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Having described the seven trumpet judgments, but before explaining the seven bowls, John inserts three parenthetical chapters (12-14). The purpose of chapter 12 is to provide us with a deeper perspective on the spiritual conflict between the world and the church. It develops, interprets, and expands on a number of the principles already articulated in chapters 1-11. At the heart of its message is that, although Satan is the principal source of the persecution of God&rsq...Read More

The last few meditations, I admit, have been somewhat negative in that I have portrayed the plight of the church (both in the first century and in our day) in pessimistic terms. I’m not apologizing for that, in view of the fact that we have explicit biblical warrant from the text in Revelation 2-3. But it would be a mistake to throw in the towel when it comes to the local church or to conclude that it is irredeemable or that its influence is so minimal as to justi...Read More

B.        War in Heaven and Victory on Earth (12:7-12) Vv. 7-12 are introduced by John to explain why the Woman had to flee into the wilderness (vv. 1-6). The reason why Satan's fury is now unleashed against the church of Jesus Christ on earth is that he has lost his place and position in heaven; his power has been curtailed. vv. 7-10 For the idea of conflict and war between angelic and demonic beings, see especially Daniel 10:1-21. ...Read More

The promise to those who conquer continues in Revelation 3:5, a passage that has stirred considerable discussion and controversy. “The one who conquers,” said Jesus, “will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Some are frightened by this or filled with anxiety t...Read More

Revelation 10 is one of the less famous portions of the most famous book in the Bible. That is unfortunate, for it tells us much of the eschatological purposes of God, not to mention the mystery of the seven thunders. One other important element to note is the place of the chapter in the structure of the book. We earlier saw that a parenthesis or dramatic interlude (7:1-17) stands between the sixth and seventh seal judgments. Here, too, we have a parenthetical pause or ...Read More

I’m amazed at how seemingly little things in life can have such a massive impact on other people. Take, for example, when someone remembers your name. Perhaps it’s a person you admire greatly, whom you’ve only met once before, but they instantly smile when they see your face and say, “Hey, Mike, how are you? It’s good to see you again.” You feel affirmed and honored that someone who is well-known and successful actually knows who you a...Read More

In Revelation 17:1, John was promised that he would be shown “the judgment of the great harlot”. Although he was given a brief glimpse in 17:16, the full story is now told in chapter 18. A working outline for this chapter is as follows: (1) the prediction of Babylon’s fall (vv. 1-3); (2) an exhortation to God’s people to separate from Babylon before judgment comes (vv. 4-8); (3) the lament of those who cooperate with Babylon (the kings of the ear...Read More

One could make a strong case that the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia are the most important of the seven, for in neither of them do we find a single word of complaint. They both receive unqualified praise and approval. These, then, are truly churches of which Christ heartily approves. What makes this all the more remarkable is the statement by Jesus in Revelation 3:8 that the church in Philadelphia has “but little power” (ESV). This isn’t a rebuke....Read More

Revelation 17:1-19:10 “is a large interpretive review of the sixth and seventh bowls, which have foretold the judgment of Babylon” (Beale, 847). They explain in considerable detail what that judgment entails and how it will be effected. It would appear that what is portrayed in these chapters is again an answer to the prayer of the saints in 6:10 that God judge their persecutors for having shed their blood. vv. 1-2 The language used here is clearly drawn fr...Read More

I’ve mentioned before that one of my spiritual mentors was often heard to say, “Whatever God requires he provides; whomever God chooses, he changes; and whatever God starts, he finishes.” I’d like to add a fourth: “Whatever God promises, he fulfills.” That’s incredibly reassuring, especially for those who struggle with doubt and uncertainty and the fear that one day, notwithstanding the promises in his Word, God will pull the ru...Read More

This is a continuation of part one in which I examined vv. 1-8. vv. 9-11 There are two primary interpretive approaches to this difficult passage: the historical view (within which are two options) and the symbolic view The Historical Interpretation (1)The first approach believes that the city and empire of Rome are principally in view. The “seven mountains” (v. 9) are a reference to the seven hills on which Rome sat (Palatine, Capitol, Aventine, Caelian, ...Read More

Whatever God promises, God fulfills. This marvelous truth puts legs beneath our Lord’s declaration that the door he has opened for us no one can shut (v. 8). But there’s yet more in his promise to the faithful in Philadelphia and therefore more in his promise to you and me:   “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and ...Read More

Revelation 6:1-17; 8:1-5 There can be no mistake concerning the similarities between the Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and the seal judgments of Rev. 6 and 8. Note the following common themes that are addressed in both: Wars – Mt. 24:6 / Rev. 6:2 (1st seal) International strife – Mt. 24:7a / Rev. 6:3-4 (2nd seal) Famines – Mt. 24:7 / Rev. 6:5-6 (3rd seal) Pestilence –Lk. 21:11 / Rev. 6:7-8 (4th seal) Persecution and martyrdom &...Read More

If you’ve ever wondered whether it mattered much to Jesus that you’ve kept the faith and maintained your commitment to him, this promise to the church of Philadelphia should put your fears to rest.   Sadly, today, more attention is given to sensational claims of supernatural exploits than to the routine faithfulness of the average Christian. Simple virtues like integrity, endurance in the face of pain and disappointment, persistence in one’s stru...Read More

Revelation 6:1-17; 8:1-5 The Fifth Seal – 6:9-11 The fifth seal focuses on the oppression and martyrdom of God’s people. Unlike the first four seals, the fifth says nothing of an angelic decree of judgment or suffering but rather a human response to it. There is theological significance in the fact that believers are portrayed as consciously alive and present in heaven following death on the earth. This is what we typically call the intermediate state (...Read More

The Bible has a remarkable capacity to challenge and overcome our misperceptions about who we are. When we are inclined to think of ourselves as orphans, the biblical text declares that we are the adopted children of God. If we are wracked with guilt, the inspired word reminds us that we are forgiven. The feeling of being stained and soiled by sin is overcome with the realization that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ and clothed in his righteousness. It’s mu...Read More

The Trumpet Judgments (1) Revelation 8:6-9:21; 11:14-19 One of the fascinating things in Revelation is the way it portrays the experience of the people of God in terms very similar to what transpired for Israel in Egypt and the ten plagues of judgment. For example, 1) prominence of the Red Sea(Ex. 14:1-31) // 1) prominence of glassy sea (Rev. 15:2) 2) song of deliverance (Ex. 15:1-18) // 2) song of deliverance (Rev. 15:2-4) 3) God’s enemy: Pharaoh // 3) God&rs...Read More

As mentioned in the previous meditation, Christians often struggle with a sense of identity. They fail to grasp who they are by virtue not merely of creation but especially regeneration and redemption. A failure to embrace our new identity and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it can be devastating. Virtually every assault and accusation of Satan is grounded in his effort to convince us we are not who God, in fact, declares we are. If the enemy can persu...Read More

The Trumpet Judgments (2) Revelation 8:6-9:21; 11:14-19 The Fifth Trumpet (9:1-11) That the “star” in v. 1 is a personal being of some sort is evident from the fact that the key to the bottomless pit is given to “him” (9:1) and “he” (9:2) opens it. Most believe that the “star” is symbolic of an angel (as was the case in 8:10; cf. 1:20), but is it good or evil? Satan’s judgment is described by Jesus in terms of his ...Read More

I’ve lived in eight cities, for each of which I’m profoundly grateful. I was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, from which we moved when I was ten to settle in Midland, Texas. I attended high school in Duncan, Oklahoma, and went to college in Norman. My wife and I lived in Dallas, Texas, for twelve years, and then moved back to Oklahoma, this time to Ardmore, in 1985. Since then we’ve lived in Kansas City, Chicago, and now again in Kansas City. As I said, I&rs...Read More

The Trumpet Judgments (3) Revelation 8:6-9:21; 11:14-19 First Explanatory Interlude (9:12) In saying that “the first woe has passed” John does not mean “that the events have already transpired in history but only that the vision containing them is now past” (Beale, 505). The Sixth Trumpet (9:13-21) vv. 13-15 Whose “voice” is it that John hears? Is it that of Jesus (as in 6:6), or an angel (as in 16:7), or God the Father? The f...Read More

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”   We all sing it, but do we believe it? Admittedly, it’s not easy to bank everything on Christ alone. Our souls long for rest in something immovable. Our minds cry out for certainty in a...Read More

A close look at the trumpet and bowl judgments will reveal their inescapable similarities. The only place where this is less than explicit is with the first in each series. But even then, there is similarity of language.   (1)        With the first trumpet there is hail and fire mixed with blood thrown to the earth; 1/3 of the earth, trees, grass burned (1/3 denoting a partial or limited judgment). With the first bowl the earth a...Read More

I doubt if anyone reading this meditation has been exempt from betrayal, of one sort or another. One of life’s most painful and disillusioning experiences is putting your confidence in someone who in turn lets you down. Perhaps you’ve shared something and made it perfectly clear that no one else is to know, only to have it become common knowledge by the end of the day. Or you trusted a life-long friend to honor their commitment to you only to discover that wh...Read More

The Bowl Judgments (2) Revelation 16:1-21 The Third Bowl (16:4-7) Similar to the third trumpet in 9:10-11, this bowl judgment figuratively portrays the suffering and death incurred by those who rely on maritime commerce. See the parallel between 16:6 and 18:24 for support. Aune contends that this verse (v. 5) “assumes a cosmos in which the various material elements are presided over by, or are personified by, particular angelic beings" (2”884). However, ...Read More

“Sam, are you playing theological tricks on us with that title? Come on. Does it really matter?” Well, let me put it this way: the difference between Jesus as “the eternal Son of God” and Jesus as “Son of the eternal God” is the difference between heaven and hell! Does that answer your question?   Let me illustrate with the story of two individuals who knew well the difference between these two ways of describing Jesus Christ (a...Read More

Recently a friend wrote to me, asking my opinion on whether or not Israel has a biblical right to the Holy Land. That is to say, can Israel appeal to the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as grounds for their presence in and possession of the land of Palestine? My friend wondered if the view I espouse is what many have called “Replacement” theology. Let me take this opportunity to address the point. Before I do, two words of introduction are neede...Read More

I doubt one could find words any more confusing and controversial than those uttered by Jesus in Revelation 3:15-16 to the church at Laodicea. Christians have expressed either befuddlement or revulsion, and sometimes both, at what our Lord says to this wayward congregation. Look at it again:   “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 o...Read More

In Parts One and Two of this study I argued that the New Testament provides us with an expanded definition of what constitutes an “Israelite” or a “Jew”. Or perhaps we might say that the NT provides us with a “Christified” perspective on the people of God. Ethnicity is no longer the primary concern. Having Abraham’s blood in one’s veins is not the primary consideration, but rather having Abraham’s faith in one’s...Read More

On July 8, 1731, twenty-seven-year-old Jonathan Edwards preached in Boston, Massachusetts, what would become the first of his sermons to be published. Entitled, God Glorified in Man’s Dependence, it was based on 1 Corinthians 1:29-31, a passage in which Paul was concerned that “no human being might boast in the presence of God. He,” wrote Paul, “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctifi...Read More

There are numerous passages in the NT where OT prophecies concerning Israel’s regathering and restoration are applied to the Church, indicating that the latter is the “true Israel” comprised of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles in whom the promises will be fulfilled. Or, to put it in other terms, the Church does not replace Israel but takes up and perpetuates in itself the believing remnant within the nation as a whole. The “true Israel&...Read More

If Jesus is in fact “the Amen, the faithful and true witness,” wisdom would demand that we heed his counsel. If he can be counted on not only to confirm God’s purposes (“Amen”) but to speak truth without equivocation (“the faithful and true witness”), we ignore him to our peril. To casually dismiss his evaluation of the state of our souls or turn a deaf ear to his advice on how we might find healing and hope is more than morally ...Read More

Virtually all who espouse amillennialism embrace the principles articulated in our lesson on the Historic or Non-Dispensational view of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, what follows is built upon the understanding of the people of God and the kingdom as outlined in that study.   A. A Definition of Amillennialism   Amillennialism (hereafter cited as AM) has suffered greatly in the past because of its seeming negative character. In other words, definitions of A...Read More

Revelation 3:19 is nothing short of shocking. Earlier in v. 16 Jesus expressed disgust towards those in Laodicea, declaring that he is on the verge of vomiting them out of his mouth. Yet now, in v. 19, he affirms his love for them! May I boldly suggest that it is precisely because he loves his people that he refuses to tolerate their lukewarm indifference toward spiritual matters? In other words, the harsh words in this letter, the firm discipline evoked by their backsli...Read More

The 144,000, Eternal Punishment, and the Wrath of God: Insofar as the majority of chapters 12-13 focused on the persecution of believers by the Dragon (Satan) and his earthly agents, the sea-beast and the land-beast, it is understandable that chapter 14, together with 15:2-4, should describe the reward of the persecuted faithful and the final punishment of their enemies. In other words, “chapter 14 briefly answers two pressing questions: What becomes of those who ...Read More

The foundation for a relationship of passion is a heart of purity. Sin kills intimacy. It comes as no surprise, then, that perhaps the greatest obstacle to a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the failure or refusal to repent. This accounts for our Lord’s pointed plea to the Laodiceans: “Be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19)!   What, exactly, did Jesus have in mind when he called the Laodiceans (and us) to a zealous, immediate, u...Read More

This is a continuation of part one. vv. 6-7 Is the “gospel” preached by this angel designed to lead to conversion? Or is it simply the declaration of final judgment on those who have rejected it? Those who favor the latter point to what follows: vv. 8-11 proceed to describe the eternal judgment of unbelievers. They also point to the similarity between this angel and his gospel, on the one hand, and the messenger of the three woes in 8:13. Both speak “...Read More

Next to John 3:16, this is perhaps the most famous evangelistic passage in the New Testament. The question is, Should it be? To this lukewarm and backslidden church, Jesus issues this stunning invitation:   “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).   As noted, most people simply assume this is an evangelistic appeal to non-Christ...Read More

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” No matter how many times I read this promise, I struggle to believe it. That’s not because I doubt its inspiration or accuracy. Jesus meant what he said and I embrace it. But to think of myself enthroned with Christ is simply more than I can fa...Read More

This is the final installment of our study of Revelation 14-15. vv. 12-13 These verses provide a motivation to believers to persevere, whether by pointing to the reality of judgment (v. 12) or to the promise of reward of eternal rest (v. 13). As for the meaning of v. 12, Keener says that “either they should be encouraged because this judgment is their vindication . . ., or they should be exhorted to fill their role as martry-witnesses so that more people may...Read More