As he throws a feast one evening, a human hand appears out of the air and writes on a wall a phrase that means “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided”. Daniel is know by this time to interpret dreams, so he is called upon to interpret this mysterious message. It means that God has determined the number of days for the Babylonian empire. King Belshazzar is not a fit king. His kingdom will be divided between the empires of the Medes and Persians. Just a few hours later, Belshazzar is killed and Darius the Mede takes his kingdom.
Darius must have quickly learned about Daniel’s high standing, because he is appointed as one of three officials/governors over Darius’ kingdom. About 80 people (1/3 of 120 satraps) report directly to Daniel. God blesses Daniel with success, even in exile. Darius wants to promote Daniel to be in charge of everyone, second only to Darius. Daniel is a type of Joseph, one who is promoted to second even in exile. There are many such ties with the story of Joseph, which helps us to see the return from exile as a type of new exodus.
The other officials don’t want Daniel in charge, so they devise a scheme to get rid of him. These officials influence Darius to set up a prayer schedule which would require worship of no other god but Darius for thirty days. Daniel is well aware of the scheme and refuses to stop his prayer routine to the Lord. He knows that he is highly visible, and even as much as Darius respects Daniel, he cannot avoid punishment. Darius is forced to send Daniel into the lion’s den. Daniel is miraculously spared the entire night. In an act of retribution, the officials and their families are tossed into the lions’ den, but their bodies do not even make it to the ground before they are torn limb-from-limb.
Chapter 7 begins a series of visions. It jumps back in time to the reign of King Belshazzar (the story of the writing on the wall). Daniel sees four beasts rising out of the sea. The first beast is like a man; the second beast is commanded to destroy people; the third beast is given earthly dominion; the fourth beast is worse than the first three, and its power is used to devour and destroy. This beast has ten horns. An eleventh horn with eyes and a mouth upsets and removes three of the other horns.
However, not all is lost. Daniel sees the Ancient of Days (God, of course), with pure white hair and clothing, sitting on a throne of fire. A stream of fire goes out from him. He is served by myriads of angels. Books of judgment were opened. The fourth beast continues to speak blasphemous things, but he is destroyed. The other beasts struggle along for a short time. After the beast’s destruction, one like a son of man ascends to the Ancient of Days and is given his own kingdom from all the people of the earth. This kingdom will never be destroyed, which ties this vision to chapter 2.
Daniel is given an interpretation of this vision. There will be four kings who vie for power, but the kingdom of God will prevail. But Daniel is curious about the fourth beast whose power was much greater. This beast is a king who will blaspheme against God, persecute God’s people, will change the law to suit himself, and he will have this authority for 3.5 years (a time, times, and half a time, which is a way of communicating satanic rule). But this blaspheming beast will be no match for the God of heaven. In the end, all the nations of the earth will be given to God’s people.
Daniel sees another vision in chapter 8 of a ram and a goat. Daniel sees a ram with two large horns, one higher than the other. This ram destroys all other beasts that stand in its way. A male goat appears with only one horn between its eyes and flying across the entire earth. This goat is able to break both the horns of the ram. The ram is cast down and destroyed. As the goat grew in power, his horn was broken, but four new horns grew in its place. Out of one of those horns grew a smaller horn. That horn grew strong enough to throw down stars to the earth. The interpretation of this vision is shown to be a sign of the end, but the end of what? If the ram and goat are the kings of Media and Persia together with Greece, then the end of the world must not be in view, at least directly. This is referring to the end of these kingdoms, not the world. The point is that all of this is predetermined and fixed by God. Saying that it refers to many days from now does not necessarily mean our future.
We get a glimpse of the canon of the Old Testament in Daniel 9. We don’t know exactly what was known to be authoritative Scripture beyond the books of Moses by Daniel’s day, but he does clearly list the book of Jeremiah. As he is reading Jeremiah, he comes across the prophecy of 70 years of exile in Jeremiah 25. Daniel prays and confesses his sin and the sin of his people, knowing that repentance will lead to restoration.
As he is praying, the angel Gabriel comes to Daniel and offers him confirmation that God has heard his prayer and will give him a prophecy—the prophecy of the seventy weeks. During these seventy weeks, six things will be accomplished (9:24). The first seven weeks will consist of an order to rebuild the city of Jerusalem to the arrival of a messiah. The next sixty-two weeks of the vision will consist of a general period of unrest in Jerusalem. Notice that there is no reason to assume that there is any span of time between the first week and the next sixty-two. After that period of sixty-two weeks, the messiah will be cut off, referring to Christ’s crucifixion. Then the people of the prince will destroy the city. There is controversy over whether this is referring to the same prince of verse 25 or a future antichrist. I see no reason to interpret this as the antichrist since Daniel has already been told of a prince. The people of the prince is the Jews. The rebuilt city and temple both will be destroyed, which took place between AD 66-70 in the Jewish War against Rome, mentioned in the same verse. “He” of verse 27 is the same prince of verse 26, who is the same prince of versed 25. After this war comes the seventieth week.
Those who hold to a “dispensational” interpretation of the last days insist that the seventieth week is detached from the first sixty-nine. The reasons they make that claim is because they insist the seventieth week and the great tribulation are the same, and they insist the rapture takes place before the great tribulation. Therefore, though the text itself makes no such claim, it simply must be that the seventieth week is still in the future. I will concede that a pre-tribulation rapture is a possible interpretation from other texts, but it is not in any sense taught in this passage whatsoever. At best, a pre-tribulation rapture is circumstantial. There is no reason in the text itself to separate the seventieth week from the first sixty-nine. It is pure imaginative speculation, and it has been popularized in books and movies such as the Left Behind series. The seventieth week is the time of the new covenant, which put an end to sacrifice and offering because of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice. The only reference to the desecration of the temple by the Romans at the end of the Jewish War is the last half of verse 27. I believe the point of the seventy weeks is to play off of to the seventy years of Jeremiah cited immediately prior to the prophecy.
1 John 4-5
There are many false prophets and antichrists in the world. All of them want to destroy the work of God. But you will know that a person truly believes and has repented of their sins confesses that Jesus is God. Whoever is born of God listens to those he has sent, namely, Christ and his apostles. Stay in the word of God!
Another test of genuine faith is love in action for fellow believers. God is love (and justice, and mercy, and wrath…), and so we are born of God will love those he has redeemed alongside us. Love is perfected by being tested in action. John reiterates that it is only possible to confess that Jesus is Lord by the Spirit’s indwelling power. Confessing that is not a natural state for man living in rebellion against God. Not only does confessing Christ is God and loving others give us assurance of faith, but so does our obedience to God’s law. Confessing, works, and obedience work together to give evidence of our belief.
The testimony of Jesus was made clear at both his baptism (the water) and his crucifixion (the blood). At his baptism, the Father spoke his blessing on the Son, and the Spirit descended on the Son. At his crucifixion, he fulfilled the Father’s plan of redemption that would culminate in the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. Therefore, to reject the Son’s testify is to reject him and continue to reject eternal life.
Given everything that John as said in the previous paragraphs, “the sin that leads to death” must be the rejection of the testimony of Jesus Christ. That is not an accidental sin or one you are not aware you have committed. It is a “high-handed” sin. So when John says that those born of God do not continue to sin, it makes perfect sense if you understand the sin that leads to death as the sin of spurning the testimony of Christ, or the gospel.
The sum of the law is this—love one another. It has always been the commandment, and it will never change. Those who are set out to deceive the church are those who do not confess the incarnation of Christ. Everything we do is about Christ. We should not give any quarter to those with such darkness in them.
John has received word that the church led (seemingly) by an elder/pastor named Gaius is healthy. John must have planted this church since he calls the people their his children. There have been some of the believers going out as missionaries that these people have supported faithfully, and John is thankful for their sacrifice. There is some opposition, however, in a man named Diotrephes. We’re not clear exactly what is going on, but it has something to do with slander against John. On the other hand, Demetrius has proven faithful (though we’re not told much more than that).
The book of Jude is a grand warning against apostasy, or falling away from a grace you claimed to have experienced. Jude spoke harshly, but that’s how you speak against those who speak falsely. The faith for which Jude expects his readers to contend is the faith handed down by the apostles. To contend earnestly is to do so with determination. You will not back down. Jude’s point is that those who turn from the faith never shared in the faith. He uses three examples to bolster his argument: Israel in the wilderness, fallen angels, and Sodom and Gomorroah.
Jude argues for humility in our knowledge. While we don’t have an extended account of the argument between Michael and Satan, we know that Michael did not confront Satan on his own authority but on God’s. Some more examples of selfish ambition are Cain, who did not offer a sacrificial sacrifice; Balaam, who was motivated by money; and Korah, who rebelled against Moses.
Jude says that if we don’t build up our faith, then others will tear it down. We start by keeping ourselves close to God in his unmerited love and mercy toward us.
Revelation is often said to be cloaked in mystery. However, that’s not how God communicates. You can understand Revelation if you realize it comes at the end of God’s written revelation and is the culmination of biblical prophecy. Therefore, we need a familiarity with biblical prophecy to understand Revelation. That’s where many of us fall short. I’ll try to show how often John is using the types and shadows of Old Testament prophecy to show how they were looking forward to the same things as him.
There are many debated issues within the book. One such issue is the placement of the events of the book in the grander scheme of the last days. Is the church present during the events after the first few chapters? Is everything a sequence of events, or is John retelling the same events from different perspectives?
There are four ways of reading Revelation:
Because there are components of the various “sevens” that we can see all around us, I typically hold to a view that is partly idealist, partly futurist. Very few people would fall into only one of these camps. I think you can clearly see that in one sense, these things define church history, and yet some passages will more clearly say that these things are yet to come. Revelation 1:19, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those are to take place after this.” Past, present, and future are all accounted for in Revelation.
God is described “him who is and who was and who is to come” (1:4). The seven spirits of God is a stylized way of saying the Holy Spirit (1:4). “Sevens” typically infer completion. Jesus is described as “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5). These identifiers, especially of Jesus, will be important at the end of the book, as well.
John doesn’t say precisely why he is on Patmos, but because he mentions tribulation and endurance, we believe his presence to be because of exile. As he is worshiping, presumably with the church, on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), he is shown the vision that will become Revelation. The voice he hears commissions him to write what he is about to see and send it to the seven churches. That means the entire book is for the church, not just the seven letters. There is a belief that the church does not appear in the book after the seven letters, but that is built upon the cold, stewy leftovers of a dispensational view of the last days. It should be discarded. The same view that holds the church doesn’t appear in Revelation after the seven letters also says that the sermon on the mount is not for the church but for the Jews during the millennial kingdom (as are most components of the gospels). But most people do not hold to both of those statements even though they presuppose each other.
John sees one like a son of man standing among seven golden lamp stands. Jesus is standing among the churches. Instead of seeing a single lampstand like Zechariah did to represent Israel, John sees seven lamp stands to represent the seven churches. The son of man is a clear reference to Daniel 7 when Daniel saw the son of man ascend to the Ancient of Days. Jesus is wearing the clothes of a high priest. The whiteness of his hair ties him to the Ancient of Days. God the Father and God the Son are one. Eyes like fire show his omniscience, which comes up again in the letter to Thyatira. His feet are purified and strong, and his voice is mighty. Jesus holds the churches near to himself, even in his hand. Jesus speaks the word of God, which is a double-edged sword, cutting to the marrow (Heb. 4:12). The shining face represents his glory, similar to Moses.
John can’t help but fall down. Jesus again commands him to write what he’s about to see, and he explains the meaning of the lampstands.
The church at Ephesus has endured tribulation, but they have gone soft in their love for Christ. They must repent and return to him. The church as Smyrna has also gone through tribulation, and Jesus commends them for how they will suffer in the coming days. The church at Pergamum is commended for staying faithful even when Satan has a hold on their city. But there are some who have practiced sexual immorality without repenting. Jesus calls them to repent and be faithful. The church at Thyatira has shown faithful endurance, but they are giving an inch to sexual morality and idolatry. Jesus calls them to conquer and send away those who practice such things.