Day 365 (Dec. 31): Praise the Lord for avenging the murder and suffering of His servants, rider on white horse calls to army to go against John, thousand years in waiting, defeat of Satan, final judgment, a new Jerusalem, Jesus is coming!

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.

From Leigh An: Today, we come to the end of our journey through the Bible.  I, for one, have learned so much and can honestly say that this is the best thing I have ever done.  I have a much better grasp of who I am and what this life is all about.  One year to study the whole Bible is not enough for me.  I understand most of the big picture points of the Bible, but I want to understand more of even the little stuff.  The Bible-in-a-year project is done today, but there are more ideas culminating, so be on the lookout.  Our time-frame is uncertain.  Only God will tell us that.  Just check back in periodically to see what we are up to.  But, we will take a pretty long break to rest, regroup, plan and study.  Thanks for joining us.  Happy New Year!

From Rob: I am greatly pleased by how well this project has turned out, so thanks a lot for being a part of the journey.  I hope that my answers were helpful, and that God was able to speak into your life as we walked through the Bible together.  He certainly has spoken into mine.  This is the first time I have read the Bible cover to cover.  I had read probably 95% of it at some point, mostly in seminary, but to tackle it bit by bit, day by day, was a worthy challenge, and I am glad that we were able to complete it as a joint project.  To me, there is no more worthwhile investment then learning about and consuming what God’s Word has for us. It bears the words of Truth and salvation that cannot be found anywhere else, and I praise God for His blessing to His people in all times and places.  I pray that you will keep reading, and that by doing so you can walk the path that leads to life eternal.  May God bless your journey!

Revelation 19-22:21

Questions & Observations

Q. I should have asked this already, but I didn’t.  Why is John having a vision about Babylon when the end of days is yet to come and Babylon is not around anymore?  (Go to Wikipedia.com and search Babylon for a nice bit of history and a modern photo of her remnants.)

A. There are two assumptions that you are making here that need to be corrected: as we discussed, the woman is Rome, not Babylon, which does still exist, and is now the center of the Christian world, at least for the billion or so Roman Catholics.  But the larger issue is that we must understand that what John has been doing is casting a vision to give comfort to those who are followers of God.  Even if Rome did not exist today, there is no less comfort in the message of Revelation, and that message is that God is victorious because of what He has done through Jesus Christ.  The message is meant to be encouragement to the faithful, not to say “where” such events will take place.  I simply wouldn’t read this section of the book like that.

Q. (Revelation 19:9-10): This passage puts believers on an even playing field with angels.  I would say these believers are holy.

A. Angels and men are both created beings so in that sense, they are on a level playing field.

Q. (19:11): Is Jesus the rider on the white horse?

A. He’s the One.  Max Lucado makes an interesting observation about this description in his book, When Christ Comes — which I highly recommend for anyone interested in End Times studies, it is very approachable.  Lucado walks us through the entire text of Revelation, and notes that everyone is wearing white…except Jesus.  The Rider on this horse has a robe dipped in blood, and the reason for this is important to understand: He has switched clothes with all those who believe in Him.  They are given the white robe that He rightly deserves, and He wears the robe of their sin and punishment.  What an amazing image!

Q. (19:15): Maybe the “sharp sword” here is Scripture?

A. The sword represents divine judgment, which is spoken from His mouth.

Q. (19:19-21): The beast is the devil?  There have been several beasts mentioned though.  So, how about the false prophet?  Who is he/she?  And, what about the antichrist.  Do we know any more particulars about him?

A. No, there are two beasts and one dragon.  The first beast is the Antichrist (the one out of the sea), and the second beast is those who lead the worship of the first beast (basically representing the worship of men, especially Emperors as was common in the Roman world).  The dragon is Satan.  The word antichrist gets tossed around a lot related to this book, but I would point out that the word is not used a single time in this entire book.  We have very limited knowledge about who this person is/will be, but we know that his actions will lead many to stray from God, so our world already has plenty of antichrists today.  I can’t really say if there will be THE one true, Antichrist, but if there is one, he will be a powerful leader and ruler of many.  But what motivates him will not be God, but God’s enemy.

Q. (20:1-6): So we can assume that these 1,000 years will really happen.   Everything God says — and he’s speaking through John here — is true.  Another question about the already dead: do their whole bodies die, even their Spirit?  Do they just hang out?  And, are they dead with no sense at all or are their spirits lingering?  Is it wrong to hope that I’m already dead and don’t have to witness that wrath.  I guess it’s not a big deal to witness it as long as I hold firm my beliefs.

A. 1,000 years is symbolic of the completion of a task or trial, so there is no reason to assume that we will be waiting around for a literal thousand-year period.  It sounds boring, as you say.  Having said that, there are various interpretations of the book (I frankly don’t put much stock in them, but they are out there), and several of the divisions between them focus in on how to interpret the thousand-year period.

Q. Other questions I missed asking in the same passage: This passage seems to be more believable, especially in comparison to the beasts, dragons, etc.  That means the act of doing something is easier than doing it begrudgingly.  My only guess is because it could erase the generations and generations of teaching kids bad things.

A. Chapter 20 as a whole is not about motivation, or begrudging action, but rather God symbolically setting things to rights.  And while it contains less vivid imagery (though the dragon is still there), the actions are no less symbolic.  How else could “death” and “the grave” be thrown into hell?  This is symbolic language for saying that these things will be removed from the world to come — the Second Coming is the end of death, and there will no longer be a grave to hold the dead, for there will be no dead.

Q. (Revelation 20:7-10): Burning sulfur has been used a lot when referring to the fiery furnace, any significance to that?  And, is the fiery lake for all unbelievers or just the devil, the beast and a false prophet?

A. 20:15 tells us plainly that those who do not belong to God — their names are not in His book — are cast into the lake of fire.  We can go into lots of ideas about what this means, but the bottom line, for me, is that there is a reality that God will judge us according to our actions, and those who do not have the grace of Jesus to turn to could be in very serious trouble.  Brimstone (the old word for sulfur) was frequently found among hot springs and volcanoes in that part of the world, so the idea of burning sulfur came to be associated with judgment.  To add insult to injury, brimstone smells awful, which is part of the reason that it was so noticeable in hot places.

Q. (20:13): What is meant by “death” and “grave”?

A. The reality of death and the “holding place” of those who have died.  Both of them will pass away in the world to come.

Q. (21:10): Jerusalem is the metaphorical city for heaven? Does it say anywhere in the Bible that these “metaphors” are intentional?

A. Heaven should be understood as the place where God dwells, as well as the place where those who serve Him live as well.  So in this vision of the coming kingdom, the dead do not float up to the clouds and get their wings and harps as we so frequently see heaven depicted, but that there is a new union of heaven and earth not seen since…the Garden.  It is not a coincidence that the Tree of Life makes its return in this story (22:2): the right relationship between God and man has been restored, and God can give man the privilege of living forever without worrying about the separation.  The separation of death and sin is gone.  So Revelation shows us that the end result of Jesus’ work is NOT us going to heaven, but rather heaving COMING TO US!  Right relationship is restored by God’s actions in Jesus for those who believe.  It is an amazing passage, one of my favorites.

Q. (22:21): The Bible usually mentions God’s grace not Jesus’s.  Why is that?

A. God is the one word we can use for all three Persons of the Trinity.  There is no need to refer to the grace of the Spirit or Jesus or the Father when one can simply refer to it as God’s grace.

And with that, I am signing off…

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 362 (Dec. 28): 144,000 Israelites get seal of God, a crowd comes who survived the great tribulation and serve God, breaking seventh seal causes earthquake, angels blowing trumpets set off destruction on earth, fifth trumpet brings stinging locusts for five months, sixth trumpet blown releases angels who kill one-third of all people, the mighty angel with small scroll says to keep a secret and ate it, scroll was sweet but became sour in stomach

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 7-10:11

Questions & Observations

Q. So, this is all still John’s vision?  Why is this so crazy compared to everything we have read before … except for some of those wild monsters we read about in the OT.

A. This is John’s vision, but it is written in a particular type of genre of writing called apocalyptic.  It would have been a commonly used form for writing in this era, but since the Bible does not contain much of this type of literature (though parts of Zechariah, as we read yesterday, and Daniel 7-12 are examples we do have from the OT.  Note how similar the visions in the second half of Daniel are to what we are reading).

Apocalyptic literature hit its “peak” in the intertestament period, when Jewish oppression drove writers to create visions of God avenging their deaths at the hands of cruel pagans.  John, a Jew, is very familiar with this type of literature.  The key characteristics of this type of writing are vivid use of symbols, animals, numbers, and colors; but it is also characterized by its contrast to what we would call prophetic writing.  In prophetic writing (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, etc.), the situation is dire, but it is not too late for the people to repent — the common call of the prophet.  But this is not the case in apocalyptic literature: it IS too late in this case to repent, God Himself must intervene to avenge what has been done to His faithful children, something we see over and over again.  The wrath that is being poured out in these visions is to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of the unjust — something Christians had heavily experienced during the era of the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian.

Q. (Revelation 7:1-8): Where does the 144,000 come from?  Are these Israelites alive or passed?

A. I’m going to assume you mean what is significant about it, because to me, the math is not in question (12 tribes, 12,000 sealed from each tribe).  There are numerous theories about it: some say it is a symbolic number.  One scholar I read noted that the number signifies completeness in two ways: by squaring the number of tribes (12×12) and multiplied by 1,000, which would have been understood to the original hearers as a sign of completeness.  Others view it as a literal number of Jews saved (Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that ONLY 144,000 PEOPLE will be saved in total!)  But there is not a lot of consensus.  I tend to see it as a symbolic number, since it is from a book that deals in symbolic numbers, not literal headcounts.  As to whether these Jews are alive or dead, that questions is impossible to answer, and is irrelevant anyway: they have completed their trial, so there is no longer a distinction between alive and dead- all are alive in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 7:14): Does the “crowd” refer to the rest of us — non-Israelites?  I thought Israelites were put on a level playing field with everyone else.  What is the great tribulation?

A. The common understanding is that the Jewish group is first seen by John as being a subsection of the great multitude, so that removes any notion of being the “special” section of the saved.  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and His plan of salvation for the entire world had its origins with them.  But salvation is now for everyone.  The crowd is the survivors of the great tribulation, which the rest of the book will be showing to us.  Symbolically, this does describe all Christians from every nation and people, who ALL must pass through some form of trial and tribulation, either great or small.  That’s the way that I read what John has written here: it is a victory celebration for those, Jew and Gentile throughout all time, have come to salvation in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 8:6-13): Why is the significance of the star’s name — Bitterness?  How about the eagle?

A. The star has a few interpretations.  Those who hold to a more literal, “this represents this” interpretation argue that the language of Rev. 8 represents events of great leaders who have fallen (a “falling star”) in the history of our world.  I, frankly, don’t buy that, because there is no indication that this is what John means, and it requires too much pure speculation about who this is.  I think that takes too much away from what John is doing — writing symbolically — in this work.  I believe that the name, which refers to a type of plant, represents the coming bitterness that will befall the inhabitants of the earth in the midst of the coming tribulation.  The eagle is sometimes seen as a symbol of pending destruction, as in Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:13, and Hosea 8:1 — note that in Jeremiah the warning is followed by a declaration of “woe to us” and in Hosea there are trumpets that precede the warning.

Q. (Revelation 9:1-12): Ouch.  I don’t want to be in that crowd.  Locusts are a popular pest in the Bible.  Who is the Destroyer?

A. Most likely a symbolic personification of destruction, though some think that there is a powerful demon, a fallen angel, who is lord of the Abyss.

Q. (Revelation 9:13-21): Horses are popular in Revelation.  And, colors are pointed out when they are mentioned — here, the riders.  Why all the mutations of animals?  These visions can’t be actual — like back with Joseph’s visions when the wheat symbolized his brothers.

A. Yes, they are visions.  Horses are powerful symbols in this story because at the time, a warhorse would have been the most powerful weapon of war in existence.  They symbolized power, control, and conquest, and to a certain degree, they still do today.  Other animals — including some non-real ones coming up — are used because they often carry with them double meanings, the same reason that various colors are used.  The images of wild beasts and vivid colors drive our imagination, exactly as John desires.

Q. (Revelation 10:1-11): Is the mighty angel Jesus?  Can you point us back to the scripture that v.7 talks about when God revealed His plan to the prophets?  And, what is being symbolized when John ate the small scroll and it tasted sweet and then bitter?

A. No, Jesus is NEVER referred to as an angel.  It most likely refers to an archangel, one of the “high” classes of angels.  There is no Scripture that tells the exact spot where God revealed His plan to the prophets: it simply didn’t work that way.  God revealed pieces of His vision to the various men and women who were faithful to Him in the OT, and those visions, put together, and viewed through the “lens” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us the vision for God’s plan.  The sweet/bitter of the scroll harkens back to Ezekiel, who was also ordered to consume a bitter message.  The sweetness is the inevitability of God’s victory, the good news.  The bitterness/sour is that this victory will involve the suffering of many or the bad news.  John must proclaim both messages, telling of Christ’s victory will be sweet, telling of suffering and persecution will be painful.

Day 361 (Dec. 27): All through John, Jesus wrote letters to churches in Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, heaven, Lamb opens the scrolls and breaks the seals

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 3-6:17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Relation 3:1-6): Sounds like most of Sardis has fallen, but Jesus is giving them a last warning/chance?  And those who have made the right choices are good to go.  I am starting to get a better understanding of the “chosen” issue.

A. When you say “most,” keep in mind that it means the congregation of Christians, not necessarily the entire city.  It appears that many in that congregation were falling away — we don’t know why — and Christ is calling them to renew their faith.

Q. (3:7-13): Sounds like Philadelphia is a great place to be.  They have done well and get to skip the testing for judgment?  V. 12 says that a new heaven will come down and Jesus will take on a new name?

A. Maybe.  The Greek can either mean, “keep you from [undergoing]” which would match your suggestion, but it might also mean “keep you through,” which would imply that they will not be left out of the trial period that is described in the rest of the story.  The new Heaven and the name of Jesus will come later in the story.

Q. I notice that each of these church letters end with the same words: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.  To me, this is just saying that we can all benefit from these teachings?

A. Yes, and Jesus spoke very similar words during His earthly ministry (Matthew 11:5, Mark 4:9).

Q. (3:14-22): Jesus is giving the church in Laodicea a charge to choose believing?

A. He is saying that they are tepid, or lukewarm: neither hot nor cold.  The explanation for the reference is quite clever: Laodicea was a wealthy city, and there were two sites close by that were considered “luxuries”: Hierapolis, famous for its hot springs, and Colossae (the same as the NT letter), which was famous for its cold, invigorating spring water.  People from Laodicea went to Hierapolis for “spa days” as we might refer to them, and vacationed in the summer in Colossae, and so they could enjoy both the hot and cold water as they wished.  But apparently, at one point, there was a project to pipe hot water into Laodicea from the hot springs, which they were able to make work — a feat of engineering at the time! — but the water lost its heat along the way.  The water that arrived was lukewarm, and was apparently nauseating to drink: so no one did — they spit it out.  So Jesus is saying that the community of Christians in this city was like the tepid water in the pipes — no one was “drinking” it, and that had to change.  And they needed to be desirable water — hot or cold.

Q. (4:5): What is the significance of the name “sevenfold Spirit of God”?

A. Seven is our watchword for fullness or completion.  This place is the dwelling of the very Shekinah glory of God.

Q. (4:6-8): Are these creatures the same ones that were in the OT?

A. These are the same beings referred to in Ezekiel 1 (they have only four wings in Ezekiel’s vision, we don’t know why John “gives” them 6).  Christian thought has these representing a class of angels known as Cherubim, which we know very little about.  But the most important thing to note here is that the four creatures speak of the Lamb, they reveal who He is.  Thus, it has become popular interpretation to understand the four creatures as representing the Four Gospels, and this influences Christian art and thought to this day.  If you’re wondering: Matthew is the Man, Mark is the Lion, Luke is the Bull, and John is the Eagle.  Thus, for example, if you visit St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice — or, much closer for you Floridians, Flagler Memorial Presbyterian in St. Augustine, which was modeled off of the original in Venice — I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Old City.  You will see lion imagery throughout the building.

Q. (6:1-17): What is the meaning of the different colored horses?

A. If you recall a while ago, we read about these same colors in Zechariah 1:8-17 and 6:1-8, so again, John is calling on our understanding of those visions to help him paint his vision here.  The four colors represent a sequence (these are the famous Four Horsemen): white represents rule and conquest (the white rider is some sort of ruler or leader of people, and is frequently seen as the Antichrist).  The red represents war and bloodshed. Black represents famine and plague — as a result of war or neglect, there is a shortage of food (frequently associated with times of war).  The prices given are 10 times the normal cost of wheat and barley.  The implication of the oil and wine is that since the trees that produce them have deeper roots, it will be more difficult to stop production of those items, and the black rider desires to control the distribution of these products to ensure maximum suffering, but also maximum profit!  War is so much fun for those who finance it!  (Sarcasm)  The Pail horse, representing the color of a corpse, represents the end of the sequence: massive death, and the rider of this infernal animal is the personification of death itself — what we would call the Grim Reaper.

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 359 (Dec. 25): John encourages us to love one another as God commanded, everyone who believes Jesus is God’s son will be children of God also, Jesus proved He was God’s son by being baptized with water and shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus protects believers from the devil, avoid anything that can take God’s place in your heart, be leary of deceivers, welcome the traveling teachers

Merry Merry Christmas!  The king is born!  Or, was He born on this day?  Read to the end for a discussion.

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.

3 John 1:1-15

1 John 4:7-5:21

2 John 1:1-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 11-12): This verse reminds me of those people I meet that are just radiating with kindness.  I want to ask them if they are a Christian because I am very curious about that.  Is that OK to ask, or should I just assume they are Christian?

A. I can’t really see someone taking offense to the question, but I personally confess that I rarely ask people when I am similar circumstances.  Someone who is a true, confessing Christian should frankly be eager to tell you so.

Q. (5:6b): I am still foggy on what this means: “And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.”  Does that just mean that we know that Jesus is God’s Son and, when we are baptized we get the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said we would.  Therefore, His promise came true.  And the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus’ teaching because the Spirit shows us the right way to live, the same as Jesus did.  Thus, the spirit of Jesus (who taught us to be godly) still resides in us.

A. One of the things we established in Ephesians 1 is that the presence of the Spirit is the “mark” of our salvation, so in a sense, it is His presence that serves as a “testimony” about our faith in Christ.  He would not be present within us if we did not believe in God’s work in Christ, so His very presence testifies about what we believe.

Q. (5:16b): The sin that leads to death is denying that Jesus is the Son of God?  And, talking about praying for sinners, my daughter has started praying for Satan.  What do you say to that?  It actually stemmed from me because God says we are to love our enemies.

A. John tends to describe things in very strong black and white terms: you are either with God, or an antichrist — that sort of thing.  So it is little surprise that he would say that denying Jesus was the Son of God is a sin that leads to death.  As to your daughter’s action, I love her vision for praying for her enemies!

Q. (2 John 1:1): Is John singling out women believers?

A. Not really.  There is some speculation that 2 John is written to a particular woman, but the scholarly consensus is that the “women” represents a congregation or a particular church.  Revelation will repeatedly refer to congregations using feminine imagery, so it is hardly an uncommon thing for the NT (watch for the bride of Christ imagery).

O. (3 John 1:1-4): Growing up, I remember taking care of visiting evangelists and musicians that came to our church for a revival.  I think they stayed with us some, we fed them, had church dinners.  But now that I belong to a megachurch, there isn’t that sense of close-knit community.  I miss it!  But, as my life has changed from going to a small community to a big metropolis, we can still carve out ways to help others.  And, our church definitely supports missionaries who must travel abroad.

Q. Rob, since this is Christmas Day, can you explain if Christmas was the actual day Jesus was born?  I have heard studies where He was born in January.  Regardless, it’s a very important event to celebrate!  I think it’s interesting to hear how dates get set or rearranged in history.

A. The word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass,” or Christ’s coming or arrival.  In the old days, the celebrations were known as liturgical feasts or feast days, as they still are in the “high” churches.  The first indication of the Christ Mass in the Western Church dates to around 354 AD, but the Eastern Church (what we today call the big “o” Orthodox) had already tied the birth of Christ into one combined feast day known as Epiphany, which takes place on Jan 6th of each year.  The Western Church also recognizes Epiphany as the date of the Magi’s arrival (Matthew 2), obviously have a different date for Christmas.  (In passing reference, you get 12 days if you add the dates from Christmas, Dec 25th, to Epiphany, Jan 6th, which would be the 12 days of Christmas, in case you ever wondered).

Okay, now about that date.  Well, as you can clearly see from what we have already discussed, there was no consensus about the ACTUAL date of Jesus’ birth, because the Gospels do not tell us.  The OBSERVANCE of the birth is what takes place on Dec. 25, so it should not be understood that the liturgical churches have been saying Jesus was born on Dec. 25 for 1700 years … it hasn’t.  As to WHY Dec. 25 was selected, well, now we’re in deeper water.  There is some close proximity to what is called the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a major holiday for pagan culture, the dominant force in the world both Jesus and Christianity were “born” into.  So there is frequently discussed and “known” pseudo-knowledge that the 25th was selected to “replace” the feast of the Solstice, but I do not think this is actually what happened.  What caused it then?  Since that’s a long answer, I’m going to recommend you read an essay from a Catholic writer named Mark Shea (he’s a great writer and normally blogs here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/) on that very topic here: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2006/12/is-christmas-really-just-warmed-over.html

Hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.  Merry Christmas!

Day 357 (Dec. 23): Grow in your faith with “moral excellence” and the more productive you will be in the knowledge of Jesus, we need constant reminders of our faith in Jesus to stand firm with truth, false teachers are clever and crafty, the Day of the Lord will come as a surprise, God is patient in picking His day because He is wants to give people more time to be saved, Peter warns against becoming influenced by evil people

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 Peter 5:12-14

Peter’s second letter addresses many of the same concerns as the letter of Jude — the two letters were probably written about the same time and to the same churches.

2 Peter 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Peter 2:9): If God rescues godly people, then why do bad things still happen to true Christians?

A.  I can give you lots of reasons: because we live in a fallen world, because sin still reigns, because God knows that He can bring good out of our darkness, because the faith of true Christians needs testing, and ultimately, because, as we have discussed, there are no “good” people, even true Christians.  Sin still holds sway in this world, but not forever.

Q. (3:7): I just noticed that “heavens” is plural.

A. There’s some theories about this, but the general consensus is that there is indication of “levels” of heaven — usually seven, with God’s throne being the seventh.  While there is some speculation, there is little concrete evidence in Scripture, so speculation seems a bit out of bounds.  Like the reality of hell, the reality of heaven is something the Bible merely casts fleeting glances at — it calls for our focus to be on God and His acts in the person of Jesus Christ.  Revelation will have another “glance” into the throne room, coming soon!

O. (3:8-9): This is so sweet.  It shows how much God loves us!

O. (3:14): Peaceful, I’m sure, means to not quarrel with people and love them as much as humanly possible.  I would think, though, that it would also mean being calm in yourself, which for me, I need to carve out a lot more quiet time where I can talk purposely and earnestly with God.  I also need to make sure I am ministering to people, helping anyone I can, being a great friend who listens, leading by example, etc; because I think this brings inner peace and purpose that we are fulfilling the instructions we have been given of spreading the Good News.

Day 356 (Dec. 22): Jesus is cornerstone for believers to build on and nonbelievers to stumble, respect those in authority, slaves who endure hardship will be rewarded, wives must accept husband’s authority, clothe yourself in inward beauty not outward appearance, husbands must treat wives as equal partner, pay back retaliation with blessings, God will reward those who suffer for doing what is right, live for God, watch over flock willingly not grudgingly, watch out for the prowling devil

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.

Day 356 (Dec. 22)

1 Peter 2:4-5:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Peter 2:18-25): On second reading, the slaves he is talking about, I think, are actual slaves, but I think this passage also includes all Christians: Those who can endure unfair treatment will be rewarded.  Does God condone slavery?  What about slavery in the U.S. was it wrong by God and should it have ended?

A. No more than any other human institution that exploits people, as slavery does.  Slavery, in its various forms, is a classic example of the exploitation that people frequently indulge in, including abuse (in all its forms), violence, and sex trafficking (which is frankly just sex slavery).  The ways that we humans too often treat each other in no way pleases God, but there can be light brought out of it as well, as Peter is describing.  If you endure suffering — suffering you don’t deserve, not that you do! — it is a powerful witness to the transformative power of Christ.  So though we often exploit each other (Americans included), Peter is saying that even the suffering of the exploited can be used to glorify God.

O. (3:3-6): My good friend is a hairstylist in Hollywood.  He sees celebrities constantly.  On a visit, his cousin wanted to go to the grocery store in the morning just dressed in casual clothes.  My friend told her no, no, you have to get ready to go to the store there.  Everyone is dressed to the nines, even on a weekend morning.  I just think about how much time that wastes and if you are out showing God’s love, how does that make people feel if, when you are talking to them all dressed up, they think that you are above their status and can’t relate to you.  It’s easy for me to get on the soapbox about this since I don’t spend hardly any time primping.  I always thought I was too lazy.  Now I can use the reason that I want my inward beauty to show.  J

Q. (4:1b): What does it mean to have “suffered physically for Christ” and “you will have finished with sin?”

A. I’m honestly not sure.  Best guess: if you are counted as a follower of Christ to the point where you are willing to suffer punishment for it, then like Christ, you have (symbolically) moved beyond sin, because those who are faithful have been purified of sin by God’s grace.

O. (4:7): Prayer is certainly something that I don’t take as seriously as I should.  And, I think more quiet time with God would draw me closer to Him.

O. (5:2b): Watching over others willingly sure makes it more enjoyable too!

Q. (5:8): This reminds me of our beloved former pastor, Isaac Hunter, who just took his own life.  I looked back on YouTube at some of his old skit videos.  He looked so normal, so together and happy.  The devil must have bore down on him hard for him to trip up and give up.  We can learn from Isaac’s fall.  The devil can trip us up so easily, we have to be on the lookout constantly.

A. While it can sound insensitive (I had tremendous respect for Isaac), what happened to Isaac did not happen overnight, or through a single “attack” of the devil.  I have a strong suspicion that Isaac suffered greatly for years because of his personal choices.  So while Satan may prowl, far too often we give him an opening and are forced to deal with the consequences, as Isaac did.  While the man that you saw in the videos presented an outward appearance of happiness — which may indeed have been genuine — I suspect that Isaac was hiding great pain that not even close friends, co-workers, or counselors could see.  He hid it so well.  Isaac was incredibly gifted, and I am so sad that those gifts have now been lost — partly because he would have been uniquely qualified to share with others about how to confront the demons that haunt you and pass to the other side with God’s help.

Day 355 (Dec. 21): Love all, respect marriage, God will never fail us, World is not our permanent home, Peter reminds believers that they were chosen, believers have hope for the priceless inheritance in heaven, trials make your faith genuine and strong, faith will earn you praise when Jesus returns, call to holy living for sake of salvation, love deeply, purify yourselves by getting rid of all evil behavior

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 13:1-25

Peter wrote his first and second letter from Rome shortly before his death, which probably occurred in AD 64 during the persecution of Nero.

1 Peter 1-2:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 13:1): So the angels delight in humans when we are kind to strangers?

A. It would appear so.  That certainly reflects the joy in heaven that Jesus describes in Luke 15.

Q. (13:13-14): Wow.  I never thought about the fact that Jesus blood was shed outside the city, making him an outcast.  As Christians, we do feel as outsiders for a good portion of the time.  But, we can find respite in the community of believers.  Also, I know I have said this before and I don’t think it’s out of discontentment, but I have never really felt at home, like I was totally happy in a place.  I was close living in Hawaii, like 90 percent close.  It is so beautiful there, what I would picture heaven to be.  But, I remember growing up that I just didn’t feel like I belonged in Kansas (spare me the Dorothy jokes, please J).  And, we moved to Florida after my husband retired from the Navy, as it was closer to the likes of Hawaii, but it still doesn’t do it for me.  Then, if we did ever move back, I would be far away from family again.  So, I just think that no place is perfect and I’ll find my spot in heaven and be totally happy.

A. Peter is noting here the special role Jesus’ body had in the sacrifice he offered: the “scape goat” took the sin of the people outside of the camp (one image — Lev 16:8), and the carcasses of certain animals used in the sacrifices were burned outside of the camp because they were unclean (another image).  In short, the idea here is that since Jesus was taken outside of the “camp” (Jerusalem) to die, he symbolically took all of the sin with Him, which was God’s plan from the beginning.

Q. (13:21): To me, this is telling us to use those God-given talents we have and make them work for His glory and good!  Use the tools He gave you to grow God’s house.

A. That image of “producing” in us comes from John 15, where Jesus tells us about abiding in Him in order to thrive and produce good fruit.

Q. (1 Peter 1:1): Here is that word, “chosen,” again.  I am setting the meaning of the “chosen” matter that God knows our hearts before we are born.  He knows we will choose Him, and thus, He has chosen those people for His kingdom.  I can HOPE in this that I am correct.  But, this “chosen” issue I have been uncertain on, so I can hope that I will get my understanding resolved.

A. I will be no help to you in this instance, I am afraid.  Protestants have been arguing about what it means to be chosen for 500 years, so it’s pretty well worn ground.  The idea of being chosen is a dividing point between Calvinism and Arminianism — Calvinists assume election based upon nothing more than God’s free choice, while Armenians, as you suggest, see this as selection by foreknowledge.  I leave it to you to decide.

O. (1:7b): Another reason to have faith in Jesus!

Q. (1:12) Pretty cool that humans are going through something that even the angels don’t know until it’s happening.

A. It is indeed an intriguing thought that beings outside of time do not know our fate, and are in suspense of sorts.  No wonder there is rejoicing in heaven!

Q. (1:15): I have a ways to go to be holy in everything I do, but at least when I know that I mess up, I apologize a.s.a.p.

A. Forgiveness and grace are the main tools that God uses to drive us to be better disciples.

Q. (1:17): Judge according to what we do … I thought we were saved by faith alone.  Is it saved by faith, judged by works?

A. Yes, you’ve got it.

Q. (1:20): So God and Jesus have known all along that Jesus would die on the cross to save us from our sins.  God seemed so disappointed with Adam and Eve, but He knew they were going to sin?  Also, some places say that God chose Jesus to be our atonement and other places say Jesus gave up himself for our sins.  Will you explain this difference?

A. Coming back around to the free will question you asked earlier: the question you ask here is a big part of the reason I lean towards free will instead of predestination — the accounting for human choice.  God has known all ends since the beginning (no one doubts that), but God took the risk and created our race because, in my opinion, He values our choice to love Him above all other things.  We must CHOOSE to follow Him, though He certainly guides our steps.  But as soon as you, or even God, open the possibility of choosing love, you have given the person the possibility of also choosing to not love, to reject relationship.  God is not interested in robots, He desires children who want to love Him, but that must, by definition, involve a choice.  Nothing pleases me more as a father of a little girl than when she runs up to me coming through the front door and says, “daddy, daddy!”  I do not make her do that, she does it out of her limited understanding of what love is — and she chooses to love me.  Is that love always guaranteed?  Of course not (something surely God understands), but God appears willing to risk the rejection of relationship for the chance that His children will come to know and love Him.  That is Good News if ever there was any.

Q. (1:22): Does brothers and sisters mean those in Christ or everyone, believers or not?

A. He’s referring to believers — note the first half of the verse — but surely Peter would not disagree with loving those who are not.

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.