An investigation into the “42 months” of Revelation 11-13

POST OVERVIEW. (3rd post) A continuing investigation (see post #616, 1/29/2023) into the “42 months” of Revelation 11-13 (and Daniel 7:25 and 12:7). OBJECTIVE. To discover the meaning of the “42 months” and to interpret these passages occurring during the “42 months” so that we have a clearer picture of the events of Revelation.

PREVIOUS STUDY IN THIS SERIES

We began this study (post #615, 1/27/2023) by comparing Daniel 7:21 with Revelation 11:7 and 13:7, making some observations about these verses, and then drawing some conclusions about what we saw (see #615 for details). In our last post (#616, 1/29/2023) we expanded our portions for investigation to include the passages around the original three verses. In that portion of our study, we observed that all three of our study passages (Dan. 7:21-22, 25-27; Rev. 11:3-12; 13:1-10) mentioned a period of time which we have called the “42 months.” We noted that this time period, the “42 months,” appeared significant as an end-times concept. We then found four other occurrences of that same time period, one more in Daniel and three in Revelation 11-13, and are digging deeper into those verses to see where they lead.

The four other passages are:

  • In Dan. 12:7 “a time, times, and half a time”
  • In Rev. 11:2 “forty-two months”
  • In Rev. 12:6 “1,260 days”
  • In Rev. 12:14 “a time and times and half a time”

A CAREFUL LOOK AT FOUR NEW PASSAGES ABOUT THE “42 MONTHS”

In our last post (#616), we made some general comments about the “42 months” and now we want to look carefully at each of these new passages (see above). Our plan is to look at the context of each “42 months” passage and try to identify interpretive clues from each.

DANIEL 12:7. In Daniel 12:7, we encounter the phrase “a time, times, and half a time,” which we have already identified as “42 months” (see Dan. 7:25). So, even before we begin to investigate this verse, we can see that it links directly to Dan. 7:25 and also to Rev. 12:14, because those two verses use the identical expression for the “42 months.”

The immediate context of the “42 months” phrase is an answer to the question, “How long until the end of wonders?” “For a time, times, and half a time.” But the answer goes on. “And as soon as to finish (literal translation) shattering the power of the holy people, all these will be completed.” My interpretation of this immediate context is that the holy people (i.e., the church) will be shattered for “42 months,” and then the end will come (“be completed”). This interpretation is strengthened by its agreement with the events of Dan. 7:25. If this interpretation is correct, it says that the church will be severely persecuted for “42 months” near the end of the age and then the end will come.

We just looked at the very narrow context of the verse where this occurrence of the “42 months” appears but looking at a larger context of Daniel 11-12 tells us more. In Daniel 11, we read of the activity of the “despicable person” (11:21; the antichrist), who meets his end after “he pitches his tent between the sea and the beautiful Holy Mountain” (Dan. 11:45). This phrase is figurative language for Armageddon (see Ezek. 38:14-18; Rev. 16:14, 16; 20:8-9). Then in Dan. 12:1, we see the great tribulation of the church (Matt. 24:21), then Dan. 12:2 tells of the Resurrection, and finally Dan. 12:7 places all these events in or around the “42 months” at the end of the age.

SUMMARY. This occurrence of the “42 months” includes a manifestation of the antichrist who subjects the church to persecution, which culminates in Armageddon when the church is rescued by Resurrection. Then the antichrist comes to his end (11:45).

REVELATION 11:2. This is the most spartan of the “42 months” occurrences, and the context is difficult to determine. After giving a picture (Rev. 11:1) that reminds us of the measuring of the temple scene from Ezekiel 40-42, we discover that “the nations will tread underfoot the holy city for forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2). My interpretation of this scene is consistent with others like it in the “42 months,” namely that the nations (under the leadership of the antichrist; Rev. 13:7-8) will oppress and persecute (“tread under foot”) the church (“the holy city”) for (or during) the “42 months.”

We should also note that this verse links directly to Rev. 13:5, because these two verses use the identical expression for the “42 months,” namely, “forty-two months.” This direct link confirms that the events surrounding Rev. 11:2 are related to the events surrounding Rev. 13:5.

That’s enough for one post. We will continue to explore other occurrences of the “42 months” by looking at Rev. 12:6 and Rev. 12:14 in our next post.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/30/2023                   #617

Revisiting imprecatory psalms and imprecation

POST OVERVIEW. Another consideration of the imprecatory psalms and the other acts of imprecation in the Old Testament. This article once again evaluates whether imprecation of enemies is still a weapon in the disciple’s armory and, if not, why not. Other posts on this same topic are Posts #500 (3/8/2022), #503 (3/11), #502 (3/15), #505 (3/18), #509 (3/30), and #514 (4/6) back in March and April of this year, and Post #563 (8/26/2022).

DEFINITION OF IMPRECATION

The first thing we need to do in this revisiting of imprecation is define what we mean. In the Bible, “imprecation” is when a believer calls on God to curse or destroy his enemies. So, in the “imprecatory psalms,” the psalmist (often David) is in distress and his life is being threatened by enemies, and in response, the psalmist cries out to the Lord to give him relief by cursing or punishing or judging the psalmist’s enemies. The question that needs to be answered with regard to imprecation is, “After the first advent of the Lord Jesus, is the believer still allowed to imprecate (call down curses on) his enemies, or has that forever changed with the coming of Jesus?” At the end of my Post #514 (4/7/2022), I wrote this conclusion:

“And so we conclude our study of the imprecatory psalms. We have seen that these psalms which called down curses on the enemies of the righteous are no longer useful to the disciple of Jesus. Jesus Himself commands His people to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, which renders an imprecatory psalm obsolete. But also, since we are to be wise ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), we realize that imprecating others is a poor strategy for sowing the gospel.”

In a later post on this topic of imprecation (#563, 8/26/2022), I concluded:

“Thus, the sanctioned New Testament response to persecution and affliction appears to preclude any retaliation, revenge, or imprecation of enemies. We would thus conclude that the disciple of Jesus is allowed to lament the suffering and to groan underneath it, and to long for the day when God will judge the wicked and set all injustice right but is not to imprecate his enemies. Rather, he is to trust the Lord with the administration of all justice and is to endure the suffering in the strength that Christ supplies.”

STILL MORE THOUGHTS ON IMPRECATION

All my study of imprecation has consistently led me to the conclusion that the disciple of Jesus is not to curse or to ask God to curse his enemies, but is rather to endure the persecution and the suffering. This is clear and incontrovertible. This is what the New Testament teaches.

THE FINAL QUESTION TO SETTLE THE MATTER: It seems to me, however, that the discovery of this New Testament doctrine requires a further step to fully settle the matter. That is, why is the disciple of Jesus not permitted to call down the LORD’s curses on his enemies when the Old Testament saints could do this?

As we explore this question, we begin by acknowledging that the solution is somehow tied to Christ and His death on the cross. The challenge, then, is to discern how Christ’s death on the cross has silenced the imprecatory psalms and removed them from the believer’s arsenal. The Lord no longer hears the believer’s imprecatory prayers because Jesus Christ has died and rendered all our imprecation of earthly enemies trivial by comparison. In the ultimate act of injustice, Jesus has died and yet our Lord “uttered no threats nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:23).

Not only has our Lord demonstrated for us that imprecation is no more, for He uttered no threats in His death (1 Peter 2:23), but He has also commanded His disciples to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27-30). Thus, the imprecatory psalms are obsolete, like the day of atonement and the cities of refuge. These psalms are part of the old covenant when the LORD would demonstrate His power by vanquishing His peoples’ enemies and when His people would call upon Him to rescue them physically. But under the new covenant, Jesus the Messiah has come and has already rescued His people. “It is finished” (John 19:30). Now that our Lord has accomplished His atoning work on the cross and has been raised from the dead as first fruits of all those who will rise on the last day, physical threat and physical death have lost their sting (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; etc.). Because of the resurrection, the disciple of Jesus no longer fears those who kill the body (Matt. 10:28). Instead, we love and pray for our enemies because our enemies may be of the elect (like Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9). One of my persecutors today could be worshiping the Lord Jesus with me next Sunday.

Under the old covenant, enemies were hated (Hinted in Matt. 5:43; explicitly stated in imprecatory psalms). The sons of Israel often asked the Lord to destroy their enemies and to rescue them from physical danger. But in the new covenant, the Lord Jesus has now vanquished sin, our greatest enemy, and He has rescued us from death. Because of Jesus’ victory on our behalf, we no longer hate our enemies, but instead we proclaim to them our message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20).  With the giving of the Great Commission, the disciple of Christ is no longer focused on sustaining his own physical life but has instead fixed his eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) for the purpose of proclaiming the good news to friend and foe alike.

ENJOYING THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS

But now, on this side of the cross, we can enjoy the imprecatory psalms because they point forward to that time when our great Savior would render all our imprecation meaningless and unnecessary. As the day of atonement (Leviticus 16) and the suffering servant (Isaiah 53) pointed unerringly to Christ in His first advent, so the imprecatory psalms also point to Christ as the One who, by His death on the cross, will rescue us from the most fearsome of all our enemies, sin and death, and will thus set us free to love our enemies and plead with them to come to faith in the Lord Jesus. We can enjoy these psalms because they remind us that Christ has died and risen from the dead and has thus rendered all cursing of enemies obsolete.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/12/2022                 #599

Reading “Revelation” #4 – Principles to consider

POST OVERVIEW. One ofa series of posts giving principles for reading and interpreting Revelation chapters 4-20, which is the most difficult section of the book. This fourth post of the series deals with general principles to keep in mind as you approach the interpretation of the book. Previous posts in series: Post #590 (11/21), Post #592 (11/26), Post #593 (11/28)

SERIES DESCRIPTION. The book of Revelation is probably the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret correctly, and the main difficulties of the book are in chapters 4-20. Because of these interpretive difficulties and because many Bible teachers have offered conflicting and bewildering ideas about what the various passages of Revelation 4-20 mean, many earnest believers know just enough about the book of Revelation to be confused and intimidated by it. To clear up some of this confusion, in October 2021, I published my book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times.

Now, a year later and before the 2nd edition of that book, I want to offer to readers of this beautiful prophecy a series of posts giving principles and guidelines for how to understand and interpret Revelation so that the book becomes a delight instead of a burden.

Interpreting the complex visions of Revelation 4-20 is made more manageable when the reader understands both the purposes for the book of Revelation and principles for navigating the text. Purposes and principles are KEY CONCEPTS which place much-needed limitations on the reader’s options for interpretation and thus reduce the feeling of intimidation. In the last post (#593, 11/28/2022), we had explored four purposes for Revelation. In this post, we will go on to look at general principles about the book.

PRINCIPLES

These principles are really just general ideas or truths about Revelation that help the reader understand where the boundaries of interpretation lie.

PRINCIPLE. Because Revelation is the last book in the inspired canon, it is the book in the Bible that is most “dependent” on the rest of Scripture. By that I mean that the events and actions and characters in Revelation must harmonize with and be consistent with all the other teaching of the Bible. There cannot be a conflict between the timing of an event in Revelation and the timing of that same event in other books of the Bible. For example, we know from Jesus’ teaching in the gospel of John that the general resurrection of all believers occurs on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; also, 11:24). Therefore, in Revelation, the general resurrection of all believers must occur on the last day.

Because of this principle, a given interpretation of a passage in Revelation must be examined to see if it conflicts with an existing text of Holy Spirit-inspired Scripture. If a conflict is discovered, the interpretation must be rejected and replaced by one that removes the conflict. All Scripture is God-breathed and the Holy Spirit does not breathe out conflict.

PRINCIPLE. There is nothing profoundly new in Revelation. Remember that Revelation is the last book of the Bible and so it functions as the last book of the Bible. This means that, in this book, we are “landing the plane.” We are pulling together all the threads of the tapestry to show that the masterpiece was always an integrated and cohesive and intricate whole. Revelation is drawing the story to its intended ending and resolving all the plots. Many references and allusions are made to the Old Testament to reveal how these prophetic foreshadows are now fulfilled in the glorious return of the Lord Jesus, in the glorification of all His saints, and in the terrible judgment of all the reprobate. Therefore, in Revelation the persistent question is, “Where have we seen this before?” and is not, “What does this new teaching mean?” Again, there is nothing profoundly new in Revelation.

PRINCIPLE. Revelation presents no new biblical doctrine. This flows as a corollary from the previous statement. The last book of the Bible is not the place to put new doctrinal teaching.

PRINCIPLE. The book of Revelation presents no new major events. All of human history has already been presented in other biblical books. There is no major new event or era which was excluded from the previous sixty-five books of inspired Scripture that suddenly appears in Revelation. But, when I say that Revelation presents no new major events, I do not mean that it presents no new events at all. Remember from our previous study that one of the purposes of Revelation is “to fill in the blanks.” There are many details of the 42 months and even of the last day that require the introduction of minor events. The trumpet warnings (Rev. 8-9), the casting of Satan into the abyss (Rev. 20:3) and then down to the earth (Rev. 12:9, etc.), the persecution of the church by the beast (Rev. 11:7; 13:7), the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16; 19:19; 20:9), even the period of the 42 months itself (Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5) are all details that fill in blanks, but these minor events fit into what we already know of history without requiring an entirely new timeline.

Human history between the advents is already set: the risen Jesus ascended after commissioning the church and now sits at the Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1) awaiting the time of His return. The church is gathering in the elect as she perseveres as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16). The church is proclaiming the gospel, baptizing those who believe, and teaching them to obey Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20). This will continue until the last day when the general resurrection occurs and Jesus returns and the reprobate are judged. Then comes the new heavens and the new earth. That is the flow of biblical history and has been the flow of the grand drama since human history began. Revelation, as the last book of the Bible, is not the place to introduce some new history.

PRINCIPLE. There are no major characters in Revelation whom we have not met before in Scripture. We have known the dragon (Satan, the devil, the serpent) since he tempted Adam in the garden. Of course, we have known about the Lord Jesus ever since we were told about the serpent-crusher in Genesis 3:15. Jesus has been foretold, He has been Incarnate, He has accomplished His work by dying on the cross for His people, He has been raised from the dead, and He has ascended. In Revelation 5, He enters heaven as the returning, victorious Lamb and in Revelation 19:11-16, He returns to earth on a white horse to tread out the wine press of the wrath of God the Almighty. So, we know the Lamb.

In Revelation 13, we meet the beast, but he is simply the final and most vivid manifestation of the antichrist, the human embodiment of wickedness and evil. We have met him several times before. He is the little horn (Daniel 7:21-26), the small horn (Daniel 8), the prince who is to come (Daniel 9:26-27), and the despicable person (Daniel 11:21-45). We have seen him as Gog, the chief prince of Meshech in the land of Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) and we encountered him in 2 Thess. 2:3-12 where he appears as the man of lawlessness.

The point here is that there are no new major characters in Revelation.

This consideration of principles will be continued in the next post.

SDG                 rmb                 11/29/2022                 #594

Reading “Revelation” (#3) Keeping the purposes in mind

POST OVERVIEW. One ofa series of posts giving principles for reading and interpreting Revelation chapters 4-20, which is the most difficult section of the book. This third post of the series deals with the importance of keeping the purposes of the book of Revelation in mind as you approach the interpretation of the book.

Previous posts in series: Post #590 (11/21), Post #592 (11/26)

SERIES DESCRIPTION. The book of Revelation is probably the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret correctly, and the main difficulties of the book are in chapters 4-20. Because of these interpretive difficulties and because many Bible teachers have offered conflicting and bewildering ideas about what the various passages of Revelation 4-20 mean, many earnest believers know just enough about the book of Revelation to be confused and intimidated by it. To clear up some of this confusion, in October 2021, I published my book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times.

Now, a year later and before the 2nd edition of that book, I want to offer to readers of this beautiful prophecy a series of posts giving principles and guidelines for how to understand and interpret Revelation so that the book becomes a delight instead of a burden.

THE PRINCIPLES AND PURPOSES OF “REVELATION”

“Where do you begin?” There are so many images and ideas circling around in Revelation 4-20 that it is hard to know where to begin trying to interpret this series of prophecies. And this becomes even more daunting if these ideas and images represent new concepts and characters which we have not seen before in the Bible. So again, where do we begin?

This very important question is made much more manageable when the reader understands the purposes for the book of Revelation and then is able to keep those purposes in mind as he navigates his way through the text. There are also principles regarding Revelation which place limitations and boundaries on the reader’s interpretive options. These are KEY CONCEPTS for understanding Revelation which we will explain and then will illustrate with examples.

PURPOSES

There are four primary purposes for Revelation 4-20: To fill in some blanks, to connect some dots, to present the ultimate example of ideas or characters, and to highlight or emphasize biblical ideas.

  • Fill in some blanks. By the time we reach Revelation, the Bible has already presented the course of history and has told how things are going to proceed all the way to the new heavens and the new earth. We know that, toward the end of the age, lawlessness and persecution of believers will increase. We know that all believers, living and dead, will be resurrected on the last day. We know that Jesus will return in power and glory to gather His saints and to judge the living and the dead. But there are many questions about how all this takes place that Revelation answers. The whole story is already complete, but Revelation fills in many of the missing details. These details again demonstrate that God has ordained all the events of history even until the last event of the last day, and He will surely bring these events to pass. Some examples of “details” include: the 42 months as a separate short time period at the very end of the age; the binding and release of Satan; the battle of Armageddon; the idea of trumpet warnings; and a clearer picture of the intermediate state with the “souls” in heaven in Revelation 6:9-11 and 20:4-6. KEY CONCEPT: Filling in missing details.
  • Connect some dots. Another challenge in considering the events of the end of the age is that it feels like there is a lot going on at once. In previous Scripture, we have read about “that day” and “the day of the LORD” but we have not been told the order of the events of the last day. Revelation connects some of those dots so that the student of eschatology can assemble the sequence of events. During the 42 months we hear the blasts of the trumpet warnings and we see stars falling from heaven, we witness the dragon (Satan) thrown down to earth and the beast rising to power while the false prophet (“another beast” in Revelation 13:11ff) proclaims the wonders of the beast. But how do these fit together? How does this “dot” connect with that “dot”? KEY CONCEPT: The text of Revelation helps us connect the dots.
  • Present ultimate (final) examples. One of the purposes of Revelation is to present to us the full and final example of characters and events we have seen before. For instance, in Revelation 13 we meet the beast coming out of the sea. This is the ultimate example of the human antichrist, whom we have seen in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11; in Ezekiel 38-39; and in 2 Thessalonians 2. In Revelation we also see the final awesome pictures of the last day (6:12-17; 11:13-18; 14:17-20; 16:1-11, 17-21; 18:1-24; 20:10-15), the day that has been foreshadowed since the flood (Genesis 6-8) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Thus, Revelation presents some final examples.
  • Highlight or emphasize biblical ideas. Revelation also has the purpose of highlighting biblical ideas. The church will undergo tribulation throughout the age. Man is a rebel and, without the Lord, will continue to blaspheme and do evil. There is certainly coming a last day when Jesus Christ will return to pour out the wrath of God. Jesus Christ is the victorious Lamb of glory, the King of kings and the Lord of lords and He will reign forever and ever. Pay close attention to what Revelation highlights.

The student of Revelation will be well-served by keeping these purposes in mind as he makes his way through the text. Remember that Revelation does not introduce major new events or new characters. Rather, Revelation is filling in details to the existing structure of redemptive history. The thought to keep in mind is that this last book of the canon is summing up the teaching and concluding the story. This perspective makes interpreting Revelation less intimidating. Revelation is not building a new house but is laying the flooring in one room and is putting up drywall in another room. Filling in details and connecting dots. Giving the final examples and highlighting key points. These are the purposes of Revelation.

Since that is the case, the best way to prepare to study Revelation is to be crystal clear on what the Bible has already presented. The more you know about the existing geography of Scripture, the more readily you will recognize Revelation’s additional details and the more accurately you will be able to place them on the biblical map.

This post has focused on the purposes of Revelation. The next post will discuss key principles regarding Revelation which place limitations and boundaries on the reader’s interpretive options.

SDG                 rmb                 11/28/2022                 #593

Reading “Revelation” #2 – Where does this event fit?

POST OVERVIEW. One ofa series of posts giving principles for reading and interpreting Revelation chapters 4-20, which is the most difficult section of the book. This second post of the series will address the question of where a given event fits in terms of what happens before that event and what happens after it.

Previous posts in series: #590 (11/21)

SERIES DESCRIPTION. The book of Revelation is probably the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret correctly, and the main difficulties of the book are in chapters 4-20. Because of these interpretive difficulties of the book and because many Bible teachers have offered conflicting and bewildering ideas about what the various passages of Revelation mean, many earnest believers know just enough about the book of Revelation to be confused and intimidated by it. To clear up some of this confusion, in October 2021, I published my book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times.

Now, a year later and before the 2nd edition of that book, I want to offer to readers of this beautiful prophecy a series of posts giving principles and guidelines for how to understand and interpret Revelation so that the book becomes a delight instead of a burden.

In the previous post on reading Revelation 4-20, post #590, we had discussed two main ideas. First, we made the statement that Revelation, like almost all biblical prophecy, is not written in chronological order and it is a mistake to read Revelation 4-20 as if these events were arranged chronologically. Second, we suggested that the reader of Revelation must repeatedly ask the question, “WHEN DOES THIS EVENT TAKE PLACE?” and must use keen observation of the text and thorough knowledge of Scripture to supply answers to that question. An interpretation of Revelation 6 was given as an example of this technique.

WHAT EVENT(S) ARE BEFORE THIS AND WHAT EVENT(S) ARE AFTER?

Another important question to answer when reading Revelation, is, “WHAT IS THE SEQUENCE OF THESE EVENTS?” That is, “WHAT OCCURS BEFORE THIS EVENT AND WHAT OCCURS AFTER?” For example, we know that the general resurrection of all believers, the living and the dead, occurs on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). The logical conclusion from this fact means that all events that do not occur on the last day necessarily occur before the general resurrection of all believers. Thus, “the thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6), all the events of the 42 months (Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), the great tribulation (Daniel 12:1; Matt. 24:21), the rise of the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 13), the trumpet warnings (Rev. 8, 9), the first through fifth seals (Rev. 6), and the binding of Satan in the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3) all occur before the general resurrection.

Notice what was done in this example. First, a significant known fact was presented: Jesus declared that the resurrection will occur on the last day. Then logic was applied: if the resurrection occurs on the last day, then all the events of the end times that do not occur on the last day occur before the resurrection. Then we listed some specific end-times events which occurred before the resurrection.  

Another example of this arranging of events is the understanding that Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16) occurs just before the coming of Jesus Christ (παρουσία) in Rev. 19:11-16. This understanding is based on the interpretation that Jesus returns from heaven just in time to rescue his bride, the church, from annihilation due to persecution (Rev. 11:7; 13:7). In the Armageddon passage, we observe that all three members of the unholy trinity, Satan (the dragon), the beast, and the false prophet (Rev. 16:13), are active in gathering the kings of the whole world together for “the war of the great day of God” (Rev. 16:14). Since Satan is active in gathering the kings, it is apparent that he has been released from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7), and since Satan has been released from the abyss, it means that “the thousand years” have ended (again, Rev. 20:3, 7). Also, in this scene of Armageddon, the beast has obviously appeared (see Rev. 13:1-10), as has the false prophet (“another beast” in Rev. 13:11ff). Notice that, according to Rev. 13:5, the beast appears during the forty-two months. Finally, since Satan (the dragon) is active after “the thousand years” are completed (Rev. 20:7) and the beast is active during the 42 months, we can conclude that the period of the 42 months occurs after “the thousand years.” These observations and conclusions constitute a significant collection of facts about the sequencing of the events of the end times which can be applied to other passages of the book.

Notice again what was done in this example. We made observations of the details of the passage (Rev. 16:13-16). From those observations we made logical conclusions. We discovered that, for the battle of Armageddon, Satan has been released from the abyss, the period of “the thousand years” has ended, the 42 months is coming to a close, and the last day is imminent.

One more observation should be made about this four-verse section of Rev. 16. As stated above, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet are gathering the kings of the earth for “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14) and they are gathering them at the place called Armageddon (16:16). This “great day of God” must certainly be the last day and it is obvious from the text that this day will occur in the very near future. What is the precise sequence? My personal interpretation of these events is that the gathering together of the kings and their armies (Rev. 19:19) takes place at the very end of the 42 months and that Armageddon is the war that occurs on the last day.

SUMMARY

Once again, we have seen that careful observation of details coupled with reasoned logic and knowledge of the Scripture allows the student of Revelation not only to discover when these events occur, but also to postulate a sequence of those events.

SDG                 rmb                 11/26/2022                 #592

Reading “Revelation” #1 – When does this event occur?

POST OVERVIEW. One of a series of posts giving principles for reading and interpreting Revelation chapters 4-20, which is the most difficult section of the book. This first post of the series will address the crucial question of when events in Revelation occur.

[NOTE: This post was edited on November 27.]

SERIES DESCRIPTION. The book of Revelation is probably the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret correctly, and the main difficulties of the book are in chapters 4-20. Because of these interpretive difficulties of the book and because many Bible teachers have offered conflicting and bewildering ideas about what the various passages of Revelation mean, many earnest believers know just enough about the book of Revelation to be confused and intimidated by it. To clear up some of this confusion, in October 2021 I published my book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times.

Now, a year later and before the 2nd edition of that book, I want to offer to readers of this beautiful prophecy a series of posts giving principles and guidelines for how to understand and interpret Revelation so that the book becomes a delight instead of a burden.

IS REVELATION WRITTEN IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER?

We begin with a fundamental question: “Is Revelation 4-20 to be understood as written in chronological order?” To state this question another way, “Is Revelation 4-20 one continuous series of events with chapter 4 beginning the events and chapter 20 ending the events, and all the events in between occurring one after the other in sequence?” Many readers of Revelation claim that chapters 4-20 should be read chronologically, assuming that John is writing of these events in the order in which they occur. This would mean that chapter 4 occurs before chapter 5 and chapter 7 occurs before chapter 8, chapter 11 occurs before chapter 12 and chapter 20 occurs after chapter 19. But while it is true that the events of historical narrative like 1 Kings or the gospel of Matthew or the book of Acts or Exodus are presented in chronological order, the ordering of the events of biblical prophecy is not necessarily presented this way. Rather, the timing of the events of prophecy like Revelation must be determined by carefully evaluating the details of the prophecy itself and then connecting those details with the timing of known events. (See examples of this in Revelation 6 below.)

This means that, while John’s visions in Revelation are assumed to be recorded in the order the visions were received, they are not necessarily written in the order they will occur. In fact, it is this requirement to accurately determine the timing of these future events that makes reading and interpreting Revelation so difficult. It means that each scene in chapters 4-20 must be examined for details and then those details must be compared to known scenes so that a time of occurrence can thus be determined. All of this necessitates patience, persistence, and skill on the part of the reader or interpreter, but the net result of this effort will be a coherent picture of the events of the end of the age.

AN EXERCISE USING REVELATION 6

So, as an illustration, let’s try to identify when the events of Revelation 6 occur.

Before we begin with this exercise, we need to acknowledge that the last days, which is the time between Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:9) and His return at the end of the age, contain three categories when events occur: “the thousand years,” the 42 months, and the last day. In my view, “the thousand years” represents a very long period of time that begins at Christ’s ascension and that ends when Satan is released from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7). The “42 months” begins when Satan (or the dragon) is released from the abyss and extends until the last day (the day of the LORD, that day, the end of the age, etc.). Finally, “the last day” is exactly what its name implies, the last day of the age. The last day is followed immediately by the inauguration of the new heaven and the new earth.

As one last comment, you will observe that it is not always possible to be certain about the precise occurrence of an event, either because there is not enough evidence to give certainty or because the precise order or timing is not crucial. We will see, for example, that the precise placement of the second, third, and fourth seals (Rev. 6:3-8) has some ambiguity, but the ambiguity does not affect the interpretation of the passage.

So, let’s begin.

The timing of the breaking of the first seal (Rev. 6:1-2) is significant and this significance makes the timing certain. (For a more detailed treatment of this first seal, see my book Last Act of the Drama.) The rider with a crown seated on the white horse (6:2) represents the church, which is riding out with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and with the charge of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), conquering and to conquer with the bow of the gospel. Thus, the first seal is broken immediately after Christ’s ascension (or perhaps symbolically on the day of Pentecost) so that the church can begin her work of gathering the elect into the church. This occurs at the very start of “the thousand years.”

My understanding of the second, third, and fourth seals (Rev. 6:3-8) is that these seals are also broken during “the thousand years” and represent what life will be like during that period. Although not as tumultuous as the 42 months, “the thousand years” will definitely reflect a fallen world filled with wars and famines and the ever-presence of death. These miseries will be part of the routine during “the thousand years.” [NOTE: I do not consider these seals to be part of the 42 months because there does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary about these seals and their results.]

The fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11) reveals the souls of those slain because of the word of God and because of their testimony. As we compare these martyrs with those who are slain in Rev. 20:4-6, we see that there are many similarities. Notice that the scene of those who had been beheaded in Rev. 20 explicitly occurs during “the thousand years” (20:4, 5, 6), but when does this event with the souls under the altar take place? I believe that, as there are martyrs throughout “the thousand years” (20:4-6), so there will be martyrs who will be able “to rest for a little while” (Rev. 6:11) during the 42 months. In other words, as Rev. 20:4-6 pictures for us the martyrs that are killed during “the thousand years” (explicitly stated), so Rev. 6:9-11 pictures for us the martyrs who are killed during the great tribulation of the church during the 42 months. Thus, the fifth seal is broken during the 42 months.

The sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17) is broken during the last day and shows us the catastrophic events that will terrorize the unsaved on the last day. It is obvious that Rev. 6:12-17 occurs on the last day, for all these events that take place are last-day events. The last verse, Rev. 6:17 is conclusive: “The great day of their wrath (the wrath of Him who sits on the throne and the wrath of the Lamb) has come, and who is able to stand?” We know that the Lord’s full wrath will be poured out on the earth on the last day, so we know that these events take place on the last day. [NOTE: Since we now know that these events take place on the last day, when we see these same events and catastrophes mentioned somewhere else in Revelation, we know that we are probably looking at a last-day event. For example, an earthquake, the kings of the earth are terrified, the sky rolled up like a scroll, and every mountain and island removed from its place. These can be helpful clues when trying to determine the timing of other passages.]

SUMMARY

In summary, then, we can see that, just in the seventeen verses of Revelation 6, we journey from the time just after Christ’s ascension at the very beginning of “the thousand years” to the events of the last day as Christ is coming to judge the earth (Psalm 96:13).

The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how knowledge of the basic structure of Revelation and some logical deductions can be used to establish the sequence of events in Revelation.

SDG                 rmb                 11/21/2022                 #590

Edited 11/27/2022.

This Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:22-36)

POST OVERVIEW. The first post of a two-post series which examines Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. This first post will provide some background for the apostle’s message, revealing the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. The second post will be a verse by verse exegesis of the sermon, showing how Peter brilliantly makes his meaning clear.

PENTECOST

The importance of the events of Pentecost in Acts 2 can scarcely be overstated. The Holy Spirit comes like a mighty rushing wind, manifesting Himself as tongues of fire; Galileans spontaneously speak in many of the languages of the Mediterranean world; Peter preaches the first sermon of the church age; three thousand people hear the message, repent, and are baptized; and the New Testament church is born. In my most recent study of Acts, I have been struck by the brilliance of Peter’s sermon and how, by carefully expositing the Scripture, he leads his Jewish audience to the conclusion that Jesus the Nazarene (Acts 2:22) is, in fact, Jesus, both Lord and Christ (2:36). We will spend a couple of sessions looking at Peter’s sermon to understand what he is proclaiming and how he communicates his message.

The section of Scripture we will be exploring is Acts 2:22-36, which is the main body of the sermon and contains Peter’s most important points. I will cover this in two posts. This first post will consider the background issues of the label “Jesus the Nazarene” and the two Davidic psalms which Peter quotes in his sermon. Then the second post will build on the first post and explain the passage verse by verse.

JESUS THE NAZARENE

Peter begins the main body of his sermon by speaking of our Lord as “Jesus the Nazarene” (Acts 2:22). He begins here because this is where most of his audience is in their thinking about Jesus. To them, Jesus was a maverick prophet, an upstart who had been exposed by the religious leaders and executed by the Romans almost two months ago. For many, Jesus had probably been forgotten, just another renegade among a long line of heretics. “Yes, we remember that Jesus the Nazarene. So what?”

But there is a theological reason why Peter speaks first about Jesus the Nazarene. This label is a term of derision that speaks of Jesus’ humiliation, of His human childhood in the dusty streets of Nazareth, in an obscure backwater of Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1). In this description there is no hint that this Jesus is the Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. Instead, Peter starts with Jesus the Nazarene, “the carpenter, the son of Mary” (Mark 6:3), the one who was without honor in His hometown and who was almost killed after He gave His first public reading of Scripture (Luke 4:16-30).

Jesus the Nazarene “was despised and forsaken of men. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3). After Philip tells Nathanael that they have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:45), Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (1:46). This is the message of the label “Jesus the Nazarene.”

Jesus the Nazarene speaks of the Man we see in Philippians 2:6-8. God the Son, equal in every way with God the Father, “emptied Himself and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus is first presented as the Nazarene because it is in His abject humiliation that the Lord of glory could be “nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put to death” (Acts 2:23). So Peter begins his message by talking about Jesus the Nazarene, Jesus in His lowly and inauspicious humanity.

THE DAVIDIC PSALMS 16 AND PSALM 110

The next background issue we will consider is the nature of the two Davidic psalms Peter quotes in his sermon, Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. It is important to note that both these passages were unsolved mysteries, even to the Hebrew scholars of the day. Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1 were acknowledged to be Messianic, but the exact meaning of these Scriptures was unknown.

For example, what David meant in Psalm 16:10 when he wrote, “You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (quoted in Acts 2:27) was a mystery to both Sadducee and Pharisee. If the Pharisees (who believed in a resurrection) had seen this verse as telling of a resurrection, they probably would have adopted that view, but then they would immediately have been confronted with the question, “Resurrection of whom?” The most likely understanding of “Your Holy One” would be the Messiah, but that would mean that the Messiah would need to die and then be resurrected before He began to decay, and none of that made any sense before Christ. So, the meaning of Psalm 16:10 remained opaque until Pentecost.

The other psalm that Peter quotes is Psalm 110. Like Psalm 16, Psalm 110 was also regarded as Messianic and like Psalm 16, the meaning of this psalm was also a mystery. Especially opaque was the understanding of Psalm 110:1 – The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The difficulties of interpreting this verse are perhaps even greater in the original Hebrew, which reads, “Yahweh says to my Adonai.” Here are some of the questions the interpreter needs to answer from this one verse:

  • How can God speak to God (Yahweh to Adonai)?
  • When does this conversation between Yahweh and Adonai take place? What is the context of this dialog?
  • Where had Adonai been that He was only now taking His seat at Yahweh’s right hand?
  • Although this psalm is obviously Messianic, where is the Messiah in this psalm?

Because a cohesive interpretation eluded even the wisest scholar, Psalm 110:1 remained an unsolved puzzle, shrouded in mystery until Pentecost.

But the main point here is that Peter’s sermon at Pentecost did not introduce some new heretical interpretations of well-known passages of Scripture. Rather, we see that Peter’s sermon simultaneously revealed the true meaning of two well-known but mysterious Davidic psalms and clearly demonstrated from these psalms that this Jesus is both Lord and Christ. Astonishingly, Peter, an untrained fisherman from Galilee, had suddenly emerged as an expert in Scriptural interpretation and as a powerful orator. The only explanation was that he had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). And also, wasn’t he one of those who had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)?

With this understanding of the label “Jesus the Nazarene” and given some background on Psalm 16 and Psalm 110, we are ready to begin going carefully through Peter’s sermon and exegeting it verse by verse. We will do that in our next post.

SDG                 rmb                 11/16/2022                 #587

Reading Revelation (Part 2): The constraints

POST OVERVIEW. The second in a series of posts about ways to read the book of Revelation that make it less confusing and intimidating. This post discusses the constraints that are on Revelation which limit its possible interpretations. (Also, see previous post #568 which was on the purposes of the book of Revelation.)

INTRODUCTION. Reading the book of Revelation is a challenging task for any disciple of Jesus. The visions the apostle John relates to us in Revelation are strange and spectacular, and trying to make sense of the visions and then put them into some coherent picture is difficult work. But, while acknowledging the difficulties involved, I believe the challenge of understanding the book of Revelation is eased considerably when we understand how to read the book. In these posts I hope to offer some principles for approaching Revelation that will make the book much less intimidating.

CONSTRAINTS ON REVELATION

Having discussed the purposes of Revelation in our previous post (#568), we now turn our attention to the constraints that are placed on this last book of the Bible. It is probably unusual to think about a biblical book as being “constrained.” Of course, in a sense all sixty-six books of the Bible are constrained, because they all must harmonize with each other and agree with each other, particular in terms of doctrine. In that sense, each successive book of the Bible is more “constrained” than the one before it. But Revelation is constrained not only by the fact that it is the last book of the Bible and must harmonize with the sixty-five books that preceded it, but also because the book functions as a summary and a conclusion to the entire story line of the Bible, tying up loose ends and filling in blanks to make the entire scriptural masterpiece complete. This places constraints on Revelation that restrict (“constrain”) the way we can interpret the contents of the book, as we will see.

Some readers seem to approach Revelation as if it existed independent of the rest of Scripture and is filled with wild new ideas and events never before encountered in the Bible and disconnected from the rest of the God-breathed books which precede it. This approach, however, is exactly the opposite of what is the case. A significant portion of Revelation consists of quotes of previous Scripture or of obvious allusions to characters and events and prophecies from the Old Testament. Revelation could serve as a final exam, testing disciples of Jesus to see how well they know their Bibles. “Can you recognize the allusions to the Old Testament in this chapter (whatever chapter that is)? Having recognized the allusions, can you identify their Old Testament reference? Book, chapter, and verse?” And this characteristic of Revelation, that it is packed with Old Testament allusions, is the very thing that “constrains” Revelation in what it can say.

Let me try to give an example. Consider the concept of the last day. Revelation is constrained in its teaching about the last day. Why? Because the last day, “the day of the LORD,” “that day,” the day of judgment, etc. has been part of biblical revelation, in explicit prophecy or in implicit “types,” in virtually every book of the Bible. The flood in Genesis 6-8 foreshadows the last day. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 foreshadows the last day. In uncountable places in the Old Testament the last day is mentioned or implied. Then finally in Malachi 4, the last chapter in the Old Testament, the prophet teaches more about the last day. “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace,” says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 4:1). In the New Testament, Jesus talks about the last day many times during His earthly ministry, and Paul and Peter and John and the author of Hebrews also write about the last day in their inspired writings. So, when John receives his visions in Revelation, the events of the last day and the characters involved in the last day are very well known and our interpretations of these visions is constrained by all the writing about the last day that preceded them.

SUMMARY. So, when reading Revelation, remember that this last book of the Bible is constrained by its requirement to harmonize with all the inspired writing that has preceded it. Therefore, it is best to read the book with an eye to seeing which previous events are being concluded here. “Armageddon,” foreshadowed in Ezekiel 38-39, is concluded in Revelation 16, 19, and 20. The evil man (antichrist), whom we meet in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11, and in the man of lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2, is consummated and concluded in the beast of Revelation 13. The persecution of the church, sent out as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16), is culminated in the tribulation we see in Revelation 6:9, 20:4, 11:7, 13:7, etc. Most significantly, the return of the Lord Jesus in power and glory, mentioned and implied many times throughout the Scriptures, is completed in the Rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:11-16. Remember, Revelation is constrained, so we read the book with the eye for seeking conclusions and consummations.

SDG                 rmb                 9/10/2022                   #569

The binding of Satan, Part 2 (Revelation 20:1-3)

POST OVERVIEW. There are two places in the Bible that teach about the binding of Satan, in Matthew 12:29 and in Revelation 20:1-3. In post #566, we looked at Matthew 12:29. This post will be a study of Revelation 20:1-3.  

Our purpose in these two posts is to discover what the Scripture teaches us about the binding of Satan, implicit in Matthew 12:29 and explicit in Revelation 20:1-3. In post #566, we looked at Matthew 12:29 and discovered that this verse teaches us that Jesus is going to bind Satan so that Satan’s kingdom can be plundered, and that “plundering” will be accomplished through the church’s proclamation of the gospel. But Matthew 12:29 also left us with questions. Exactly when will Jesus bind Satan? And how will this binding take place? What does that actually look like? To answer these questions, we now turn to our second “binding” passage, Revelation 20:1-3.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

We will start our study by identifying the characters involved. In Rev. 20:2 we see the dragon, and we know that the dragon is Satan. There is also “an angel coming down from heaven.” Although John uses “angel” to describe this being, this “angel” is none other than the resurrected Lord Jesus. Why do I say that this “angel” is Jesus?

  • First, we observe that the angel is holding the key to the abyss in his hand. In Revelation, the only one who has keys is Jesus. He has “the keys of death and of Hades” (1:18), and here he also has the key to the abyss where he is going to put Satan for a thousand years.
  • But also notice the power and authority of this unnamed “angel.” Whereas Michael the archangel did not dare pronounce a judgment against the devil (Jude 9), this angel has the power to throw Satan around like a ragdoll. He “laid hold of the dragon (Satan) and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him so that he would not deceive the nations any longer” (20:2-3). During all of this, the dragon (Satan) is powerless to resist. The only one who can throw Satan around like this is the Lord Jesus. This angel, then, is Jesus.

Thus, the characters in this scene in Rev. 20:1-3 are Satan and the Lord Jesus, and the action performed is that Jesus binds Satan. Notice this is the exact same situation that we encountered in our study of Matthew 12:29, where we had the strong man (Satan) and Jesus as the characters and the action was that Jesus bound the strong man. We remember from Matt. 12:29 that Jesus binds the strong man so that He can plunder his kingdom. Thus, by logical deduction, we can say that Jesus will bind Satan in the abyss so that He can plunder his kingdom.

WHEN IS SATAN BOUND?

But can we also determine when Jesus is going to bind Satan? I think we can.

First, from Rev. 20:2 we observe that the dragon (Satan) is bound at the beginning of the thousand years.

Also, from Matt. 12:29, we know that someone (in this case, Jesus) “first binds the strong man (Satan), and then he will plunder his house.” So the sequence goes, “First we bind him, then we plunder him.” From this verse and from ordinary reasoning, we can conclude that, immediately after the strong man (Satan) is bound, the plundering of the strong man’s house (Satan’s kingdom) begins.

Since, from Rev. 20:2 we know that Satan is bound at the beginning of the thousand years, and from Matt. 12:29 we know that, when Satan is bound, the plundering of his kingdom begins, we can logically conclude that the plundering of Satan’s kingdom begins at the beginning of the thousand years.

Now the question is, “When does Satan’s kingdom begin to be plundered?” If we can answer this question, we will have discovered both when Satan is bound and when the thousand years begins. But the answer to this question is obvious: Satan’s kingdom began to be plundered the moment the commissioned church (Matthew 28:19-20) began to proclaim the gospel of salvation so that lost sinners could be saved. Thus, we now know that Satan was bound at the very beginning of the gospel age (~AD 32) and, since, from Rev. 20:2, Satan was bound to begin the thousand years, we know that “the thousand years” began in ~AD 32.

DOES THIS FIT THE BIBLICAL RECORD?

So far, so good. But could this have actually occurred? That is, does the Scripture allow the possibility that the resurrected Jesus bound Satan in the abyss in ~AD 32? Yes, the Scripture does allow for this occurrence.

Recall that the resurrected Lord Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9. Then in Rev. 5:6ff, the victorious Lamb arrives in heaven to the praises of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders and to the praises of myriads of angels. He begins to break the seven seals of the book, and from that point until His glorious return (Rev. 19:11-16) He is seated in heaven at the Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1). So, when would there be a time when Jesus could bind Satan in the abyss?

After the resurrected Lord leaves His disciples on earth (Acts 1:9), but before He arrives in heaven as the victorious Lamb (Rev. 5:6), He is seen “coming down from heaven, holding the key to the abyss” (Rev. 20:1). It is at this time, while He is ascending to heaven, that He binds Satan in the abyss for the thousand years. After binding Satan, Jesus ascends to heaven.

This scenario agrees with the biblical text and provides a reasonable explanation for the events surrounding the binding of Satan.

SDG                 rmb                 9/9/2022                     #567

John 6:31-68 – Part 3: Eating the living bread (6:45-58)

INTRODUCTION. This third part of an in-depth study of John 6:31-68 is a continuation of post #523 and post #529 and focuses on the crucial teaching in John 6:45-58.

[NOTE: This part of the study is longer than the other parts because the concepts presented here are complex and are not easily explained in a few words. I feel that the additional reading will be rewarded by greater understanding of this beautiful passage. RMB]

OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE. This passage (6:45-58) is the heart of this section of Scripture (6:31-68) and contains important teaching about how Jesus, the bread from heaven, provides life to His people. The passage is also crucial in giving us a vivid analogy of what it means to believe in Jesus, teaching us figuratively to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

KEY CONCEPTS covered in this passage include:

  • believing in Jesus
  • eternal life/live forever/not die
  • the bread of life/the living bread that came down out of heaven
  • eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (Jesus)
  • being raised up on the last day.

The main DIFFICULTY of this passage consists in correctly understanding what Jesus means when He instructs His disciples to “eat My flesh and drink My blood” (6:53-56).

REVIEW. The first part of John 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish. The amazed crowd follows Jesus to Capernaum where they seek more bread and another miraculous sign. Jesus declares that the manna from Moses is not the true bread out of heaven, but that He is the bread of life.

In strong teaching from John 6:37-6:44 (see post #523 and #529), Jesus makes clear God’s sovereignty in salvation as He teaches the people that:

  • The Father has already given a people to the Son (election; see Eph. 1:4, etc.)
  • All those given to the Son will certainly come to the Son for eternal life. (predestination; see Romans 8:29-30)
  • Jesus will raise up all His people in glorious resurrection on the last day
  • By His providence and effectual calling, the Father draws people to Jesus

THE TEACHING OF JOHN 6:45-58

The passage is best understood by understanding WHO JESUS IS, then by seeing WHAT JESUS OFFERS, and finally by discovering HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS.

WHO JESUS IS. Jesus uses direct statements and the metaphor of bread to make His identity unambiguously clear. First, He says, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is a repetition of 6:35, when He also said that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst. What Jesus means by His metaphor may not be clear, but this much is clear: Jesus is the bread of life.

Next, He says twice that He is “the (living) bread that came down out of heaven” (6:50, 51). Here, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the manna that the children of Israel ate in the Exodus. They ate that manna (“bread from heaven”) and they died (6:49), but Jesus is the “true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Jesus is the bread of life and, “if anyone eats of this (living) bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.

Finally, notice that Jesus is the bread that came down out of heaven sent by the Father. “The living Father sent Me” (6:57), and Jesus has come from heaven to give life to the world. Since He came down out of heaven and was sent by God the Father, Jesus is divine.

SUMMARY. From this passage, we see that Jesus is God in the flesh, the living bread sent by the Father from heaven to give eternal life to the world.

WHAT JESUS OFFERS. As the bread of life and the living bread that came out of heaven, what does Jesus offer the people? From the passage we see, first, “one may eat of it (the bread) and not die” (6:50). As strong as this verse is, Jesus states the truth even more clearly in the next verse: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Eat of Jesus and you will not die but will live forever. Of course, we need to determine what it means to metaphorically eat of Jesus as the living bread, but at this point we see that Jesus is offering people the opportunity to live forever. (NOTE: “Live forever” is the same as “have eternal life.”)

A few verses later, Jesus again declares His offer of eternal life and connects this eternal life with participation in the resurrection on the last day. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:54). Once again, we are confronted with the need to understand Jesus’ metaphor about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what He offers us is in plain view. He offers eternal life and a resurrection.

SUMMARY. Jesus offers His hearers the opportunity to not die, but to live forever, to have eternal life, and to be raised up on the last day (in glorious resurrection).

HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS. We see the incarnate Son of God offering the people eternal life and declaring to them that He Himself will raise them up on the last day. This spectacular offer is available to all who hear His voice, but obtaining it is not automatic. We have already seen that Jesus imposes conditions on His offer and it is only those who satisfy Jesus’ conditions who will obtain the eternal life that He offers.

This, then, becomes the critical issue. Every person must first identify and then satisfy Jesus’ conditions before they obtain the eternal life He offers.

TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS, YOU MUST SATISFY HIS CONDITIONS. Our first task, then, is to identify Jesus’ conditions. In this passage, when we were discovering what Jesus was offering, we also heard Him state His conditions.

ONE SET OF CONDITIONS.

“If anyone eats of this bread (Jesus)                                                  he will live forever.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      has eternal life.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                          I will raise him up on the last day.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      abides in Me, and I in him.”

Here, then, is one set of conditions that must be met to obtain eternal life.

ANOTHER SET OF CONDITIONS? We also need to notice, however, that Jesus has talked about another condition for obtaining eternal life. In fact, in the gospel of John, the major message of the book is that anyone can receive eternal life by believing in Jesus. John 3:16, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, declares that whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) will have eternal life. According to John 20:31, the whole reason for the gospel of John is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this very passage that we are studying, Jesus repeatedly tells men and women how to obtain all the blessings that He offers. “He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will not thirst” (6:35). “Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47). Throughout the gospel of John, the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

So, is Jesus now imposing another condition for obtaining salvation?

ONLY ONE CONDITION. When we compare side-by-side two verses from this passage, we will see that there is, in fact, only one condition that separates the sinner from salvation.

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:54

As we compare these two verses, we notice, first, that the results of the sinner’s action in 6:40 (“believes in the Son”) are exactly the same as the results of the sinner’s action in 6:54 (“eats My flesh and drinks My blood”). In both cases, the sinner’s action yields eternal life and a resurrection on the last day.

Next, we observe that John 6:40 falls within a section of teaching where Jesus is speaking in literal terms. That is, when Jesus speaks of “beholding the Son” and “believing in the Son,” we observe that Jesus is speaking literally.

By contrast, in John 6:54, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about Himself as the bread of life. The Lord has established His identity as “the bread of life” (6:48), as “the bread that comes down out of heaven” (6:50), and as “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (6:51). Jesus has thus made clear that He is now speaking figuratively about Himself as bread. Therefore, in this context, the Lord speaks about how to obtain eternal life in figurative terms.

Jesus intentionally parallels these two verses to teach that “believing in the Son” should be understood metaphorically as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus has been proclaiming that anyone who believes in Him will obtain eternal life. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) has sent” (John 6:29). Here, then, the Lord is giving a vivid picture, an illustration of what believing in Him means.

What we see is that “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” is actually an explanation and an intensification of “believing in the Son.” Imagine a person who is there in Capernaum listening to Jesus teach or imagine someone who is reading John 6 in our own day. This person is convinced that believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the only way to be saved, but then they ask the question, “What does it actually mean to ‘believe in Jesus’? Can you give me an illustration of what that looks like?” The Lord Jesus answers that question by saying, in effect, “Believing in Me is like eating My flesh and drinking My blood (6:53-56).”

EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD. For the disciple of Jesus, believing in Him is a matter of life and death. If the disciple cannot eat of Jesus and cannot drink of Jesus, then he will die of hunger and thirst. Communion with Jesus is the disciple’s means of survival. When Job considered his relationship with the LORD, he said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This gives a taste of what it means for the disciple of Christ to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Lord Jesus Himself, when tested by the devil after forty days without food, declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). For the follower of Jesus, Jesus is more to be desired than food that will sustain our physical life.

David had the attitude of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” when he wrote,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

David’s soul thirsts for the LORD and his flesh hungers for Him, not literally but figuratively, as a thirsty man would yearn for water in the middle of the desert.

To believe in Jesus means to receive Him and embrace Him without reservation as a starving man would consume a loaf of bread. The believer eats and drinks all of Jesus in all His incarnate deity to satisfy his sinful soul. And the one who eats Jesus’ flesh and drinks Jesus’ blood is the one whom Jesus will certainly not cast out.

CONCLUSION

From this study of John 6:45-58 we have seen that Jesus, as the metaphorical bread of life, has been sent by the Father to earth to offer eternal life to the world, and that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus uses the metaphor of “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” to help His disciples understand the depth and the intensity of true saving faith.

SDG                 rmb                 7/5/2022                     #551