9 December 2017 Bible Reading
Today begins our study of Revelation. Our English name for the book, Revelation, comes from the Greek apokalypsis which means to expose something previously hidden or secret. Revelation is neither code nor mysterious. Revelation quotes extensively from the images of the Old Testament. Any interpretation must use these images and concepts as they appear throughout Scripture.
Today’s reading further guides our understanding by telling us when the events described would take place. There are two references to time:
- the first is found in verse 1, “To show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
- the second is in verse 3, “For the time is near.”
Therefore, the original recipients reading this at the close of the First Century would have correctly understood that the message was about things happening then, during the time of the Roman Empire and not thousands, or even hundreds, of years later.
One of the central messages of Revelation is that relief from suffering would come soon, fulfillment came during the lifetimes of and in a way that was meaningful to the original recipients. This does not mean that Revelation holds no meaning for us. The insight into spiritual conflict serves us well in every age.
Because Revelation discusses spiritual things for which we have no vocabulary, God gave Jesus this revelation “to show,” not to tell, his servants the things that must soon take place. Terms like ‘revelation,’ ‘show,’ ‘made it known,’ and ‘he saw’ let us know that these are symbolic visions. The symbols all have manifestation and consequence in the temporal world: there is a literal, historical fulfillment.
The Holy Spirit is called “the seven spirits” of God which directs our thoughts to Zechariah 4:1-10. Zechariah 4 is references throughout Revelation. Seven has the symbolic meaning of perfection. The churches are being addressed by God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ.
Jesus is described as the faithful witness, firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth, all of which quote the 89th Psalm:
- Psalm 89:37 describes the Messianic offspring of David as a faithful witness
- Psalm 89:27 describes the Messianic offspring of David as the firstborn and the highest of the kings of the earth
Revelation refers to Psalm 89 to show the fulfillment of promises regarding the eternal kingdom. Although the Roman Empire is capable of inflicting suffering on the people of God, Jesus reigns supreme.
Revelation 1:7 comes from two places in Scripture: Daniel 7:13-14 and Zechariah 12:10-13:1. The point in Daniel is the same point is the enthronement of Jesus as the king who has kingdom. The imagery of coming in clouds is symbolic of judgment. Jesus is enthroned and will come in the clouds of judgment against his enemies. Zechariah 12:10 says that God is going to pour out a spirit of grace and mercy on the Jews. Zechariah 13:1 says that God is going to open a fountain to cleanse them from their sins and uncleanness. When we read the phrase, “those who pierced him,” we must understand that the scriptures is pointing to the Jewish nation. They will seek repentance and God will give that opportunity. Zechariah 12 is also prominent in Matthew 24:30. In Matthew 24:1-3 Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem. Revelation goes beyond a consideration of Jews only by adding that “every eye will see him.” The whole world is coming under judgment. The Roman Empire will be judged. But not only will they be judged, but even the Jewish nation. They also will be judged. The purpose of these judgments is to bring about the repentance of the nations. Christ is seeking for the Jews and Gentiles to repent and become part of the kingdom of Christ.
Jesus is further described as the Alpha and Omega. Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. Jesus is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and everything in between.
John was “in the Spirit” in the way Scripture speaks of someone having an inspired vision.
The seven lampstands represent the seven churches who were to receive this letter. In the middle of the seven lampstands is one like the son of man. The voice of trumpets reminds us of Exodus 19 when there was a loud sound like trumpets as God came to Mount Sinai to give the ten commandments. In Daniel 7:13-14 we read about the Messiah, called “one like the son of man,” who comes in the clouds to the Father, called “the Ancient of Days.” The imagery of white hair on his head, eyes like a flame of fire, his feet like burnished bronze, and his voice like the roar of many waters are found in Daniel 7:13-14 and Daniel 10:5-6.
Out of Christ’s mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword, symbolizing the power of His message. The word of God searches the hearts and it is the word of God that carries judgment (Hebrews 4:12). Isaiah 11:3-4 prophesied this characteristic.
In verse 20 we are told, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches….” The right hand is a common symbol that depicts might and power. The word translated “angels” is the Greek word aggelos which has two meanings:
- a human messenger serving as an envoy, an envoy, one who is sent
- a spiritual power who carries out missions or tasks, messenger, angel
It is easier to understand these seven stars as human messengers on behalf of the local churches. For example, Epaphroditus worked as a messenger and represented the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:25; 4:18) and Epaphras was a teacher and represented the church at Colossae (Colossians 4:12).
Revelation 1:19 is important because it tells us how the rest of the book is laid out. John will write about things that are and things that are to take place after this. He is seeing the things that are currently going on and he is seeing things that will take place after that. The letters to the seven churches are instructions given to the messengers of each church. There are not visions in the letters to the seven churches. The letters to the seven churches follow the form of describing how each church is doing, what they are lacking, and what is about to take place. Revelation 1:19 goes beyond these letters.
1 Yahweh’s word that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.
2 Hear this, you elders,
And listen, all you inhabitants of the land.
Has this ever happened in your days,
or in the days of your fathers?
3 Tell your children about it,
and have your children tell their children,
and their children, another generation.
4 What the swarming locust has left, the great locust has eaten.
What the great locust has left, the grasshopper has eaten.
What the grasshopper has left, the caterpillar has eaten.
5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine;
for it is cut off from your mouth.
6 For a nation has come up on my land, strong, and without number.
His teeth are the teeth of a lion,
and he has the fangs of a lioness.
7 He has laid my vine waste,
and stripped my fig tree.
He has stripped its bark, and thrown it away.
Its branches are made white.
8 Mourn like a virgin dressed in sackcloth for the husband of her youth! 9 The meal offering and the drink offering are cut off from Yahweh’s house.
The priests, Yahweh’s ministers, mourn.
10 The field is laid waste.
The land mourns, for the grain is destroyed,
The new wine has dried up,
and the oil languishes.
11 Be confounded, you farmers!
Wail, you vineyard keepers;
for the wheat and for the barley;
for the harvest of the field has perished.
12 The vine has dried up, and the fig tree withered;
the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree,
even all of the trees of the field are withered;
for joy has withered away from the sons of men.
13 Put on sackcloth and mourn, you priests!
Wail, you ministers of the altar.
Come, lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God,
for the meal offering and the drink offering are withheld from your God’s house.
14 Sanctify a fast.
Call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders,
and all the inhabitants of the land, to the house of Yahweh, your God,
and cry to Yahweh.
15 Alas for the day!
For the day of Yahweh is at hand,
and it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
16 Isn’t the food cut off before our eyes;
joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seeds rot under their clods.
The granaries are laid desolate.
The barns are broken down, for the grain has withered.
18 How the animals groan!
The herds of livestock are perplexed, because they have no pasture.
Yes, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.
19 Yahweh, I cry to you,
For the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness,
and the flame has burned all the trees of the field.
20 Yes, the animals of the field pant to you,
for the water brooks have dried up,
And the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
2 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
and sound an alarm in my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of Yahweh comes,
for it is close at hand:
2 A day of darkness and gloominess,
a day of clouds and thick darkness.
As the dawn spreading on the mountains,
a great and strong people;
there has never been the like,
neither will there be any more after them,
even to the years of many generations.
3 A fire devours before them,
and behind them, a flame burns.
The land is as the garden of Eden before them,
and behind them, a desolate wilderness.
Yes, and no one has escaped them.
4 Their appearance is as the appearance of horses,
and as horsemen, so do they run.
5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap,
like the noise of a flame of fire that devours the stubble,
as a strong people set in battle array.
6 At their presence the peoples are in anguish.
All faces have grown pale.
7 They run like mighty men.
They climb the wall like warriors.
They each march in his line, and they don’t swerve off course.
8 Neither does one jostle another;
they march everyone in his path,
and they burst through the defenses,
and don’t break ranks.
9 They rush on the city.
They run on the wall.
They climb up into the houses.
They enter in at the windows like thieves.
10 The earth quakes before them.
The heavens tremble.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
11 Yahweh thunders his voice before his army;
for his forces are very great;
for he is strong who obeys his command;
for the day of Yahweh is great and very awesome,
and who can endure it?
12 “Yet even now,” says Yahweh, “turn to me with all your heart,
and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.”
13 Tear your heart, and not your garments,
and turn to Yahweh, your God;
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness,
and relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
even a meal offering and a drink offering to Yahweh, your God.
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion!
Sanctify a fast.
Call a solemn assembly.
16 Gather the people.
Sanctify the assembly.
Assemble the elders.
Gather the children, and those who nurse from breasts.
Let the bridegroom go out of his room,
and the bride out of her room.
17 Let the priests, the ministers of Yahweh, weep between the porch and the altar,
and let them say, “Spare your people, Yahweh,
and don’t give your heritage to reproach,
that the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
18 Then Yahweh was jealous for his land,
And had pity on his people.
19 Yahweh answered his people,
“Behold, I will send you grain, new wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied with them;
and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.
20 But I will remove the northern army far away from you,
and will drive it into a barren and desolate land,
its front into the eastern sea,
and its back into the western sea;
and its stench will come up,
and its bad smell will rise.”
Surely he has done great things.
21 Land, don’t be afraid.
Be glad and rejoice, for Yahweh has done great things.
22 Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field;
for the pastures of the wilderness spring up,
for the tree bears its fruit.
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
23 “Be glad then, you children of Zion,
and rejoice in Yahweh, your God;
for he gives you the former rain in just measure,
and he causes the rain to come down for you,
the former rain and the latter rain,
24 The threshing floors will be full of wheat,
and the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
25 I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the great locust, the grasshopper, and the caterpillar,
my great army, which I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, and be satisfied,
and will praise the name of Yahweh, your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you;
and my people will never again be disappointed.
27 You will know that I am among Israel,
and that I am Yahweh, your God, and there is no one else;
and my people will never again be disappointed.
28 “It will happen afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
and your sons and your daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams.
Your young men will see visions.
29 And also on the servants and on the handmaids in those days,
I will pour out my Spirit.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
blood, fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood,
before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes.
32 It will happen that whoever will call on Yahweh’s name shall be saved;
for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape,
as Yahweh has said,
and among the remnant, those whom Yahweh calls.
3 “For, behold, in those days,
and in that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all nations,
and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat;
and I will execute judgment on them there for my people,
and for my heritage, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations.
They have divided my land,
3 and have cast lots for my people,
and have given a boy for a prostitute,
and sold a girl for wine, that they may drink.
4 “Yes, and what are you to me, Tyre, and Sidon,
and all the regions of Philistia?
Will you repay me?
And if you repay me,
I will swiftly and speedily return your repayment on your own head.
5 Because you have taken my silver and my gold,
and have carried my finest treasures into your temples,
6 and have sold the children of Judah and the children of Jerusalem to the sons of the Greeks,
that you may remove them far from their border.
7 Behold, I will stir them up out of the place where you have sold them,
and will return your repayment on your own head;
8 and I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hands of the children of Judah,
and they will sell them to the men of Sheba,
to a faraway nation,
for Yahweh has spoken it.”
9 Proclaim this among the nations:
“Prepare for war!
Stir up the mighty men.
Let all the warriors draw near.
Let them come up. 10 Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’
11 Hurry and come, all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves together.”
Cause your mighty ones to come down there, Yahweh.
12 “Let the nations arouse themselves,
and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there will I sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle;
for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full,
the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.”
14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of Yahweh is near, in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
16 Yahweh will roar from Zion,
and thunder from Jerusalem;
and the heavens and the earth will shake;
but Yahweh will be a refuge to his people,
and a stronghold to the children of Israel.
17 “So you will know that I am Yahweh, your God,
dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain.
Then Jerusalem will be holy,
and no strangers will pass through her any more.
18 It will happen in that day,
that the mountains will drop down sweet wine,
the hills will flow with milk,
all the brooks of Judah will flow with waters,
and a fountain will flow out from Yahweh’s house,
and will water the valley of Shittim.
19 Egypt will be a desolation,
and Edom will be a desolate wilderness,
for the violence done to the children of Judah,
because they have shed innocent blood in their land.
20 But Judah will be inhabited forever,
and Jerusalem from generation to generation.
21 I will cleanse their blood,
that I have not cleansed:
for Yahweh dwells in Zion.”
1 This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, John, 2 who testified to God’s word, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, about everything that he saw.
3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand.
4 John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood; 6 and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
9 I John, your brother and partner with you in oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God’s Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet 11 saying, “ What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies : to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
12 I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands. 13 And among the lamp stands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters. 16 He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man.
He laid his right hand on me, saying, “Don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last, 18 and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Hades. 19 Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter; 20 the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies. The seven lamp stands are seven assemblies.
A Song of Ascents.
128 Blessed is everyone who fears Yahweh,
who walks in his ways.
2 For you will eat the labor of your hands.
You will be happy, and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife will be as a fruitful vine,
in the innermost parts of your house;
your children like olive plants,
around your table.
4 Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears Yahweh.
5 May Yahweh bless you out of Zion,
and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel.
18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
but one who keeps the law is blessed.