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.
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.”