Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stumbling Through Revelation 1:17&18

Verse 17: And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead
   I'm not a bit surprised. I’d have done the same thing, and I bet you would have, too. It doesn't sound to me like he fell at His feet in worship. It sounds like John was scared half to death and may have actually passed out cold.

And he laid his right hand upon me     

    The one with the stars? I talked in my last post about how cozy those stars had to be, resting in the right hand of God, and now that hand is upon John. Believe me, if you are going to have a hand on you, you can't do better than the right hand of God.

saying unto me, Fear not;       

This is the part of the verse that has me convinced that John had dropped to the ground out of fear rather than worship. I would imagine, even after all the years since John had watched Jesus ascend into Heaven, he would still recognize the voice. I'm assuming He used a different voice than the trumpet/many waters (read: loud) voice that John heard at the beginning of this encounter. That voice, along with the vision would have been overwhelming. It's no wonder John went down in a heap.
       But now, I would imagine a gentler, more familiar voice working to comfort John and help him regain his composure.

The phrase “fear not” is significant.

   I counted 65 times the Bible said “fear not”, and another 44 times it said “be not afraid”. I would say that constitutes a theme.
It always amazes me how people will take a comment made in the
Bible, take it out of context, twist it around and make doctrine out of it. But the Bible says at least 110 times to not be afraid. If Jesus Christ says that the most important commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Matthew 22:37), And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 22:39), I’d say an argument could be made that the third most important commandment is to “fear not”.
Of course, we are expected to fear God: (Psalm 111:10) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:28: And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
To fear anything or anybody else, shows a lack of faith in God: (Psalm 118:6) The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
So when God Himself shows up, fear is a natural reaction. It would be for anybody. In fact it is for pretty much everybody. John is just the latest in a list of people (Moses, Joshua, Ezekiel, Daniel, the list goes on) who upon finding themselves in the presence of the manifest power of God, collapsed in fear. Then, when the only person you are actually expected to fear, tells you to “fear not”, that’s got to be very comforting.

I am the first and the last

This is where it really gets good. Let’s start with Isaiah 44:6 - Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
So this is God. There is only one God, and this is Him: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The hand that hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together. (Isaiah 48:12) This is the Guy. No wonder John was shook up.
Then, in the same breath He says:

Verse 18:  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore

This can only describe Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only one who was dead, and now is alive forevermore. This is the most compelling argument I can think of for the position that Jesus Christ is, in fact The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I have relatives who claim to believe the Bible and will tell you that the
Bible says that Jesus is not God. I would love to hear their argument to dismiss this scripture. But alas, they have made it pretty clear that they won’t read my blog, specifically because they know I will make an argument for the deity of Jesus Christ. If you are reading this blog, and you believe that the Bible says that Jesus is not God, please comment below and give me your argument against this passage. I really am looking for the truth, and if you have a compelling argument, I promise not to dismiss it out of hand just because it counters what I have come to believe.   


This is a lovely little word that most people say at the end of every prayer and most of them don’t even know why. The habit started in synagogues and since the first Christians were Jews who were raised in a synagogue, it carried over to the church. The idea is that when a corporate prayer is recited, everyone says “amen” as a way of putting themselves in agreement with what was said. While the word (amēn) is generally understood to mean something like “so be it”, it can probably be more specifically defined as meaning “this is the truth”. I get the feeling that Jesus tacked this word onto the proclamation of who He is because this might have come as news to John as well.

and have the keys of hell and of death

The first part of this phrase is easy: If you have the key to something, you have power over it. The keys to your car - no one (theoretically) can drive your car without the keys. Even if they can, metaphorically speaking, they would still have to have the key to getting it started. Ok, I’d better stop there before I make myself dizzy. You get the idea. Jesus has control over hell and death. He made that pretty clear when He wouldn't stay dead.

Now hell and death seem to be related. While death wouldn’t seem to require explanation (it means your dead), the word translated as hell is hadēs. Hades has been variously translated as the grave, the place of departed souls or the realm of the dead. Most people think of the word hell as meaning the place of punishment for sinners. Heat, darkness, eternal torment, the lake of fire and all that. There is a debate going on as to whether that kind of hell actually exists. There are people making the argument that hell simply means the grave and that when you die, if you don’t go to heaven, you simply cease to exist. Poof! Gone, forgotten. I’m not ready to delve into that argument, but either way the two words are related, Jesus has control of both, and I don’t want to go to hell. Because any way you want to look at it, hell would mean an eternity separated from God, and I would much prefer the alternative.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stumbling Through Revelation 1:16

And he had in his right hand seven stars:

Everybody that seriously studies the Bible will tell you that it interprets itself. In this case, you don’t have to look very far for the interpretation: Jesus tells you right in verse 20 that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. When I get to verse twenty, I’ll worry about what that means. In the meantime, we can talk about them being in His right hand.

The right hand is always significant in the Bible

Psalm 110:1 - ...The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Also Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, and Acts 2:34.

Mark 16:19 - So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

Matthew 25:34 - Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

God’s right hand is a place of protection.

Psalm 17:7 - Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.

Psalm 20:6 - Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 - Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
 It’s impossible to imagine a better place in all the universe than to be resting in the right hand of God. These angels (aggelos - can be translated as a messenger, an envoy, or “one who is sent) are obviously of tremendous importance to God.
I can imagine John looking at them in Jesus’ hand (either a really big hand, or pretty small stars), wondering what they mean.  

and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword:

Now, this I have a harder time visualizing. I’ve seen where a lot of artists have tried, and it always comes out a little bizarre, if not grotesque. Understanding what it means isn’t very hard:
Ephesians 6:17 -  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
And Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Obviously, what came out of His mouth was the Word of God. (Really, how could it be anything else). Attributed to this Word is tremendous power and precision.

The Power of God’s Word

This is incredibly exciting stuff. The word “quick” (zaō) in Hebrews 4:14 does not mean fast. It means “ALIVE”, and “active”. Don’t forget, the entire Universe was created by God’s Word. It is infinitely powerful. And the best part is: it is available to you and me. That book we all call the Bible contains God’s Word, and all the power in the Universe.
Scoff if you want, but I challenge you to read the thing. Simply pray to God and read the Bible daily and I guarantee it will change your life. It changed mine.
But the word of God is not necessarily gentle. As I read it, the first thing that strikes me is all the things I’m doing wrong. If you read it with an honest, seeking heart, you start to notice that all the excuses you’ve been making for the things you do are not going to hold up in the light of God’s word. That’s why Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. You can claim to be a Christian, but if you are not reading God’s word, you can continue to make excuses and not even realise how far you are drifting from the mark.
I make that mistake all the time. My life has been a really sad cycle of turning to God through prayer and study of His word, followed by times when I seem to run out of time for God, followed again by my crying out to God again when everything in my life falls apart and I find myself back in some self-inflicted crisis. God always bails me out, and I promise myself that I won’t allow myself to neglect Him and His word again. I’m praying for Him to help me keep that promise now.
So maybe we don’t need to try to visualize a sword coming out of His mouth. While we are told of things that Christ said when He appeared to John, we are not necessarily told of everything He said to John. John was a very holy man, but he was still a man. He was not perfect. The words of God may have cut John like a sword as He was made aware of just how far he was from the divine perfection of God. Something like what happened to Isaiah: (6:5) - Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Isaiah was a great man of God, too.

and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

Countenance means visage or overall appearance. I was thinking the brightness represented holiness. There are a lot of references to the face of God shining on His people: Psalm 80:7 - Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. And Psalm 119:135 - Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes. And some others, not just in Psalms, but in Ezekiel 43:2 - And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. ...and other places. In the New Testament, too: Acts 26:13 - At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
Then, I was thinking it represented righteousness: Matthew 13:43 - Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Even kind of a contagious righteousness: Exodus 34:29 - And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. Angels also had this shine. When the Angel came down and rolled the stone away from Christ’s tomb: Matthew 28:3 - His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow  , and Daniel said the angel that appeared to him had a face like lightning. Daniel 10:6 - His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the appearance of this angel and the Person in front of John.
But, I ran into a problem when I saw Ezekiel 28:17 - Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. This guy was neither holy nor righteous.

The Brightness has to mean something

I’m wondering if this incredible brightness isn’t also part of the uniform of Heaven. Genesis says that Man was created in God’s image. I wonder if Adam and Eve were images of light before they sinned. That perhaps the coats (kethôneth - “to cover”) of skins that God clothed them with was the skins that we consider our bodies that scientists are so happy to point out are of the same material and general structure as every other mammal. I understand that Genesis 2:7 says that God formed man from the dust of the earth, but into no other creature did God breathe life. Was it this God breathed life that was lost when Adam sinned? We really have no idea what the world was like in the beginning. We have only seen it in the state it took after Adam sinned.

I can’t resist pointing out here that there are 7 attributes in the description of Jesus here in the first chapter of Revelation. Get used to the sevens; they’re everywhere in this book.