Friday, June 9, 2017

Revelation 1:8, An Expositional Commentary

On the one hand, you can’t have a sentence without a subject (I am, He is, they are, etc.). On the other hand, every time you see “I am” in the Bible, you think of God. It is how He introduced Himself to Moses: Exodus 3:14 - And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. Jesus set off the Jewish leaders to the point of trying to stone Him when He said, “...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58).
I find it interesting that Jews will not pronounce the name of God for fear it will offend Him. Yet here, God is telling Moses to use His name when Moses was to talk to the King of Egypt.

Alpha (A) is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. Omega (­Ł×Ę) is the last
letter in the Greek alphabet. That may seem obvious to you...and it is. I’m just jazzed that I could find this little beauty (­Ł×Ę) in my character map. So thrilled in fact, that I won't even complain about the English translators leaving the Greek in here. I've often wondered why it doesn't say “A” to “Z”.

Well, that’s redundant. It turns out, this particular little phrase isn’t in the most ancient manuscripts. I don't really see that as a theological problem. It just seems to me that if the English translators had actually translated the Greek in the first place (you know, wrote it as A to Z - I'm not complaining. Just saying), they wouldn't have had to add this phrase here to clarify.

              I was a little confused about this verse. I couldn't quite understand why it was stuck in here. This chapter seems to read just fine without it, and I thought this verse actually interrupted the flow of the chapter a little but.
               Then, I dug into it a little bit. While the subject matter right up to this verse is obviously Jesus Christ, the structure of the sentence seems to make this verse a reference to God (the Father). In fact, the rest of this verse seems to drive that home.
                  Now I'm even more confused.

  Sound familiar? Just four verses ago, this was used to describe God. Then, there was the seven Spirits, and then there was Jesus Christ.
         So this person speaking here (pay no attention to those red letters in your Bible) is God.
I'm trying real hard to keep God and Jesus separate. Having read through this book already, I know that it is going to get harder and harder as we go along.

                   Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines “The Almighty” (pantokrat┼Źr) as:
(1) he who holds sway over all things
(2) the ruler of all.
“Almighty” works fine. This is the final piece of evidence that this verse is referring to God (the Father), which on the one hand makes this verse seem out of place. On the other hand, John may be working on a larger point here about the nature of God.

I want to stop here and talk a little about Arius of Alexandria.
Arius was a priest in Alexandria who believed that Jesus was not eternal. That He was created by God before the universe was created, which gives Him very high status, but not quite the same status as God the Father. According to Arianism (the term used for the teaching of Arius) believing that Jesus Christ is God would mean that you believe in two Gods.
This guy fascinates me because it was his influence and popularity that caused Constantine to hold an ecumenical council in Nicaea in 325 AD. This council is widely considered to be the birth of the Roman Catholic Church. By the time the council had finished, they had worked out a creed (the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed) that all the bishops in attendance were expected to sign. Out of a hundred bishops, only two refused to sign...and they were sent into exile. This creed is considered to be authoritative by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and all the major Protestant churches.
According to the Encyclop├Ždia Britannica, what follows is the English translation:

“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
            
Most people who were raised in the church will nod in agreement with this creed as they read it. Those that have left the church will at least nod in recognition. Don’t worry about the part that says: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. The word “catholic” here is not capitalized and does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic is a Greek term that means “universal doctrine”. This creed is the universal doctrine. So basically, if you believe this creed, it means you believe in the catholic church...not Catholic, but catholic. Clear?
The major issue the Arians have with this is the assertion that Jesus Christ was born of the Father - not created, and that He is “consubstantial” (meaning of the same substance or essence. All indications are that they invented this term just for the purpose of describing the Trinity) with the Father. Those indoctrinated in the church are instantly aghast at the suggestion that Jesus isn’t really God. But Arius put up a good enough argument to convince a multitude of people in his time, and there are large groups that still believe it today.
People raised in the church tend to believe the tenets of the church’s teaching  without question, as though questioning the teaching of the church is somehow blasphemy. I personally believe that it is very important to question those teachings. If you don’t question it; if you don’t read and research and meditate, then you don’t really understand what you claim to believe. That, to me (and Stevie Wonder), is the very definition of superstition.  

By the time I finish with this book, I expect to have a pretty full understanding of who (and what) Jesus Christ really is. The book is called Revelation after all.

Just a reminder: All the scriptures I used were cut and pasted from the Blue Letter Bible.

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