Richard Oster Has a New Commentary On Revelation Coming Out!

Great news from Richard Oster’s blog! Dr. Oster has completed and is about to have published his commentary on Revelation 1-3 entitled, “Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible.  A Commentary on Revelation 1-3” This is going to be great and I recommend you guys get a copy of this book when it is available. As soon as I find out it is out I will put a post up to let you guys know. You can read more about it at his post, “The End is Near“. I love his opening line,

“With almost eschatological fervor I am expecting the publication of my commentary Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible.  A Commentary on Revelation 1-3 within weeks rather than months.”

Classic.

HT: Philip Cunningham

Richard Oster Has a Blog on Revelation

FYI, Harding Grad professor Richard Oster has a blog on his work on the book of Revelation. He is a man I greatly respect and I look forward to reading his thoughts.

7 Subversive letters

More Resources Uploaded – How to Study the Bible and Revelation

I uploaded two more resources to the Bible Class Archive. I had been hesitant to post these because they both relied heavily on the work of others. After reviewing it and adding some citations, I feel more comfortable that due credit has been given where necessary.

More on the way…if you have any lessons you have written that you would like me to post please email me to submit them – matthewdabbs@hotmail.com

Thanks!

Randy Harris on Persecution in Revelation

Often we hear the message of Revelation is, “We win!” That is the end game but it is not where the letter starts. Of the seven churches in chapters 2-3 only two don’t have judgments against them (Smyrna and Philadelphia). The rest are so culturally accommodated that you can’t tell the difference between who is in the church and who is in the world. It sounds a lot like the state of much of Christianity today. I love this quote from Randy Harris. I think it puts things in perspective,

“It is not that Christians are undergoing persecution but that they have become so much like
the world around them that they are not worth persecuting.”

Ten Challenges in Teaching Revelation

Tomorrow night we finish Revelation in our Men’s class. This is the first time I have ever taught a class on Revelation and it was about as difficult as I thought it would be. There are several challenges to tackling this book in a Bible class:

  1. Dealing with disagreement – people have strong and varied views on what this book means. The inability to disagree in love may reveal a lack of maturity. Don’t be offended if people disagree with you. Point out what truth you can from it and move along. Get ready to have your own understanding challenged and be ready to help others see the weaknesses in their understanding of the book. In the end no one understands it perfectly. We will all have errors in understanding when it comes to this difficult book. That leads to the next one
  2. Maintaining Humility – Not sure if this is really a challenge because if this book doesn’t humble you to teach it, you may have a problem with pride. When people disagree we keep coming back to looking at the text with humility and the understanding that none of us will have the perfect perspective 100% of the time on this book.
  3. Presenting the text as unbiased as possible – The way to maintain this balance as best as possible is to keep going back to the question of, “How would they have underst0od this given their cultural and religious background.”
  4. Avoid rabbit trails – There are so many interesting side notes in Revelation. It is important to stick to the main point. I have a friend who decided to teach Revelation and it took him several weeks to cover the first 8 verses. That is overkill. When you over analyze Revelation you can end up in a pickle and dig too hard on something that wasn’t meant to be evaluated to such an extreme degree.
  5. Major in majors, not minors – It is so easy in Revelation to spend way too much time on things that don’t matter all that much. Don’t major in the minors. Know what the central message of the book is and keep coming back to how the various chapters tie back into it.
  6. Don’t neglect the Old Testament – I tried to do a good job with this. I probably didn’t spend enough time talking about Daniel. I just figured it would muddy the waters too much and get us chasing rabbits. Any good commentary (Reddish or Witherington in particular) will point you in the right direction on this.
  7. Avoid the view that John is borrowing imagery from all sorts of sources – Pretty much all the recent commentaries use this language. They will say John borrowed such and such from Ezekiel or Isaiah. Why not stick to this actually being a Revelation from God and that God was the one showing these images to John rather than John coming up with it.
  8. Don’t attempt to build a time line in Revelation – It is a waste of time (no pun intended). Some think the 7 seals, trumpets and bowls are just 7 events told from different angles. Some say 21 different events and some say somewhere in between. There are few “You are here’s” in the book of Revelation so don’t spend too much time trying to figure them out.
  9. Application comes from broader theological principles rather than trying to determine where we fit in the book (see #8) – We can learn a lot about God and Christ from the book of Revelation. We see what God thinks about sin. We hear lots of calls to holiness. There are some tremendous messages of hope in this book. Draw application from these.
  10. Praise the class for the positive things that come out of it – If I think the chapter about to be discussed may generate some tension, I am quick to start the class by thanking them for how well they have handled disagreements in the past. Let people know that you appreciate them wrestling with this book because it really is work!

What is the Most Culturally Relevant Book of the Bible?

While all of scripture is inspired by God and relevant today, there are verses and books of the Bible that are so parallel with our modern culture that they stand out in their relevance to us today. What would you say is the most culturally relevant book of the Bible? Acts is increasing in popularity as Christians wrestle with taking the Christian message into a pagan society. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people talk about outreach from Acts 17. It is such a great and applicable chapter. The book of James is also quite popular because of its simplicity. The psalms hit home and speak to different seasons of life and emotion. But if you had to pick one, which book would you say is the most relevant book overall for Christians today?

I think the single most relevant book of the Bible today is the book of Revelation. Ask me next week and I will probably give you a different answer. So if you disagree feel free to talk about which book you would put as the answer to this question. I think this is the case because, if you can get down to the basics of this book and past all the strange and crazy theories for interpreting its contents, there is an extremely relevant message for any group of Christians living in the middle of a pagan and Godless society.

I am not a fan of dispensationalism in reading the prophesies in Revelation. Dispensationalism is the theory that the events in Revelation are to be found in our current events, that much of Revelation has yet to happen and so we look to the middle east and elsewhere for end times clues. That is not the relevance I am talking about here. I think Revelation is culturally relevant because the world we live in today is not all that dissimilar to the world they lived in when John wrote Revelation to Christians living under Roman rule.

The churches being written to in Revelation lived in a time just about everything imaginable could be considered divine, including mankind. They lived in a time when Christians were persecuted for their beliefs. They lived in a time when being a Christian often meant exclusion for certain social and cultural circles. They lived in a time where the society was becoming increasingly immoral and immorality was considered praise worthy. I think we can relate to these things because our world is not that different from theirs. We may not be as extreme in some of these areas as what they were going through but we are certainly more similar to this as a society than we were fifty years ago.

If you want to learn how to live in a pagan society and be able to stand up for the truth and your faith in Jesus Christ as faithful witness, there is no book in the NT more helpful than the book of Revelation. If you need your hope renewed and your faith strengthened, turn no further than Revelation. Just sit down with it, read it through and don’t get hung up on what you don’t understand. Listen for the underlying message of hope, deliverance, mercy and justice that God wants us to hear today just as much as he did nearly 2000 years ago. You will be blessed if you do.

Revelation – Even Though Good Wins, Evil Can Still Bite

In a book that tells us we win there sure are a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. That tells us Satan won’t go down without a fight and that this world is still a brutal place. Here are the verses in Revelation that tell us life here on earth won’t always be easy.

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” – Revelation 2:10

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” – Rev 6:9

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” – Rev 7:14

“But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” – Rev 11:2

“Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.” – Rev 11:7-10

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” – Rev 12:17

“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.” – Rev 13:5-7

“He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” – Rev 13:15

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” – Rev 14:13

“This title was written on her forehead:
MYSTERY
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” – Rev 17:5-6

In the end, good wins. In the meantime there is still pain, suffering, sin, death, and all kinds of evil to be on our guard against. Just because God’s team wins doesn’t mean the other team won’t score any points.

Reading Revelation – Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

One of the biggest difficulties in understanding Revelation is our lack of familiarity with several things: Old Testament prophesy, intertestamental literature, Jewish tradition, and Greco-Roman political and religious mythology. It is very easy to read Revelation without tapping into a good commentary that has taken these things into account when appropriate and miss the point. (The two that do this best are Reddish and Witherington, IMO)

People want to find themselves in this book. But before you can do that with any degree of accuracy you first have to find out where the first readers/hearers found themselves in this book. In order to do that you have to put yourself in their shoes and see these symbols and mysteries as they were seen by those in the first century. When you immerse yourself in their culture many of the mysterious things in Revelation begin coming to light and it opens up a whole new world of understanding which allows us to make proper application to our lives today. But if we don’t hear it with the meaning and symbol it was intended to be read with it is very easy to miss the point entirely.

In two upcoming posts, I am going to deal with two specific examples in the book of Revelation where putting yourselves in their shoes is a must in order to understand what is being revealed. In these two examples, a failure to do so would lead the reader on a wild goose chase that could only end in misunderstanding and confusion. The first is the woman and the dragon in Revelation 12 and the second are the two beasts of Revelation 13. More to follow…

Walking Through Revelation – Part 1

Prologue (Revelation 1:1-3)

Why is Revelation important today?
Revelation – The title of the book tells us something special is going on. There are things that are mysterious and known only to God. No matter how many degrees we hold or how much divinity we master, God still knows more than we do! Yet, in his infinite grace God is willing to share some of those particulars with his people. In the book of Revelation God doesn’t do this to satisfy idle curiosity or to help us connect a HUGE list of prophesies to every prominent name and event in our day. These words were recorded to make a practical difference in the lives of those who are living out their faith in a world where it is very unpopular to do so.

That is why Revelation is such an important book for us today. We find ourselves in a world removed by 2000 years and yet still beleaguered by many of the same issues and problems. God’s people are still faced with pressure to conform or at least to compromise with the world. The question of “Whose side are you going to be on?” is just as relevant today as it was back then.

Answering the “When question”:
The #2 question in the book of Revelation is “When are these things to take place?” That question is only trumped by the question of “What do these things mean?” John tells us the answer to the when question in the very first sentence,

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” – Revelation 1:1

It is important that we have the right understanding of what “soon” means because it is quite clear that the world has not yet been judged in the last days and we are certainly not living with God in eternal bliss. We still find ourselves in this troubling and dangerous place called the earth where tears are a plenty, the sea still exists and the sun is still in the sky. In the NICNT Revelation commentary Mounce points out that the word translated “soon” can mean, “Without delay once the appointed time arrives” (Mounce, 65). So the answer to the question of when these events are to take place all depends on God. We don’t get a strict time line laid out for us in the book of Revelation. Instead, we get the idea that God knows exactly how all this is going to turn out. When the times arrives for him to act, you better believe he is going to get the job done. Because we know that is true, believers know these events will happen “soon.” This is repeated again in 1:3, “because the time is near.”

Is all this really true?
If you really want to know something is true you want to know who backs it up. In Revelation 1:1-2 John calls in the big guns to back up the words of Revelation and that gives credibility to what he is going to record in this book. His point is, he is not just making this up. He is not, as nearly 100% of the commentators on the book of Revelation point out, personally drawing upon all sorts of traditions and Old Testament sources. He is recording the content of what God is revealing to him. Those who bear witness to the truth of this testimony include:

  • Jesus Christ (1:1)
  • his angel (1:1) – angels are very prominent in apocalyptic literature for being the intermediary between God and mankind.
  • John, the apostle (1:1)
  • God/word of God (1:2)

The point is, this book was not made up or dreamed up. Its contents are verified by these witnesses.

Results of studying Revelation:
Last, John tells us the outcome of what happens if we take the content of this book seriously,

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and
take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” – Rev 1:3

Revelation contains seven blessings (1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 14) ranging from rest for those who die in the Lord to the pure eating from the tree of life. When you study Revelation it is important to keep coming back to this verse. If we take this book seriously, we will be blessed. That doesn’t mean if you read Revelation a dozen times God will give you cold hard cash for your effort. It does mean that our lives will be enriched and our impact on the world that much greater.

As you study Revelation it is important that you take inventory of whose side you are living on and which areas of your life have potentially been compromised away from the cause of Christ. It is also a call to take God’s judgment and God’s blessing seriously because God is still willing and able to make a difference in this world, even when things are at their darkest. Through all of that we pray for a stronger faith and for the hope that can only come from the great realization that God is moving this world where he wants it to go. We don’t live in a “runaway world” that will ultimately come away victor. We live in a messed up world that has been taken in by God and the redemptive process is already underway!

Bible Class Archive – More Additions

The Bible Class Archive of free Bible class curriculum stands at 999 pages and over 300 lessons! I just added a new lesson series in from Tim Archer on his book Letters from the Lamb. I will also be adding in several lesson series in the coming weeks by David Chadwell of the West-Ark Church of Christ. He has produced a very large quantity of quality lessons and has gracefully and generously given me permission to reproduce them here.

If you have material you would like to submit email it to me on attachment or send a link and I will be glad to review it.

If you have a moment, have a look at David’s website. It is filled with quality material including Bible class material, sermons, and much more.

Davidchadwell.com