Any time you read Revelation, it is like stepping out of reality and into a carnival of mirrors. Only those mirrors do not, or should not, reflect our own faces, so much as they reflect the prophets of the Old Testament, whose faces were reflected the glory of God’s Son.
While Revelation is a book that is filled with signs, those signs have a registered trademark—a trademark found in the Old Testament. And anytime we read Revelation we should labor to understand the book in its canonical context. To that end, let me offer three words of how to interpret and apply this chapter.
These three exhortations come from my last sermon on Revelation 12. But they would apply to any passage in this glorious and mystifying book. Continue reading →
“Though St. John the Evangelist saw may strange monsters in his vision,
he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”
— G. K. Chesterton —
Few books are more mysterious, more difficult, or more confusing than the book of Revelation. Simultaneously, because of its sensational imagery and more than a few best-selling, end-times thrillers, few books are more commonly requested. Countless are the times I have been asked when I will preach Revelation. And here is my standard answer: I will preach Revelation, after I preach Exodus, Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah. So far, I’m halfway there.
As a teacher who will give an account for his teaching (James 3:1), I do not want to be on record for teaching this glorious and mysterious book until I am better acquainted with the Old Testament and the rest of the Bible. With more than 400 allusions to the Old Testament, Revelation is thickest book in the Bible, and it requires extra care when taught. Therefore, wise readers will seek to understand the book not with current events but with the biblical canon.
To that end, I share a few comments from commentators who avoid the monstrosity’s to which Chesterton alludes. And they do so by reading Revelation soberly and with a constant gaze upon the Old Testament. May we learn from them as we continue to read Revelation and the vision of Christ found therein. Continue reading →
The number of connections between Daniel and Revelation are numerous and normally observed by readers of both books. A point that is more easily missed or misunderstood is “how” Daniel is used by John, when records the revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). As most commentators have observed there are few, if any, quotations from the Old Testament in Revelation. Instead, John combines imagery and language from all over the Old Testament as he records the words of Jesus.
A good example of how this works is seen G. K. Beale and Sean McDonough’s commentary on Revelation. Describing the glorious vision of Christ among the lampstands in Revelation 1:13–16, they demonstrate how John’s words form a kaleidoscope of Old Testament images, but especially images from Daniel 7, 10, and 12. The number connections, and pieces from different passages, may be missed by the casual reader of Revelation, but when we see just how much John depends on Daniel, or Jesus as he reveals himself to John, we begin to appreciate the intra-biblical connections and arrive at a better reading of both books.
As I go to preach Daniel 10 this Sunday, I offer their Beale and McDonough’s full quotation as an argument for why the figure in Daniel 10:5–6 is a revelation of the preincarnate Christ and an example of how we should read Revelation and other apocalyptic books like it.
Often, images in apocalyptic literature are supplied by previous Scripture. Accordingly, to understand the meaning of an apocalyptic vision in the Bible, and especially in Revelation, one must know the many inspired passages that they draw upon. Likewise, when texts like Daniel 10 have a clear vision of Christ in places like Revelation 1 (i.e., passages that come later with a clearer referent to who is in view), they receive light from the later, greater revelation, thus informing who this glorious but enigmatic figure is. Continue reading →
In the Bible, we come across a number of places where dreams play a role in advancing the story of God’s people. For instance,
- In Genesis 20 God protected Abimelech, king of Gerar, from sleeping with Sarah by means of a dream.
- In Genesis 28 God met Jacob in a dream, revealing to him his presence in the land of Canaan.
- In Genesis 31 the Angel of God told Jacob to leave Laban and return to Canaan.
- In Genesis 37 Joseph has multiple dreams that foretell his future rise to power; in Genesis 40 Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker; and in Genesis 41 he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh.
In reading these dream accounts, the thoughtful reader may ask—Does God still speak through dreams today? Indeed, throughout the Scripture we find God leading his people with dreams. And today, we hear rumbles that Muslims and others are coming to faith in Christ by dreams.
Put this altogether and we might wonder, what should we think of dreams—in the Bible and today? The answer requires nuance, a full look at Scripture, and especially attention to the changes between the old covenant and the new. Yet, when we keep an eye on all those factors, we can give an open-handed answer to this question. Continue reading →
In his illuminating book Gospel Typology in Joshua and Revelation: A Whore and Her Scarlet, Seven Trumpets Sound, A Great City Falls,  Warren Gage makes a sevenfold comparison between the books of Joshua and Revelation. In particular, he compares the destruction of Jericho to the destruction of Babylon. What follows is a summary (with biblical texts) of his observations. Continue reading →
In preparation for Sunday’s sermon on expositional preaching, here are ten observations from Deuteronomy 4:32–40.
1. Future hope (vv. 25–31) is based on God’s past actions (vv. 32–39).
Grammatically, verse 32 begins with the word “for” (ki). This opening word reveals the relationship between verse 32 and what comes before it. Previously, verses 25–31 explained the future mercies of God—what Yahweh promised to do to restore his people (vv. 29–31). Verse 32 explains why Israel can have confidence in this future grace. Because God saved Israel from Egypt with omnipotent power, so we can trust he will act in power again to restore his people in the future. In short, Israel’s future hope (and our hope) stand on the powerful working of God’s grace in the past.
2. Covenant obedience (v. 40) is also the past actions of God (vv. 32–39).
On the other side of verses 32–39, we find another implied reason for action. Covenant obedience (“keeping his statues and rules”) is motivated by the redemption of God from Egypt and the revelation of God’s word at Sinai. In short, just as God’s previous works of salvation strengthen our future confidence in God, they also call for faithfulness. Continue reading →
In evangelical theology, the doctrine of God’s revelation is primary. Man does not ascend into the heavens, nor pull God down to earth (Romans 10:5–17). Rather, we find in creation and in Scripture that God has spoken and that he is a speaking God (Psalm 19). That said, there is a corollary doctrine that must be remembered—the doctrine of God’s hiddenness.
God is not only a speaking God; he is also a hidden God (Isaiah 45:14). Because of the Fall, every child of Adam and Eve is born outside of Eden and estranged from the God who speaks. To say it differently, while Adam was put in the Garden of Eden to enjoy communion with God, sin made it impossible for man to have immediate access to God. Therefore, in this age, God remains hidden to those in Adam (Rom 5:12–21) and invisible to those who know him, as well (1 Tim 6:16). Accordingly, as much as we consider the doctrine of God’s revelation, we must realize—and stand amazed—that his revelation comes from a position of hiddenness that is equally biblical.
Tracing out a biblical doctrine of hiddenness, A. Oepke and R. Meyer in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, provide a thorough-going survey of God’s hiddenness in the Old Testament. Though giving too much credit to the place of mystery religions, which trade in the currency of hiddenness, and employing a higher-critical approach to the Old Testament, they provide a fruitful study understanding the God who hides himself from sinful man.
Therefore, in what follows, I summarize their findings and highlight ten truths about God’s hiddenness and revelation. These ten points are found in their article on the cluster of New Testament words for “hidden” (κρύπτω, ἀποκρύπτω, κρυπτός, κρυφαῖος, κρυφῇ, κρύπτη, ἀπόκρυφος). The general flow of thought and the block quotations all come from their article. Some of the Scripture passages listed below are cited in their work, others have been added in order to flesh out the doctrine of God’s revelation. Continue reading →
How do you know what you know?
Few questions may be more important for standing firm in a world full of competing voices and conflicting views. Yet, the follower of Christ does not need to fear the truthfulness of his or her faith, when that faith has been grounded in God’s revealed Word.
In contrast to every other religion that derives its views from the perspective of man, the testimony of the Bible is one where God has revealed himself to his people through Spirit-inspired Prophets and Apostles. From Moses receiving God’s Law on Sinai to the Spirit bearing witness by means of signs and wonders to the Apostles’s teaching (Heb. 2:1–4), God has entrusted his Word to men who rightly communicated his message.
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul speaks often about the truthfulness of his message and the error of false teachers. And in these letters, he speaks in two ways that highlight the way God has communicated himself to the Church. The first has to do with the agreed upon truth (i.e., the content of the gospel) that God gave his disciples; the second has to do with the way God entrusted (passive tense of “believe”) his people with his words.
In his commentary on The Letters to Timothy and Titus, Robert Yarbrough nicely organizes the places where Paul speaks in this way. And he show how Paul’s language of knowing (“we what we know”) is a technical term for the revealed word of God. Likewise, Yarbrough lists the places Paul speaks of the gospel (or God’s Word) entrusted to his people. Consider the way Paul speaks and what this means for our confidence in Scripture. Continue reading →
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
— Psalm 103:19 —
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
— Isaiah 57:15 —
Where is God?
In one sense, God is everywhere (Ps. 139:7–12). In another, God is outside of space and time (1 Kings 8:27). Still, in a third way, Scripture speaks of God as dwelling in heaven, high above his creation (Isa 57:15; cf. Ps. 135:6). Yet, it is important to remember God’s place in heaven is not outside of creation. Rather, it is the created place for the glorious and uncreated God to dwell within creation.
From that divine throne, God rules all creation. And in creation, God reveals himself to us in his world and in his word. Bringing these big and beautiful realities together, Herman Bavinck describes what it means for God to be over and in creation. Doctrinally, these realities are expressed by the terms transcendence and immanence. And in the newly released volume Philosophy of Revelation, Bavinck has this to say about a scriptural sense of God’s transcendence: Continue reading →
On Sunday I preached from Romans 1:16-32. Earlier this summer I preached from Romans 1:16-17. Last year, I preached from Romans 1:1-7. In each instance, I found great help from John Stott.
For those unfamiliar with Stott’s work, he was an evangelical Anglican who during the latter half of the twentieth century preached the gospel, championed missions, and published numerous books, especially commentaries on the New Testament. His commentaries are always brimming with insight and full of crisp clear exposition. Thus, I share a few of his remarks on Romans 1:16-20. They helped me unpack Paul’s opening argument about the gospel, and I trust they will help you as well. Continue reading →