Ian Stamps – The Final Countdown: God and Satan
Dave Jenkins – Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial (John 13:31-35)
Richard Phillips – Biblical Parenting 6: Parenting Teenagers
At the heart of Christian ethics is the conviction that our firm basis for knowing the true, the good, and the right is divine revelation. Christianity is not a life system that operates on the basis of speculative reason or pragmatic expediency. We assert boldly that God has revealed to us who He is, who we are, and how we are expected to relate to Him. He has revealed for us that which is pleasing to Him and commanded by Him. Revelation provides a supernatural aid in understanding the good. This point is so basic and so obvious that it has often been overlooked and obscured as we search for answers to particular questions.
The departure from divine revelation has brought our culture to chaos in the area of ethics. We have lost our basis of knowledge, our epistemological foundation, for discovering the good. This is not to suggest that God has given us a codebook that is so detailed in its precepts that all ethical decisions are easy. That would be a vast oversimplification of the truth. God has not given us specific instructions for each and every possible ethical issue we face, but neither are we left to grope in the dark and to make our decisions on the basis of mere opinion. This is an important comfort to the Christian because it assures us that in dealing with ethical questions, we are never working in a vacuum. The ethical decisions that we make touch the lives of people, and mold and shape human personality and character. It is precisely at this point that we need the assistance of God’s superior wisdom.
To be guided by God’s revelation is both comforting and risky. It is comforting because we can rest in the assurance that our ethical decisions proceed from the mind of One whose wisdom is transcendent. God’s law not only reflects His righteous character but manifests His infinite wisdom. His knowledge of our humanity and His grasp of our needs for fullness of growth and development far exceed the collective wisdom of all of the world’s greatest thinkers. Psychiatrists will never understand the human psyche to the degree the Creator understands that which He made. God knows our frames; it is He who has made us so fearfully and wonderfully. All of the nuances and complexities that bombard our senses and coalesce to produce a human personality are known in their intimate details by the divine mind.
Revelation 1 through 3 is the setting for last Sunday’s message and the message this Sunday as well. And I started off last Sunday by asking a couple of questions around a similar theme: “Have you ever heard of a church that repented, a church that repented? Have you ever been part of a church that repented? Have you ever led a church in repenting?” And the answer is, “Not likely. Not likely.”
Rarely do churches repent. I mean collectively, rarely do they repent, repent of their collective sins and unfaithfulness to the truth written and incarnate, to their compromises, to their tolerance of sin; very rare. But there are thousands of churches that need to repent. There are a lot of ways that we know that. We can know that by how they have deviated from the truth of the Word of God, how they have made other things their priority, how they have embraced the culture, how they become tolerant of sin and iniquity, and how they have made a comfortable place for sinners.
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
(Revelation 17:1-6 KJV)
The Lion of Babylon is an ancient Babylonian symbol. The Lion of Babylon symbolically represented the King of Babylon.
The Star of Venus also called the Star of Ishtar is an ancient symbol originating in Iraq used as early as 2000 BCE that represents the planet Venus, historically to represent the Babylonian and Assyrian Goddess Ishtar that are connected with Venus, as well as being historically used by Phoenician culture to represent Venus and the goddess Astarte (a counterpart of Ishtar).
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” – Ephesians 1:17
Whenever we read Scripture, we should attempt to determine as much as possible about the original context and purpose of the particular passage of study. This practice gives us a guide to interpretation and keeps us from going off into fanciful interpretations or from reading our own opinions into the text. Generally speaking, it is easiest to determine the purpose of each of the New Testament epistles because the apostle refers to specific problems in the congregation. For example, Paul’s purpose in writing Galatians is clear—to expose the false gospel preached by the Judaizers and unfold the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Gal. 1:6–10; 2:11–21).
Ephesians, however, presents us with some difficulty because Paul does not mention any specific problems troubling the church at the time he wrote. Yet since the letter covers a whole host of basic Christian doctrinal and ethical principles, we can surmise that the pressing need of the believers in Ephesus and the surrounding regions was instruction in doctrine and living so that they might mature in the faith. Today’s passage helps confirm this, as Paul prays for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17).
Commentators agree that the “spirit” is God the Holy Spirit, the One present in all believers at the moment of conversion to seal them as the Lord’s possession and assure them of salvation (vv. 13–14). Paul is not asking the Father to give the Ephesian Christians the Holy Spirit as if the Spirit were not already ministering to them, but is asking for the Spirit, who is present with the Ephesians, to grant them fuller understanding of God and His grace. The goal of wisdom and revelation is “knowledge of him”—the Creator who has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus the Lord (Phil. 2:5–11).
From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
The book of Revelation is admittedly a complicated book full of strange imagery and a seemingly complicated prediction of future events that has theologians and laymen arguing endlessly about how best to approach, interpret, and apply its message, themes, and theology. For many believers, Revelation is left relatively untouched with the approach taken that we all know Jesus will return so let’s just leave it at that and allow the academics and pastors to worry about actually understanding Revelation. Hopefully somebody has gotten it right along the way or at least close enough.
To help deal with the hands-off approach to Revelation taken by many believers, noted theologian G. K. Beale’s respected commentary on the book of Revelation has been condensed into a shorter text, one intended to be accessible to “pastors, students, and general Christian readers” while not losing any of the valuable exegesis and needed academic punch of the original work.
Beale rightly notes in the introduction that Revelation “is the Bible’s battle cry of victory, for in it, more than anywhere else in the NT, is revealed the final victory of God over all the forces of evil. As such, it is an encouragement to God’s people to persevere in the assurance that their final reward is certain and to worship and glorify God despite trials and despite temptations to march to the world’s drumbeat.” In the midst of all the various arguments presented by theologians, pastors, authors, and layman on how best to exegete Revelation, Beale’s statement should serve as the lens by which one approaches the message contained in Revelation, a message of God’s sovereignty and the culmination of His divine plan.
The important issues such as authorship, date of writing, genre, various exegetical methods for interpreting Revelation, its connection with the Old Testament, major themes, and a helpful outline of Revelation are all provided by Beale prior to engaging the text itself. The information provided in the introduction of this book is just as much of a must read as the rest of the commentary as the information provided by Beale in the introduction is intended as a necessary jumping off point for the actual commentary.
The meat and potatoes of this book if you will is just that – the excellent commentary. Beale engages the text piece by piece, looking at small sections of each chapter, exegeting those sections with salient insight that is “nerdy” when needed and that explains the text in a way that is accessible to all believers.
One element I truly appreciated in this commentary and something I wish more commentaries included is the “Suggestions for Reflection” sections. Beale uses these portions of his commentaries as more than just a few questions as further food for thought on what he just spent time discussing. Conversely, they are provided so as to help the reader think through the underlying message in the particular periscope being exegeted. For instance, in the reflection section on Revelation 6:1-8, Beale notes those verses demonstrate God’s sovereignty, answering the sometimes thorny question of how God uses what seems to be evil events to bring about His divine plan.
Overall, I found the analysis of Revelation by Beale to be sound, insightful, well written, and understandable. While many commentaries on Revelation seem to compound the confusion, Beale’s effort avoids those pitfalls. I highly recommend this shorter commentary version as well as the original tome written by Beale. Both would be valuable additions to any believer’s library and I know this is a book I will find myself referring to time and again in the future. While Revelation may never be an “easy” read, Beale’s commentary helps this important book of Scripture to be more accessible and understandable, a hallmark of a quality commentary.
This book is available for purchase from Eerdmans by clicking here.
I received this book for free from Eerdmans for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain. — Rev. 5:5-6
The visions and revelations the apostle John had of the future events of God’s providence, are here introduced with a vision of the book of God’s decrees, by which those events were fore-ordained. This is represented (Revelation 5:1) as a book in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, “written within and on the back side, and sealed with seven seals.” Books, in the form in which they were wont of old to be made, were broad leaves of parchment or paper, or something of that nature, joined together at one edge, and so rolled up together, and then sealed, or some way fastened together, to prevent their unfolding and opening. Hence we read of the roll of a book Jer. 36:2. It seems to have been such a book that John had a vision of here; and therefore it is said to be “written within and on the back side,” i. e. on the inside pages, and also on one of the outside pages, namely, that which it was rolled in, in rolling the book up together. And it is said to be “sealed with seven seals,” to signify that what was written in it was perfectly hidden and secret; or that God’s decrees of future events are sealed, and shut up from all possibility of being discovered by creatures, till God is pleased to make them known. We find that seven is often used in Scripture as the number of perfection, to signify the superlative or most perfect degree of anything, which probably arose from this, that on the seventh day God beheld the works of creation finished, and rested and rejoiced in them, as being complete and perfect.
When John saw this book, he tells us, he “saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.” And that he wept much, because “no man was found worthy to open and read the book, neither to look thereon.” And then tells us how his tears were dried up, namely, that “one of the elders said unto him, “Weep not, Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed” etc. as in the text. Though no man nor angel, nor any mere creature, was found either able to loose the seals, or worthy to be admitted to the privilege of reading the book, yet this was declared, for the comfort of this beloved disciple, that Christ was found both able and worthy. And we have an account in the succeeding chapters how he actually did it, opening the seals in order, first one, and then another, revealing what God had decreed should come to pass hereafter. And we have an account in this chapter, of his coming and taking the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne, and of the joyful praises that were sung to him in heaven and earth on that occasion.
To get at the way that hell glorifies God, we need to see hell in light of the Bible’s big story, its point of view, and its characterization of God and man.
THE BIBLE’S BIG STORY
The Bible’s plot, like all plots, has a beginning, middle, and end.
God creates a perfect place and puts an innocent man and woman in it. God sets the terms and clearly states the consequence of transgressing his terms. An enemy lies to the innocent woman. She believes the lie, breaks God’s terms, and the man sins with her. God curses the enemy and initiates the consequences of transgression, cursing the land also. In the curse on the enemy, God states that the seed of the woman would strike the enemy’s head, while the enemy would strike the seed’s heel. The man and woman are then banished from the perfect place.
Humanity has been divided into two groups: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the righteous and the wicked. The seed of the woman are initially a subset of the nation of Israel, a line of descent that God has chosen to bless. They experience a re-do of the plot’s beginning. God puts them in a land of promise and sets the terms. They transgress the terms and are banished from that land, but God continues to promise that the enemy will be defeated even though it will be through a painful purging of the seed of the woman.
Then Jesus comes as the promised seed of the woman. He crushes the enemy’s head, with the enemy striking his heel—he dies on the cross. Because he is innocent and has resisted all temptation, death cannot hold him. He triumphantly overcomes death, satisfying God’s wrath against sin and opening the way of salvation for all who will trust him.
Creation will be like a woman in childbirth suffering labor pains, with the wicked viciously attacking the righteous, who trust God and testify to God’s truth until they are killed. This will continue until Jesus comes again. When Jesus comes again, he will judge the wicked and consign them to everlasting punishment, and he will take those who believed the word of God and the testimony of Jesus into a new, better, perfect place.