Introduction to the Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation, also known as the Revelation of John is, in all actuality, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  “Revelation” means to reveal something that had otherwise been hidden beforehand.  It is, then, an appropriate title for this book, not because there are secrets that we need to dig out of it, but because Jesus Christ is revealed in greater clarity as is the plan and work of God’s redemption and restoration, as well as the ultimate war against and defeat of evil in the world.

John, the Apostle and author of the Gospel of John as well as the three letters attributed to His name, is also the author of this book.  He witnessed and recorded all that is contained within this book while in exile on the island of Patmos, a small island off the coast of Greece.

There is a great deal about this book that is unique to the New Testament but is related in large ways to some of the same styles of writing in the Old Testament.  Apocalyptic literature, the category that this book falls under, is often seen as cataclysmic, filled with vivid imagery, symbolism, and meaning that is often lost on those looking at it without context.  Like all Scripture, it is important to read the book of Revelation within the context of all of Scripture.  It is also important to follow general idea that both Apocalyptic literature, like prophetic literature, is speaking to a people at a particular time, revealing a greater reality of what is going on in the world, both physical and spiritual.

Far too often, people have approached this book in an effort to “unlock its hidden meaning.”  They will look at current events and those of recent history and try to match them up to what they see described here.  While there may be some similarities, this is an inappropriate way to view Scripture.  Instead we should be looking at how Scripture speaks into our lives and, should events of the world relate, remind ourselves of how God is revealing Himself and His work in those situations.

As such, our journey through this book WILL NOT include the following:

  • Identifying the specific anti-Christ
  • Relating of today’s nation of Israel to the Biblical Israel
  • Identifying exactly when Christ will return

I will admit, here and now, that I am completely  unqualified to offer commentary on this book.  John Calvin, the great reformer, was unwilling to write a commentary on this book.  What I can offer is, as it always has been, thoughts and reflections as well as learning from my faith journey which includes seminary and Christ-centered, undergraduate education.  I trust that the Spirit will continue to lead us on this journey and bring forth all that needs to be said.

It also bears mentioning that I am approaching this from a Reformed Theological Perspective.  That brings with it a number of assumptions and viewpoints (for example, amillennialist viewpoint) that are not necessarily held by all.  I welcome the conversation as I think we have a profound opportunity to learn from each other here.  We’ll talk more about these things as they arise.  I trust that the Spirit will continue to lead us on this journey and bring forth all that needs to be said.

Disclaimer: Due to the nature of the book of Revelation, many posts here will likely be longer than usual.



Introduction to Ephesians

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus rather unique in that it does not address any specific theology error or doctrinal heresy that was present in the church at that time.  Rather, Paul’s writing here seems to be focused more on expanding the understanding of God’s love, grace, and eternal purpose and to link those to God’s goals for the Church as well.

Here Paul addresses a number different aspects of God that we have later formed into doctrines, key aspects of the Christian faith that are drawn out of Scripture.  As He explains God’s great purpose and forethought in the plan of salvation and the goals God has for the Church, Paul then moves on to show the steps toward their fulfillment.  As is almost universally true with Paul, this is the move from theological thought to practical application.

Ephesus itself was one of the most important cities in western Asia Minor, which we know today as the country of Turkey.  Located just inland, it had a harbor along the Cayster River that ran down to the Aegean Sea.  Because of this, the city became an intersection of several major land and sea trade routes.  Acts 19 records Paul’s visit to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years evangelizing and setting up a church, which is also the time and place that he wrote the first letter to the church in Corinth.

The Apostle John also spent a majority of his later years in the city of Ephesus, from which he rebuilt the Christian community there.  He used the city as a home base for evangelism throughout Asia Minor.  John was exiled from Ephesus to the Island of Patmos, from which he wrote the book of Revelation.  He later returned to the city where he would spend his last days and be buried after his death near the end of the first century.

Paul visited Ephesus on his Third missionary journey. Photo Credit: www.thinglink.com

Paul visited Ephesus on his Third missionary journey.
Photo Credit: www.thinglink.com



Day 358: 1 John 1-5; That You May Know

As we come to the final epistles of the New Testament, we take a look at the letters that are attributed to the Apostle John.  Once again, it is not entirely known as to whether or not it was indeed the Apostle John, the writer of the Gospel of John, that wrote these letters, or if it was someone within the Johannine community, probably one of John’s disciples, that was writing to those that were in the “Johannine ” churches.  In similar fashion to our denominations today, the churches of the first century had some distinctive features that made them different from each other.  Churches that were started by John may have looked a little different than those that were started by Paul.  It wasn’t as if anything was wrong with one or the other, but it was likely that their worship styles were different and perhaps even some of the teaching emphasis was different as well.  John even makes mention of some of these differences in his first letter here, saying that some of the teachings of Paul were difficult to understand.  It could be that that Johannine churches were composed more of poor and uneducated people rather than of more educated, potentially upper class people that might have made up some of the more Pauline churches.  This would make sense, in some ways, as John himself was a fisherman by trade, where Paul was a religious leader and a Roman citizen.  Fishermen tended to be poorer, where the religious leaders often came from families that were religious leaders and were fairly well off.  In this sense, Paul talks in more of a “high church theology” where John is relating to “less educated” community.

Remember, when we were in the Gospel of John, that His writing was quite simple in nature, not using a lot of difficult grammar, large words, or grand theological concepts.  He does, however write in a way that can be understood easily on the surface but also can be deep and theologically rich.  John is a master of words.

Remember too, in the Gospel of John, that John the Apostle does a great deal of playing with themes, especially with the theme of light and darkness.  It is this theme, in fact, that makes the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which will happen tomorrow (at the time of this writing), when the light entered into the world, a light that shines in the darkness and that the darkness cannot overcome.  It is one of the first themes that John brings up here in his letter as well.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Again, remember that John’s Gospel, as well as the letters attributed to John, deal with some specific heresies that had arisen in the church.  Like Peter and Paul, John is encouraging the members of his community, and of the churches throughout the world to keep the faith, to hold fast to the Word of God and not listen to these false teachers.  One of the main heresies that he is teaching against is that of Gnosticism, a group of people that had very different beliefs about the work of Jesus, the nature of the psychical and the spiritual, and the notion that there was some sort of “special knowledge” that people needed to be saved, something that was found in places other that Scripture.  John is writing so that his readers, the believers in his communities and in the church would know Jesus is truly the savior and that there isn’t anything special that they have to do.  John 20 gives an end to the Gospel that gives an explanation to this effect.  All we need is Christ, to believe in His name, and in that we will have life, true life in Him.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John concludes this letter in much the same manner:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.