Day 360a (Dec. 26): Jude’s letter is similar to Peter’s second letter, beware of false teachers, remain strong in the faith as you did from the beginning, Jesus appears to John holding seven stars (angels of the seven churches) and standing amidst seven gold lampstands, church of Ephesus is told to return the strong faith they had in the beginning, church in Smyrna told of impending suffering but a reward comes afterward, Pergamum church is told to rid itself of evil teaching, and church of Thyatira is warned of Jezebel’s sexual promiscuity but tells others to hold true to their faith because they will get authority of the Father to rule

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

The letter from Jude addresses many of the same concerns as Peter’s second letter, which suggests that the two letters were written at about the same time and to the same churches.

Jude 1:1-25

We are here at the last book of the Bible.  You did it!  This is a book like no other book in the Bible which can be quite confusing, so Rob offered up an introduction to Revelations.  It’s the next blog dated Day 360b.  Thanks, Rob!

Revelation 1-2:29

John wrote Revelation from the Island of Patmos, where he was exiled “for preaching the word of God and for (his) testimony about Jesus” (1:9).  This occurred either during the mid-60s, during Nero’s reign and before the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jude 1:1): Jude was Jesus’s brother too, right?

A. Jesus had a brother named Jude (also known as Judas, but not the fallen apostle), and tradition holds that this is the writer of this brief epistle.

Q. (Revelations 1:4): What is “sevenfold Spirit”?  What is the significance of seven spirits, seven stars, seven lampstands, and seven churches?

A. The number seven represents completeness, so the usage of seven is used here to have a double meaning.  It represents the presence of the seven churches — which they would have considered to each have a lampstand, a symbol of the power of God and a guardian angel — that the letter is written to, but also the seven represents the ENTIRE eternal Church body.  John is cleverly using a well-known image of the seven days taken to complete Creation (there are many similar OT images in Revelation, as we shall see) for his own purposes.  The more OT you know, the easier it is to unravel many of the mysteries of Revelation.

Q. (1:20): So, we have seen quite a change in God’s people.  The Israelite’s started out with Abraham, grew and grew to a large nation, then salvation was shared with the Gentiles and now God addresses the churches.  The “church” seems like an establishment that God wants us to make.  It’s a model of how we can all work as one for a greater good.

A. The local community church is, to mince no words, the center of God’s plan for the salvation of the ENTIRE WORLD!  So it is not really shocking that the Spirit, through John, writes to both encourage and correct congregations of this day.

Q. (2:13): Can you explain Satan’s “throne” being in Pergamum?

A. We don’t exactly know, but there are a few theories.  The most common theory is that it refers to one of the many pagan temples located in the city — most likely the massive temple to the God Jupiter/Zeus.  It was also a major “hub” of that portion of the Roman Empire, and many important rulings were issued from there, making it a “throne” area of this enemy of the Church, the Empire itself.  A throne would be a place of comfort for a “king,” in this case Satan, so another theory is that John is referring to the city being a place of comfort for the enemy king, Satan himself.  Any of those, or some combination of all of them, is probably what John has in mind.  It is a symbolic image, like many we will see in this text.  Keep reading this section for more!

Q. (2:17): What’s the white stone?

A. In the ancient world, a white stone was often “issued” as a ticket for an important event, such as a festival or wedding.  Thus, Jesus giving a person a stone with a name (likely engraved) on it should be understood as that person being invited to the ultimate celebration: His wedding (more to come on this).

Q. (2:20): Didn’t we read about another Jezebel who was a king’s wife in the OT?  Any similarities between her and this one?

A. Yes we did.  Jezebel was a great enemy of the true people of God in the OT, and so John is using her name symbolically — a running theme here — to describe a woman in the congregation who is leading people away from the true path, as Jezebel did centuries ago.  One of the recurring themes here is in this type of cryptic literature — the genre is called apocalyptic — is that the author wants to keep the true meaning of what he is saying hidden from outsiders.  So by repeatedly using names and symbols of the OT, which Jews and Christians would have been familiar with but most Greeks and Romans would not have, he can convey clear imagery to those in the “know,” but outsiders are not clear on the meaning.  It’s the ultimate in “insider” writing.

Q. (2:26): What is special about Thyatira?  Is it because those who are strong-willed enough to resist Jezebel deserve a reward?  I have thought a lot lately about how strong sexual desire is — I think probably more among men — and the reason for it.  Maybe a very hard test?  Manlihood, or to show one’s success, is a strong desire, so for men to give that up and submit to God would be a big obstacle to overcome and worth a reward?  (If you haven’t watched the movie Flywheel, it is a good movie about a man giving up his proudful manlihood and control and giving his life to God.)

A. The rewards that you see for each of the churches — there are four more to come — are speaking of the general “rewards” of being faithful to Christ, and I do not believe that there are particular rewards that will not be given to others.  It is simply a way to keep from repeating himself.

Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Hebrews 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

Day 2 (Jan. 2): Cain and Abel, Noah, ark

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 4-5

1 Chronicles 1:1-4

Genesis 6

Questions and Comments

Q.  (4:14,17): If Adam and Eve were the first ones on Earth, then why was Cain worried that others may kill him?  And, likewise, where did Cain find his wife?

A. Ok, let’s see what we have here.  At this point in the narrative, we have the author telling us about exactly four people: Adam, Eve, Cain (their oldest, or at least older son) and Abel (their youngest or at least younger son).  Since there are references to other people around (not to mention no other women!), the story is, to me, NOT saying that these are the only four people on earth.  There are two possibilities: either the author is assuming that readers will know there are other people around from other parental lines that are not mentioned (in other words, different tribes or families), or that Adam and Eve had many children (male and female) but the author is choosing to only focus in on these two.  I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly which.

One other things that is going on that is worth mentioning is that the author does not appear interested in telling the story of the ENTIRE human race, which tends to be the way we read this story.  Instead, what he appears to be doing is setting up to paths of Adam and Eve’s descendants: the noble way of Abel and later Seth, which honors God (and will be our primary focus in subsequent chapters), and the way of the descendants of Cain, which culminate in “evil” Lamech (since Seth’s descendants had a Lamech as well- see 5:25)

Q.  (4:17-22): Are these verses describing a nomadic culture?  Before that, they were agrarian?  I always thought nomadic ways predated agrarian.

A. While agrarian society did come after hunter/gatherer days, I don’t think the concepts you are describing here are applicable to the story.  What you’re talking about is called the Neolithic Revolution, which is the transition that happened somewhere around 10,000 BC (some say it was much later, like 5000 or 6000 BC).  Over a long period, human kind moved from being primarily hunters and gatherers to relying on agrarian means of creating food and other crops for survival.  This is how we got the beginnings of modern cities and culture.  But when it says that, for example, Abel kept flocks, it doesn’t mean he is a hunter: that is still an agrarian method of survival; Abel wasn’t hunting wild sheep, he was keeping domesticated ones.  BOTH Cain and Abel were agrarian, just not in the same way.  If I were guessing, I would say that none of the people described are hunters; they all appear to keep animals or grow crops.

Q.  (4:24): Why would someone be punished 77 times if they killed Lamech?

A. One of the important concepts to grasp here (and throughout Genesis) is that the author does not appear interested in answering all of our questions, especially about secondary characters such as Lamech.  We have no idea who the men (or man, it might be one) were that he killed, or what is so “special” about him.

Here’s my guess (for what its worth): Lamech is saying that he has killed two people- the “man” and the “young man”(rather than the one person Cain killed), and therefore he would receive “twice” the punishment of his ancestor Cain (i.e. 2 sevens of punishment rather than just one).

The larger point that the author is pointing to, however, is clear: the sin that mastered Cain continued down his family line, so that his descendent would brag about being a murderer.  The evil of Cain has culminated in the corruption of his descendant.  Thus, with the corruption of Cain’s line established, the author steps back and shows how the death of Abel did not prevent God’s people from having in ancestor in Seth.  The rest of the chapter follows the line of Seth as a contrast to Cain, and culminates with Noah.  So Lamech is the culmination of Cain’s line (a bragging polygamous murderer), and Noah is the culmination of Seth’s line, walking in good relationship with God.

Q.  (4:24): God took Enoch? Why?

A. Another one of those questions the author does not feel compelled to answer explicitly.  The implication of the passage is that since Enoch walked in faithful relationship with God, and because of Enoch’s faith (according to Hebrews 11:5, where Enoch makes the spiritual “hall of fame”), God honored him and spared him from death.

Q.  (6:3): God is talking of the Holy Spirit not putting up with humans for so long?  So, God is introducing the The Holy Spirit here and likewise, the Trinity.

A. I think this is actually an “O” statement and not a “Q” statement, but I will try to address it anyway.  I would disagree with this as the “moment” of the Spirit’s unveiling: the Spirit had an active role in the story of Creation (Gen 1:2), so we have already seen the Spirit person of the Trinity at work.  The Old Testament in general, gives the implication of multiple “persons” at work in the Godhead, but the revealed presence of all three (the Trinity) is not revealed until the New Testament, and the word Trinity is never used in scripture; it is a concept word created by the Church fathers to explain the realities of what God had revealed to them.

Q. (6:4): My Bible dictionary says that Nephilites are heavenly beings that had intercourse with human women?  This passage seems to come out of nowhere, but it brings up a subject that I have never known or studied.

A. There are lots of conjectures about the meaning of this passage (the beings are some sort of fallen angel or other “heavenly being”), but there is really nothing solid to go on.  One more instance where we as readers are left scratching our heads and saying “what?”  Once again, the main point of this passage is to point to the corruption of all of mankind, except for Noah and his family.

Q. (6:5): Again, if God made everything and humans are made in His image, then where does all the wickedness come from?

A. As I answered yesterday, the wickedness comes from us as a race choosing to indulge our selfish choices (our sinful nature) rather than the divine image that remains with us (our divine nature).  We see the continued descent of the human race over the first six chapters of this story.  Things will continue to get worse until the introduction of our hero, Abram, in chapter 11.