I write to you because there are matters of utmost concern that have come to my attention. You seem to not understand the importance of the mandates that have been prescribed.
I understand you have based your services on fellowship with one another, however, you seem to have neglected many of the other obligations that have been given to you. Fellowship is fine, but it has its place. You must focus on the aspects of the services. You can fellowship a few minutes before and after, and perhaps during an interlude, you can shake hands with a few people you haven’t spoken to yet, but you must keep the service in proper focus. Fellowship has its place, but you must strive to make the service of utmost importance.
Please remain attentive to the speaker and do not interrupt with questions. Doubts and questions are the foundations of sin. I know you have read of the apostles’ answers, but it is time you started to learn how to be reverent and respectful of the anointed ones in your meetings. Questions cause division, and you must remain in unity.
You must be in attendance every Sunday. There are no valid excuses for tardiness or absence. Do not underestimate the importance of being under the teaching of the word and correct doctrine. You will easily fall out of favor if you are not consistently sustained with the words of these leaders.
In addition, you must give your tithe to the proper authority figure for use in continued services in the future. There should be no more of this sharing among yourselves as the funding for future services is severely lacking. Submit to the leaders and they will do what is appropriate for you.
Also, remember to stick with the service format and do not allow variation. Change is always bad. If you advance pass the format presented here, you will alienate each other from consistency and familiarity. Remember how good it was in the past and always strive to uphold that ideal. Ensure everyone upholds those past traditions so you remain compliant to the faith.
I have noticed that while you are more than willing to sacrifice yourselves at the hands of the political authorities, you must consider the spreading of the gospel. How do you intend to spread the word if you’re dead? Do not throw your life away by such useless sacrifice. Instead, you must strive to become a force within the political arena. Christianity will die if you do not actively involve yourselves.
There are other ways in which you can sacrifice. You can sacrifice your time and assets to build the institution so it can become a force in the world for good. I know you are eager to place your efforts into a pursuit, and I can think of nothing better to spend your time and resources on than building the church in the world so there is a shining beacon of morality in which to base your lives around.
You must submit yourselves to the authorities. They know what is best for you. You can trust that they will not mislead you. They already know all that I am writing in this letter, so submit yourselves to them so they can direct you in the word. Without leadership, you will be lost and fall into error. These leaders have been strategically placed and trained so you can be comfortable in your salvation. They are masterful at pointing out sin and will guide and encourage you by specifying the rules you must live by in order to be a good Christian. There will be many examples of worldliness they will point out along the way to show you how righteous you are in comparison. Take note of these things and be confident in your salvation because you have done what is right.
You must perform the rituals as prescribed. Every born again believer must be baptized with water as has been mandated. I will leave the methodology of this to you, but all assemblies must come to an agreement and use water in these rituals. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not enough. How else will you recognize each other as Christians if you don’t perform the prescribed mandates regularly?
No more disagreements. You need to come to a consensus on everything so that no one falls into error. Differing views will cause division. It is important that if anyone disagrees with the majority, they must be cut off from the congregation lest they confuse and distort the message. Unity in everything done is the most important aspect of keeping your congregation healthy and active. If you follow all of these mandates, unity should not be a problem. Remember, separate yourselves from any dissenters so they cannot distract you from the path laid before you.
Remember, also, to abstain from sin. Do not allow yourself to be exposed to others. In doing so, you will cause controversy and be shown as weak and unworthy. The focus is on the worship service and not you individually. It is shameful to bring up your short-comings in such a holy place.
Remember, you are at war so everything you experience outside of proper religion should be considered an attack. There are forces that will attack you financially, politically, and morally. When you suffer lose of these things, it is a spiritual attack. Remember, anything that causes you discomfort is bad and must be upheld as such.
Additionally, the errant dissenters have already been lost so you must separate yourselves and attack them with any weapon you can forge. Wielding scripture and prayer, you can do grievous harm to these aggressors. When all else fails, just ignore them and continually repeat what you have been mandated to believe.
I know the old system continually got these things wrong, but I believe you can do them right. Do not associate with those who will not conform to your corporate worship. In the future, you would do well to construct signs outside of your buildings to let the rest of society know how wrong they are through shrewd adages. There is no need to associate personally with those outside other than this unless it is to ask them their spiritual state. In this, you may cause them to come under conviction and persuade them that attending your congregation is the way to salvation.
The time is short as you can deduce from all the evil signs around you. You must get these things in proper order as quickly as possible lest you suffer the coming judgment. Just remember, hold on and one day everything will be okay.
I applaud you in advance for your devotion to these mandates. You can know that I will always be near when needed to help guide you back onto the appropriate path.
Luci F. Er
I want to state outright, this is a personal view I hold and possibly one of the most hesitant posts I publish. This writing is meant to be primarily informative to help others understand how I think and where I’m coming from in my views. It’s not intended to force anyone to my viewpoint or insult anyone. I fully admit that I could be wrong about certain things, and that I don’t have all the answers. This view has helped me grow closer to Father, and for me, that is the most important thing.
My view mostly resembles what is commonly known as “full preterism.” However, I don’t strictly consider myself a preterist as there seems to be a whole lot of baggage associated with that label. When I say I lean more towards this view, it is only that I believe that all of the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled. I want to explain how I came to these conclusions but also keep this post reasonable in length as to not write a book. My point is that this will not be a very comprehensive writing, but, hopefully, only hitting some main points. Further discussion could be made for those interested.
First, it would seem all the language used pointed to a 1st century fulfillment. I’ve already written about some of this here as well as a series of posts linked here. I’ve placed a lot of info in those links, but to sum everything up—the early churches were seeing the signs of Jesus’ Second coming, just as he said they would if they weren’t “asleep.” One quick example is Hebrews 10:25—as you see the Day approaching.
The next big concept is the historical parallels. I listed some of these out as relevant to Revelation in the above links, but I wanted to point out why these seem much more legitimate to me.
First, we have the Jewish historian Josephus. The short story is that he originally led Jewish forces against Rome during the war that started in 66 AD. He surrendered, but was kept alive by Vespasian. The reason—based on the Old Testament prophecies, he predicted that Vespasian would become Emperor. It’s important to note that Josephus would have had little to no knowledge of the Revelation written by John (if believed, like I, that Revelation was written before or around the 66 AD time frame). It also seems, interestingly enough, that he never converted to Christianity despite what he recorded. This, to me, would make his writings more legitimate as he was only recounting what he witnessed and not collaborating with Christians.
One opposing view to this might be that we can’t trust historians over the Bible. However, when historians attest to what’s in the Bible, especially relevant to the specified time frame, it makes the Bible even more legitimate. In addition, confining God’s workings only to what he did in the Bible, that he has no power outside of those stipulations, would limit him to not being able to work in all of his creation, including our world today.
With that in mind, I wanted to point out just a few historical parallels recorded by historians such as Josephus, though there are many more.
Rev 16:21—Great hailstones, about the weight of a talent, * came down out of the sky on people. People blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, for this plague is exceedingly severe.
Josephus: Wars of the Jews, Bk5, Chpt6—the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent…it was of a white colour…(during the 1st century siege of Jerusalem)
Rev 1:7, Matt 24:30, Matt 16:27-28—Jesus coming in the clouds/with angels.
Josephus: Wars of the Jews—I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable…before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds”
Tacitus: Histories, Bk5, v.13—In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.
Matt 24:21—For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.
Josephus—The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.
As stated, these are but a few parallels and there are many more that. Along with the Bible’s own internal time statements, this led me to believe 99% of the prophecies were completed in the 1st century. The only exception would be the 1000 years in which Satan is released afterwards. I have detailed my view of this here.
Now, this brings up some questions that I would like to touch on shortly. Note, these are my views and, again, I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me.
What happens now if Jesus’ Second coming has already occurred? For me, I believe it’s possible for Jesus to return again, though the Bible doesn’t detail this. It details his 1st century coming, 1st and 2nd. God can, of course, send Jesus a third time as he is God. A more likely scenario, again imo, is that the Kingdom has already been established. God has gone through great lengths not to violate our free will choices while also working behind the scenes. In the Bible, he seems to have given explicit instructions and warnings from Genesis through Revelation as pertinent to the timing and culture. No such implicitness has been given to this aion (age).
In addition, the 1000 year reign doesn’t state that there will be total peace as we know it from our human perspective. Instead, if we look at history from a wide angle, when Satan was bound, the world became more and more peaceful until he was loosed. The effects he had set in motion continued while he was bound but lost power overtime. Like with a tsunami, the temporary thrashing of the earthquake causing it may have long ceased, yet the tidal wave continues on until it has completely dissipated. Similarly, I see this as happening first in Rev 12:7-9, 12-13—Satan kicked out of heaven then thrashing about because he knew his time was short. Likewise, after a thousand years, we see, as referenced in the link above, Satan’s post-millennial thrashing, from which we still see the subsiding of that today. Note, the 1000 years seems to reference Satan’s binding, not the limits of Jesus’ rule. He still rules today!
I believe the world is getting better overall. We see billions more people in the world today, though, slowly, people are learning to treat each other better. We see the sensationalist drama on the news, and I agree we have a long way to go, but I believe God is working things behind the scenes. Perhaps, heaven and earth are getting closer all the time and one day, when all hearts sing in unison, “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” we will see the Kingdom fully substantiated in our reality.
Phew! Okay, I know this is quite long and apologies for that, but I wanted to hit the major points. This is the short version. I know this goes waaaaaaay off the reservation, but it’s something I felt I needed to share in respect to full disclosure. As stated, this is not to cause dissent or arguments but simply to present my thoughts so others might understand how I’ve come to the conclusions I have. Feel free to toss all of this aside if it has no relevance to your journey :).
A few final questions to wrap up. If the constant though of “holding out” until death or Jesus’ return was no longer the primary focus, how would your life change and how would you live in this world now? Would you desire to work harder knowing that this world could go on for countless years to come or would you relax since you were no longer under threat? In other words, are we working in the world out of fear of God or out of our beautiful love relationship with him? Which does he prefer?
I originally started this post as a follow-up to my recent Revelation commentary, but God had me to think things through a little more thoroughly over the past few weeks. I’ve compiled what seems to be many of the common objections when trying to see things from the perspective I’ve presented. As always, I would like to note these are my personal conclusions as I’ve studied the Bible more. I could well be wrong, but viewing the story of the Bible as a whole, it seems to be the most straightforward message being communicated.
There are several issues that can cause the scriptures to be bent to traditional views. Many religious leaders are just trying to keep their position whether for financial, power, or pride issues, or some combination of these. If we start with traditional assumptions though, it can easily cause us to ever so subtly bend scripture to fit those views. Over time, we get what we have today, a house of cards that collapses as we begin to pull away the layers of misconceptions holding it up.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to lay aside my traditional bias as much as possible to see how, or if, everything in scripture aligns. To my surprise, I’ve found the story being communicated that makes too much sense, in view of God’s love, to just toss aside and accept alternate meanings. This isn’t because I have something to gain by holding these views. It’s more because once this truth was known to me, it was impossible to just close off my mind to it again regardless of the worldly consequences of shunning, shaming, and condemnation.
So the primary conclusions I’ve been led to are these:
God is good, just, and merciful. He is all powerful, all loving, and all knowing. Any conclusions I make stem from these.
From here, I’ve came to many conclusions in light of some of the otherwise atrocious events in the Bible. The main premise here is God who delivers justice tempered by mercy. While this, to some extent, may offend our worldly sensibilities, it tends to make sense when considered.
Would God destroy a society just to torment those people eternally? Or, was the destruction of that society an act of temporal wrath in order to punish them in the physical so their spirit wouldn’t become wholly corrupted? As we often reference, God is all-knowing. Therefore, he knows how to punish those appropriately to save them spiritually. Considering, even in the tumultuous Old Testament world, the punishment always fit the crime (i.e. an eye for an eye and a life for a life). However, once the punishment was doled, there was no more a price to pay. We see this with Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, and we see that God’s wrath comes to an end (Rev 15:1, Ezekiel 5:13). In any event, the rest of scripture contradicts the idea of a never-ending torment. Was God angry? According to scripture it would appear so. However, his anger came to an end!
With that stated, we can consider why the soon references to the coming judgment of Israel would have been in reference to the 1st century Jewish people. God’s wrath for a society insistent on the curses of the Old Covenant, in light of Jesus’ payment, was granted. Compare the curses of Deut 28:15-68 to the enacting of Revelation. When we stretch the soon terminology to mean something far-future, we in turn bind ourselves to Old Covenant punishment, which is exactly what Israel was doing. In that case, we deny Jesus’ establishment of the New which does not contain such punishment under the law because Jesus has already taken that punishment!
The next consideration is the Lake of Fire. We see Hades (the original concept of a burning torment) tossed into the lake along with Death—that is the state of our spirit being perpetually contained in the grave, or a Sheol-like place, after physical death, as was a common concept in the Old Testament.
The question here is, if the prevalent ideas of the afterlife are thrown into the Lake of Fire, what would the lake be for in regards to us spiritually? The Lake of Fire (imo) is for spiritual cleansing. As mentioned previously, God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, allowed corrupted societies to be destroyed before they had become completely spiritually corrupted. If completely spiritually corrupt, the lake would wholly consume them and nothing else would be left. The second death is essentially a death of the corruption our spirit has accumulated. I believe this to be why Rev 2:11 and 20:6 mention that the second death (synonymous with the lake) has no power over those who have already been perfected spiritually.
So, if all of this is true, what’s the point of making a decision for Christ in this life? Unfortunately, this question relays the very concept that has so woefully corrupted Christianity. The question is the epitome of selfishness. In other words, the question states—If I don’t have to be a Christian to avoid eternal torment, what’s the point of being a Christ follower? Why not just do what I want until God takes me out and burns away the corruption I’ve caused myself (and possibly others) spiritually? This is the very definition of a backwards way to relate to Father. If we only follow our concept of Jesus to avoid hell, we aren’t really following out of love but self-preservation. This leads to an escapist mentality. If God is going to destroy the world, why make it better? Again, this goes back to skewing the soon terminology into a far-future event. Perhaps one of our main purposes in this life is to make this world better for those who come after us so their spiritual journey is more fruitful (hint, hint—like Jesus did through his life). When we’re just maintaining the status-quo until we’re “taken home,” we defeat the entire purpose of God creating us to be creators ourselves.
In respect to the length of this writing so far, I will stop here for now. I don’t want to scare anyone away with the word count :D. Again, I would like to annotate that these are my views. Please research them prayerfully to seek relevance for your personal walk.
So, here’s a general summary of my views after reviewing Revelation and the New Testament prophecies as well as much of the correlating symbolism reused or further explained from the Old Testament.
We see the repetition and the calling out of the soon timetable in both the opening and closing chapters of Revelation, as well as throughout. To avoid repetition, see the timing section of this post. These are the same concepts that Jesus presents in the gospels and the apostles encourage the readers of the epistles with—that the “Great and terrible day of the Lord” would come soon. The punishment would come on ancient Israel and the persecution of the early Christians would subside. Jesus’ Kingdom would be fully establish and opened to all. Considering that the Greek writing calls out certain text by repetition and keywords like “Behold,” I believe Jesus said exactly what he meant—that he was returning soon (Rev 22:7, 12).
This was my starting point when viewing Revelation. The writings of historians, such as Josephus, also correlate in large part to what happened during the war of 66-73 AD. In short, it was “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will be.”—Matt 24:21. Though I strove not to reference too much outside of the Bible, it is useful to know of the culture and eastern symbolism used when attempting to understand the prophecies better.
Speaking of the culture, Revelation was directed to 7 assemblies in particular, those of Asia Minor (Rev 1:11, 22:16), though likely it circulated throughout many of the time. It seems to be written in a way that the Romans wouldn’t understand if they captured the text, yet the original recipients would be able to decipher. Much of the text would seem to make reference to Rome and the Caesars, who upheld themselves as gods. This was a time of severe persecution for Christians. Specifically mentioning these, in such a negative light as this book portrays, would have added additional focus to the Christians of the time as it would have been seen as treason by Rome.
So that’s the general summary of the previous series of Revelation commentaries. I tried to be as direct as possible with my conclusions in this post. Please view the other writings as you may see fit.
The rest of this series can be found here.
Now we come to the final chapter of the book and of the Bible. The first five verses seem to be a continuation of the prior chapter. We see more imagery of the spiritual Jerusalem with the river of life flowing from the throne (v1). Interestingly, this contrasts with the river of fire flowing from the throne in Daniel 7:10. Is there both a river of fire and a river of life? Did the river of life replace the river of fire? These questions don’t seem to have a clear answer within the text, but it is an interesting comparison.
In verse 2, we see the tree of life bearing its fruit every month. As well, we see the leaves used for the healing of the nations. This seems to have both a spiritual and physical component. The leaves heal the nations as we go out into the world spreading the Good News of Jesus’ love and opening of the Kingdom to all.
Verse 3 states that the curse is no more. The Old Covenant came to an end with the full establishment of the New Covenant Kingdom (Heb 8:13). Therefore, there is no more curse. Jesus became the curse for us (Gal 3:13). We still see the physical effects of the world we live in, but the punishments for sin have already been borne by Jesus.
In verse 4&5, we see more of the concepts of the spiritual realm reiterated. We will see Jesus’ face, there will be no night, and we will reign with him forever.
So far, from 21:1 through 22:5, the new Jerusalem vision seems to be all in one sequence. All of this is spoken of as though it has already happened, that we are free to live in the new Kingdom now, though we are still temporarily bound to the physical. None of this sounds like a city that would come down in the physical realm, nor does it sound symbolic. It reads as though it is an actuality in the spiritual realm. It would seem that the spiritual realm is more real than the physical.
Verse 6 brings us again to the familiar terminology, as though to assure us, and especially the original recipients, of the intended time frame of these events—“things which must happen soon.” Verse 7 continues, in the red letters—“Behold, I come quickly” and Jesus goes on to further state, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Considering that we today have a hard time even knowing what the words of this book mean, how ever are we to keep them? This again seems to acknowledge that we weren’t the intended audience of these passages as far as the witnessing of the signs, tribulation, and Parousia.
In verse 8&9, John begins worshiping the angel, who tells him not to as he is a fellow servant, but to worship God. The angel again confirms, in verse 10, that the time is at hand and therefore the words of this book should not be sealed up. Verse 11 seems to show the imminence of these happenings as those who were unjust/filthy and those who were righteous/holy would likely stay so. In other words, it was too late at this point to change as the judgment of the Lamb was soon to commence. This would seem to be in reference to passages such as 2 Thes 2:11 (also the chapter where Paul is speaking of the “man of sin/lawlessness”).
Yet again, in verse 12, we see the repetition of the soon concept—“Behold, I come quickly.”
In verse 13&14, we see Jesus’ well known statement of Alpha and Omega. We see the repetition of those who have kept his commandments/washed their robes (depending on the translation) allowed entry into the city and access to the tree of life. We see in verse 15 that those who have not washed their robes remain outside of the city. Perhaps it’s our job to help bring them in!
In verse 16, Jesus again states the intended audience—the assemblies. Again, this correlates with the opening passages of the assemblies of Asia Minor (1:11).
In verse 17, like in the gospels, we see the (Holy) Spirit and the bride (the New Jerusalem) making the invitation to “come” to all—that everyone who is thirsty can drink from the water of life freely. Shouldn’t this also be our gospel, our Good News? Is this the message we are portraying to the world?
In verses 18&19, we see the warning that the passages in this book should not be added to or taken away from. This seems to have been a warning to the early readers that the things in this book would soon happen. Likewise, if we remove the soon terminology, we get a book that can be made to say whatever we would like it to and be relevant to whatever time we retrofit it for. Yet again in verse 20, we see that—“He who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly.” ” As well John reiterates a common theme of the 1st century church—“Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus.” It seems they were looking for, and seeing, the signs of Jesus’ approaching Parousia.
The book closes out with a small benediction (21).
In Greek, there was no punctuation and everything was capitalized. In order to delineate a matter of importance, it was either repeated, or a certain type of word was used as to make the topic noticed. We see both being applied in this chapter. The soon reference is made five times and implied in a few other places. Jesus himself directly marks out two of these occurrences with “Behold,” a word meant to draw specific attention to what followed. It would seem that these things were to occur imminently in reference to the intended audience—the assemblies of Asia Minor in the 1st century.
So that’s it. That’s the whole messy, scary, weird, crazy book. I know many may not agree with a lot of what I wrote, but I hope that at least a few points come across that would help others be more readily willing to study some of these scriptures. This commentary, if for nothing else, has helped me immensely in understanding this seemingly “off limits” book. I pray that all come to a greater knowledge of Jesus and his love for us.
For easier viewing, links to this entire commentary can be found here.
Now we move into the final chapters. I do plan on doing a post or 3, as God leads, following these commentaries. I want to reiterate that my viewpoint is only one of many and I don’t hold any insistent claims that I’m 100% right. Hopefully, the follow up post(s) will clear up a little of my though process as I view the overall consistency and relevance of the passages.
There are a lot of concepts in this chapter, but considering the story line so far, they should be reasonably easy to understand.
This chapter seems to circle back to just after the events of judgment on Israel around the period of 70 AD as we see the same new Jerusalem in chapters 12 and 19 descending. As I’ve listed in other posts, Jesus and the apostles all taught an imminent return of Jesus in his Kingdom. We now see that Kingdom in verse 2, that is, the spiritual Kingdom is now manifest among us, but the physical realm of human free will still exists. It would seem throughout the Bible that the element of human free will was always allowed by God. He did, at times, harden those who were already unrepentant to further his plan, but it was always initially their choice.
Verse 1 describes the new “heaven and earth” as the old have passed away. As shown before, this is the same thing Jesus mentions in Matt 5:18 related to ancient Israel. This references back to how Yahweh spoke of Israel, through the prophets, in the Old testament (Isaiah 1:2; Deut 32:1; Jer 2:12, 22:29). Heaven and earth, the old spiritual Israel, had passed away when the earthly remnants of that covenant were destroyed (the temple etc…). The new “heavens and earth” were then established. That is, the Israelites that converted became the first Christians of the New Covenant and brought the outsiders into the new Kingdom. This is why we see the reference of there being no more sea in verse 1. As mentioned previously, the sea seemed to represent outsiders which the old nation considered outcasts. The new spiritual nation of Israel consists of everyone.
In verses 3-4, we see what can be considered the “now and not yet.” The Kingdom is already among us in the spiritual. It’s up to us to begin to live in it in a more realized way. So many seem to live under the worldly kingdom, not knowing they are free to live as fully as possible in the spiritual Kingdom. Jesus speaks often of the Kingdom being here and now. He even speaks of how the religious elite of the time were not entering and attempting to block others from entering (Matt 23:14). It would seem that from the time of Jesus’ ministry, the new Kingdom was being built (John 4:23-24, 14:3), it’s full inception at Jesus’ Parousia. Verse 4, as mentioned before, becomes fully evident when we take our last breath here and fully awaken spiritually in Jesus’ Kingdom, though we can live out elements of it in the here and now as we draw closer to Jesus in this life.
As throughout the rest of the prophecies, the spiritual elements are manifest in the physical world. We are citizens of a spiritual Kingdom and we manifest that Kingdom through our physical lives—or should I say: Are we manifesting Jesus’ Kingdom through out lives or looking forward to a return of vengeance on “those others” just like ancient Israel anticipated?
In verses 5-8, we see that Jesus is making all things new. He gives freely of the water of life and all are welcome to become children of the Kingdom. However, those who choose physical desires over the spiritual Kingdom will have their part in the lake of fire. We see here a mention of a more grand plan than we may be able to imagine. When we consider passages such as Col 1:20, we see a concept that may be appropriate to further expand on. In Phil 2:10-11, we see every knee bowing to Jesus and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, which we see is only possible by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). Additionally, we see that kampsē (a derivative of kamptó) is used here—which seems to represent a willing bowing as opposed to sugkuptó—a forced bowing. Could it be possible that God’s plan is to save everyone? Would we dare to hope for such? Note, this isn’t saving our physical selves, this is saving our spiritual selves, though many may have to pass through the second death/lake of fire to be cleansed.
The rest of this chapter, 21:9-27, explains the beauty and grandeur of the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ. In verses 24-26, we see that the “glory of the nations” will be brought into the city by its residents. This sounds like we are to live our lives as such that we bring others into the Kingdom. This also states that in the spiritual realm, only those who have been purified will be able to enter into the Kingdom.
In the final verse, 27, we see that only when their name is written in the book of life, will those who are outside of the Kingdom be allowed in. This is beginning to get into Chapter 22, so I will pick up here in the final installment of my commentary of these chapters specifically. As stated before, I plan, God willing, to write some additional post(s) after I finish the individual chapter reviews. As stated before, these are my personal views as pertinent to my prayerful studies and the context of the rest of the Bible. Please research for the meaning of these as relevant to your personal walk with Jesus.
The rest of this series can be found here.
This chapter is one of the more interesting ones to explore. First, I want to begin this post by saying these are my personal conclusions as I’ve studied to put all the pieces together into one coherent message. There seems to be a dividing line in this chapter between what we’ve seen so far, fulfillment of the prophecies as relevant to ancient Israel, and a future fulfillment beyond the 1st century. Up until these current passages, no huge jumps have been intimated as to far-future events. So, with much consideration, I proceed to try to unpack this chapter as I understand it so far.
We see one main concept in this chapter that has been a source of much confusion and tends to cast the entire book off of its axis—the 1000 years, aka the millennial rule. As with the rest of this book, my view is to take this as straightforward as possible.
The first major consideration is to compare this chapter with the rest of the book. While we see some shifting of time back and forth within the first century, the time is always specific as to the time period and society specified. There’s no reasonable assumption to be made that because the passage here speaks of 1000 years, that it should be expanded beyond the borders of what it states. In most other passages where there is an unspecified amount of time, the words age (aion) and/or age-during/of (aionios) are used. Though the words correlating with aion have been translated somewhat poorly, when specifying that the 1000 years isn’t precisely that, it would seem more appropriate to use the “aion” terminology.
Likewise, this doesn’t seem to be consistent with an earthly rule. If we categorize it as such, we then take the same stance as the Jewish expectancy of the Messiah—that he would be the ruler of a physical kingdom that would subjugate and destroy all other kingdoms and bring the Jewish kingdom into a golden age of ruling. In essence, we adopt the ancient Jewish standpoint but with a new Christian label superimposed. While there are physical elements played out from Jesus’ rule of the new spiritual Jerusalem, it doesn’t seem to be intended as an earthly kingdom.
In addition, the 1000 years seems to be in reference to the period of time Satan is bound before his release, not the limitations of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus still rules the new spiritual Jerusalem today and will continue to do so forever.
Gog and Magog
It would seem the identity of Gog and Magog would be crucial to our understanding of these verses. In Ezekiel 38-39, we see references to Gog, king of Magog. It seems the imagery is being reused to refer to future battle(s) to take place approximately 1000 years after the fall of Jerusalem. In addition, Revelation makes mention that these are the lands, not the Jewish people themselves, as the judgment and removal of that infrastructure ended that polity permanently in relation to the their exclusiveness as God’s chosen (as discussed last chapter, Rev 19:3). It seems, if this is referencing a future 1000 years and the original Israel has already been dispersed, then this would be the new (spiritual) Israel.
We see several mentions of the lands associated with Magog in Ezekiel—Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (38:3). Here is where we enter into deeper waters. Considering the text of Revelation so far though, I would have to consider these locales to be in Asia Minor—what we know today as Turkey. Again, this is to defer to context, Jesus sending a message to the assemblies that were also in…Asia Minor…about something that would be familiar to their society.
It would seem, from the context up to this point, that something was going to happen in and around the lands of Israel and it would involve Asia Minor (Turkey) and others from around the world of that time (~1000 years after Jerusalem fell and Satan was bound). In addition, Ezekiel reveals the why in 38:16 and 39:7. It seems that while Christianity grew immensely during the first 1000 years, there wasn’t perfect peace. Additionally, Jesus never promised that. Christians would become more harassed around this time according to the Ezekiel passages and God would prove again that he is faithful to his people.
So now we look for an event that would correspond to Satan’s release. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks successfully invaded Anatolia, securing a decisive victory over the Byzantine Empire (formerly Rome), and capturing the Emperor (ref). While it isn’t clear if this battle was the beginning of the empire’s decline, the ensuing civil war seems to have only played into securing the Seljuk Empire’s power (ref). One major lose suffered by the Byzantine Empire in this battle, however, was their ability to field troops to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Places. It seems between 1073-1098, Jerusalem was continually contested until the First Crusade arrived, securing Jerusalem for a time. It would seem that these crusaders were the wielders of the “fire from God” of Rev 20:9. Note, though, these passages don’t delineate any of these armies being “good.” Just as with Rome delivering the judgment of the Lamb on Israel, it seems the crusaders were dispatched to deliver God’s wrath on those who were continually making bloodshed over Jerusalem. The results of this battle seem strikingly similar to the results of the Roman invasion of Jerusalem.
Though the above takes quite a bit to unpack, there are a few other concepts I would like to touch on in this chapter.
After the 1000 years, we see Satan cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet also are (v10). As stated in the previous chapter, this was relaying that the power of that kingdom (Rome) was being destroyed (Daniel 7:26). A thousand years later in history, we see its power still being whittled away. It would seem the lake of fire is to burn away anything that isn’t fit to exist.
In addition, in verses 12-15, we see the judgment of those unbelievers who were dead. We see the sea, death, and Hades giving up their dead. We then see death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire. Again, the lake of fire seems to be for destruction of anything not fit to exist. Now that the power of death is destroyed, it is but a doorway instead of a holding cell. But, what’s the point of God destroying Hades (hell) if he is just going to use the lake of fire for the same purpose—torment? Perhaps the lake of fire has a different function, cleansing of the spirit (though immensely painful) and destruction of dominions. As we see in Rev 15:1, God’s wrath comes to an end. I hope to expand a little more on these topics in the last two chapters of Revelation.
So, this is my current take on chapter 20. As stated before, I won’t claim to be 100% right. These conclusions are reached by considerations such as the audience specified, the timing constraints mentioned within the text, and God’s nature and stated plan for all.
The rest of this series can be found here.
We see, in the first two verses, another repetition of the completion of the judgment on Jerusalem and Israel. In verse 3, we see that her smoke goes up forever and ever. This is, again, a symbolic way of saying complete and permanent destruction of what we know in the physical realm as in passages such as Isaiah 66:24.
In verses 4-6, we see praise given to God in heaven.
In verses 7-9, we see the preparation of the bride and the marriage feast. The bride, as discussed before, being the New Jerusalem. We see this marriage about to happen immediately after the destruction of the old Jerusalem, but first…
In verses 11-16, we see the vivid imagery of Jesus riding on the white horse. This seems to be him coming in his Kingdom as he states some of the apostles would be alive to see (Matt 16:27-28), and that he would come back to get them (John 14:3).
Here’s an interesting point of contention though. We don’t really have any historical verification that any of the early Christians were bodily taken up into heaven. In addition, if all the Christians were taken up to the marriage feast, who was left to spread the gospel? We do have passages in the Bible itself that might explain what happened.
Here we see where parables, such as the 10 virgins (Matt 25:1-13), make much more sense. The first century Christians were told to hold vehemently to the faith and keep watch in preparation for the bridegroom’s arrival. Those that didn’t, while considered Christians, seemed to not have been taken up. Like in the parable, all were virgins (made pure by the blood of Jesus), but only those who kept watch, during this oppressive era, would be taken up. The rest would have to wait out their time here on earth, but weren’t shut out of the Kingdom forever (only the marriage feast). This parable also continues from the prior chapter’s Olivet discourse. It seems Matt 25 directly correlates with the judgment and coming of Jesus that he was explaining. It seems the next parable in that chapter, the parable of the talents, relays a similar message to the early church—those that do nothing with what they’ve been given (the gospel and prophetic warnings) would not be rewarded when Jesus came. We see this same theme communicated in Rev 2 and 3 to the churches of Asia Minor.
In addition to this, we have a strange cessation of the apostles’ writings at this point (after the fall of Jerusalem). We could consider that they had all been martyred by now, but this would discount Jesus’ own statement that some he was speaking to would in no way taste of death until they saw him coming in his Kingdom (Matt 16:27-28). That is, his Kingdom came after the Old Covenant kingdom was judged, destroyed, and delivered up to the Father (1 Cor 15:24).
It would seem these were extreme times for the inception of the Kingdom and much work was to be done. However, when the full Kingdom was manifest, dressed in the acts of the saints (Rev 19:8), the journey for us as children now became less heavily contested. I don’t want to delve much further into these topics in this post as the ideas are starting to cross into chapters 20 and 21.
Chapter 19 Continued
In verses 17-18, we see an angel standing in the sun calling all the birds to an earthly “great supper of God.” This is their feasting of the corpses of those who died in the preceding war. Again, this affirms the time period we’re still dealing with.
In verse 19, it would seem the beast (again representing the Roman empire) along with its constituents (the armies from all over the “known” world subjugated by Rome) were gathering to war against Jesus. To understand what this verse is relaying, we can look to when Paul was on the Damascus road (Acts 9:4-5). As we see with Paul’s early actions, these armies seemed to be marshaling to persecute Jesus through the slaughter of the Christians. It would appear these armies, now that they were done with Jerusalem and Palestine, were now turning their attention to the Christians.
However, in verse 20, we see that Jesus seizes the beast and tosses him and the second beast (aka the false prophet) into the lake of fire. Now we get to an interesting consideration. We know from history that Vespasian and Titus both continued on after the close of the war (73 AD). We don’t see them being plucked from the earth to be thrown alive into the lake of fire. To understand this specific verse, we have to compare it to the correlating passages in Daniel.
In Daniel Chapter 7, we see these same scenes presented but with more detail. Daniel 7:11 shows the first hints of what is taking place in Rev 19:20. The beast (animal) was slain, its body destroyed, and it was to be burned with fire (i.e. the river of fire in verse 10). Daniel seems also confused about this (v15-16). In verse 26, this is further explained though—the dominion of the beast (or it’s rule) would be taken away and destroyed. This is the power and dominion of the beast itself, but not those individuals who incorporated it, that was thrown into the lake of fire.
Returning to Rev 19:21, we see the others involved in the war being killed by the sword of Jesus’ mouth. While we may not have much historical reference to this in the physical realm, we do know that both Vespasian (79 AD) and Titus (81 AD) died within a decade of the end of the war (73 AD).
Putting it all together
While persecution of Christians continued for another two centuries, no war of extermination was launched against them (though based on these passages, it seemed intended). During this period, as may be common knowledge, Christians laid down their lives, just as Jesus did, for love. This laying down of their lives in love worked from within the Roman kingdom and eventually overtook it. This seems to have been God’s intent for Israel, yet instead of laying down their lives in love, even for their enemies, they vehemently held to their code of laws and condemned everyone else that wouldn’t conform to their loveless religion. Eventually, as we see throughout the book of Revelation, judgment came on them based on the Old Covenant penalties that they insisted on receiving by their unrepentant state. Jesus fulfilled and removed that entire covenant once the final judgement was finished. The new Kingdom, ruled by Jesus, then began overtaking the world. This Kingdom, however, isn’t about military might; it’s about love. This Kingdom still continues today, though many under the flag of Christendom are still trying to further the Kingdom by politics, military might, manipulation, etc…instead of love.
Again, these are my views of these scriptures as they pertain to the Bible overall. I encourage everyone to research these things for themselves.
The rest of this series can be found here.