Friday, January 8, 2016

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter Six, This Means War!

Chapter 6 - This Means War!

It may seem like we're getting away from our look at Revelation, but we're not. One of the beautiful things about Revelation and our ability to understand it is that we need to look at nearly every other book of the Bible. Don't worry, I'm not going to go that far, but there are some basic things that we do need to look at to establish an understanding of what's going on in Revelation. For now we need to go back to the beginning – Genesis.

“And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all [domestic] animals and above every [wild] living thing of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust [and what it contains] all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.” – Genesis 3:14-15

Genesis – beginnings. The world as we know it came into being. Mankind began. There was another first in Genesis as well – the first promise of the Messiah was given immediately after Adam’s act of disobedience. It shouldn’t surprise us that God seemed to be fully prepared for the events that took place in the Garden. He knows the end from the beginning and had prepared the perfect sacrifice before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). I’m sure God would have preferred that Adam hadn’t disobeyed, but kids will be kids!

Immediately following the promise of the Messiah, the Lord showed Adam the high price required for his disobedience in a very graphic way. Rather than allowing the couple’s nakedness to be covered by garments they had made from leaves, God slaughtered animals, spilling innocent blood not only to make garments to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, but to cover their sin and satisfy God’s holy law. It is this perfect justice that required a perfect sacrifice to eventually be made – one that would not only cover our sins, but that would actually cleanse us of our sins.

This first promise of the Messiah did something more than serve as a word of hope for fallen mankind. It also served notice to Satan. From that moment he knew his days were numbered. He also knew something else – that the Messiah would be born; He would be human. What Satan didn’t know was when or where this promised Messiah would be born. After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, they began having children. It is in this first generation of “Garden-exiled” people that we see Satan begin his campaign against mankind in hopes of thwarting God’s redemptive plan.

“And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. And Cain said to his brother, Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” – Genesis 4:3-8

Here we see Cain and Abel. One brought the Lord an offering of the fruits of his own labor. The other brought an offering of the firstborn of his flock. In the sacrifices Cain and Abel brought before the Lord we see one man trying to do things his way, while the other was doing things God’s way. One sacrifice was accepted, the other was rejected. If you’re wondering whether it would have been difficult to discern God’s acceptance of an offering, the following passages should clear it up.

In 1 Kings 18:38 we read, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood and the stones and the dust, and also licked up the water that was in the trench.” Then in 2 Chronicles 7:1 we read, “When Solomon had finished praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house.”

So, fire falling from heaven to consume the sacrifice meant that the sacrifice was accepted by God. No fire – no acceptance. (Personally, I like it when God makes things easy like that.) Not only did Cain see that God had accepted his brother’s sacrifice while rejecting his own, but when he got angry about it, God spoke to him directly. We can only guess that Cain’s pride was greatly injured by God’s rejection of his sacrifice. Using that offense as an opening, Satan instigates mankind’s first act of murder. (We must remember that at this point in history Satan still did not know when or where the Messiah would be born, simply that He would indeed be born of a woman.) Not only does this murder serve as a vehicle for Satan to pour his anger out on men, but it also serves as his first attempt to begin wiping out mankind with the hope of preventing the Messiah’s birth.

It really didn’t take long for things to start falling apart for mankind after that. Satan went to work right away to interfere in the affairs of men, particularly when it came to man’s relationship with God. In the beginning of Genesis 4, Adam and Eve began having children. By the end of Genesis 4 those children had grown up and had children of their own. Mankind also began profaning the name of God. Now, if you look in your Bible you will most likely find Genesis 4:26b reads something like this: “At that time men began to call [upon God] by the name of the Lord.” It is now widely held that this is an unfortunate mistranslation and that men weren’t calling upon God’s name in reverence, but rather profaning God’s name. If you think about it, this really would make more sense considering that people were already familiar with God. Also, in Genesis 5:22-24 we see that Enoch walked in habitual fellowship with God, so this must mean that the knowledge and reverence of the Lord was already with men rather than something new that began when Seth was born at the end of Genesis 4. So, by the end of Genesis 4, moral decay was rampant and about to take a turn for the worse, as we will see in Genesis 6. But first we are presented with a very curious chapter in the Bible.

Genesis 5 is a precious jewel hidden in the midst of mankind’s history. Now, if you’re like me, when you come to a list of genealogy in the Bible, such as this chapter of Genesis, you get a little bleary eyed and your mind begins to wander. I’m sure the people were very nice and it’s wonderful that God chose to immortalize them by having their names recorded in the Bible, but was it really necessary to list them all?

Would you be surprised to find out that those names really are significant and aren’t just there to test our endurance? One thing that we need to remember is that names and their meanings are very important in the Jewish culture and that every Hebrew name has a meaning. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the lineage God presents in Genesis 5.

Here is the list of men named in Genesis 5, in the order of their birth: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. Methuselah is notable for two things. First, he lived for 969 years, making him the oldest person ever to have lived. Second, his death brought the flood of Noah. In fact, his name means to bring or to send forth death and many believe that it was God’s mercy in His delaying the judgment of the flood that allowed Methuselah to live so very long. Now let’s look at the meaning of each of these names to see if there is anything significant going on here.

Name Meaning
Adam . . . . .  . . . Man
Seth . . . . .  . . . . Appointed
Enosh . . . .  . . . . Mortal, frail, or miserable (root is incurable)
Kenan . . . . . . . . Sorrow, dirge or elegy
Mahalalel . . . . . . Blessed or praised God
Jared . . . . . . . . . Shall come down
Enoch . . . . . . . . Commencement or teaching
Methuselah . . . . Death – to bring or to send forth
Lamech . . . . . . . Lament or lamentation (despairing)
Noah . . . . . . . . . To bring relief or comfort (comfort or rest)

So, if we put all of these names together we have the following sentence:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching His death shall bring the despairing comfort, rest.

Could it be that in the genealogy of Genesis 5, God tucked away the message of the Gospel? That certainly appears to be the case. This genealogy would seem to be the next declaration of the Messiah, but more than that, who He would be, how He would come and what a portion of His ministry would be. The Messiah would be the Blessed God Himself. He would “come down” from His rightful place in heaven, and He would bring comfort and rest to those in despair. In fact, when Yeshua read from the prophet Isaiah (chapter 61, verses 1 and 2) thousands of years later, He declared this portion of His ministry and proclaimed the fulfillment of the passage from Isaiah.

“And there was handed to Him [the roll of] the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened (unrolled) the book and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity], To proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound. Then He rolled up the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were gazing [attentively] at Him. And He began to speak to them: Today this Scripture has been fulfilled while you are present and hearing.” – Luke 4:17-21

It is very interesting to note that Yeshua stopped reading before the passage ended, leaving out “and the day of vengeance of our God.” The day of vengeance had not yet happened when Yeshua read this passage, and indeed He will not be fulfilling that portion of Scripture until the end of the seven year Tribulation period.

So, by the time we get to Genesis 5, the information given about the Messiah has increased, but it has not yet narrowed in its scope. It was probably due to the broad range of the information regarding the Messiah that Satan’s attack was still focused on mankind as a whole. And with the information he had been given thus far, I suppose it only made sense that Satan got right to the heart of the matter in trying to pollute the available gene pool in order to prevent the birth of the Messiah. Confused? Let’s look at Genesis 6 for some clarification.

“When men began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, and they took wives of all they desired and chose. Then the Lord said, My Spirit shall not forever dwell and strive with man, for he also is flesh; but his days shall yet be 120 years. There were giants on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God lived with the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” – Genesis 6:1-4

This text can be quite perplexing. Let’s take a look at each verse of this passage to see if we can get a better idea of what’s really going on here.

Verse one says, “When men began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them.” This seems to be pretty straightforward. Men began to do a lot of begetting and as is usually the case, some of their offspring were female.

Verse two says, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, and they took wives of all they desired and chose.” This is where things usually start getting a little muddled. There are generally two camps when it comes to this passage as a whole, and this verse in particular. On the one side, there are those that say that the sons of God were merely human men who took wives for themselves. While this sounds plausible, if we look at the passage carefully we find that this cannot be the case. The term “sons of God” is used solely for beings created directly by God. Adam was a son of God. The angels, being direct creations of God, are sons of God. (These, of course, are not to be confused with The Son of God, Yeshua the Messiah.) We who are regenerate in the Messiah are also called sons of God because through the Messiah’s atonement we have been adopted by God. But children born of human parents are never called sons of God, rather they are called sons of men. Understanding this, it becomes evident that this verse is not speaking of human men taking human women for their wives, but of angels – fallen angels – taking wives for themselves from the daughters of men.

Verse three says, “Then the Lord said, My Spirit shall not forever dwell and strive with man, for he also is flesh; but his days shall yet be 120 years.” Here the Lord seems to have finally had His fill of man’s disrespect, as well as man’s allowing, and perhaps even enjoying, this union between angels and humans. So here God limits man’s lifespan to 120 years.

Verse four says, “There were giants on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God lived with the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” The final verse in this passage seems to confirm the conclusions that must be made in verse two. The word in the original text that is translated “giants” does not merely mean that the offspring of these unions were unusually tall. They were in fact what we would call monsters. Yes, they were giants in that they were a great deal taller than any mortal man. In fact, there have been archeological finds confirming that there have been individuals well over thirteen feet tall. It is also interesting to note that these hybrids had six fingers on each hand.

In a recorded incident that would fall into the “and also afterward” category, we are introduced to Goliath of Gath, and we are told that he was nearly ten feet tall (1 Samuel 17). There is another interesting fact about these giants. “And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; he also was a descendant of the giants. And when he defied Israel, Jonathan son of Shimei, brother of David, slew him. These four were descended from the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hands of David and his servants.” – 2 Samuel 21:20-22.

Going back to Genesis 6:9, we see that Noah was “blameless in his [evil] generation.” If the term “blameless in his [evil] generation” meant that he was righteous, why also mention that he walked habitually with God? What we are seeing here are two different and distinct issues – one is Noah’s relationship with God, the other is Noah’s bloodline or genealogy. Noah and his family were chosen by God to repopulate the earth not only because Noah had an intimate relationship with God, but because their gene pool hadn’t been polluted by demonic intermingling. This purity was essential as the Messiah had to be born a man, not a hybrid, as it was mankind that He would come to redeem, not fallen angels.

With the flood came the second recorded widespread judgment of God upon this planet; the first being when Lucifer sinned against God. And with the end of the flood God establishes a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9). It is after the flood that God causes animals to become fearful of man. It is also at this time that God gives man animals for food in addition to the vegetation He has already given man to eat. God also establishes accountability for murder.

In Genesis 11 we find the account of the tower of Babel. This episode in our history was yet another attempt by Satan to remove man’s devotion and worship from God and redirect it to Satan and his fallen angels. The people, who all spoke a common language, decided to build a tower to reach the heavens. Perhaps they were trying to reconnect with the “sons of God” who had come down prior to the flood (and who would indeed come again). Perhaps, as some archeological finds seem to indicate, the tower was an astrological device to be used to take charge of their own fate without the interference of God. Whatever their ultimate goal, God did not like what He saw. He confused the people’s speech, giving them different languages and bringing this massive building project to an abrupt end.

It isn’t until Genesis 12 that we see God get more specific regarding the Messiah by calling one person out to be in covenant with Him. This man was named Abram (later renamed Abraham). God later chose to perpetuate this covenant through subsequent generations of Abraham’s offspring, specifically Isaac and Jacob. It is this narrowing of focus that brings the brunt of Satan’s attacks to the people God had chosen and it is here that the seeds of anti-Semitism were planted.

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter Five, The Key to History

Chapter 5 - The Key To History

“Then another ominous sign (wonder) was seen in heaven: Behold, a huge, fiery-red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven kingly crowns (diadems) upon his heads. His tail swept [across the sky] and dragged down a third of the stars and flung them to the earth. And the huge dragon was cast down and out – that age-old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, he who is the seducer (deceiver) of all humanity the world over; he was forced out and down to the earth, and his angels were flung out along with him.” – Revelation 12:3-4a, 9

“Thus says the Lord God: You are the full measure and pattern of exactness [giving the finishing touch to all that constitutes completeness], full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, the carnelian, topaz, jasper, chrysolite, beryl, onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and your settings and your sockets and engravings were wrought in gold. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub that covers with overshadowing [wings], and I set you so. You were upon the holy mountain of God; you walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire [like the paved work of gleaming sapphire stone upon which the God of Israel walked on Mount Sinai]. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until iniquity and guilt were found in you.” – Ezekiel 28:12-15

The most beautiful, the most perfect being ever created, filled with the sum of wisdom – that was the being we now know as The Adversary or Satan. One of a class of angelic beings known as cherubim (plural for cherub – and no, they don’t really look like chubby little babies with wings), he was anointed by God to become the highest of his class. He was positioned in the throne room of God. At that point he was then not only the most beautiful and wise of all of God’s created beings, he also held the most authority and power of any created being.

From the above passage in Ezekiel we are told several things about the original state of not only this magnificent cherub, but of the original creation as well. This being was in the original Eden, a garden not of plants, but of beautiful gems – a mineral garden – and given authority over it and this planet. From this passage we also see that He was the anointed cherub that covers – he was anointed by God and elevated above his fellow cherubim in power and authority. “You were upon the holy mountain of God; you walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire,” is speaking of the kingdom or throne room of God. So here we see that he was the guardian of the throne of God and was the one who granted or denied others access to it. The imagery used in these two statements is very reminiscent of the ark of the covenant which had two cherubim covering the mercy seat with their wings. This mercy seat was a type, or picture, for the throne of God, and above this seat is where God’s presence manifested itself in the wilderness tabernacle. Just as the cherubim on the ark “covered” God’s glory, so too, did Satan before he chose rebellion.

So, in summary, this most beautiful and perfect cherub was given unprecedented power and authority by God. And in this perfection, he was given something that we don’t have and may never fully understand – the power to make a choice contrary to his very nature. Unfortunately, he did just that, and when he did he became ha’satan – the adversary. Now let’s look at how this happened.

In Isaiah 14:13-14, the prophet has recorded the words of Satan, “And you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit upon the mount of assembly in the uttermost north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Let’s take a look at these five statements and what they mean.

First we have, “I will ascend to heaven.” Here we see that Satan wanted more than what he already had, but the only domain left was the very throne of God. Second we have, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” In Scripture, when the word star is used symbolically it is always a symbol for an angel. So in this statement he is expressing his desire to be in charge of all the angelic beings.

The third statement, “I will sit upon the mount of assembly in the uttermost north,” is a reference of Satan's desire to sit on the throne of God. If we look in the second chapter of the book of Daniel we can begin to see what might be referenced here. “As you looked, a Stone was cut out without human hands, which smote the image on its feet of iron and [baked] clay [of the potter] and broke them to pieces. Then the iron, the [baked] clay [of the potter], the bronze, the silver, and the gold were broken and crushed together and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them could be found. And the Stone that smote the image became a great mountain or rock and filled the whole earth.” The image that Daniel is referring to is one that appeared in a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. God was interpreting the dream via Daniel. The image represented not only King Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, but those that would come afterward as well – right up to the time that Messiah (the Stone cut without human hands) will return and establish His kingdom on earth. This passage is pregnant with Messianic connotations. So, knowing that it was God’s will for the Messiah to rule in this capacity in God’s kingdom, Satan declared his desire to rule and reign over Israel in the Messiah’s place.

Fourth we have, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.” The word cloud, when used symbolically, is a reference to the manifest glory of God. When the Israelites were in the wilderness they were lead by the manifest presence of God – a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. So, here Satan is stating his desire to make that glory his own, when in fact it belongs to God alone.

Lastly we have the grand finale of the “I will” statements – “I will make myself like the Most High.” When God is referred to in Scripture as the Most High, it is most often referring to God as possessor of heaven and earth. In stating that he will make himself like the Most High, Satan is stating that he wants to make himself the owner, or title-holder, of heaven and earth.

These five “I will” statements are very telling about Satan’s desires. They can also help us understand history and what’s on the horizon. In these five short statements Satan voiced his dissatisfaction with God’s perfect will. Rather than be satisfied with his exalted position, he wanted it all! The most perfect being that God created thought he could take the place of his Creator and since that time has been busy trying to fulfill his desires.

When Satan chose to oppose God’s will, God had no choice but to judge Satan and everything that was under his authority – including the earth. In Genesis 1:1-2, we read, “In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.” But in Isaiah 45:18, it says, “For thus says the Lord--Who created the heavens, God Himself, Who formed the earth and made it, Who established it and did not create it to be a worthless waste; He formed it to be inhabited – I am the Lord, and there is no one else.” At first glance it would seem that these two passages contradict each other, but God’s Word can never contradict itself. From the passage in Ezekiel 28, we see that the original Garden of Eden was vastly different than the one mentioned in Genesis. In the second verse of Genesis we can see that the earth had become an empty waste, covered with water, but Isaiah says that God did not create the earth to be a waste. What happened between verses one and two of Genesis to cause such a dramatic change? The judgment of Satan. In the Genesis account of “creation” it is actually God re-creating and re-forming the earth out of the remains of what was left after God’s judgment of Satan’s rebellion.

In Romans 8:19-21, we read, “For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God's sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it – [yet] with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God's children.” Creation is waiting to be redeemed to its original mineral state. In Revelation 21:1-3, we see, “Then I saw a new sky (heaven) and a new earth, for the former sky and the former earth had passed away (vanished), and there no longer existed any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, all arrayed like a bride beautified and adorned for her husband; then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God,” (italics mine).

Note that the new earth will no longer have any sea, just as the original, pre-rebellion earth had no sea. Apparently God used water as part of His judgment against Satan’s rebellion, as He would do again at the time of Noah. Because the Messiah will be redeeming creation and returning it to its original state, we can deduce from the passage in Revelation 21 that the original state of this earth was not as it is represented in Adam and Eve’s garden, but as it was before Satan rebelled – an earth of precious stones, radiant with the very glory of God. In Revelation 21 we also see that the dwelling of God will be with men. Has God given us any glimpse of what His dwelling place looks likes? He has indeed!

“You were the anointed cherub that covers with overshadowing [wings], and I set you so. You were upon the holy mountain of God; you walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire [like the paved work of gleaming sapphire stone upon which the God of Israel walked on Mount Sinai].” – Ezekiel 28:14

“Then in the Spirit He conveyed me away to a vast and lofty mountain and exhibited to me the holy (hallowed, consecrated) city of Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, clothed in God's glory [in all its splendor and radiance]. The luster of it resembled a rare and most precious jewel, like jasper, shining clear as crystal. The wall was built of jasper, while the city [itself was of] pure gold, clear and transparent like glass. The foundation [stones] of the wall of the city were ornamented with all of the precious stones. The first foundation [stone] was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony (or white agate), the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each separate gate being built of one solid pearl. And the main street (the broadway) of the city was of gold as pure and translucent as glass.” – Revelation 21:10-11, 18-21

“And they saw the God of Israel [that is, a convincing manifestation of His presence], and under His feet it was like pavement of bright sapphire stone, like the very heavens in clearness.” – Exodus 24:10

Every time we are shown a glimpse of God on His throne or of His dwelling place it is described in terms of brilliant gemstones and jewels just like the original creation.

Is there more to learn from Satan’s rebellion than what the world once was and what it will be again? Without a doubt! To summarize, we had a created being that had been more perfect and beautiful and wise than any other created being. He then got so full of himself that he chose to act contrary to his own perfect nature and aspired to take over God’s position and authority. God then judged Satan and everything under his authority. By the time we see Satan make his appearance in the Garden of Eden as a serpent, we can only guess that his desire for complete domination had utterly consumed him and that he would stop at nothing to fulfill these five “I will” statements no matter how long it would take, and therein lies the key to history.

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter Four, The First and Last Adams

Chapter 4 - The First and Last Adams

“For since [it was] through a man that death [came into the world, it is] also through a Man that the resurrection of the dead [has come]. For just as [because of their union of nature] in Adam all people die, so also [by virtue of their union of nature] shall all in Christ be made alive. Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life].” – I Corinthians 15:21-22, 45

“Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden [delight]; and there He put the man whom He had formed (framed, constituted). And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:7-8, 15-17

Adam was the first person made by God’s own hands. Eve, his wife, was the only other person to ever be directly fashioned by God. After God made Adam, He put the man in the Garden and gave Adam what seems to be two relatively simple directives – tend and protect the Garden, and don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So here we see that God had given the use of the land, in this case the whole earth, to Adam. Adam was to oversee and guard the land and by doing so he was fulfilling his God-given role. Then, at the close of Genesis, chapter 2, we see God creating Eve, Adam’s helper – someone who could come along side of Adam and fully complement him in every area of his life. By the time we get to chapter 3, we can deduce that Adam may have already become negligent in his duties. In the opening verses of chapter 3, we are introduced to the serpent and he’s doing what he does best – twisting the Word of God in order to fracture a person’s relationship with the Living God, with other people and with themselves.

“Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity. And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate.” – Genesis 3:1-6

Eve should have just walked away from that serpent and never given him the time of day. But she, like all of us, was human and allowed herself to be drawn in to a match of wits for which she was not equipped. From this initial encounter with the serpent, we can see the pattern Satan still uses today. First, he questioned God’s Word. “Did God really say that?” Next, we see that rather than ignoring this comment, Eve answers, although her answer adds to what the Lord had actually spoken to Adam. (You must remember that when God gave that command to Adam, Eve hadn’t been created yet, so it had been up to Adam to instruct Eve in the ways of God.) Eve’s addition to God’s Word was the opening Satan was looking for.

Satan knows the Word of God, probably better than any of us will ever know it. He’s had a lot of time to study it, trying to find some loophole in order to fulfill his warped desires. So when Eve added, “neither shall you touch it, lest you die,” to the command God had given to Adam, Satan had her just where he wanted her. He told her that she wouldn’t die, and that it was only because God was withholding something from her that she had been instructed not to eat of the tree. Questioning God’s motives and His provision is another tactic that has been working for Satan through the centuries. By this point poor Eve has been swayed. She took another look at the tree for herself and saw that it was not only a good source of food, but was pleasing to the eye and could make a person wise. That was all the convincing she needed – and the rest, as they say, is history. But Eve didn’t stop there. Apparently she didn’t want to sin alone, so she brought some of the fruit to Adam and he partook as well.

At this point you’re probably thinking about what a horrible, manipulative little creature Eve was. Wasn’t it bad enough that she defied God? Did she have to drag Adam down with her? Well, let’s put the brakes on the Eve-bashing for a minute and see what really happened here.

As I mentioned earlier, Adam was the one who was in charge of tending and guarding the Garden. His first mistake was letting the serpent get in. It also seems that Adam didn’t fully communicate God’s Word to Eve. She was obviously very easily led astray by the wiles of the serpent and was ultimately deceived by the serpent. When Adam took his bite of that famous fruit, however, he did so with both eyes open and with full knowledge of what he was doing. He purposely disobeyed God’s will. In Genesis 3:7, we see that it was not until Adam ate the fruit that both of their eyes were opened and they then knew that they were naked. I believe that this clearly lays responsibility for the couple’s act at Adam’s feet. But why would Adam knowingly and willingly sin against God, losing everything that had been entrusted to him? Let’s look at Adam and Eve’s relationship a bit more to find out.

In today’s world of high divorce rates and growing numbers of dating services, you soon realize that finding the right mate is a high priority for most people. But can you imagine if God made your mate for you with His own hands, out of your own body? Eve wasn’t just the perfect wife for Adam, she was literally part of him. I can’t even begin to imagine the love these two must have shared, not only with each other, but in their unfettered relationship with God. The couple walked freely through the Garden, clothed only in the light of God’s glory. But when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, all of that changed.

When Eve came to Adam with the fruit in her hand, Adam had a choice to make. Here stood Eve, holding a piece of fruit in her hand. I can almost see her crying like a baby over what she had just done. Because Eve had been deceived into sinning, she would have no longer been able to be in perfect relationship with either God or her husband. Before Adam stood the woman that he loved, but he could no longer relate to her. He couldn’t take her in his arms and comfort her in her time of despair. There was a chasm of sin between them. The only way that Adam could ever be with Eve again was to follow her into her fallen state, and out of his great love for her, he did just that.

With that one decision, the world changed forever. For the first time in history, man knew shame and guilt. The first thing Adam and Eve did after their eyes had been opened was to sew leaves together in hopes of covering their guilt – the first religious act – but God quickly shows us that we can not cover our own iniquity nor can we dictate what will please God. The Lord had to spill the innocent blood of animals in order to make atonement for the transgressions of His children. The skins of those sacrificial animals became clothing for His children. Then God had to expel the couple from the Garden and post a guard at the entrance to keep them from eating from the tree of life and obtaining eternal life in their fallen state. But there was something else that happened that day in the Garden.

Through his willful disobedience to God’s will, not only did sin and decay enter into the human condition, but Adam forfeited his title deed to the land. Fortunately God didn’t let any time pass before He unveiled His plan of redemption. In Genesis 3:14-15, God not only makes the first proclamation of the Messiah, but that the Messiah would ultimately crush the head of Satan, while He would have His heel bruised (this was fulfilled in the life of Yeshua when He hung on the cross).

We are also shown that Satan is currently in legal possession of the earth in Luke chapter 4. In this passage Satan comes to Yeshua in the wilderness and begins tempting Him. When Satan offers Yeshua all the kingdoms of the world and all the authority to go with them, Yeshua didn’t correct him, because for the time being Satan does indeed have legal possession of the earth. Yeshua knew that the only way for Him to be eligible to ultimately redeem the land meant He would have to follow the Father’s plan and not take matters into His own hands. He stood firm and sent Satan packing.

In Romans 8:19-21, we can see that creation is indeed waiting to be redeemed. “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Creation must be redeemed, just as each of us is in need of redemption, and the One who is qualified to redeem us is the same One – the only One – who will be able to redeem the earth and return it to its rightful owner – Yeshua the Messiah.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:5-8

It is no small thing what the Messiah has done for us. But why would Yeshua step out of His rightful place in the Godhead to be born a human and ultimately die the most hideous death known to man? Because He loves us. He looked upon us in our desperation, our souls crying out for the help that only He could give, and out of His compassion and mercy He chose, just as Adam did, to join His bride in her brokenness. But rather than joining us through an act of willful disobedience to the Father, Yeshua lived His life in perfect obedience to the will of God. Adam’s willful sin made it necessary for a human, someone who could perform in the role of kinsman-redeemer, to live a perfect and sinless life. It is because of Yeshua’s obedience that He can step into the role of kinsman-redeemer, not only for us, but for creation as well.

I believe that what we are seeing in the Book of Revelation is Yeshua stepping into the role of Kinsman-Redeemer for us, taking the title deed for the earth (the seven-sealed scroll) and transferring the legal title to the rightful owner once more. Because Adam willfully sinned, causing the title to default, there had to be a person who was completely obedient in order to qualify as Redeemer. Yeshua is that one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter Three, Kinsman Redeemer

Chapter 3 - Kinsman-Redeemer

Have you ever heard the term kinsman-redeemer before? Even if you have, I think it would be safe to say that you might not understand exactly what a kinsman-redeemer is or what a kinsman-redeemer does. And what on earth does it have to do with Revelation and the questions we have raised? Let’s find out.

There are three Scripture passages we need to look at to better understand what a kinsman-redeemer is and the circumstances in which a kinsman-redeemer would be necessary. The first is Leviticus 25:23-25, and has to do with land ownership and its redemption.

“The land shall not be sold into perpetual ownership, for the land is Mine; you are [only] strangers and temporary residents with Me. And in all the country you possess you shall grant a redemption for the land [in the Year of Jubilee]. If your brother has become poor and has sold some of his property, if any of his kin comes to redeem it, he shall [be allowed to] redeem what his brother has sold.”

Here we see that the Lord God is the rightful owner of the land of Israel. The people who “owned” the land and subsequently sold it were not selling the land itself, but the right to use the land. And we see that God provided for the original party – or one of their kinsmen – to redeem the land and take possession of it once again after it had been sold.

The next passage is Leviticus 25:47-50 and outlines the redemption of a person who has sold himself to a stranger or sojourner and the conditions for his redemption.

“And if a sojourner or stranger with you becomes rich and your [Israelite] brother becomes poor beside him and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger's family, after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle or his uncle's son may redeem him, or a near kinsman may redeem him; or if he has enough and is able, he may redeem himself. And [the redeemer] shall reckon with the purchaser of the servant from the year when he sold himself to the purchaser to the Year of Jubilee, and the price of his release shall be adjusted according to the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be counted as that of a hired servant.”

The final passage we’re going to look at is Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and addresses a brother’s duty to his widowed sister-in-law. It also speaks to the man who would refuse this duty.

“If brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, his wife shall not be married outside the family to a stranger [an excluded man]. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the firstborn son shall succeed to the name of the dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuses to continue his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. And if he stands firm and says, I do not want to take her, then shall his brother's wife come to him in the presence of the elders and pull his shoe off his foot and spit in his face and shall answer, So shall it be done to that man who does not build up his brother's house. And his family shall be called in Israel, The House of Him Whose Shoe Was Loosed.”

From these passages we can see that a kinsman-redeemer is a person who is willing to set aside their personal interests in order to restore a relative to their rightful position, to restore the family’s land, or to ensure that the name of a brother will not pass away.

Now, let’s take a look at Revelation 5:1-5 – “And I saw lying on the open hand of Him Who was seated on the throne a scroll (book) written within and on the back, closed and sealed with seven seals; And I saw a strong angel announcing in a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll? And [who is entitled and deserves and is morally fit] to break its seals? And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth [in the realm of the dead, Hades] was able to open the scroll or to take a [single] look at its contents. And I wept audibly and bitterly because no one was found fit to open the scroll or to inspect it. Then one of the elders [of the heavenly Sanhedrin] said to me, Stop weeping! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root (Source) of David, has won (has overcome and conquered)! He can open the scroll and break its seven seals!”

It becomes apparent rather quickly that this scroll plays a crucial role in what’s taking place in the book of Revelation. Every time a seal on the scroll is broken something momentous occurs; judgments are poured out on the earth, signs and wonders take place, angels fly and demons are let loose. Considering the important role this scroll plays, I think it might be a good idea to try and find out what it is exactly. And for that we’ll need to take a look at the Book of Ruth. The Book of Ruth is a relatively small book, only four chapters long. But in those four chapters God unfolds a beautiful story, not only about Ruth, but about our Messiah and one of the roles He plays in our lives.

In chapter one, we are introduced to Naomi (which means beautiful or agreeable) and her husband Elimelech (which means my God is king). They are forced to leave their home in Bethlehem, sell their land (the use of the land, not the land itself), and journey to Moab because of a famine. They take with them their two sons, Mahlon (which means invalid) and Chilion (which means pining). While living in Moab, a heathen nation and enemy of Israel, Elimelech dies. Naomi stays in Moab with her sons who eventually take wives for themselves from among the Moabite women. The women’s names were Orpah (which means neck or skull) and Ruth (which means drunk or satisfied). After ten more years in Moab, both of Naomi’s sons die, leaving her alone with her daughters-in-law. At this point Naomi, Orpah and Ruth head out for Bethlehem because Naomi had heard that the famine was over. But rather than sentence the young women to a life of widowhood, Naomi urges them to each return to their mothers’ house and then she blesses them. The young women refuse, but Naomi is insistent. At this point Orpah does indeed return to her mother’s house. But Ruth will not be deterred and stays with Naomi. It is here that we find what I believe is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

“And Ruth said, Urge me not to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts me from you.” – Ruth 1:16-17

So off the two women went, back to Bethlehem, where Naomi then tells people to call her Mara (meaning bitter) rather than Naomi because God had afflicted her.

The second chapter begins by telling us that Naomi had a kinsman-redeemer (a relative of her late husband) named Boaz. When she and Ruth had returned from Moab at the end of chapter one, it was the beginning of barley season. By this time several months have passed as Ruth is now asking permission of Naomi to go to the fields and glean what she could. (It was the custom in those days that when a field was being harvested, the reapers could only make one pass in the field, thereby leaving grain behind for those who were in need of grain for their sustenance – a sort of welfare program, if you will.) So Naomi sends Ruth off to the fields with her blessing, and before long Ruth finds herself gleaning in a field belonging to Boaz.

When Boaz returns to his home in Bethlehem he notices Ruth in the field and asks his servant who she is. Learning that she is Naomi’s daughter-in-law, he tells Ruth to stay in his field as she will be safe there. Ruth is amazed that he has taken notice of her, but Boaz says that he knows of the kindness she has shown his relative, Naomi. Boaz then instructs his harvesters to purposely leave grain on the stalks and handfuls of grain on the ground for Ruth. In the evening, after Ruth had beaten out the grain she had gleaned, she went home and told Naomi of her good fortune that day. Naomi praised God at the good news of Ruth meeting Boaz, and told Ruth of his relationship to them. Naomi then instructed Ruth to stay close to Boaz’ handmaidens in his fields so that she would not be molested. We are then told that Ruth worked in Boaz’ fields until the end of the barley and wheat harvests and that she continued to live with Naomi.

The faithfulness Ruth showed her mother-in-law certainly did not go unnoticed. In chapter three we find Naomi stepping into the role of matchmaker. She instructs Ruth, then sends her off all primped and perfumed, to present herself to Boaz making sure she waits until after he is finished eating and drinking and has lain on the threshing floor (the grain had to be guarded from thieves during the night). Being the obedient young woman that she was, Ruth does just as Naomi says.

After Boaz lay down at the end of the heap of grain, Ruth sneaks in, uncovers his feet and lies down. When Boaz wakes during the night he is startled to find a woman lying at his feet and asks who she is. Ruth identifies herself, and then asks Boaz to cover her with the corner of his garment since he is a kinsman-redeemer.

Wait a minute! That sounds a little risqué to most people, Ruth asking Boaz to cover her with his garment. Is she trying to initiate a little hanky-panky to secure the deal with Boaz? Heavens no! In ancient times a man’s authority was displayed in the hem of his garment, which identified his family and tribe. Far from being naughty, Ruth was abiding by Jewish law in asking Boaz to step into his role as kinsman-redeemer on behalf of herself and Naomi.

Boaz, who had obviously already taken an interest in Ruth to a certain degree, is now completely flattered and overwhelmed by her approaching him in this matter. He reassures her that he will look into the matter in the morning. Boaz knows of one kinsman who is closer to Naomi than himself, but vows that if the other relative refuses to perform for Ruth, then Boaz will gladly do so. Boaz then fills Ruth’s mantle, or shawl, with six measures of barley and sends her back home to Naomi, where the women wait to hear how the matter will be settled.

Chapter four opens with Boaz entering the city gates, finding the nearer kinsman of Naomi and filling him in on the details of what has taken place, all in front of ten witnesses. Initially the nearer kinsman agrees to redeem the land, but upon hearing that redeeming and marrying Ruth and perpetuating her late husband’s name are part of the bargain he reconsiders and declines the offer. And just as Deuteronomy 25:5-10 mandates, the nearer kinsman pulls off his sandal and tells Boaz to buy it for himself. At least nobody spit in his face!

At this point Boaz marries Ruth and returns Naomi to her land. Then Boaz and Ruth have a son, named Obed, who goes on to father Jesse, and Jesse fathers David, who becomes the king of Israel and the ancestor of the Messiah. In fact, it could have been the very fields that Ruth had gleaned where the angels appeared many years later to make their announcement of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem!

One thing that we need to understand is that prior to all the festivities of redeeming the land and marrying Ruth, Boaz would have been the recipient of a sealed scroll which would have had the terms of redemption written on the outer portion of the scroll so that these terms could be met prior to the seal being broken and the redemption being completed. Does that sound vaguely familiar?

It seems we find a similar situation in chapter five of Revelation. Father God is holding a scroll – a deed – which is subject to redemption. Now a kinsman-redeemer, one who is qualified to perform in that role, must be found. The only one found in heaven or on earth that is able to fulfill the conditions written on the outside of the scroll mentioned in this chapter is Jesus the Messiah. But if this is in fact a deed subject to redemption, what is it the deed to? And who allowed the subject of the deed to lapse into this state? And why is Jesus the only One able to redeem it? For the answers to these questions we need to go back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden.

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter Two, The Last Shall Be First

Chapter 2 - The Last Shall Be First

Do you enjoy a good mystery? Have you ever taken a look at the last chapter of a book to see how the story is going to turn out before you begin? Well, that’s what we’re going to do now.

One of the most Jewish books in the Bible is The Revelation to John, the last book in the New Testament. I believe it is also one of the most misunderstood. Over the centuries it has been allegorized and misinterpreted in the worst ways. Because of a lack of understanding of the Old Testament and by not taking the whole of Scripture into consideration, multitudes have been stymied at the mere mention of Revelation. But the key to unlocking the marvels of this book does not lie in popular theories or bending the latest news headlines to make them fit a popular scenario. The key lies in the whole of Scripture. Before diving in, let’s look at the name of the book and what it means.

The Revelation of John, usually simply called Revelation (always singular, never plural), is just that – a revealing or unveiling of information. In chapter one, verse one, we are told exactly what this is a revealing of – the revelation of Jesus Christ, given to Jesus by Father God in order that Jesus could then make it known to John the apostle, who subsequently made it known to Christians throughout the world down through the centuries.

First, Father God had to give this revelation of Jesus to Jesus. But since Jesus is part of the Godhead, wouldn’t Jesus have full knowledge just as God the Father does? Well, it seems that when Jesus chose to step out of heaven to be born a human child He temporarily laid a few things aside for our sake.

In Matthew 24:36, Jesus Himself said, “But when that day and hour will come, no one knows — not the angels in heaven, not the Son, only the Father. ” We also see Jesus’ temporary position described in Hebrews 2:9, “But we do see Yeshua — who indeed was made for a little while lower than the angels now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he might taste death for all humanity. ” From these statements we can conclude that at that time, while Jesus was on earth He was not privy to the fullness of knowledge that Father God was, but when we get to Revelation, God the Father has unveiled that which had been hidden from Jesus until that point. Then Jesus is ready to tell the world!
In the remainder of the first chapter we are given magnificent descriptions of the Messiah, of His Name, and of His purpose: the One who is, who was and who is coming; the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the earth’s kings; the one who loves us, who has freed us from our sins at the cost of his blood, who has caused us to be a kingdom, that is, cohanim (priests) for God, his Father ; the ‘A’ and the ‘Z'; God of heaven’s armies; someone like a Son of Man, wearing a robe down to his feet and a gold band around his chest. His head and hair were as white as snow-white wool, his eyes like a fiery flame, his feet like burnished brass refined in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp double-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
On first reading this chapter it can feel quite intimidating, but you must remember that the writers of the New Testament – under direction of the Holy Spirit – were writing with the assurance that their readers were either well versed in the Old Testament or under the discipleship of someone who was. Why did they make this assumption? Because at the time that the New Testament writings were being penned there were no other Scriptures aside from the Old Testament!
Here are a few examples from the first chapter of Revelation showing the verse from Revelation, then the Old Testament passages that correspond to them. I have italicized or bolded the corresponding text in each set of verses.

“John to the seven assemblies (churches) that are in Asia: May grace (God's unmerited favor) be granted to you and spiritual peace (the peace of Christ's kingdom) from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come, and from the seven Spirits [the sevenfold Holy Spirit] before His throne,” – Rev. 1:4
“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him--the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord - ” – Isaiah 11:2

“And from Jesus Christ the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead [first to be brought back to life] and the Prince (Ruler) of the kings of the earth. To Him Who ever loves us and has once [for all] loosed and freed us from our sins by His own blood,” – Rev. 1:5
“Also I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” – Psalm 89:27

“And formed us into a kingdom (a royal race), priests to His God and Father – to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion throughout the ages and forever and ever. Amen (so be it).– Rev. 1:6
And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation [consecrated, set apart to the worship of God]. These are the words you shall speak to the Israelites.” – Exodus 19:6
“But you shall be called the priests of the Lord; people will speak of you as the ministers of our God. You shall eat the wealth of the nations, and the glory [once that of your captors] shall be yours.” – Isaiah 61:6

“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall gaze upon Him and beat their breasts and mourn and lament over Him. Even so [must it be]. Amen (so be it).– Rev. 1:7
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, on the clouds of the heavens came One like a Son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.” – Daniel 7:13
“And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace or unmerited favor and supplication. And they shall look [earnestly] upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one who is in bitterness for his firstborn.” – Zechariah 12:10

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord God, He Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty (the Ruler of all).– Rev. 1:8
“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

These are just a handful of examples showing our need for greater understanding of the whole of God’s Word. Some things just won’t make sense without that firm underpinning, and when things don’t make sense that’s when we run the risk of interpreting things our own way – and that can lead to gross error.

In John 8:31-32, we read, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” Then in John 14:6 we read, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” In these passages Jesus is telling us that if we know the truth we will be set free and that it is Jesus Who is the Truth. In Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (in other words, the Old Testament) (Matthew 5:17-18), therefore we must take into account every portion of the Word of God when studying the Bible. Now, back to Revelation.

Moving a little deeper into Revelation, in chapter 4, we begin seeing some wild things going on both on earth and in heaven. Over the years there have been equally wild speculations about what’s happening, why it’s happening and to whom it’s happening. But again, if you take the whole of Scripture into account – not just Revelation – you are able to set aside speculations and see God’s truth.

In chapter 4 of Revelation, John is shown a vision of the throne room of God in heaven. It is quite magnificent and is a perfect parallel to similar visions given to Daniel (Daniel 9) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6) centuries before, with one exception. In John’s vision there are twenty-four elders present in heaven. These elders are conspicuously absent in any Old Testament visions of the heavenly throne room, and we will explore the reasons for this later.

Then, in chapter 5, John sees Him Who is seated on the throne holding a scroll that has writing on it inside and out, rolled up and sealed. Unfortunately there was no one found in heaven or on earth who was qualified to open the scroll until the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (one of the titles for Jesus) comes forth and takes the scroll from Him Who sat on the throne (God the Father). Prior to Jesus stepping forward, John is so upset when no one can be found to open the scroll that he begins weeping bitterly. But why? What did John know about that scroll that is not plainly evident from the text in Revelation? Why is Jesus the only One able to take the scroll and open it? And what does His opening the scroll mean exactly? So many questions! But don’t give up. We’re going to take it one question at a time, looking only to God’s Word for our answers. Ready? Here we go!

Understanding the Book of Revelation - Chapter One, Where I'm Coming From

Chapter 1 - Where I’m Coming From

Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu,Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.”
– Deut. 6:4-9

Before we delve into the Book of Revelation, I’d like to share with you my roots – where I’m coming from and why I am writing this book.

I was raised in a Conservative Jewish family, as opposed to Orthodox or Reform Judaism. (Orthodox Jews are very stringent in their observance of the Law; Reform Jews are quite relaxed in their observances, resembling more of a secular Jew; Conservative Jews are right about in the middle of the two.) Both my mother and father were Jewish, as were their parents, as were their parents, and so on and so forth. Because we were Jewish there were some traditions and customs we followed. These had absolutely nothing to do with Scripture, but rather with our culture, and these had been passed down from generation to generation – like having chicken noodle soup when you were sick or having a nice brisket on Friday night.

We also had our religious traditions and customs. We had a mezuzah (a decorative cylinder containing the Sh’ma) on the front doorpost. In the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which is quoted at the beginning of this chapter) we are commanded to bind the Word on the doorposts of our house, so we put the Sh’ma in the mezuzah, put the mezuzah on the doorpost, and we’re good to go. But every time one of my friends came over for the first time they’d ask what that “thing” was on the front door jamb. After a few minutes of, “A mezuzah,” “A me-what-ah?” they would usually give up and we’d go about the serious business of play.

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we didn’t work or go to school, and we fasted and prayed all day long in the synagogue. Having a mezuzah and Yom Kippur stick out most in my memory because they were the two things that always marked the biggest differences between me and my friends.

Yom Kippur, which falls in late September or early October, was also the first time during the school year that my Jewishness was made public knowledge. This wasn’t always a pleasant thing. One year, I believe I was in the fourth grade, on the day I returned to school after Yom Kippur one of my classmates walked up to me and boldly stated, “You killed Jesus.” I told him that I had never met Jesus so I couldn’t have killed him. I probably stuck my tongue out at him, too. Those harsh words rang in my head all day and that afternoon I asked my mother what the boy had meant. This was the first time I was told about the contentious history between Christians and Jews. It made me wonder how people who said that they loved God could hate His chosen people.

During my school years God used every available opportunity to tuck His Word into my heart – everything from the liturgy in synagogue, to the Peanuts’ Christmas special, to our PTA Christmas program. As I stood in the choir with a grossly oversized red bow on the front of my crisp, white robe, I couldn’t help but hear the words I was singing – a baby born in Bethlehem, born to be the Messiah. Deep down I knew that Jesus was indeed the King of Israel, but at the same time I honestly believed that my being a Jew prevented me from ever accepting Him as my Savior. I felt that my King had been stolen from me and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

After a few more years of seeking God and actually reading the Bible (something most Jews – or Christians – do not do), I did something that I was certain no other Jew had ever done before – I asked Jesus into my life. That sounds so nice, doesn’t it? Well, here’s how it really happened. I was driving north on Interstate 5 in my powder blue Volkswagen Rabbit. I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was really trying to get my attention – I could feel a pressure on me physically. Then, in my own sweet, demure way, I asked Jesus into my life. “Okay, if you’re really there, come on!” At that instant I felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders and I began giggling uncontrollably. I had no idea at the time what had happened, but whatever it was I liked it! I also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, my Messiah, and now I was His.

While this was indeed a monumental decision, rather than feeling a part of Christian society I felt even more isolated. I wasn’t comfortable in synagogue because, while they are looking for the Messiah to come to earth to rule and reign, they don’t believe that Jesus’ time on earth was the first coming of the Messiah. Neither was I comfortable in church because, while the Christians seemed genuinely happy about my “conversion,” they were also expecting me to give up my Jewishness – something I could never imagine doing. And as for converting from Judaism to Christianity, I felt that all I had really done was become more Jewish since I had finally accepted the Jewish Messiah as my own. Unfortunately I seemed to be the only one who thought that way. So, in the midst of my frustration and ignorance, I threw out the baby with the bath water and set out in pursuit of God in my own way - again. I can see now that that wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done, and it is only because of God’s mercy and grace that I didn’t fall away from Him completely.

During the years that followed I thoroughly convinced myself that if a person wanted to be a good Christian then he would in fact be a good Jew. Didn’t Jesus tell us to do as He did? Wasn’t He the perfect Jew? While I felt that I was on the right track I was still enormously confused. Did being a good Jew mean going to synagogue and following the modern Jewish traditions? If so, there seemed to be quite a bit that would be in direct conflict with Scripture. I finally came to the conclusion that it was just too much to sort out on my own, so I stopped trying. I knew that God was with me and that He understood my dilemma, so I simply walked away from all organized religion and tried to live my life the best I could.

As you might have guessed this didn’t work out very well and over the following thirteen years I ended up chasing every spiritual rabbit trail that came along. Part of my problem was the acceptance of worldly practices within the church at large. All sorts of non-Scriptural practices have been condoned and embraced by churches of every denomination. Throw in various New Age practices and Eastern religions that embrace Jesus as a legitimate path to heaven and my confusion was at an all time high. Since I didn’t have a solid Biblical foundation, I was delighted with the spiritual smorgasbord that was spread before me. Certainly, I thought, these choices were from God since He knew that I could never go back to the synagogue, nor could I turn my back on my heritage and become a card-carrying Christian.

Thankfully, God never stopped prodding my spirit, challenging me with His truth, daring me to see things from His perspective. One afternoon I decided that I simply had to go to a church, any church, and give it another chance. What I didn’t know was that other snares had been set for me and over the four years that followed my fateful decision I think I stepped in every single one.

What exactly were those snares? That’s not important. What is important is why I didn’t see them and how they could have been avoided. Why didn’t I see them? Because I didn’t have the standard of God’s Word in my life. I had no way to know right from wrong, true from false. How could those snares have been avoided? By having a sure foundation. Jesus Himself spoke of having a sure foundation for our faith:

“So, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed — and its collapse was horrendous!”
– Matthew 7:24-27

I think it would be safe to assume that we would all prefer to have a house built on a solid foundation.

Is protecting ourselves from dubious characters and precarious situations the only reason for studying God’s Word? No! While keeping ourselves out of the jaws of deceit is a wonderful motivator for study, it should not be our sole incentive, nor should that be our main goal.

There are numerous passages in the Bible that encourage us to study the Word of God. Throughout Psalm 119 we see how vitally important studying and knowing Scripture is for us. The whole Psalm is wonderful, but verse eleven has always stood out in my mind:

“I treasure your word in my heart, so that I won’t sin against you.”

So here we see that keeping God’s Word in our hearts will aid us in not sinning against God.

Proverbs 25:2 says:

“God gets glory from concealing things; kings get glory from investigating things.”

God has indeed stored many wondrous treasures in His Word, each one just waiting to be discovered by His children.

In Proverbs 8:17-19 we find:

“I love those who love me; and those who seek me will find me.
Riches and honor are with me, lasting wealth and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, fine gold, my produce better than the finest silver.”

What a beautiful promise! Not only does God say that those who diligently seek Him will find Him, but that with Him are treasures better than gold and silver. As if finding the God of the universe weren’t enough, the Lord tells us that He will give us His riches and honor!

Another reason that I think it is important to study the Scriptures is to more fully know and appreciate the God in whom we place our faith. The New Testament, which not only chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus, but also brings us deeper insights into our walk with God, is built entirely upon the Old Testament. The two Testaments are not independent of each other as many believe and teach, nor has the New Testament replaced the Old Testament. The Old Testament isn’t the “Jewish Bible” and the New Testament isn’t the “Christian Bible.” They are both Jewish and both paint beautiful pictures of God bringing both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) into His family. Therefore, both should be included in our studies. Without having a working knowledge of the Old Testament, many of the passages in the New Testament just won’t make sense. No, our faith won’t be any less for not knowing. But if we take the time to diligently study the Word of God, there will be a richness added to our faith that is indeed more precious than gold or silver.

Another very important reason to study and understand the Word of God is to understand the times in which we live. These can be very troubling times, uncertain and just down right frightening. But if you study God's Word and understand what He's saying, His peace will be with you even in these times of upheaval. In fact, all of history will start to make more sense as we see God's purpose and plan unfold in His Word and our world.