Day 363 (Dec. 29): Two witnesses take on devil and win through resurrection, seventh trumpet blast brings Ark of Covenant to life, woman takes on dragon, beast speaks blasphemies against God, three angels shout praises to God

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.

Revelation 11-14:20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Revelation 11:2): Is there anything significant about 42 months?

A. There are several numbers used in this section of the reading that all mean the same thing: 42 months, 1,260 days, and time, times, and half a time all indicate the same time period: 3½ years.  Part of the significance comes from this being exactly half of seven (which you will recall symbolizes completeness), so 3½ represents incompleteness, an uncompleted work, and chaos.  As always, there is an exact OT reference to what John is describing: in Daniel 7:25, the story speaks of God’s holy people being tormented by evil ones for this exact time frame, as part of a seven year cycle.

Q. (11:15): Any idea what “world” is referring to?  Earth?  Heaven?

A. It refers to the earth.  John has repeatedly spoken in his other volumes about not loving “the world,” by which he means the evil, sin and corruption of our planet — not hating the earth itself.

Q. (11:16): Just wondering if the 24 elders — and is there significance to 24 — is the Bible’s Hall of Fame, like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, etc.  Or, 24 is 2×12 — 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles — one of each of Abraham’s sons and the 12 disciples?

A. The last one.  There is some speculation that if this is John the Apostle writing this work (as is tradition), then the elder talking to him throughout this vision is himself as one of the 24 elders, if that makes any sense.  It is a vision after all.

Q. Why all these dragons and beasts?  Why not a man dressed in red with a pitchfork?

A. Dragons are scarier.  🙂

Q. (12:10): “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth” makes me wonder that if Lucifer became extremely jealous of God naming Jesus his Son and that’s what fueled his anger and got him kicked out of heaven.  Just wondering.

A. I do not think Satan’s sin is jealousy, but rather pride.  He sees himself as superior to God, and desires to have God’s seat.  That, by the way, is why pride is often considered to be the “father” of all sin.  All sin, whether the decision to dishonor marriage vows, to worship other gods, to steal, to lie, or to kill, is ultimately to say to God, “I think my way is better than your way and I am in charge of my life.”  THAT is pride through and through.  To me, that is part of what makes the message of the Gospel so scandalous: it says that we are not alright on our own, and that we have truly messed things up when we go our own, prideful way.

Q. (12:17): Is the devil privy to all of this end-of-days info?  If so, I would think that he would give up.  But, maybe God keeps them going because the devil does help weed out those who are noncommittal.

A. Evil can always rationalize its own existence.  There’s a scene in a movie called the Devil’s Advocate — which I am NOT recommending — in which Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, playing the devil, discuss what the Bible says.  Reeves tells Satan, “in the Bible you lose” to which Pacino replies, “well consider your source.”  I think that conveys the sense of pride and ambition that characterizes the real Satan: he refuses to admit that he will lose, and can justify all day long his reasons for defying God.

Q. (12:18): Can you tell us anything about what this number of the beast is, Rob?

A.  You bet I can.  The number 666 — which in some texts reads 616 — is probably a multi-leveled analogy.  First, the number 6 itself, represents mankind (having been made on the sixth day), and also represent incompleteness or imperfection, in contrast to 7.  Thus you have imperfection times three.  The text tells us that the number is man’s.

The number itself is acquired by converting various letter systems into numbers based upon their order in our alphabet- for example the name “Ada” in English would be “6”, 1+4+1.  The key for the Hebrew alphabet (22 letters, no vowels), is that after you count to 10, the next number is not 11, but 20, and then after 100, 200.  It breaks down as follows:

Aleph = 1, Beth = 2, Gimel = 3, Dalet = 4, He = 5, Vav = 6, Zayin = 7, Cheth = 8, Teth = 9, Yodh = 10, Kaph = 20, Lamed = 30, Mem = 40, Nun = 50, Samekh = 60, Ayin = 70, Pe = 80, Tsadhe = 90, Koph = 100, Resh = 200, Shin = 300, Tav = 400.

The most common interpretation of the two numbers is that the represent the Emperor Nero, who is famous to this day for his brutal persecution of Christians.  He was a “beast” if ever there was one.  If we convert his name using the numbers above, the name “Neron Caesar” (translated name) in Hebrew (which would normally be read right to left) would read: (take my word for it) Nun, Resh, Vav, Nun, Koph, Samekh, Resh.  This would give you 50+200+6+50+100+60+200= 666.  (There are similar versions using the Greek alphabet, but I’ll skip those for now).  Anyway, as today, Neron was more commonly called Nero, and we would drop the second 50, giving us 616.  No other major figure for the period gives us both numbers, but people in every era have used different numerical systems to identify their own beasts.  The Reformers used Roman numerals to identify the Pope of the time as the beast.  Anyway, there’s a lot of other theories out there about what the number means, but that’s my favorite.

Q. (13:8): Rob, I know we have discussed this before.  Do you remember where?  Back to the “being chosen” readings: Why do we have to live out our lives if it is or isn’t in the Book of Life?

A. Because we don’t know whose name is written there.  There is a sense in the NT, in Paul’s letters especially, that the Christian life is a race that must be completed, and that, I think, goes a long way to giving a sense of the ultimate question: Can we be faithful to the end.  Only those who can — as this book repeatedly attests — has their name written in the book.

Q. (14:1-5): Is the “special offering” the purest believers?  These believers were the best the earth could offer God, so they were a precious personal offering to God?

A. It is probably something like that, but I am not completely sure.

Q. (14:13b): I never have read anything about the Spirit actually talking to someone.

A. While we have not seen the actual action of talking on the part of the Spirit, one of the things the NT informs us is that the role of the Spirit is to “speak” to our heart and mind and remind us of the teachings of Christ.  So in that sense, His primary role is “speaking.”

Day 349 (Dec. 15): Paul tells Timothy to keep his eyes on Jesus, put trust in God — not money, Paul gives instructions for Titus in Crete, teach moral living, Jesus and God gave us life we didn’t earn or deserve, Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful

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.

1 Timothy 6:11-21

Titus 1-3:15

2 Timothy 1:1-18

Questions & Observations

Q. Can we assume that as Paul ages, he knows he needs others to continue his work.  How did Paul get to be the lead apostle?  Paul was smart to encourage others to continue teaching.  He shouldn’t do it all himself.  I just wonder the danger in doing too much.  It makes me think, and be serious about it, that I need to always take time for my kids.  So many times I get so busy with life and think, “the kids will be OK.  Allie can play by herself while her sister is doing homework and I’m making dinner.”  But, night after night of that can’t be good.  Paul didn’t have children, so he didn’t have to consider who he is leaving at home when he was touring the map.  Wasn’t it Paul that said it’s wise not to marry if you want to spread the Word?

A. Paul did not consider himself the “lead” apostle — there really wasn’t such a thing anyway — all the apostles had their own callings, and Paul’s was to be the apostle to Gentiles.  And while Paul did say that if you want to give your whole self to ministry, you can’t be married, there are certainly people who are married but who are ALSO called to ministry.

O. (1 Timothy 6:20): This reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend who goes way back.  I asked him if he had read the Bible.  He said, “yes, it’s a good book.”  That’s not quite how I view the Bible.  I hadn’t talked to him in a long time, but tomorrow is his birthday, so I called him today.  I mentioned that I’m near the end of my Bible-in-a-year blog.  I don’t know what brought it up, but he said the Bible contradicts itself a lot.  Now, that I’m near the end and have a lot more Bible knowledge thanks to God and Rob for explaining, I can say that it appears to contradict itself, but if you know the entire Bible, it does not contradict itself at all.  It just feels good to have more clarity of Bible stories.

A. As we’ve mentioned from time to time, such knee-jerk reactions tend to be a way to minimize what the Bible actually has to say.  It is very easy to look at scriptures that say different things and bluntly say, “ha, contradiction!”  But such assertions frequently miss depth of reading issues, context, and the need for an intelligent reader who will accept that sometimes the Bible does say things that would appear contradictory in different places — if you don’t know any better.  The sad part is how many Christians have bought into this lie.

Q. (Titus 1:1): The truth that Paul is talking about is that Jesus resurrected and is the Messiah?

A. Well, that’s part of it.  The truth is the whole of the gospel message, including that Jesus died for our sins, was raised/resurrected to new life, and — most importantly for this question — desires to be in relationship with each of us.

Q. (Titus 1:5-16): I take it that Crete has a few problems?

A. Crete was considered by many to be an island of stupid savages who did nothing but fight and drink.  It was the butt of jokes in the rest of the Roman Empire, so much so that the term “Cretan,” used to mean a moron or idiot, comes from a person born on this island.

Q. (Titus 2:3-5): Am I supposed to give up the notion that I am not equal in authority with my husband?  And, Paul says that women encourage others to work in the home.  What does that mean for women today?  Are we supposed to follow suit?  Sometimes, I think it would be easier to work at home — I’m not saying it’s an easy job, I’ve done it for the last 8 ½ years.  But, the kids do need taken care of and loved.  And, it is so hard to find a job after being out of work that long.  Today’s middle class is designed to where families can live a more comfortable life with two incomes, or they may need two incomes to pay the bills.

A. I’m not sure where you see “not equal in authority” in these verses, but we’ve talked about this a fair amount: some denominations would say, “yes, but ONLY in terms of preaching authority within a church.”  Others see verses like this as a relic, and discard them.  I’m not going to tell you which “way” to see it, because there’s more than one right way, and I have no problem with that.  Now as to your other questions, you need to be careful about how you interpret what Paul is saying.  Paul was speaking to a society in which women were not full members, and were not able to conduct business, own property, or be seen as equals to men.  All of those things are radically different today, and so we must take that into account.

Now, one of the biggest problems we have as a society is that we do not take the time to properly invest in our kids, and part of the reason for that is we look down upon women who work from home.  Other women in particular see them as “wasting” their lives when they could be breaking glass ceilings or otherwise asserting themselves in what they see as the men’s world of work.  I see nothing wrong with women working outside the home, especially if the husband is unable to (a situation my wife and I have been in a time or two), but we must be willing to understand that such a decision has a cost on the next generation, especially if both men and women work outside the home.  And what you are describing about the middle class, with the expectation of being a two-family income, often comes with crushing amounts of debt — something the Bible does not endorse.  Many families are FORCED to be two-income families by their debt load, which certainly limits the families’ ability to invest in the next generation or be generous in the ways that God expects.  While I do see benefit in being in a stable, two-income family, I see great costs in it as well (not to mention great stress!), some of which are not properly taken into account when men and women start a family.

Q. (2 Timothy 8b): So it’s potential suffering now for believers and get rewarded later with eternal life?  But, in other places in the Bible, it says that faith can be rewarded with a rich life.  Is it that we never know what we are going to get?  Like a box of chocolates, it’s all good!

A. The idea that God will richly reward you for being a Christian is a modern notion, which would have made no sense to Christians for thousands of years.  The life of a radical Christian would very often set that person at odds with society, and persecution has often been the result (just off the top of my head, read about the terrible persecution of the Anabaptist movement by both Catholics and other Protestants).  We should be following after God NOT for the rewards He can offer — which comes dangerously close to the Prosperity Gospel — but because His way is the true way.

Day 336 (Dec. 2): Paul meets the Ephesian elders and tells of his looming persecution, Paul says he has done all he can for the church, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, Paul is warned of his persecution, Paul is arrested and endures violent crowd

Countdown: 29 days

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.

Acts 20:13-21:36

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 20:21): The charge is so easy and clear, but it gets lost so often because of human characteristics of pride, jealousy and greed.  I’m sure there are more.

Q. (Acts 20:26, 21:4): Paul has used every moment of his new life — not when he persecuted Christians — to reach as many people as possible to tell them the Good News so they would follow God.  So, now he has put the responsibility of their salvation in their hands, saying he has done everything possible to save them.  And, he is telling them that this is their last chance to listen to him since he knows he will be persecuted in Jerusalem.  But, why can’t Paul be protected from this persecution by the Holy Spirit telling him to go elsewhere?  Jesus already died on the cross, why does Paul need to die a martyr’s death?  This leads me to the next question in v. 21:4.  Why would the Holy Spirit tell the believers to plead with Paul not to go to Jerusalem when the Spirit is guiding Paul there?  Is it that they were told his fate by the Holy Spirit so that’s why they don’t want him to go — not really that the Spirit TOLD them to keep Paul from going to Jerusalem?

A. This scene points to some important issues, so let’s clear some things up.  The Spirit is using the prophets along the way to warn Paul about what fate will befall him, but NOT to keep him from going — 20:22 tells us plainly that the Spirit is compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem, though he will be captured.  Now there are several reasons for this, but the major one that is worth noting is what God will do THROUGH Paul while he is captured. You will see how this happens as we continue reading Acts and in his so-called “Prison letters” — Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Now I understand the question at the heart of what you’re asking: why does Paul have to die if Jesus already died.  Well, the answer is…he’s not dead yet, and God will use Paul in powerful ways before he dies.  Paul has no interest in “dodging” suffering: he desires to be used for the Glory of God, and if that is the way God desires to use him, then Paul is ready.  Note what happened with the Jailer back in Acts 16: Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, but God used this beating and imprisonment to proclaim a message of salvation to the Jailer and his whole family- something that NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED without Paul and Silas being in prison.  It is our nature — especially modern society — to try our best to dodge and avoid pain and suffering as much as possible, but God has always used pain and suffering to accomplish his ends, including the death of his followers.  While it can be uncomfortable to hear about, we must understand that it was through suffering that God used Jesus to change EVERYTHING for us!  God brings light out of the darkest places, if we will but follow and have faith.