Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Impassive Persistence of Reality

Throughout time, many people have said many wise and profound things.  And for a time, others may remember what was said, books may be written about it, and people may discuss its meanings and application.  However, the Bible contains thoughts and insights that have withstood the test of time since they were first spoken and written down on paper.  Regardless of what one may think of the inspiration of the biblical text, it cannot be reasonably denied that the reality is that the collection of writings in the bible have changed humankind forever.  People have tried time and again in every conceivable way to deny, undermine, disprove, and denigrate the wisdom in the biblical books.  Attempts have been made in archeology, geology, philosophy, theology, medical science, law and countless other disciplines to test the reality of the wisdom of the books, all to ultimately no avail.  In many cases, where one was set out to disprove biblical texts, the exact opposite happened and the authors wound up at the point of having to accept biblical reality.

And so when clinically examined, the reality is that the bible has yet to proven mistaken in areas of history, archeaology, and science.  When read with a spiritual heart, one can not deny the profoundness of the text as a whole.  Throughout, the nuggets of wisdom that run so counter to the natural inclinations of humankind has to lead to the thought of its true origins.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”    
Colossians 3:12

Imagine a world where all people lived according to the wisdom of Colossians 3:12.  It is so rare in our world that it can hardly be even dreamt of let alone imagined.  And yet, the reality is that Paul wrote this thought down on paper to a group of people in Colossae some 2000 years ago, in a supposed age of dim intellect and raw brutality.  Reasonable people can accept the impassive persistence of the reality of biblical wisdom.  Can you accept that given all the unchanging facts and the overwhelming evidences, the bible may just be what is says it is?  At the very least, it's worth a thought and we would love to talk to you about it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Study on Revelation - Introduction

The Book of Revelation was written to provide comfort to the people who were undergoing persecution at the hands of Imperial Rome.  This is seen from the fact that as it opens, the Christian sees God on his throne (Chapter 4). God has not abdicated his throne and abandoned his people but rather remains in total control of the affairs of man.

Any interpretation of the book must be made in light of the question, "What comfort does this interpretation provide for the persecuted people to whom it was written?"  The people of the time needed help and encouragement right then and now.  Their churches were under constant attack and needed assurance of divine help, strength and comfort.

The book is a series of apocalyptic images using symbolic language.  The reason an author does this is to mask the message contained inside from all people other than those to whom the book is intended. The symbols used would be familiar to Christians at the time but not to an outsider.  So the date when the book was written would be a clue as to what the messages was.

There are two schools of thought as the date.  The first is connected to the reign of Nero and the destruction of Jerusalem.  The second is the reign of Domitian and the persecution of the Christians then.  Both views have solid evidences and will be discussed as we progress.  Reasonable Christians can disagree over the specifics but both points of view are consistent with the message of the text: hold fast to the faith in the midst of persecution.

One particular passage in Revelation yields a distinctive clue as to whom this was written and when.  Revelation 17:9-11:

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.

The eight Roman emperors from the time of Jesus were Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.  God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33) and since He does not lie (Titus 1:2), this passage must be construed to teach the truth without confusion.  And so the "beast" would be the eighth emperor after Jesus, Domitian.  The Book of Revelation makes it clear that the persecution being received was a result of a demand that everyone worship the emperor as god.  Only Domitian is known to have enforced this.

History teaches us that Domitian was a particularly cruel and evil leader and carried out persecution from one end of the empire to the other. The forms of punishment under his reign included death by sword, crucifixion, or wild beast, exile, torture to confess Domitian as god, and property confiscation.  All of these are plainly reflected in the Book of Revelation. 

So why did Domitian feel such antagonism towards Christians?
  • Christians were in direct conflict with the Romans since they believed the kingdom of God and not the state was the main thing
  • Christianity was exclusive in that it's followers refused to mingle with heathen social life and customs.  To think one religion was set apart from any other was illegal under Roman law
  • By believing in one God, Christians shocked the philosophers of the day
  • Christians refused to fight for Rome as they would not take the oath required for military service to profess Ceasar as god.  They also viewed the uniforms and temple service as idolatry.
  • Christians were thought to be cannibals as the "ate of the body and drank of the blood"
  • Christians were thought to be wild fanatics because of their enthusiasm for Christ and preference for one another. 
  • Christians were largely converted from lower class, slaves, and outcasts and were looked down upon due to that
  • Roman idolatrous worship was big business and since Christians would have none of it, the more there were the more it affected that business
  • Christians would not worship the emperor
With all this in mind, the author of the Book of Revelation states in chapter 1 verses 1 and 4 that the events were to come to pass shortly and thus the time for their vindication was near.  History shows that Nerva, the emperor that followed Domitian, had the acts of Domitian rescinded including that the emperor be worshiped as god.  He also removed and destroyed all images of Domitian throughout the empire. The fate of Christians continued to improve after this time.  History shows that the persecution of Christians flourished after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Also, the destruction of Jerusalem would have been such a traumatic event to Christians at the time, it is inconceivable that it would not be mentioned and yet there is little evidence that it is.  One must thus conclude that the book was written for Christians undergoing the persecution of Domitian.

For more information on the persecution of Christians at this time in history, check out this link.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Study on Revelation - Symbols

OK, so its been 1 year since we last posted.  Living sometimes has a way of getting in the way of what you want to do in life but we continue on.  The book of Revelation is filled with apocalyptic symbolism from the time it was written.  The readers of this at the time would have understood clearly what was meant but for us some thousands of years later, it becomes difficult.  And so, it becomes imperative that we cover these prior to starting.
  • A door symbolizes the means by which something worthwhile is obtained
  • Lightning, voices, and thunder are terror striking signs showing the latent power of the individual to which they are attributed.  Thunder is also used as warning.
  • A crystal sea is symbolic of a calm but inaccessible approach to that which is beyond.  See the great gulf in Luke 16:26.
  • The lion represents absolute strength and bravery
  • The bull represents strength
  • The eagle was used by ancient mystic writers to represent two different concepts - swiftness/speed or ill omen
  • The lamb is a religious symbol representing absolute purity and goodness
  • A horn symbolizes power or authority
  • A rainbow represents hope or mercy
  • A horse represents war
  • The color white represents purity or victory
  • The color red represents the severity of death
  • The color black is the general representation of death from various causes
  • The color lipid (pale) represents death from pestilence or famine
  • A seal represents that the item under question belongs to the one who sealed it
  • The winds are an OT symbol which is symbolic of divine retribution
  • The children of Israel is an OT symbol representing God's people
  • The palm leaf is an OT symbol representing joy from deliverance
  • The trumpet is a symbol for announcing the importance of what is to come
  • The Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of God's new covenant with mankind
  • A star or stars represents a major ruler
  • The moon represents a lesser ruler than a star or the twilight period of a great individual
  • The dragon represents Satan
  • The beast symbolizes a ruler or his government
  • The sickle represents judgement
  • Babylon is used to symbolize the seat of government where the evil befalling people is coming from
  • The frog represents propaganda, especially when it is depicted as coming from the mouth
  • The term one hour indicates a short period of time
  • The lake of fire and brimstone represents hell
  • Gog and Magog are from the OT (see Ezekial 38) and represent symbolic enemies of the Messiah in this context