Week 49, December 5-9
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.
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