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 192 (July 11): Our God is real, their idols are made by humans, the Lord blesses and never forgets his followers, God is my protector, He cares for the godly, rejoice in all He offers and has given

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.

Psalms 115-118

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 116:1-2, 115:10): I often wonder why we pray to God and praise Him so much.  Why does He seek praise, or does He?  Why are we told in scripture to do so?  I am sure there are a lot of reasons.  One I think of is to keep our eyes on God.  We should want to thank God in prayer for all of our blessings.  Here in 116:2, it says that He bends down to hear what we say.  The Creator of the Earth and all of its complexities eagerly has time for us.  That means that He does care and it is worth our time.  Also, in 115:10, we are told that God is our helper and our shield.  That’s a pretty good armor!  But, does God desire praise?  I know I do when I feel I’ve done a good job or just need a pat on the back or a little reassurance.

A. The parent metaphor is an apt one here.  Do I “require” the praise of my little girls?  Do I require them to say, “You are such a great Daddy!”  No!  No (healthy) parent does that!  But does it bring delight to my heart to hear the love of my daughters?  You bet it does.  As a strong proponent of free will, I believe that God does not force us to love Him, but is honored most when we make the CHOICE to love Him.

Worship of God is never for His benefit (God needs nothing for us, He is a complete entity and Triune community unto Himself), but always for ours.  Worship is one of the key ways that we as people can see the “true” way things are, as we see things being told to us in these Psalms.  Worship, like prayer, is never about changing God, but rather using the truth that God is in charge and we are not to change us.

Q. (116:3): What is going on here?

A. The writer was facing death, and uses the metaphor of being “snared” in the ropes of a personified death, as an animal in a trap.

Q. (118:24): Amen!  This should wake me up every morning!

A. The church I grew up in started every service with it.  You could do a lot worse than this verse.

Day 189 (July 8): Let the world shout the Lord’s name, Jerusalem is exalted, God is our shepherd, tell God of your woes, praise God for the beauty of his complex awesome world

Good day!  I hope your summer is going wonderfully!  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.

Psalms 98-100, 102, 104

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 98): I notice the harp is mentioned often as a preferred instrument to accompany praises.  Any idea why?

A. I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for that, other than to say it was a commonly owned instrument of this era, kind of like a guitar today.  When we think of the NLT’s use of “harp,” what they really mean is what we call a “lyre,” a handheld small stringed instrument, like a mini-harp.  According to my notes, there is a reference to the creator of the lyre (as Jews knew it anyway) in Genesis 4:21, and it was also noted to be the official instrument of the nation, probably made so by King David.  Check out some other readings on it here:

http://topicalbible.org/h/harp.htm

and here (lots of pictures):

http://www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/pages/instruments.htm

Q. (100:3): I bet we will see more references to God and Jesus as the shepherd of us — His sheep.  We have seen it several times already.  Why sheep?  They are meek, quiet, community oriented …

A. That last adjective made me laugh: it makes sheep sound like they form little “sheep clubs” with membership dues or something.  The primary reason, as I think we’ve discussed, though for the life of me I forget where, is that one of the main occupations of Israel was sheep herding and ranching.  Sheep would have been an animal that all Israelites would have been familiar with.  Now having visited a few farms, I would have to disagree with your assessment of sheep as being “quiet” or anything like it — they are noisy animals that only get quiet when things turn bad.  But there are lots of other reasons that I can think of why God would call us His sheep.  Since the list I’m coming up with is fairly extensive, I’m going to defer to two resources on the matter.  The first is a book, called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller (according to Amazon, you can get a used copy for a penny: http://www.amazon.com/Shepherd-Looks-Psalm-23/dp/0310274419)

The other is a person’s blog whom I feel does a good job of summarizing many of the reasons I’m thinking of.  Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments.

http://inhonoroftheking.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-does-god-call-us-sheep.html

O. (102:28): How fortunate are those children who are being taught the ways of the Lord.  I feel for those children who are brought into a house of anger, violence or neglect.

Q. (104): This psalm makes me think of how much we take God’s creation for granted.  I am amazed at all the details that God included, how things were made to coexist, how it all works together.  But, I don’t think about it more than once or twice a day.  Then, of all of God’s creation, it’s the human race that He loves the most and works with the most to try to turn toward Him.  I guess this is because we are created in His image and He desires for us to be with Him to share the beauty of His creation?

A. I would say your guess is correct.