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 360b (Dec. 26): Introduction to Revelations

Welcome to Bible Bum 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.

Since Revelation can be a complicated book and is like no other in the Bible, Rob offered up this introduction to Revelations.  It helps get you in the right frame of mind before you dive into it.  Enjoy!

Introduction to Revelation

by Rob Fields

Revelation is both the strangest and least understood book of the Bible.  Some people say that Revelation is an exact blueprint for the future that merely needs to be interpreted, others say that it’s really about the past, and others find it merely to be an unfiltered glimpse into heaven and heavenly worship.  The landscape of Revelation is dotted with numbers, images, creatures, visions, and the wrath of God.  We could spend a year just looking at different aspects of the story, but for now, we will examine important aspects of the text that I believe will make it easier to understand.  In this lesson, we are going to look at five important overview concepts for understanding Revelation.

Five things you should know about Revelation:

1) John (the author) is writing in a particular genre of literature: apocalyptic literature.

2) The more Old Testament you know, the more sense Revelation makes.

3) In general, images presented in Revelation should be interpreted symbolically, NOT literally.

4) Revelation predicts the future, but not in the way we really want it to.

5) The story of Revelation is really the story of Jesus, the one who is worthy.

1: Genre is everything

?) Imagine that the only kind of books you had ever read were romance novels.  Now imagine that you picked up a mystery or detective story for the first time.  What do you think your reaction would be?

Probably the most intimidating thing about Revelation is the language.  The chapters of the book are full of great images: beasts covered with eyes worshipping God, brightly colored horses that bring death and famine, an army of warrior locusts, a great red dragon, beasts with seven heads and ten horns, and so on.  The language can appear to make the meaning so cloudy that we just give up and don’t bother trying to understand the image that John is painting for us.

It is an important thing to recognize the style, or genre, that the author is writing in.  This is the genre of the apocalypse. (Apocalypse is Greek for “the act of revealing” or “unveiling” — this is why Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse of John.)  Apocalyptic literature was originally a Jewish writing style where circumstances had become so bad that God himself intervened on behalf of his people.  We tend to think that Revelation is unique because it is the only book of the sort that we have read.  But if we examine some other samples of this literature, I think we will move away from this overemphasis on the images in Revelation.

So I have a little test for you.  At the end of this lesson, I have placed four samples of this kind of literature for you to examine.  Read each of them, and see if you can find the one passage that comes from Revelation (they are labeled at the end).

2: Go old school

Revelation is fairly unique among NT books, in that it does not usually quote from the Old Testament.  There are only a few quotations from the OT in Revelation, but the book is full of images from the OT, and we are going to sample some here.

1) Time, times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14).

2) Manna (Rev. 2:17)

3) Four horsemen (Rev 6) — color is important!

4) Four living creatures (Rev. 4)

5) Sound of rushing waters (Rev. 1:15)

6) The two witnesses: (Rev 11:6) witness #1 — no rain; witness #2 — water to blood.

7) Tree of life (Rev. 2:7 and Rev 22)

Using the concordance such as the keyword search on Biblegateway.com and your knowledge of the Old Testament, find a reference for each of these seven images.  When you have a reference, see if you can infer what each of these images is being used to show.

As I believe you can see, the more OT you know, the easier it is to understand Revelation

3: Keep it Symbol

With Revelation, we as readers tend to overanalyze the imagery that is being described to us.  The main danger of Revelation is that we will bring our own meaning, biases, and interpretations into our reading of the text.  We must be very careful about doing this, for the reasons we have already talked about.  We must also be careful about interpreting images too literally.  Let’s look at an example:

In Revelation 5:6, the “lamb of God” has “seven horns and seven eyes.”  A literal interpretation of this verse will give us an image such as:

That seems a bit ridiculous if you ask me.  But, what if we examined each part of the verse separately?  First, we have the number 7.  What are some of the biblical associations with the number 7?  Seven represents completeness, or wholeness.  Now let’s examine the horn.  We have lost the association with this, but in ancient societies, the horn — such as on a ram or bull — represented power.  The eyes, like today, represent seeing or vision.  So, if we combine the images, we get the following:

7 (completeness) + horn (power) + eye (seeing) = all powerful and all seeing. 

The verse is shorthand for these things.  This is one example, and much of Revelation is not that simple, but in general, we can watch for the following symbols:

Numbers: numbers are almost always significant, they include: 3, 3½ (half of seven), 4, 6, 7, 12, 144 (12×12), etc.

Objects: Eyes, horns, crowns, swords, scrolls, robes, etc.

Animals: Horses, lions, lambs, dragons, beasts, bulls, eagles, men,

Locations: Babylon (we’ll talk about this), Heaven, the earth, the sea, the stars, etc.

4: Ask the magic 8-Ball

?) What are some of the ways people try to predict the future?  How do you think God feels about such efforts?

It is my belief that the Bible does predict the future, but not in such a way that we could make a profit from such efforts, or be able to blueprint the future.

Read Matthew 24: 36-44.  What do these verses tell us?  What should this tell us about Revelation?

The “future” that Revelation predicts is that God will be victorious in the end, because of what Jesus Christ has done for each of us.  Revelation, then, tells us only how the story will end: with God and his followers victorious.  What benefit does this have for us?

There is a legend of a general whose army was tired and outnumbered by the opposing force.  The men needed to be rallied.  The general gathered his army to him, and held up a coin.  I’m going to flip this coin, he said, and if the eagle lands face up, we will win, but if the wolf lands up, we will lose this day.  He flipped the coin, and the soldiers held their breath as the coin flew through the air.  The eagle side landed up, and the soldiers let out a huge cheer.  Reinvigorated by the general, the soldiers rallied and won the day.  Only afterwards did the general reveal the secret: the eagle was on both sides of the coin.  It was the knowledge that the victory was assured by the toss of the coin that led the soldiers to win the day.

Knowing that you are on the winning side is powerful, and should empower each of us to be better “soldiers” for God.  This, I believe, is the true power of the Book of Revelation, for God’s people to have just a glimpse of the power that is on our side.

5: The One Who is Worthy

We have covered a lot of material tonight, and I don’t want to over saturate you with material.  So instead of getting too deep with the text itself, we will begin our look at Revelation just by reading chapter 1 aloud.  (We’ll return to it next week for some explanation).  Note any details that seem important based upon what we have shared tonight.  Read it again this week, with chapters 2 and 3.  I think that you will see that the character of Jesus Christ is the center of this text, as the author intended.
Sample of Apocalyptic Literature:

4 Ezra is a Jewish writing from between the OT and NT, but not part of the Bible.  The Apocalypse of Peter is a Christian writing from the era of the early church (circa 150 AD), but it is NOT part of the NT.  Zechariah is part of the OT as we read, and the last passage is from Revelation itself.  Note the patterns in the use of broad, symbolic language, and the use of color, rising and falling, animals, and visions.

Passage 1:

And it came to pass on the second night I had a dream, and behold, there came up from the sea an eagle that had twelve wings.  And I looked, and behold, he spread his wings over all the earth, and all the winds of heaven blew upon him, and the clouds were gathered about him.  And I looked, and behold, the eagle flew with his wings, to reign over the earth and over those who dwell in it.  And I saw how all things under heaven were subjected to him, and no one spoke against him, not even one of the creatures that was on the earth.  And I looked, and behold, the eagle rose upon his talons, and uttered a cry to his wings, saying, “Do not all watch at the same time; let each sleep in his own place and watch in his turn.” – 4 Ezra 11:1-9

Passage 2:

And the Lord showed me a very great country outside of this world, exceeding bright with light, and the air there lighted with the rays of the sun, and the earth itself blooming with unfading flowers and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible and bearing blessed fruit. And so great was the perfume that it was reached even to us. And the dwellers in that place were clad in the linen of shining angels and their clothes were like unto their country; and angels hovered about them there. And the glory of the dwellers there was equal, and with one voice they sang praises alternately to the Lord God, rejoicing in that place. The Lord said to us: This is the place of your high-priests, the righteous men. — Apocalypse of Peter 15-19

Passage 3:

I looked up again—and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze!  The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white, and the fourth pail—all of them powerful.  I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these, my lord?”  The angel answered me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world.  The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.”  When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, “Go throughout the earth!” So they went throughout the earth. – Zechariah 6:1-7

Passage 4:

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.  But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.  And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”  These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.  If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.  These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. — Revelation 11:1-6

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 358 (Dec. 24): God is light, live as Jesus did, love your brothers and sisters, remain faithful in what you have been taught from the beginning so you may inherit eternal life, the Holy Spirit teaches truth, eagerness to know who we will be when Jesus returns keeps us pure, if you live in Him you will not sin, leaving guilt behind we can go to Him with confidence that we will receive what we ask of Him, identifying false prophets

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.

John wrote his letters sometimes between the 60s and the 90s of the first century AD.

1 John 1-4:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 2:8, 3:6): The first of these verses says we all sin and if we say we don’t then we are calling God a liar.  But, 3:6 says that if we live in Him we won’t sin and anyone who keeps sinning does not know Him.  So, on the face of it, these sound a little contradictory.  But, I think what they say together is that we all have sin and have sin in us, but the more we live in the love of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit, the less likely we are to sin and more pure we become.

A. I’m not going to take credit for the effort, but I am glad to see that you are expanding your understanding of the depth of Scripture: not everything that SOUNDS like a contradiction is one.  I think that you are right about this reading, and that we can grow to be more like God (including sinning less — we are unlikely to stop sinning all together) over time.

Q. (3:21): Here, John says that feeling guilty is pretty much a sin.  It keeps us from feeling worthy of all the gifts He offers.

A. Guilt, while sometimes motivating, is ultimately not an emotion that brings us closer to God.  If we understand our worth comes from God and not from our actions, we will frankly be less likely to turn to our guilt instead of our God.

Q. Anything else, Rob?  Did you want to say anything about John himself?  I am curious about who he is.

A. Church tradition holds that the Apostle John is the writer of this letter, the one referred to as the “apostle Jesus loved.”  We do not know if this is true or not (he doesn’t identify himself), but it is quite clear if you examine the language of this letter that the writer of this letter also wrote the Gospel of John.  Compare John 1 and 1 John 1’s first few verses and you will see what I mean.

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 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): 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. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 352 (Dec. 18): Christ is our high priest, grow beyond the basic knowledge of Christ, God’s oath is a binding promise of hope, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, Jesus is perfect priest who lives on and can intercede forever and offer salvation

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 4:14-7:28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 5:4): When did God make this oath to Jesus?  The footnote said it was in Psalms, but what is the timeframe and the events surrounding it?

A. That’s a tricky question — keep in mind that trying to assign a “timeframe” to a “being outside of time” is not likely one to have a satisfactory answer.  Ok, the writer is quoting from Psalm 2, which is accepted to be a Psalm about the Messiah — in it, God selects His King and adopts him.  So, carrying the analogy forward, the writer is saying that in quoting from this Psalm, God was making this oath to Jesus as Messiah — it is not a literal oath that God the Father made to Jesus, but is more a metaphorical one describing the relationship between Father and Son.

Q. (5:8): The Bible, in general, is very serious.  And, we shouldn’t take the seriousness of our salvation lightly.  Here it talks about how much Jesus had to suffer, but we know he found joy and delight in people.  He enjoyed those who showed compassion.  But, the seriousness of following God — as it feels in this verse — can sometimes feel stern and cold.

A. It can.  Do keep in mind that the writer is preaching this message to Jewish Christians, who would have treated following God as very serious business — and definitely NOT something to take lightly.  I get the sense that the writer was, as all good writers do, considering his audience in crafting his message, and while it can sound cold to our ears, it was written to show reverence to God.

Q. (5:11-6:12): I like this passage because it basically gives us a swift kick to urge us to keep carrying on and go past the basic knowledge of Jesus is our salvation.  We are to keep moving and telling folks about the Good News.  We are to not waste our time on those who don’t listen?

A. Let’s keep reading the rest of this text, and I think that the meaning of what he is writing here will become clearer.

Q. (7:1-28): OK, Rob, this sounds like a big surprise.  I searched “Melchizedek” on BibleGateway.com, and found several references to him in Abraham’s time.  But, why was he downplayed when we learn in the NT how important he was.  It sounds like he was almost like Jesus, but in the OT?  I don’t remember hearing about him in the OT.

A. He was there, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, but he was frankly not a major character in the story.  The most honest answer to your question would be for me to say that the OT is the story of the Jewish people, and a religious Jew would NOT agree with the argument that the writer is making.  To pious Jews, there IS NO other order of priests then the Levitical priesthood.  This is why the writer devotes an entire section of his writing to make this argument: he wants this Jewish audience to understand that there is another, older priesthood in their own story, and that even the great patriarch Abraham bowed down to him.  It is another example of the “Christ is better than…” arguments that dominate this section of Hebrews.  Essentially with this argument, the writer is making the case for how Jesus could be a priest of any sort without being a Levite since Jesus was a Judean.  And his answer — which frankly many Jews would not accept — is that Jesus is part of a priesthood that long predates the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.