What Is the Second Death in the Book of Revelation?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 20-22

“This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20.14)

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21.8)

Perhaps more than any other verses in the Bible, it is these two verses that Christians have used to justify the belief that there will be some people that God will eternally consciously torment in a burning lake of fire. In other words, there are some people that God will cause to suffer forever and forever.

Other Christians soften this view slightly by saying that instead of being tormented forever these people will be annihilated. These people will no longer exist in any sense because they will have been completely destroyed in the lake of fire.

Are either of these views what the book of Revelation and the Bible as a whole mean by the second death?

I believe the answer is absolutely not for anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see.

Then what is the second death in the book of Revelation?

The phrase “second death” appears four times in the book of Revelation but nowhere else in the Bible. If the book of Revelation speaks of a second death, there must also be a first death. Yet, nowhere does the book of Revelation explicitly speak of a first death. However, in order to answer the question of what is the second death we need to know what the first death is.

So, what is the first death?

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once.” (Hebrews 9.27)

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are of dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3.19)

Everyone that physically lives will die. God created us from the dust of the earth and to the dust of the earth we will return when we die. So, the first death is the physical, or natural, death of the body.

There is a principle in scripture that first there is the natural and then there is the spiritual. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.44, 46, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.”

The first thing that happens to any person is that they are born naturally, or physically. But, there is also a second birth, a birth that is spiritual, from above, or heavenly.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'” (John 3.3)

Jesus told Nicodemus, a man that had been been naturally, or physically, that he could not see the kingdom of God unless he was born again, or born a second time. Nicodemus clearly understood that Jesus was speaking of being born a second time because he replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3.4)

In John 3.6-7, 8, Jesus responded, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’…So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus tells Nicodemus there is a natural, physical, birth, and there is a spiritual birth. The whole conversation reveals that the natural, physical birth comes first and the spiritual birth comes second. The first birth is of the dust, and the second birth is from above, of the spirit, of heaven. Therefore, Paul says, “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15.47)

Therefore, if the first death is natural, physical, then the second death is spiritual.

If the second death is spiritual, then does that not mean that the person’s spirit will be annihilated, putting their spirit to death?

No it does not.

Then, what is a spiritual death?

The Bible speaks very clearly as to what the second death, the spiritual death, is. The second death, the spiritual death, is a death to sin.

Sin does not come about physically. Rather, sin comes from evil desire, something not physical, and therefore, spiritual. “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.”

Therefore, “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin.” (Romans 6.11) To reckon yourself dead to sin is to die to something spiritual not physical. Therefore, to reckon yourself dead to sin is to consider yourself already having died the second death, the spiritual death, even though you have not died the first death, the physical death.

One should notice that when you reckon yourself dead to sin you are “alive to God in Christ.” (Romans 8.11) Spiritual death results in spiritual life. Or, we could say that the second death results in the second life.

This second death does not apply to everyone. “Over such the second death has no power.” (Revelation 20.6)

Who are these that the second death, spiritual death, has no power over?

“Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!” (Revelation 20.6)

Who are the ones that participate in the first resurrection?

“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20.4)

“They came to life.” This is describing who were dead that came to life in Jesus Christ.

John saw “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God.” John isn’t talking about bodies here. He is talking about souls, spirits, coming to life. These are the ones that participate in the first resurrection. Further, these are souls of those who have been beheaded.

Have you ever considered that if you truly believe in Jesus that you have been beheaded?

Even if you are alive?

Because you have been beheaded spiritually?

You have been beheaded and have a new head. Jesus “is the head of the body, the church.” (Colossians 1.18) God “gave him [Jesus] as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1.22-23)

Revelation 20.4 says that those who participate in the first resurrection are going to reign with Christ because they came to life with him. This is just what Paul says in Ephesians 2.4-6.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

We were dead in sins. But, we were made alive together with Christ. And, we were seated with him, on thrones, in heavenly places to reign with him.

Paul says all of this again in another way in Romans 6.4-8.

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”

The believer has already died a spiritual death to sin by being baptized in Christ’s death “for the death he died he died to sin, once for all,” (Romans 6.10) If we have already died with Christ, symbolically through baptism, then we have already died the second death, the spiritual death. Therefore, the second death has no power over the believer.

This all happens right now for the believer. Therefore, the 1,000 years, which is a symbolic number as is virtually everything else in Revelation, is happening right now.

But, “the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” (Revelation 20.5)

Did you get that?

Those that do not believe in Jesus, those that do not participate in the first resurrection, the rest of the dead do not get eternally tormented in a burning lake of fire or annihilated.

The rest of the dead come to life.

When?

At the end of the thousand years.

How do they come to life?

Dying to sin.

Spiritual death.

Or, going through the second death.

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21.8)

All of the things listed are sins that the unbeliever has not died to. The unbeliever is still practicing these sins. “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3.8) Lies are murder are most definitely works of the devil (John 8.44) as are the other things listed that have their share in the lake of fire. But, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3.8)

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.

Jesus came to destroy sin.

But, Jesus did not come to destroy the works of God.

Jesus did not come to destroy people.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2.10)

So, people go through the second death, spiritual death, to be reckoned dead to sin. They go through the fire to purge their old selves, their false identities, because they did not reckon themselves dead to sin and did not get baptized into Christ’s death.

But, spiritual death results in spiritual life as I have already outlined above.

The rest of the dead will come to life though.

After going through the fire.

When the 1,000 years have ended.

Therefore, “he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done!'” (Revelation 21.5-6)

Therefore, when the new Jerusalem, the city of God, comes down from heaven, “by its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there.” (Revelation 21.24-25)

The gates of the new Jerusalem are never shut so that when the rest of the dead go through the fire, purging their old selves, dying to sin, the second death, the spiritual death, and come to life they too can enter into the new Jerusalem and have eternal fellowship with God and Jesus.

Why Does Jesus Kill All Men Gathered Against Him with the Sword of His Mouth?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 18-19

“And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” (Revelation 19.21)

In Revelation 19.11, John sees heaven open and a white horse appears. The rider on the white horse was called faithful and true.

Who is the rider on the white horse?

Jesus.

Revelation 1.5 calls Jesus “the faithful witness.” And, Revelation 3.14 calls Jesus “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”

John says Jesus judges and makes war in righteousness.

How does Jesus judge and make war in righteousness?

On the cross.

The righteousness of God is revealed by Jesus on the cross (Romans 3.21-26. You can read about this in What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

Speaking of Jesus on the white horse, John says, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” (Revelation 19.15) This same sword in Jesus’ mouth is previously mentioned twice in Revelation. Verse 1.16 says, “From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” And, verse 2.12 says, “The word of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.”

Clearly, this is not a literal sword. Jesus does not have a literal sword coming out of his mouth by which he is going to literally kill people. Since the sword is coming from his mouth, this is clearly a reference to Jesus’ word. In Revelation 19.13, John said of Jesus, “The name by which he is called is The Word of God.” This fits with Hebrews 4.12, which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”

The sharp two-edged sword coming from Jesus’ mouth is to “strike down the nations.” Verse 19.15 continues, “And he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” This is all an allusion to Psalm 2.

Psalm 2.1-2 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”

Jesus is going to strike the nations that gather themselves together against him with the sharp two-edged sword in his mouth.

Psalm 2.5 says, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.”

In the Septuagint, this verse uses the same Greek words for wrath [orge] and fury [thymos] that are used in Revelation 19.15. You can read more about these words and Jesus’ treading of the winepress alone in What Is the Wrath of God?

Jesus is going to tread the winepress, that is go to the cross, alone. It is by treading the winepress alone that Jesus is going to judge and make war against the nations in righteousness, by the cross, that have gathered against him.

Speaking of this battle where the nations gather together against the messiah, Psalm 2.7 says, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.'”

Jesus became the begotten son of God not when he was born by Mary but when he was born of God in his resurrection. This is why Revelation 1.5 says that Jesus is the “firstborn of the dead.” Colossians 1.18 says, “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” Acts 26.23 says, Jesus was “the first to rise from the dead.” Romans 8.29 says that God is conforming us to the image of Jesus “in order that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Jesus was the begotten son of God, the first to be born from death to life.

Therefore, Revelation 19.11-21 is to be understood as a revelation, an unveiling, of what happened at the cross.

So, John saw an angel calling with a loud voice to all the birds, “Come, gather for the great supper of God.” (Revelation 19.17)

What were these birds to gather and eat at the great supper of God?

“To eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”

It is important to notice the repetition of the word flesh. It is the flesh that the birds have been gathered together to eat.

With the kings of the earth and their armies, John saw the beast. In this battle, the beast was captured. And, so was the false prophet who deceived all those that had received the mark of the beast, worshiped it image, and gathered against Jesus for war.

What happened to the beast and false prophet after this battle?

“These two were thrown alive in the lake of that burns with sulfur.” (Revelation 19.20)

The beast and the false prophet led the kings of the earth and their armies into war against Jesus and were thrown into the lake of fire because of it.

But, what about the kings and their armies?

Were they thrown into the lake of fire too?

No.

“And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who sitting on the horse.” (Revelation 19.21)

The kings and their armies, the captains, the mighty men, and all men – free and slave, small and great – were slain by the sword.

The Greek word for slain is apokteino. It means to kill or slay. It can also mean destroy. This is word is used 74 times in the New Testament. It is used almost exclusively in regards to the Jews killing the prophets and Jesus.

In fact, Revelation 19.21 is the first and only instance of Jesus, or God, actually killing, slaying any person in the New Testament.

There is only one other time where Jesus and God are said to actually kill something.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing [apokteino] the hostility.” (Ephesians 2.14-16)

Through the cross, Jesus kills “the hostility.”

What hostility?

In one sense, the hostility between Jew and Gentile.

But, I believe in a greater sense our mankind’s hostility to God.

Where does man’s hostility to God reside?

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8.7-8)

The Greek word for hostile in Romans 8.7 is the same Greek word for hostile in Ephesians 2.14, 16.

Hostility to God resides in the mind set on the flesh. And, the flesh cannot please God.

Why did the angel call the birds to gather for the great supper of God?

“To eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” (Revelation 19.18)

Why were the rest, all those in the verse above, “slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him [Jesus]”?

So that “all the birds were gorged with their flesh.”

But, what does it mean to be slain by the sharp two-edged sword in Jesus’ mouth?

What does it mean to be killed by the word of God?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4.12-13)

To be killed by the word of God, the sharp two-edged sword, means not our literal, physical death but the separation of our flesh from our spirit.

In Revelation 19.21, Jesus kills all the flesh of those gathered against him because the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. Because this the flesh and the mind set on it cannot please God, Jesus separates the flesh from us with the sword of his mouth, the word of God.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” (Romans 8.5)

Remember, the setting for this battle is the cross. Through the cross, Jesus gives peace, killing our hostility to God. He removes our flesh and gives us his Spirit.

“But those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…But to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8.5, 6)

In reality, Jesus and God do not physically kill mankind.

Rather, Jesus and God kill the flesh of mankind.

Which means that Jesus and God separate the spirit of each person from their flesh so that they can please God.

What Is the Wrath of God?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 15-17

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.” (Revelation 15.1)

The English phrase “wrath of God” occurs 11 times in the Bible, all of which are found in the New Testament. Five of the 11 occurrences are in the book of Revelation. Five of the occurrences are in the letters of Paul – Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians. “Wrath of God” appears one time in John’s gospel. So, no New Testament writer other than John and Paul uses the phrase “wrath of God.”

The English word wrath is not the same Greek word in all 11 cases.

In the instances outside the book of Revelation, the Greek word for wrath is orge, which means anger or wrath. Orge has to do with a natural impulse or propensity for anger or wrath, one’s temperament, one’s disposition, or one’s nature.

But, in the book of Revelation, the Greek word for wrath in the phrase “wrath of God” is thymos. This is true in every case but one. In this one case orge is used, but it is preceded by thymos. Thymos means passion (as if breathing hard), according to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible.

However, according to An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, thymos means the soul. In one sense it means the soul, breath, life. But, in another sense it means the soul or heart. In this second sense it can have five uses:

  1. of desire, including for meat and drink
  2. mind, temper, will
  3. spirit, courage
  4. as the seat of anger
  5. the soul as the agent of thought

Thymos has more to do with the principle of life, feeling, and thought, particularly strong feeling or passion. Therefore, thymos does not have to be strictly about fury, anger, or wrath as it is typically translated.

So, what is the wrath of God?

Before we can answer that question, we should look at how orge and thymos are used outside of the context of the wrath of God.

Only five of the 36 times orge is used in the New Testament are found in the gospels. And, only once is used specifically of Jesus.

Mark 3.4-5 says, “And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger [orge], grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”

Jesus is the only one to see God and to have made him known (John 1.18). Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15). Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1.3).

In the only recorded instance of Jesus being angry, he was angry because of the hardness of heart of those in the synagogue. Jesus was angry because when he asked if it is lawful to do good or harm, to save life or kill on the Sabbath no one answered him. So, Jesus showed them the answer by restoring a man’s withered hand.

The anger of Jesus is aroused by the hardness of heart of religious people who put religious practice above good and life itself. And, Jesus’ anger drives him to restore a man’s withered hand, to do good, to give life.

How amazing that the one time Jesus, as the perfect representative of God, is angry that his anger results in restored life.

While Jesus was recorded as being angry just this one time, we are told that anger and wrath are of the old men and we should therefore be done with them.

“Let all bitterness and wrath [thymos] and anger [orge] and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4.31)

“But now you must put them all away: anger [orge], wrath [thymos], malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3.8)

“For the anger [orge] of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1.20)

This clearly shows that our anger is not all like God’s anger. We cannot equate the two of even think of them in the same way.

The only time thymos is used in the gospels is in Luke 4. Jesus is speaking for the first time in the synagogue. He opens the scroll of Isaiah, reads about the good news to the poor and liberty to the captives being proclaimed, but skips over the vengeance of God being poured out on his enemies. Jesus then gives two examples of Elijah being sent to Gentiles to further verify his thought that God is not going to pour out vengeance on the Gentiles as the Jews in Galilee wanted. “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath [thymos].” Those disappointed that God would not take violent vengeance on their enemies are the one’s filled with wrath. Not Jesus. And, not God.

Like orge, thymos is used in the sense of God’s people putting it away. We already saw that a few times above.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident; sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, fits of anger [thymos], rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (Galatians 5.18-21)

Clearly, orge and thymos are something we are no longer to do because orge and thymos do not align with our new nature in God. They have to do with out old nature.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath [orge], like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2.1-3)

Wrath is something is in the sons of disobedience because they are walking according to the ways of this world, which is ruled by Satan, the prince of the power of the air. Revelation 12.12 says, “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

But, we are no longer children of wrath because “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2.4-5)

So, God’s wrath is nothing like our wrath and anger. It is something entirely different. Further, Satan is the one that came down to earth in the kind of wrath that steals, kills, and destroys. Jesus comes in the kind of “wrath” that gives life and that life abundantly.

So, knowing that God’s wrath is nothing like our wrath, what is the wrath of God?

“For the wrath [orge] of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1.18) Paul goes on to say “God gave them up” three times in regards to those who suppress the truth and do not acknowledge God. He then gives a long list of things they were given over to.

Many think that God’s wrath comes because of these things that ungodly and unrighteous men and women have been given over to. In other words, do bad things and God’s wrath is going to be rained down upon you.

But, Paul is saying exactly the opposite. God’s wrath is revealed when he allows you to follow your own desires and you do the long list of things Paul says ungodly and unrighteous men and women do. God’s wrath is simply letting you follow your choices and receiving the consequences of your own choices. Sin has within itself its own punishment. This is why the Old Testament stresses that our own evil comes back on our own head. This is why the wages of sin is death. Death is the natural outcome of sin. God’s wrath does not cause death to be brought out of sin. As we saw from Jesus above, God’s anger leads him to restore, to do good, to give life.

When we turn to Revelation, we see that the fury and wrath of God is almost always connected with a specific event.

What is the event that God’s wrath is connected to?

The treading of the winepress and drinking of the cup of that wine. This is clear throughout Revelation 15-17.

And, who was the one that tread the winepress and drank the cup of wrath?

Jesus.

Who’s wrath crucified Jesus?

Our wrath.

Not God’s.

Jesus prayed about this cup in the garden the night before he was crucified. Therefore, we can see that the winepress is the cross.

Speaking of Jesus, Revelation 19.15 says, “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” It was from his treading the winepress that Jesus “is clothed in a robe dipped in blood.” (Revelation 19.13)

John takes this imagery from Isaiah 63.3, which says, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.”

In Isaiah, it appears that it is the blood of the enemies that covers the garment of God’s servant because God’s servant battles against the enemies alone in his anger and wrath. But, John transforms this imagery to show that it was the blood of God’s servant that was shed. It was the blood of Jesus that stained his own garments. He tread the winepress alone in anger and fury.

But, just as we saw in Mark 3, Jesus’ anger and fury was caused by the hard hearts of those around him while he was on the cross. But, that anger, that wrath, that passion as the cross of Christ is known, is what drove Jesus to remain on the cross alone. And, it was from his anger and wrath, his passion, on the cross that Jesus brought about restoration, good, life, and life abundantly.

Man’s wrath, which derives from Satan’s, causes violence, destruction, and death.

But, God’s wrath is not like our wrath.

God’s anger and wrath drives him to restore, to do good, to give life.

Jesus showed that God’s wrath and anger is fully revealed when God chooses to die for you instead of killing you.

Rightly understood, God’s wrath and anger that drives him to die for you to give you life should cause a great deal of torment in your mind. It is like vengeance brought about by coals of fire being heaped upon your thoughts.

That is the wrath of God we see in Revelation.

What Are the 1,260 Days, 42 Months, and Time, Times, and Half a Time of Revelation?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 12-14

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11.3)

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.” (Revelation 12.6)

“But do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11.2)

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11.5)

“But the woman was given two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” (Revelation 12.14)

In Revelation, there are three symbolic time periods – 1,260 days, 42 months, and time, and times, and half a time.

What are these times?

First, we need to understand that each of these time periods is three-and-a-half years.

Second, we need to understand that Jesus’ ministry lasted three-and-a-half years.

Instead of looking to these times as specific times in history, I believe we are simply to see the times in Revelation as a mirror image of Jesus’ ministry.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3.1)

Jesus is the son of God. But, God has loved us in such a way that we should be called children of God.

Therefore, when Jesus was resurrected, he said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to m Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

Jesus call the disciples his brothers. And, Jesus says that his Father is their Father.

Therefore, 1 John 4.16-17 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”

If we know and believe that God loves us, then we are sons of God. Just as Jesus is, so are we in this world.

So, what is the correlation between these times in Revelation and the ministry of Jesus?

 

Speaking of Jesus, John 1.18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John 3.31-34 says, “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no on receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”

In John 8.18, Jesus said, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12.49-50)

Jesus came as a prophet. He came to witness to the Father. He came to reveal who the Father is and what he is saying. And, he remained faithful to his prophetic ministry for three-and-a-half years until he was crucified.

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11.3)

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that the two witnesses were the faithful, suffering churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. These two churches represent the saints who have hear the call for endurance and faith (Revelation 13.10 and 14.12). Of these saints, it could be said that “they have conquered him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

This then is the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses. They prophesy about the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. These saints held to the testimony of Jesus. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19.10)

Just as Jesus prophesied of and witnessed to the Father for three-and-a-half years, so the faithful, suffering saints prophesy of and witness to Jesus for 1,260 days, a symbolic three-and-a-half years.

Jesus’ ministry started in the wilderness. This is clearly stated in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But, if we understand what John is doing in his gospel, then it is evident that Jesus started his ministry in the wilderness there too.

For John’s gospel starts, “In the beginning…” John is saying that his gospel is one of the new creation. Creation takes places from something that is “without form and void.” (Genesis 1.2)

But, this was exactly the state of Israel that Jesus was born into. Speaking of Judah, Jeremiah prophesied, “I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void.” (Jeremiah 4.23)

Revelation 12.6 says, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

The woman that gave birth to a male child fled to the wilderness for 1,260 days, which is the same time period that the two witnesses prophesy. This woman can be thought of as the true people of God that brought forth Jesus. If understood this way, then the woman would be equivalent to the two witnesses. Therefore, the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses would take place in the metaphorical wilderness, the place that is without form and void.

So, for three-and-a-half years “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5.19)

But, “all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5.18) for 1,260 days, a symbolic three-and-a-half years.

This ministry of reconciliation was the prophetic witness of both Jesus and his two witnesses, the woman.

The whole point of Jesus coming to the wilderness of this earth and his ministry of reconciliation was to create a new heavens and a new earth. And, his disciples, his witnesses, the woman, have been called to participate in that. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5.17)

Jesus was persecuted for the entire three-and-a-half years of his ministry. A casual read through the gospels makes this very clear.

“But do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11.2)

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that, those who dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13.5-6)

The suffering saints, the two witnesses, the woman, Jesus’ disciples, dwell in the holy city. They are the dwelling place of God. So, in the two passages above, we see that they are trampled upon, spoken against, and have authority exercised over them by the nations and the beast for forty-two months, a symbolic three-and-a-half years.

In other words, they are persecuted in the same way that Jesus was. In John 15.20-21, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

Revelations 12.14 says, “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” (Revelation 12.14)

Here we have another time associated with the woman, the true people of God. This time is against three-and-a-half – one time, two times, and a half time. But, we are given no unit of time. It’s simply three-and-a-half.

I believe that we should understand this that prophetic ministry of reconciliation for new creation of the two witnesses, the woman, is for an indefinite period of time, but it is meant to mirror the three-and-a-half year ministry of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:35-36)

So, the 1,260 days, 42 months, and time, and times, and half a time are all the same period of time. They are all happening simultaneously. They all started at the crucifixion and have continued until today. They will continue until Jesus returns. And, they are all meant to mirror the life of Jesus. For as he was in the world so are we.

But, there’s just one more question for consideration.

Why is the time for the two witnesses and the woman given in days while in regards to the nations and the beast the exact same time period is given in months?

The time is in days for the two witnesses and the woman because the day is a time of light.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1.5-7)

John 8.12 says, “I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 11.9 says, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

John 12.35 says, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light.”

The Jews had a lunar calendar. This meant that the months were determined by the movement of the moon. The moon was the lesser light that governed the night, darkness. So, the time is given in months for the nations and the beast because they are walking in darkness.

John 11.10 says, “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

John 12.35 says, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”

Let us walk in the light.

Let us be witnesses to the light.

Let us be “not fear what we are about to suffer.” (Revelation 2.10)

Let us “be faithful unto death.” (Revelation 2.10)

Let Jesus say of us, “You have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3.8)

Let Jesus say of us, “You have kept my word about patient endurance.” (Revelation 3.10)

Let is be said of us, “They have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12.11)

Who Are the Two Witnesses in the Book of Revelation?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 8-11

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11.3-4)

There are many theories about the identity of the  two witnesses in Revelation 11.3. Some theories propose the two witnesses are:

  • Moses and Elijah
  • Enoch and Elijah
  • Two unknown people in the end times
  • Israel and the church
  • the Old Testament and the New Testament

You can easily find explanations of all these theories. But, I believe all of them suffer from one or both of two problems.

First, these interpretations try pin all of the symbols of Revelation to specific people, institutions, or nations in actual history. But, the symbolic world of Revelation is not a secret code to decipher actual historical events. The symbolic world described in Revelation is meant to help its readers see beyond the physical world to the spiritual world behind it so that our thinking can be changed.

Second, these interpretations believe all of the events of Revelation to take place in the future. However, if you do a careful study of the latter days, the last day, the end of days, etc. throughout the Bible, then you will find that the events described sound eerily like the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. All of God’s promises are yes in him. The completion of the fulfillment may be yet future in some cases, but the fulfillment began on the cross. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” This is the now but not yet nature of the kingdom of God at the present time.

Further, we rule out some of the theories based on other books of the New Testament.

We see Moses and Elijah at Jesus’ transfiguration just before his death in Matthew 17.1-13, Mark 9.2-8, and Luke 9.28-36. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared. Peter wanted to make Moses and Elijah equal to Jesus. But, a voice from heaven says, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” At that moment, Moses and Elijah disappeared. God’s people are to listen to Jesus not Moses and Elijah. Therefore, I find it very unlikely that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses.

Further, many Jews believed that Moses and Elijah would return. But, the New Testament indicates they already have come.

John the baptist was the return of Elijah. In Matthew 11.13-14, Jesus said, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” Also, Luke 1.17 says, “And he [John the baptist] will go before him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah.”

Jesus is the prophet like Moses that Moses himself prophesied about in Deuteronomy 18.15, 18. In Acts 3.20-22, Peter says, “That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.'” And, speaking of Jesus, Stephen said in Acts 7.37, “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.'”

Therefore, we can rule out any theories involving Moses and Elijah as the two witnesses.

Israel and the church are a popular theory for the identity of the two witnesses because two olive trees are mentioned in Revelation 11.4. But, Israel and the church, which is generally made of gentiles, are a single olive tree. Gentiles have been grafted into the olive tree that is Israel. And, Israelites that have been cut off temporarily will at some point be grafted back into that same olive tree. (Romans 11). Further, God’s people are one. In Christ, there is no more Jew or gentile (1 Corinthians 12.13 and Galatians 3.28)

The theory of the Old and New Testaments as the two witnesses places far too much emphasis on a book. But, the book cannot be understood without the Holy Spirit. And, the world being witnessed to does not even acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit. Further, the book is not the witness to the world. God’s people are the witness to the world.

So, who are the two witnesses?

I think the answer is likely found within the book of Revelation itself. The seven letters to the seven churches Revelation 2 and 3 often seem to get treated as a completely separate book from the rest of Revelation. But, they are all part of the same book. There is a reason they come together.

In Revelation 11.4, we read that the two witnesses are identified as “two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” The only other time the word lampstand is used in the book of Revelation is in the first three chapters of the book in regards to the seven churches. Revelation 1.20 says “the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

But, in Revelation 11.4, why are there only two lampstands, two churches, two witnesses?

The answer is in the letters to the seven churches.

Each letter follows a similar pattern. Part of the pattern is that Jesus speaks a word of commendation and then a word of judgment to each church. But, the pattern gets broken on the word of judgment.

To the church in Ephesus, Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2.4)

To the church in Pergamum, Jesus says, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2.14)

To the church in Thyatira, Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2.20)

To the church in Sardis, Jesus says, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3.1)

To the church in Laodicea, Jesus says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3.15-17)

Jesus speaks a negative word of judgment to five of the seven churches.

However, Jesus does not speak a negative word of judgment two churches – Smyrna and Philadelphia. Instead, Jesus only commends these two churches and encourages them to remain faithful to his witness despite the suffering they will endure.

To the church in Smyrna, Jesus says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2.9-10)

To the church in Philadelphia, Jesus says, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3.8-10)

The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia are the two witnesses of Revelation. They symbolize any body of believers, any church, that holds to the faithful witness of Jesus Christ – that he suffered, died, and rose against for repentance and the forgiveness of sins – through their own suffering, even to the point of death.

In Revelation 11.4, the two olive trees are reference to a prophecy in Zechariah 4. He sees two olive trees and asks what they are. The angel tells him, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Therefore, the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, the two witnesses, are powered by the Holy Spirit and not by might and power. These two churches witness by their faithfulness in suffering. By might and power, war and violence, are how the kingdoms of this world make themselves known.

These two churches witness before the seventh angel blows the seventh trumpet towards the end of Revelation 11. When that seventh trumpet blows, “the mystery of God would be fulfilled.” (Revelation 10.7) Therefore, these two churches, two witnesses, witness to the mystery of God.

Where else in scripture do we see the mystery of God being revealed?

Who is responsible for making the mystery of God known?

“Assuming that you have of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3.2-11)

A mystery.

Made known to Paul by revelation.

To the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, the working of his power.

Through the church.

To the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The eternal purpose of God realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The two witnesses are the faithful, suffering churches.

When we make the two witnesses anything other than the faithful, suffering church, then we give ourselves license to to slough off our duty to be witnesses now. We come to believe that it someone else’s duty to witness. We come to believe that the witness will  take place at a future date, in the end times.

But, the end of the age has already arrived. The kingdom of God is here now.

You are the witness now, if you are faithful to suffer for Jesus.

“Now the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12.10-11)

The two witnesses have been prophesying since Jesus was crucified. The two witnesses are prophesying now. The two witnesses will prophesy until Jesus returns.

Who Is Worthy to Open the Scroll and Break Its Seals?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 4-7

“And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?'” (Revelation 5.2)

Revelation 5.1 says that there was one seated on a throne who had a scroll in his right hand. The scroll was written “within and on the back,” but it was sealed with seven seals.

What is this scroll?

Almost everything in the book of Revelation is an allusion to something in the Old Testament. But, often John turns the imagery of thing being alluded to in the Old Testament on its head. So, it is with the scroll.

The scroll in the right hand of the one on the throne was sealed with seven seals. The Greek word translated scroll is biblion and also means book.

First, the sealed scroll is an allusion to Daniel 12.4, which says, “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” The previous verses give us an idea of what “the time of the end” is.

“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12.1-3)

At the time of the end there shall be trouble like never before in the history of Israel. There could be a time of worse trouble for Israel than when their messiah was crucified?

At the time of the end, Daniel’s people, Israel, would be delivered. Did not Jesus’ crucifixion mark the beginning of the deliverance of Israel?

At the time of the end those asleep in the dust of the earth would awake. It even seems that some of these would witness like the stars in the sky. Speaking of the time immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion, the time of the end, Matthew 27.52-53 says, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went in the holy city and appeared to many.”

Second, the sealed scroll is an allusion to Isaiah 29.11-12, which says, “And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read.'”

Whether one could read or not, the scroll couldn’t be read. It could not be understood.

But, what is the vision that couldn’t be understood?

Let’s just highlight one part that is important to the context of the scroll in Revelation. Isaiah 29.1-2 says, “Ah, Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped! Add year to year; let the feasts run their round. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be moaning nd lamentation, and she shall be to me like an Ariel.”

The city where David encamped is Jerusalem. It seems Isaiah is calling Jerusalem by the name Ariel.

What does the name Ariel mean?

Lion of God.

As you read the rest of the vision, Jerusalem, Ariel, the lion of God, will be besieged and brought low. But, this vision was sealed, like a book that could not be read, “because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” (Isaiah 29.13)

Several times in the book of Revelation the number seven seems to speak of the Holy Spirit.

  • “from the seven spirits who are before his throne” (Revelation 1.4)
  • “before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God” (Revelation 4.5)
  • “with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God” (Revelation 5.6)

The Greek word for seal is sphragis. It means a signet. But, the meaning has the idea of sealing as fencing in or protecting from misappropriation. And, a signet is a stamp that is a mark of privacy or genuineness. We could think of this scroll sealed with seven seals as being sealed by the Holy Spirit to protect it and keep it from being misused. The Spirit also mark’s the scroll’s genuineness. These are interesting ideas when we consider the inspiration, or God-breathed, nature of scripture.

In addition to being “sealed with seven seals,” this scroll or book in the right hand of the one on the throne was “written within and on the back.” This is an allusion to Ezekiel 2.9-10, which says, “And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and back, and there were written words of lamentation and mourning and woe.”

It’s very important to read all of Ezekiel 2 and 3 for the full context. Ezekiel saw this scroll when he was told as the “son of man,” Jesus’ favorite name for himself, to go “to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels,” who rebelled against God. They were “impudent and stubborn.” God tells Ezekiel, “whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” “You shall speak my words to them.”

Sounds like the mission Jesus was sent on doesn’t it.

But, I really want to highlight that Ezekiel read the words of the scroll as words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

It is with this context, that John hears an angel ask the question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

At first “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.” (Revelation 5.3) So, John began to weep.

“And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5.5)

Finally, there is one powerful enough to break the seals and open the scroll so that its contents can be read and understood. That one is the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Messiah. It’s none other Jesus. He can open the scroll because he has conquered.

But, refer back to the vision of Isaiah 29 that was a like a book that could not be read or understood by anyone. Jerusalem was like an Ariel, like a lion of God, besieged and brought low.

However, something is not as it seems. Something catches John’s attention.

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Revelation 5.6)

John thought it was the lion of Judah that had conquered so the scroll could be opened. The lion is fierce, powerful, strong, mighty, the king of beasts. The lion is at the top of the food chain.

But, in reality, the lion was a lamb. A lamb is weak, helpless, defenseless. It has nothing with which to protect itself. And, it’s not just a lamb, but the Greek word means a little lamb. Everytime you read the word lamb in the book of Revelation it is the Greek word for little lamb.

And, the lamb appeared “as thought it had been slain.” So, it was not the lion of Judah that conquered and was able to open the scroll of the book. Rather, it was the crucified lamb, Jesus Christ crucified, that had conquered. It was Jesus Christ crucified that the scroll, the book, able to be read and understood.

What is John saying?

I have filled my revelation of Jesus Christ with imagery from the Old Testament. But, the only way you will understand this revelation and all of the imagery of the Old Testament is to read to read it through the lens of the lamb that was slain and not the lion of Judah.

This revelation, indeed all of the Old Testament, the scriptures, can only be read and understood through the crucified Christ, the crucified messiah, a king killed by his enemies.

This revelation, the Old Testament, the scriptures, cannot be understood through a conquering king who defeats, destroys, and kills his enemies.

This is exactly what Jesus proclaimed the meaning of scripture to be.

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.'” (Luke 24.45-46)

The Greek word opened here has the same root as the Greek word for open in Revelation 5.3, 5.

Recall from Ezekiel 2 and 3 that the scroll written on both sides could not be read because Israel was “impudent and stubborn.” They were hard hearted.

“But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3.14-18)

The “old covenant,” the old testament, the scriptures, are veiled.

What removes the veil?

What unveils, uncovers, reveals, the true meaning of scripture?

What is “the revelation of Jesus Christ?”

He is the slain lamb, the crucified Christ, the Lord.

When you turn to him and see Jesus this was, the veil that has covered the true meaning of scripture is removed.

But, the Lord is the Spirit.

The Spirit is the signet, the fence that keeps scripture from being misused. The seal, the inspiration, of the Spirit infuses the scripture with its true meaning.

Therefore, 2 Corinthians 3.5-6 says, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

If you read scripture, the Bible, literally without first putting everything through the lens of the crucified Christ, then you get nothing but death.

But, if you read scripture, the Bible, through the lens of the crucified Christ by allowing the Spirit to open the seals protecting the true meaning of scripture, then you will only and always get life.

Therefore, Paul told the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2.2)

Recall from Ezekiel that he read the words written in the sealed book as “lamentation and mourning and woe.” Ezekiel saw that the son of man was being called to die despite speaking the words of God to the people of Israel.

But, notice the result of the crucified lamb opening the scroll so that it can be truly understood.

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign.” (Revelation 5.9-10)

Then the angels said “with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5.12)

But, not just the angels, for John says, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Lamentation, mourning, and woe has been turned into celebration, joy, praise and blessing.

Why?

Because the lamb, the Christ, did not just get crucified. He also rose from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24.45-47).

Death and resurrection life.

Interestingly, this is the meaning of the number 23 in scripture. According to Dr. Stephen E. Jones, the number 23 is written with the Hebrew letters kaph and gimel. Kaph symbolizes an open hand, and gimel symbolizes a lifting up. Therefore, it is the open hand lifting up from death.

The imagery, symbolism, and use of words is very intentional in Revelation.

Can you guess how many times the Greek word biblion, meaning scroll or book, is used in the book of Revelation?

23!

When we read the book that was sealed, the Old Testament, scripture, through the lens of the slain lamb, the crucified Christ, and not the lion of Judah, it takes us from death to resurrection life.

What Is Revelation About?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 1-3

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 1.1)

The book of Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse. This alternative title for the book derives from the very first Greek word in the book, apokalypsis. But, the name Apocalypse either has contributed to the confusion in understanding the book or is a sign of our misunderstanding of the book.

When you hear the word apocalypse, what comes to your mind?

Odds are the word apocalypse conjures up thoughts of devastation and destruction. Indeed, one of the meanings of the English noun apocalypse is a great disaster. And the adjective, apocalyptic, can mean foreboding imminent disaster or final doom or wildly unrestrained. Clearly, these meanings come from the extremely dramatic symbolic imagery in the book of Revelation.

But, none of these English meanings of apocalypse or apocalyptic have anything to do with the meaning of the Greek word apokalypsis. The Greek word simply means a revelation, an uncovering, a disclosure, an unveiling.

Somehow we have come to believe that “the revelation of Jesus Christ” in the book of Revelation is entirely different than the Jesus Christ is revealed in the other 26 books of the New Testament. Somehow we have come to believe that the book of Revelation says that Jesus is coming back to violently slaughter and kill millions of people, plunging them into an eternal lake of burning fire, even though that revelation would completely contradict the revelation from the other 26 books of the New Testament.

Further, the revelation of Jesus Christ as one who would violently slaughter and kill millions of people would completely contradict the revelation of Jesus Christ in the other four books of the New Testament written by John. John’s gospel is dominated by the words light, love, and life. The book of 1 John is also dominated by these same three words. And, we know the full meaning of these words through the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All of this points to Jesus Christ as the revelation of a God who suffers and dies for you to bring you life.

The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” appears three other times in the New Testament.

Galatians 1.11-12 says, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What is man’s gospel?

The gospel, or good news, was a term used of Caesar, the Roman emperor, returning from a successful battle in which he had militarily conquered and killed his enemies. The word gospel was used of a victorious king returning back to his capital city. But, this was not the gospel that Paul received from any man.

What was the gospel that Paul received through a “revelation of Jesus Christ?”

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4)

Unlike man’s gospel that had a conquering king that killed, Paul’s gospel had a Christ, a messiah, a king, that died and was buried. In Paul’s gospel, the king died of instead of killing. Therefore, Paul said in Romans 1.16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Doesn’t it make sense that Paul would say those words to the Roman church given what their mind would think of when they heard the word gospel?

The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” also appears twice in 1 Peter.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1.13-15)

Peter is preparing the hearers of his letter for suffering for the followers of Jesus Christ will suffer as he suffered. But, this suffering will result in praise, glory, and honor. They have a living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus after his suffering. The revelation of Jesus Christ will bring them grace.

The other three uses of the phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” have to do with the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These other uses do not involved Jesus killing anyone.

The same is true for the book of Revelation, which begins with the phrase “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The first time the noun apokalypsis is used in the New Testament is Luke 2.32. In fact, this is the only time the noun is found in any of the four gospels. This first and single use is from the Simeon’s blessing spoken over the baby Jesus.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2.29-32)

Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles in order to bring them to God. Therefore, the revelation that Jesus would bring was inclusive. It was meant to draw all nations and all peoples to God. It was not a revelation that Jesus would kill millions of people.

We can say exactly the same thing of the book of Revelation. If we read the book correctly, we will see that “the revelation of Jesus Christ” says “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5.9)

Also, there is a very important use of the verb apokalypto in the gospels.

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed [apokalypto] this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16.13-17)

The Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ.

Now read again the start of the book of Revelation.

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants.”

The same thing that the Father revealed to Peter is being revealed in the book of Revelation.

What is the significance of the revelation that Jesus, the son of man, is the Christ?

“And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus said it was necessary for the Christ to suffer.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer.

The Christ, the messiah, the king of kings, suffers.

Jesus suffers.

Jesus does not cause suffering.

He does not kill.

Not only does every one of the 26 books of the New Testament not Revelation testify to this. But, Jesus says everything written in the entire Old Testament, from Moses to the prophets, says the same thing.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer.

And, you think that the book of Revelation contradicts the other 65 books in the Bible?

Why was it necessary that the Christ suffer?

“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Luke 24.45-47)

It was necessary that the Christ suffer for repentance and forgiveness of sins.

This is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said that all scripture says this one thing.

This is the sum total, the revelation, of everything we need to understand when reading scripture.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, does not suddenly trump the revelation that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer. The book of Revelation does not change this necessary fact.

The Christ suffers.

He does not cause suffering.

In Galatians 1.13, Paul said, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” Paul was a murderer. He sought to kill, to persecute, to violently destroy, those that were following Jesus. He thought he was serving God by doing this.

What changed Paul?

God “was pleased to reveal [apokalypto] his Son to me.”

Paul received the revelation that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer for repentance and forgiveness of sins. Therefore, Paul went throughout the whole Roman empire preaching this gospel. He suffered and died as a result of preaching this revelation from God.

Yet, we want to think that the book of Revelation says something different. We want to think that the book of Revelation says that Jesus is going to return to violently slaughter and kill millions of people, sending them for eternity to a burning lake of fire.

Seriously?

That is not the revelation God gave to Jesus.

That is not the revelation Jesus gave to his disciples.

That is not the revelation of his son God was pleased to reveal in Paul.

That is not the revelation Paul preached to the Gentiles.

That is not the revelation of every single scripture.

That is not the revelation of the book of Revelation.

Every word God has spoken, every word and deed of Jesus, every scripture ever written says one and only one thing.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead three days laters for repentance and forgiveness of sins for all nations.

Read the book of Revelation with this one thing in mind and it will no longer be a mystery to you.

How Do We Confess the Coming of Jesus Christ in the Flesh?

TODAY’S READING: 2 JOHN, 3 JOHN, JUDE

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” (2 John 7)

John seems to make a very simple statement.

A deceiver, an impostor, does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.

But, it’s not as simple as it seems. For, to truly understand John’ statement we need to answer two questions.

  1. What does it mean to confess?
  2. Whose flesh is John referring to?

The Greek word for confess is homologeo. It is a compound word literally meaning the same word.

Generally, we think of confession as something done with our mouths. I believe this is why Christians have latched onto Romans 10.9-10, which says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes is and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Further, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12.3)

Therefore, American Christianity has made spreading the faith a matter of getting someone to say the right words. All that needs to be done is to get someone to say confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord. We just need to get people to make a profession of faith.

However, without denying these scriptures, we need to understand that true confession goes beyond the words that we say.

In Matthew 7.21-23, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, your workers of lawlessness.”

Here are people that say “Lord, Lord.” They are confessing Jesus with their mouths. They even do mighty works – prophesying and casting out demons. But, the implication is that they have not done the will of God. They are workers of lawlessness.

Why does Jesus call them workers of lawlessness?

They prophesied and cast out demons. Neither of those actions are against the will of God or against the law.

Jesus summed up the law in two commandments – love for God and love for neighbor. To be a worker of lawlessness is to be a worker without love. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 13.1-3, Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

We can say the right words and do the right actions, but if they are not motivated by love, then the words and actions are empty, hollow.

We can say “Lord, Lord,” but not do the will of God – love. Without love as our motivation, our foundation, Jesus will declare he never knew us.

In Titus 1.16, Paul says of deceivers, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” The Greek word for profess is homologeo. So, you can confess, say with your mouth, that you know God, but at the same time you can deny God by your works. While the verse doesn’t say it, it is likely that the works deny God because they aren’t done in love.

So, confession goes beyond merely saying the right words. True confession is made by works of love.

What is love?

Love is best known through the cross (1 John 4). Therefore, love can be defined by the giving of one’s self, one’s life, for the benefit of others. That we can most easily understand love through the cross shows that love is best known through actions not words.

So, whose flesh is John referring to?

Is John saying that a deceiver does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in his own flesh as a person?

Or, is John saying that a deceiver does not confess in the deceiver’s own flesh the coming of Jesus Christ?

A deceiver says one thing and does another. A deceiver can say with his mouth “Lord, Lord,” but his actions will not line up with those words. A deceiver’s mouth confesses Jesus, but his actions aren’t motivated by love. This can be known because in his own flesh, his own body, he is not giving himself for the benefit of others.

How did Paul make Jesus known?

How did Paul compare his ministry with those he believed were deceivers?

Paul did this through suffering in his own flesh just as Jesus. Paul touted his sufferings as proof of his confession because deceivers could not.

In 2 Corinthians 11.12-13, Paul says, “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”

And how does Paul boast in a way that is different than the false apostles and deceitful workmen?

By his sufferings in his flesh.

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands  of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11.23-28)

In Colossians 1.24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

Paul says in his ministry he has “renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways” and refuses “to practice cunning.” (2 Corinthians 4.2)

If he doesn’t use these tactics in his ministry to proclaim “the open statement of the truth” about Jesus, then how does Paul do it?

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4.7-11)

Paul’s open statement of the truth made in the sufferings of his own body. His confession was made with much more than words. He gave his very life for those he was ministering to.

A deceiver will have no problem lying, saying that indeed Jesus Christ came in the flesh.

But, a deceiver will never be able to show that in the flesh, in his own body, by his own sufferings.

All of this goes to show that we are to confess Jesus with words. But, much more than that, we are to confess Jesus Christ in the sufferings of our own flesh.

This then reveals that Jesus did not come to get us to merely believe the right things about him. He came to transform us. He came so that we could be conformed to his image.

Therefore, true confession of Jesus Christ is made through a life of transformation that has conformed us to the very image of Christ. We are now people willing to die on a cross with no self defense saying, “Father, forgive them.”

Jesus Proclaimed God Is Light, Love, and Life

TODAY’S READING: 1 JOHN

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1.1-3)

John is writing this letter to testify and to proclaim the eternal life. Eternal as in of God. The life of God.

John says that the eternal life was with God and made manifest to him and the other disciples. They heard and saw him. They looked at and touched him.

The one they saw and heard John calls the word of life. The logos of life. This is none other than the word, the logos, of God.

The word of life is the word of God.

John is clearly speaking of Jesus.

The word of life is Jesus.

The word of God is Jesus.

After this introduction to his letter, John goes on to testify and to proclaim three things of Jesus. In order (and that is important), John testifies and proclaims light, love, and life.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1.5)

God is light.

There is no darkness at all in God.

Therefore, if there is no darkness in God, then he cannot create darkness. Darkness is not of or from God.

Jesus proclaimed this revelation of God. Therefore, he contradicts Isaiah 45.7, which says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

Isaiah had a partial and obscured view of God. He saw through a veil. Therefore, he said God both formed light and created darkness.

Jesus alone has seen God. Jesus gives the clear view of God. Jesus gives the perfect revelation of God.

God is light. And, there is no darkness at all in him.

John then ties light with truth.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1.6-10)

Light is truth.

Darkness is lies and deception.

“God is not man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23.19)

“There was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53.9)

“I am…the truth.” (John 14.6)

John says that God is light was declared from the beginning.

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2.7-8)

We may not understand it as a commandment, but indeed from the beginning the darkness was passing away and the true light was shining.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1.3-4)

God is light.

God is truth.

It was so from the beginning.

But, darkness, lies, and deception are of the devil.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He…does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8.44)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light, then John speaks of love.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3.4)

Sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness is simply being without law.

Jesus summed up the law as love for God and love for your neighbor.

To be without law is to be without love for God and without love for your neighbor.

This is sin – not loving God and not loving your neighbor.

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps in sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3.5-6)

Jesus came to take away every word and deed that is not rooted and grounded in love. He never sinned, which means never said or did anything that was not from love.

“He committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2.22)

“He committed no lawlessness.” (Isaiah 53.9, Lexham English Septuagint)

“Although he had done no violence.” (Isaiah 53.9)

Jesus committed no sin, no lawlessness, no violence.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3.8)

“You are of your father the devil, and our will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8.44)

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3.11)

Did we hear this message from the beginning, in the creation?

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God mad the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.” (Genesis 1.6-7)

The separation of waters is a picture of baptism.

Baptism is a picture of dying. More than dying, baptism is a picture of choosing to lay down your life.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3.16)

The separation of waters on day of creation is a picture of love – Jesus laying his life down for us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4.7-10)

“God is love.”

“I am the way.” (John 14.6)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light and God is love, John speaks of life.

“If we receive the testimony of mean, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5.9-11)

John does not explicitly say it hear, but this testimony of God has been heard from the beginning too.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1.9)

The land coming out of the waters is a picture of life rising out of death – resurrection. It was from this risen land that all life flowed in the rest of the creation story.

God is life.

“I am…the life.” (John 14.6)

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.” (1 John 1.1)

“From the beginning.”

Jesus.

He declared:

  • God is light and there is no darkness at all in him
  • God is love and there is no sin, lawlessness (without love), and violence (killing) at all in him
  • God is life and there is no death in him

Therefore, Jesus declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14.6)

He said, “I am love, light, and life.”

The first three days of creation.

When the light of God shines on the love of God you have the life of God.

This is you becoming a new creation in Christ.

How Have We Been Called to Follow Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: 1 PETER, 2 PETER

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.21-22)

Peter says servants should be subject to their masters. Yes, be subject to the good master, although this is relatively easy and does not give you much, if any, credit or glory. But, be subject also to the unjust, harsh, or crooked master. For, if you do good while suffering for it, then that is a a gracious thing in God’s sight. In other words, doing good while suffering is a thing that God rejoices over.

Peter says this not as an endorsement of the master-servant relationship. He is not saying that the servant must remain subject to his master forever without exception. Peter is not saying that the servant is forever forbidden to seek freedom.

Peter says this for one reason only. Doing good while suffering, being a servant to an unjust master, is to follow in the steps of Christ. Christ did good while suffering, leaving us an example to do the same.

Peter then tells us exactly what the example is we are to follow.

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2.22)

Peter is quoting from Isaiah 53.9. His quotation is fairly close to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which says, “Because he committed no lawlessness, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” The Hebrew version is similar, saying, “Although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

So, we have the terms violence, lawlessness, and sin all used in the same place. Therefore, on one hand, these words interpret each other and may even be somewhat interchangeable. On the other hand, I think we can see a progression in the thought there Jesus did no violence, no lawlessness, no sin.

The Hebrew word for violence is hamas. It means violence and by implication wrong. According to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) the word implies “a strong, fierce, destructive force resulting in acts that maim, destroy, kill, often implying a lawlessness, terror, and lack of moral restraint.” Interesting, as that is exactly what many Christians think Jesus is going to do upon his second coming. Even though Isaiah 53.9 says that God’s servant, his messiah, “had done no violence.”

The first time hamas is used in the Bible is Genesis 6.11-12, which says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” The earth was filled with violence that was direct result of mankind, all flesh, corrupting his way of living.

In all the Old Testament there is only one that ever commits violence  – mankind. And, mankind’s violence returns upon its own head throughout the Old Testament.

“His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” (Psalm 7.16)

“No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58.2)

“Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.” (Psalm 73.6)

“The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you.” (Habakkuk 2.17)

Not one time does the Old Testament say that God did violence. However, God is said to save and deliver us from violence.

“My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, my savior, you save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22.3)

“You delivered me from men of violence.” (2 Samuel 22.49)

“From oppression and violence he redeems their life.” (Psalm 72.14)

Even though the Old Testament speaks of violence done through trade and divorce, it’s easy to construe it as speaking of physical violence only. Then, those that want an excuse to soften the example that Jesus gave us to follow always ask, “What is violence?” In other words, “How can I physically harm someone and have it not be considered violence?” Or, they ask, “What about violence done in self-defense?”

Here’s where the Septuagint begins to provide a progression of what encompasses violence. For, the Septuagint replaces violence with lawlessness (anomia in the Greek) in Isaiah 53.9.

Lawlessness simply means without law.

But, what does that mean in the context of Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53?

Matthew 22.36-40 says, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus simply defined the law as love – first for God, second for your neighbor. Therefore, to be lawless, to be without law, is to not love, to be without love.

Peter takes it even a step farther by replacing lawlessness with sin. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It’s enlightening to see where the hamartia might have come from though. According to A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible, hamartia is from the Greek word hamartano. Harmatano is perhaps from the negative particle a, meaning not, and from meros, which means to a division or share (to get as a section or allotment). Hamartano properly means to miss the mark but with the idea of to not share in the prize.

Many Christians are aware of sin, hamartia, as missing the mark. But, seeing the possible derivation of hamartia, reveals that sin, by missing the mark, can be seen as a not sharing in the prize?

What is the prize?

The divine nature.

God’s life.

When we sin, we miss the mark and fail to share in the prize that is God’s life, the divine nature.

Therefore, Peter writes in 2 Peter 1.3-4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.”

To sin is to be lawless and without love.

To be without love is to be violent.

We are violent because of our sinful desires.

James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

That Christ did no sin, now lawlessness, and no violence, and had no deceit in his mouth is exemplified in his crucifixion.

The cross is the epitome, the fullest revelation, of Jesus and God.

“But we preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.23, 24)

On the cross, sin was crucified.

Jesus bore our sin in his body. And, his body that bore our sin was cursed, hung on a tree, and crucified so as to kill every sinful desire that when they conceive give birth to sin and mature into death.

On the cross, love was fully displayed.

Jesus was crucified by the hands of lawless men, men without law, without love. But, love, God, was manifested when Jesus laid down his life to be crucified on the cross.

On the cross, God put to death the idea that he was in any way violent.

Jesus did not do violence of any kind during his life. And, he most certainly did not violence on the cross. Instead, he suffered every form of violence on the cross.

He was mocked.

He was derided.

He was spat upon.

He was slapped in the face.

He was stripped naked.

He was tortured.

He was crucified.

On the cross, Jesus suffered everything from evil words spoken against him to being killed.

Yet, he did nonce of those things.

What then is the violence we are to not do as the example Jesus set for us?

Everything from not speaking against someone to killing someone.

It’s all violence. It’s all lawlessness. It’s all sin.

Notice what Peter goes on to say after he said Jesus’ example was he did no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2.23)

When evil words were spoken of Jesus, he spoke no evil words in return.

When Jesus suffered, that is when he was crucified, killed, murdered, not only did he not do any violence in return, he did not even threaten those who crucified him. He only commanded (the Greek verb is in the imperative) his Father to forgive them.

He did not even threaten those killing him.

Why was Jesus able to do this?

Because “he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus just shared in the divine nature, lived out love, laid down his life for the whole world.

He simply obeyed the commandment to speak eternal life, forgiveness, his Father had given him.

But, Jesus left the outcome in God’s hands.

Why do we not follow Jesus’ example?

Why do we ask, “What is violence?” so that we can follow Jesus without picking up our own cross daily?

Why do we seek to justify our violent response to those seeking to kill us?

Why do we seek to justify speaking evil word to those harming?

Because we haven’t entrusted ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t given ourselves to God.

Because we haven’t put the overcome in God’s hands.

Instead of simple obedience, we want to control the outcome.

We want to save our life. But, we will only lose it in the end.

Instead of losing our life now to gain the very life of God.

But, this is the example Jesus has set for us.

This is how we have been called to follow him.