So far Chapter 1 has seemed fairly straightforward taking into account all of the “soon” language. Now we get to slightly more difficult language though most of this chapter is fairly straightforward.
Jesus mentions 4 of the 7 churches in this chapter. We also see the repeated descriptions of his glorified body as John presents the message to each assembly. The message follows a similar pattern—here’s what you’re doing right, here’s what needs improvement, and be vigilant because “the time” is fast approaching. If these assemblies were to continue in their ways, they might get caught up on the wrong side of judgment as well.
In verse 5, we again see the reference to soon—“or else I am coming to you swiftly.” Jesus wasn’t going to delay the judgment any longer and seems to be calling this assembly to vigilance so they aren’t taken by surprise at his revealing.
Verse 9 again points out the primary objects of judgment—the Jewish people who claimed they were following the law, but instead were a “synagogue of Satan.” This shows that while Jerusalem would be under siege, the rest of the Jewish people throughout Judea would also be sought out for judgment. Verse 10, yet again, reaffirms the time of which Jesus is speaking—“the things which you are about to suffer,” “Satan is about to,” “10 days.” All of these make reference to a specific people at a specific time. I will circle back to verse 11 and its’ correlations as it deserves a more detailed look.
The rest of the chapter continues to speak to the other assemblies. Most of this is discernible enough that it doesn’t need explicit explanation. There are a few other concepts I wanted to point out though.
Verse 23 speaks of Death (as a proper name, capital “D”). We see the rider Death later in Revelation. For now, I just wanted to point out the reference as, in the context of the judgment coming, it seems these riders are symbolic of those who will deliver it—that is, the Romans that are going through all of Judea in search of the Jewish people. This verse also states “according to your deeds,” a reference that seems to directly correlate to Jesus’ statement in Matt 16:27-28. Again, the timing is confirmed of when he said that he was coming in judgment.
In verse 25, Jesus gives hope to this assembly—hold that which you have firmly until I come. If we assume that Jesus wasn’t coming for thousands of years, then this is just an obtuse passage. It seems that, just like the theme through the rest of the Bible, when judgment (for the guilty) and relief (for the oppressed) was stated as coming, in came in the specified time-frame.
The Second Death
Now, verse 11 is part of a concept that seems to have brought much confusion for centuries. I won’t pretend to be certain, but only to present my view of this as it relates to the rest of the time-frame being referenced. We could assume that the second death is a far-future, world-wide judgment, but this rips the verse out of its’ context and forces onto it a segregated meaning. This is (in my opinion) part of the warning at the end of the book (Rev 22:18-19)—that is, we are prompted to view everything in context of the time specified. There is no signification in verse 11 that any time shift has occurred that we should assume this second death is some far-future event. Jesus was communicating to a specific audience at a specific point in time about their current events. In turn, he mentions “will not be harmed,” a peculiarly tame way to say “will not be consciously tortured forever and ever by an otherwise benevolent Being.” This seems to correlate with what Paul says in 1 Cor 3:13-15. Notice he is here talking about “the Day.” Again, this is a repeated and directed theme throughout the New Testament referencing a specific and soon-commencing event.
It may also be beneficial to compare the other mentions of this second death to the rest of the book and view how it correlates with the rest of the Bible. I’m not going to get too deep into the correlating passages though as I hope, at God’s prompting, to write about them in the context of their chapters.
Chapters 20 and 21 both mention the second death. First, 20:14-15 mentions the lake of fire as the second death, and those not in the book of life would end up there. In addition, 20:10 says those cast into the lake would be there “day and night forever and ever,” however, this “age-long” punishment is only referencing the beast and false prophet at this point. This is where another rendering of the original Greek is needed. “Forever and ever” in Greek again goes back to the root word “aion” which is a period of time. In effect, it would seem those who are cast into the lake are placed there for however long it takes for the corrective punishment to “burn away” and refine them from those things not fit for heaven. The “cup of wrath” was eventually emptied in every judgment throughout the Bible, whether in this life or the next it would seem. The unquenchable fire of Gehenna (Mark 9:47-48, Isaiah 66:24) continued until it accomplished its’ relevant purpose and could not be quenched before that time (i.e. the Valley of Hinnom isn’t still burning today).
This leads us to also consider Rev 21:8 which states that the unrepentant will have a part (the portion of them) in the lake. Again, this sounds as though it isn’t permanent for the whole being, but only for/until the sinfulness is burned away.
This seems to sync up with the rest of the Bible in how fire is portrayed (see the bottom of this post about references to fire as a purifying agent).
So, these are my current thoughts relevant to the timing which was presented. I don’t want to get too far ahead as I feel each individual chapter merits further consideration on its’ own. However, so far we don’t see any obvious leaps that would reference our age as being under these prophetic judgments. Everything seems to be defined within that same space of time as relevant to ancient Judea.
Some may consider what I present here as heresy and that’s understandable. The me of a year ago would consider this heresy also. Please research these things for yourself. My intent is to shed light on passages that have been confusing for centuries by studying scripture within its’ own context, specified time-frame, original Greek word meaning (as opposed to meanings assigned in our language), and referencing to other passages contained in the Bible. My intent is not to confuse more but instead clarify some of the rather confusing claims made to date. Again, I’m not claiming absolute knowledge or correctness in these views. I’m simply presenting my current stance as relevant to the rest of the Bible.