Day 364 (Dec. 30): Seven angels standing at Temple hold bowls of seven plagues, those victorious over evil sang song of Moses, plagues caused flowing blood, darkness, earthquakes, hailstorms, prostitute rides beast, beast has fallen, Lamb of God victorious over beast and kings, voice warns to stay away from the wickedness of Babylon, believers rejoice over judgment of Babylon

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.

Revelation 15-18:24

Questions & Observations

Q.  Rob, this is still John’s vision, but we have no idea if this is how the end of days will actually be, right?  And, what about those who see a white light when they are passing, but then come back to earth?  The Bible doesn’t seem to address that.

A. The rest of Revelation after John is told to enter the door is his vision, so yes, this remains a record of what he is seeing.  There are many who see Revelation as some sort of code to be deciphered that would give Christians an “insider” knowledge about what will happen in the last days — which no one even knows when that will be, let alone how it will unfold — but I do not buy that.  People who make such claims don’t really understand the genre of the writing: it was written in code, not for people living centuries later, but for the original audience, persecuted Christians in the seven churches of the first few chapters and beyond.  That it has any benefit to us is, in my mind, incidental to John — though I freely offer that the Spirit desired this book to be for our benefit as well.  But I simply do not think you can “unravel” the code and be given special information: God simply does not work that way with any part of the Bible — the message is always clear and up front.  Hidden knowledge is not part of Christianity — all the “cards” are on the table.  The Bible does not address the near death experiences you are describing, probably because there was no such thing as “near death” in ancient times: you were either dead or alive.

Q. (15:7): There a lot of dishes used in the Bible that hold important things.  Here we have bowls holding plagues, cups that runneth over, and I remember the Tabernacle had some holy dishes, right?  Is that for a reason?

A. I don’t think there is anything special about the use of dishes or cups, they are simply delivery devices for liquids, and there’s just no other way to do that.  Though some of the dishes represent powerful images, such as wrath or healing, the dishes are not the important part of the image: it is what they contain that matters.

Q. (16:4): And here is the blood again.  Blood signifies cleansing of sins.  Here it is more of a payback?

A. The plague of blood serves two purposes: it harkens back to the first plague of Egypt, in which the Nile was turned to blood thanks to Moses’ staff.  But the other purpose for this punishment is described in verses 5 and 6: the blood is a “punishment fits the crime” plague for shedding the blood of those faithful to God.

Q. (16:11): After all of that wrath, the people still refuse to acknowledge God.  They don’t know God so they don’t know they’ve sinned?  And, they are still being called to repent to God and they are still refusing.  Would you say there hearts are hardened?  It doesn’t say anything about that here and why would God harden them because he did this in the past to magnify evil showing the Israelites His power.  These people sound so wicked that their hearts could not be softened ever.  Anyway, just curious.

A. This vision is black and white, like a lot of John’s writings: there is no one who crosses to the other side during this torment: no one repents, and confesses the evil of their ways.  For the Christians who suffered under persecution and likely lost their possessions, if not their lives to the whims of evil men who placed themselves as enemy’s of God’s church, however, this is a just punishment.  It is only a vision after all, but one with a clear purpose: to remind the faithful what they are fighting for and what happens if they are victorious.  Those who persevere through this tribulation — and do keep in mind that in more than 60 countries around the world RIGHT NOW, the tribulation goes on to this day! — they will be rewarded and see those who have punished them punished.

I won’t lie to you, there is an element of blood lust in this that I’m not completely comfortable with, but we must not forget that God does not wink at sin, and some of the greatest sins are to persecute and kill those who are on the side of God.  Personally, I would desire for God to extend grace, but in this vision at least, the time of grace has passed.  Victory is coming for those who remained faithful!

Q. (17:15-18): I don’t understand the dynamic between the beasts and the prostitute.  They are enemies here, but I thought they were on the same Team Evil.

A. This is a complex analogy.  The woman/prostitute is Rome, not the actual city of Babylon, which has long been known as the city on seven hills.  The vision of the kings/crowns on the beast is clear enough, and the beast in this analogy is the Antichrist, the great enemy of God.  It appears that the beast will come to rule over the woman (that is, rule Rome, at least symbolically), and that is why there is animosity between them.  This makes the 8th king (verse 11) the ruler, but they will turn on the “woman” for reasons that I don’t really know.  It appears that even among “team evil,” there is division.  The ultimate point John is making is that Rome has become a prostitute of all kinds of things that are evil in God’s sight, and that many rulers, merchants, and sailors have “slept” with her in order to gain wealth.  Since the woman will die, it will be bad for all those who “sleep” with her.

Q. (18:10): The prostitute is the city of Babylon, right?  It sounds like the NT’s version   of Sodom and Gomorra.  I would think that Babylon is metaphorical for all who fall prey to the temptations of this world.

A. It’s Rome, as I discussed above, but the rest of what you write has it exactly.  Rome is powerful, which is why she is so tempting for those who desire power or control, but in the end, she will die (the Roman Empire will fall) and God still remains.

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.