Revelation Part 1: Jesus Which Is & Which Was & Which Is to Come

I’d like to write 7 brief articles in an attempt to give everyday Christians a quick framework to understand the book of Revelation. My intention is to use the below outline:

  • Jesus: He Which Is, Which Was & Which Is to Come
  • 7 Scroll Seals: Jesus Comes to Unseal History & Reveal Its Meaning
  • 7 Army Trumpets: Jesus Comes with an Army of Witnesses
  • 7 Drink Offering Bowls: Jesus Comes as a Poured Out Offering
  • 7 of the New Creation! The Holy City Comes from God
  • 7 Calls for Jesus to Come

 

JESUS: He which Is, and which Was, and which Is to Come

Introduction

There are two items in the introduction that are immediately emphasized about the revelation: It’s for now (1:1) and It must be obeyed (1:3). This is not merely a story about the future, but a commandment for now. It’s a communication that does not allow the audience to be passively uninvolved.

The book bolts out of the gate with a dense mixing of the heard and the seen. The Word of God (Theos Logos), the Witness of Jesus (Martyria Christos) and “all things that he saw” (1:2).  Notice show (1:1), word, witness, saw (1:2), read, hear words, & written (1:3). We will see this alternating between the word that is heard and the images that are viewed throughout the whole revelation.

Him Which Is, Which Was & Which Is to Come

John’s greeting to the 7 churches begins with what we will consider to be the theme of part 1 of the revealing of Jesus Christ: “Him which is, and which was, and which is to come” (1:4). Like all the other parts of Revelation, there appears to be a 7-fold nature of this characteristic of “is coming”, “was come” & “which is to come” as noted in the below verses.

  1. him which is, and which was, and which is to come (1:4)
  2. The first begotten…and the prince of Kings (1:5)
  3. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending (1:8a)
  4. the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (1:8b)
  5. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last (1:11)
  6. Fear not; I am the first and the last (1:17)
  7. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; (1:18)

Jesus is the Faithful Witness, Dead & Resurrected & Prince of Kings

Jesus Christ is the Faithful Witness, the First Born of the dead[1] and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Throughout the revelation Witness, Exodus and Messianic War will be recurring ways the Christian story is framed.[2] Witness, Resurrection and the Battle of the slain Lamb with His Word are the ways of overcoming and victory.

We hardly get a chance to start wondering over whom Jesus is Prince, before we are told we are loved[3] and we are “washed from our sins in his own blood” and “they” are us: Jesus has made us kings and priests unto God. (1:6)

We already are seeing this is a dynamic vision which people cannot stand apart from. It is for now. It must be obeyed. It pulls is into participation as a people who are loved and who are made into kings. A mere introduction to the one to be revealed, the I AM, the one at the center of history, whether present, past or future, has such a magnetic pull that we cannot just stand by as listeners, but we are already caught up into the story and into the glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!

Jesus Is “Coming with the Clouds”

John started his introduction before the throne. (1:4) Now John starts again where he left off near the throne.[4] Jesus is presently at the right hand of God, the Prince of Kings, reigning with glory and dominion and “coming with clouds”.  Not merely will come, but cometh. John is giving a very typical OT[5] and NT view of the location & state of God, namely, among the clouds. These clouds are elsewhere described as the hosts of heaven[6], the great cloud of witnesses, thousands of ministering angels[7] or those of every tribe, tongue and nation that surround the throne. At his trial Jesus told Pilate he was a King and that “…Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven”[8] and John seems to be faithfully recording this present, past and ongoing reality: Jesus is now glorified above all which is shown by His sitting at the right hand of God and “coming with clouds” in that he is among His saints. If this is the case, then Jesus among the churches is yet another repetition of this idea.

Who are those who mourn? When are they mourning? It is often assumed this is the wicked at the “end of the world”. But Psalm 22:16 & John 19:37 alert us that we should not jump to conclusions as to when the Zachariah 12:10 event occurs: Both Psalms and John tell us the “piercing & mourning” occurs when Jesus is crucified. Zachariah 12:10 itself says that it is those “upon whom a spirit of grace and prayer is poured out on” that will mourn and not the wicked. Perhaps the “kindreds of the earth” and the transformed are not as clearly delineated in Revelation as we first thought? Perhaps those who pierced (crucified) Jesus and those with “the spirit of grace and prayer” and not two different groups of people, but a repentant version of the first group? In Acts 2 those who Peter said wickedly crucified Jesus later were filled with sorrowful repentance and joined the cloud of those to whom Jesus has come.

Jesus is the Glorified Son of Man Among His Churches

Jesus is “The First” but he not only washes his disciples’ feet with water but washes away His followers’ sins with his own life blood. Jesus is the Alpha & Omega and the Almighty, but the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is one of Patience. He has a great voice like a trumpet, but when you look to see the source of the great booming sound, what you first see is… the churches. And then that Jesus has come to be right there in the middle of those churches. Churches that we will soon see are troubled, “weak” & very human churches. The Son of Man’s appearance is so overwhelming that John fell at his feet “as dead”, but Jesus immediately lays his hand on John and repeats what Jesus has always been saying in these cases: “Fear Not”. And this is placed directly beside “I AM” creating the jarring juxtaposition we are seeing repeatedly emphasized in part one: “Fear not” and “I AM the First and Last…”. Transcendent power & glory and “God with Us”.

Summary

The sweep of part 1 (Chapter 1) of the revealing of Jesus seems to closely follow the flow of Daniel 7. The kingdom, dominion & glory (1:5-6) comes from Daniel 7:14 “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”; The Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven (1:7) comes from Daniel 7:13 “…behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…” and the description of the appearance of Jesus comes from Daniel 7:9 “…whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.”. We even have the bodily failures of the prophet and a little interpretation to round out the nod to Daniel 7.

The entire first part of Revelation is guiding our eyes to the reality that Jesus is the I AM & He is among us. Like the famous photo of President John F. Kennedy with Jr under his desk, there is power and presence. Perhaps the most powerful man on earth and yet near enough to place a gentle hand on his child. This seems one thing the first part of Revelation wants to reveal about Jesus. All three sections of part 1, Jesus as First Witness/Risen/King, Jesus Coming with Clouds or Jesus as the glorified Son of Man, are saying that Jesus is glorified, was glorified, will be glorified. Jesus is come, was come and will come. Jesus is at the center of the universe and He is here.

Part 1 (Rev 1:1-27) of the Revelation of Jesus Christ rivets in our minds that Jesus is both exalted above every name that is named, and he is with the lowly, washing their feet and washing away their sins.  Jesus is, was & is to Come, that is, He is the I AM, and yet, among the churches. Jesus has Come and immediately draws us into his action and glory. Jesus is the faithful witness, raised from the dead and King and he fully intends that we will be drawn to also be faithful witnesses, raised from the dead and sit on His throne with Him as kings!

[1] Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

[2] This come from Richard Buchaum (will add source)

[3] This phrasing is very close to the apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

[4] John is following Daniel 7:13-14 and keeping them in close proximity. Jesus now has glory and dominion and is therefore also now “coming with clouds of heaven”.

[5] Isaiah 19:1 …Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud…

[6] 1 Kings 22:19 I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

[7] Daniel 7:10 …thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; Heb 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels…

[8] Matthew 26:64 “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

If Someone Really Focuses on the “Inward” Are They Exempt From “Outward” Behavior Checks?

This Q&A is in response to comment along the lines of: If we focus on the inner we don’t need to give any thought to the corresponding outward behavior.

Q. If someone really focuses on the inward, are they exempt from behavior checks?

A. Even if a person is focused on the “inward” it does not follow that correct behavior will be automatic or not require some “outward” discerning & thoughtful correctives. Our inward thoughts affect our outward behavior, but our behavior & practice also affects our thoughts. Jesus told people to clean the inside of the cup so the outside would be clean which was itself an outward influence on the people He was exhorting. The Apostle Paul used written commands to help & correct people in churches, even ones that had amazing manifestations of the Spirit.

And this leads to the conclusion that as individuals and as a group the church community will need to give some thought to its actions & behavior as a double-check that our whole being (heart) is where it ought to be.

(Sometimes here & there questions are raised and sometimes I’ll give a go at trying to formulate an answer to them. If you see a question here, someone raised it.)

We Can’t Take 1 Peter 3:3 Literally Because If We Do, Don’t We Get “Don’t Wear Clothes”?

Q. We can’t take 1 Peter 3:3 to be literally saying “no gold & no hair-styling” because if we do, don’t we get “no clothes”?

A. No. I don’t know of anyone who thinks the phrase that is rendered in the KJV as “Whose adorning let it not be…putting on of apparel” means Peter is trying to convey the thought “don’t wear clothes”. I do see translators and commentators who think Peter is literally & clearly saying: don’t wear “fine clothes”, “extravagantly beautiful clothes” or “expensive clothes”. Peter seems to associate a right heart and its corresponding correct appearance as one that excludes a few things like gold jewelry, hair-styling, & fine clothes. 1 Peter 3:3 seems to be a very simple and very clear argument that some “adornments” are excluded from a right, Christian appearance.

(Sometimes here & there questions are raised and sometimes I’ll give a go at trying to formulate an answer to them. If you see a question here, someone raised it.)

Mennonites & the Apostles’ Creed

Mennonites are not known for using the Apostles’ Creed in liturgy. But Anabaptists have always affirmed the Apostles Creed. The way J. C. Wenger put it in a 1953 article “the Anabaptists assented to the truth of the Apostles’ Creed, although making little or no liturgical use of it.” [1]

In a recent perusal of the Mennonite 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith [2], I noticed that an almost verbatim significant chunk of the Apostles’ Creed [3] can actually be found in article IV:

He was, according to the providence of God, delivered into the hands of the unrighteous; suffered under the judge, Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, was buried, and on the third day, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven; and that He sits on the right hand of God the Majesty on high, whence He will come again to judge the quick and the dead.

This got me wondering if the rest of the Creed is in the Dordrecht, and, indeed it is.

Almost everything. Woven into the articles. The 12 points of the Apostles’ Creed are recreated from the Dordrecht in the below reconstruction. The Apostles’ Creed point numbers are at the beginning of each statement and the Dordrecht articles numbers at the end.

1…We…believe…in one eternal, almighty, and incomprehensible God…and…that He is the Creator of all things visible and invisible… (I)

2 We believe…the Word… who is God’s only, first and own Son… (IV)

3 that He was conceived of the virgin Mary…

4 He…suffered under the judge, Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, was buried,

5 and on the third day, rose from the dead,

6 and ascended to heaven; and that He sits on the right hand of God the Majesty on high,

7 whence He will come again to judge the quick and the dead. (IV)

8 We…believe…in…the Holy Ghost (I),

9 a…church of God…who are one with God…(VIII), the communion of the saints (VII/VIII),

10 forgiveness of sins, (IV/VI)

11 the resurrection of the dead (XVIII),

12 [and] life eternal….Amen (XVIII)

When compared to the 1921 Christian Fundamentals (Mennonite) [4] there are some other ways the Apostles Creed and the Dordrecht are more similar. They both start with an article on God, versus the Fundamentals starting with scripture.  The Fundamentals have no significant chunk of the Creed’s language in its article V on Jesus comparable to the Dordrecht’s article IV. Because of this, the Fundamentals drops the particular enthronement language of “Jesus sitting enthroned at the right hand of God”, for the more vague, and less politically challenging, “ascended to glory”.

It is probably not surprising that the Dordrecht follows the Creed, since in the concluding statement of the Dordrecht the writers note that “These, then, as has been briefly stated before, are the principal articles of our general Christian faith, as we teach and practice the same throughout in our churches and among our people; which, in our judgment, is the only true Christian faith, which the apostles in their time believed and taught…”

[1] http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Apostles%27_Creed
[2] http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Dordrecht_Confession_of_Faith_(Mennonite,_1632)
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostles%27_Creed
[4] http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Christian_Fundamentals_(Mennonite_Church,_1921)

On Attitudes About War: Are Christians Following Mohammed or Jesus? The Quran or God’s New Covenant?

I recently read through the Quran to understand my Muslim freinds a bit better and, perhaps, to find a few interesting historical notes about Islam, but instead an unwelcome realization about fellow Christians started to dawn on me.

One doesn’t go long till we realize (unsurprisingly) that Mohammed’s view of war, fighting and killing enemies is the polar opposite of what we see Jesus teaching His followers & practicing.

But what was jarring to observe as I progressed is that many Christians who justify war seem be using the Quran’s justifications for war and violence, almost verbatim. Which leads to a disturbing conclusion: If Christians justify killing using arguments so closely aligned with the Quran, & in contradiction to the teaching of Jesus, are they following Jesus or Mohammed when it comes to attitudes about war?

Let’s take a look.

The Quran’s View of War

Using the Jewish Behavior in the Old Testament as Justification to Require Fighting

2:246. Have you not considered the notables of the Children of Israel after Moses? When they said to a prophet of theirs, “Appoint a king for us, and we will fight in the cause of God.” He said, “Is it possible that, if fighting was ordained for you, you would not fight?” They said, ‘ ‘Why would we not fight in the cause of God, when we were driven out of our homes, along with our children?” But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. But God is aware of the wrongdoers. (Location 587)

Eye for Eye & Life for Life is God’s Rule

5:45 And We wrote for them in it: a life for a life, and eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, and ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and an equal wound for a wound; but whoever forgoes it in charity, it will serve as atonement for him. Those who do not rule according to what God revealed are the evildoers. (Location 1542)

5:33 The punishment for those who fight God and His Messenger, and strive to spread corruption on earth, is that they be killed, or crucified, or have their hand and feet cut off on opposite sides, or be banished from the land. That is to disgrace them in this life;… (Location 1515)

16:126 If you were to retaliate, retaliate to the same degree as the injury done to you. But if you resort to patience-it is better for the patient. 127 So be patient. Your patience is solely from God. (Location 3909)

War is Ordained for God’s People & War is Sometimes Good for You

2:216 Fighting is ordained for you, even though you dislike it. But it may be that you dislike something while it is good for you, and it may be that you like something while it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know. (Location 517)

2:190 And fight in the cause of God those who fight you… 191 And kill them wherever you overtake them…If they fight you, then kill them. Such is the retribution of the disbelievers. 194 …Whoever commits aggression against you, retaliate against him in the same measure…” (Location 471)

Fighting & Killing to Free the Oppressed is Justified

4:74 Let those who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the cause of God. Moreover fight in the cause of God, and then is killed, or achieves victory, We will grant him a great compensation. 75. And why would you not fight in the cause of God, and the helpless men, and women, and children, cry out, “Our Lord, deliver us from this town whose people are oppressive, and appoint for us from Your Presence a Protector, and appoint for us from Your Presence a Victor. ” (Location 1224)

It is Imperative to Build Up a Powerful Military

8:60 And prepare against them all the power you can muster, and all the cavalry you can mobilize, to terrify thereby God’s enemies and your enemies, and other besides them whom you do not know, but God knows them. Whatever you spend in God’s way will be repaid you in full, and you will not be wronged. (Location 2502)

It is a Responsibility to Fight & Kill to Avoid Persecution

2:217 They ask you about fighting during the Holy Month. Say, “Fighting during it is deplorable; but to bar others from God’s path, and to disbelieve in Him, and to prevent access to the Holy Mosque, and to expel its people from it, are more deplorable with God. And persecution is more serious than killing. They will not cease to fight you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can. Whoever among you turns back from his religion, and dies a disbeliever-those are they whose works will come to nothing, in this life, and in the Hereafter. Those are the inmates of the Fire, abiding in it forever. (Location 517)

8:39 Fight them until there is no more persecution, and religion becomes exclusively for God. (2464)

Killing in the name of Justice is Justified

17:22 And do not kill the soul which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice. If someone is killed unjustly, We have given his next of kin certain authority. But he should not be excessive in killing, for he will be supported. (Location 3967)

Jesus & New Covenant View of War

What About Using Jewish Behavior in the Old Testament as Justification to Require Fighting?

Mt 5:43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

What About an Eye for Eye & Life for Life?

Mt 5:38 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Are Christians  Sometimes Commanded to War & Fight in Jesus’ New Covenant?

Never. Jas 4:1 ¶ From whence come wars and fighting’s among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

Should Christians Encourage Government Leaders to Build Up a Powerful Military? Or do so themselves?

No, there is no Biblical suggestion to do this, in either the NT or OT. In fact, even the Old Testament warns God’s people against doing this and instead encourages to trust in God.

Is it a Responsibility to Fight & Kill to Avoid Persecution?

Mt 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

1Pe 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously…

In Conclusion

If Christians justify war and killing using arguments so closely aligned with the Quran, & in contradiction to the teaching of Jesus, are they following Jesus or Mohammed? Are our views about how we should treat our enemies closer to ISIS than Jesus?

All quotes are from “Quran in English: Modern English Translation Clear and Easy to Understand

Why Doesn’t Jesus Just Answer “Plainly”?

There are various times throughout the Gospels when I wonder why Jesus doesn’t just answer plainly. If someone asks a questions, just answer without riddles! Just this morning we had a Sunday school lesson about the story where John asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Instead of answering Jesus says: take note what I am doing. (Notably missing from the listing of things from Luke 4:18 that Jesus was doing was freeing captives in prison!)

Perhaps Jesus was using the below rabbinical device noted below in the Talmud?

Once the same (Atoninus Caesar of Rome) said to Rabbi: The officers of Rome irritate me. (What shall I do?) Rabbi asked him to walk with him in the garden, and began to tear out the large radishes of the beds, planting smaller ones instead, by which Antoninus understood that he intimates the necessity of removing the old officers little by little and not all at once, so as to prevent a rebellion. But why did not Rabbi answer him in words? He was afraid that the officers of Rome would get wind of it and would harm him. –Talmud, location 66499

But why did not Jesus answer him directly in words? Was He concerned that the officers of Rome would get wind of it and would harm him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was Jesus Quoting “Ignorant” & “Communistic” Rhetoric When He Says: “Mine is Thine & Thine Are Mine”?

In John 17:10 Jesus seems to be directly quoting the Jewish oral tradition when he says, “And all mine are thine, and thine are mine…”. The direct quotation from the Babylonian Talmud:

“…Mine shall be thine, and thine shall be mine…” –Babylonian Talmud, Location 36396 [1]

What is interesting is that the Talmud gives more context to the meaning of “mine are thine & thine are mine”. It appears to be in the context of describing the different views of property, which today could easily enough be put into economic categories of: Capitalism, Communism, Generous Charity & Thief.

Here is the quote with more context:

“Four kinds of views are held by men concerning property. He who says: “What belongs to me shall continue to be mine, and thou shalt keep thine own,” holds the common view. Some consider this the view of the men of Sodom. 1 “Mine shall be thine, and thine shall be mine,” thus say the ignorant. “Mine shall be thine, and thou shalt also keep thine own,” thus says the magnanimous. “Thine shall be mine, and mine shall continue to be mine,” are the words of the godless.” -Babylonian Talmud, Location 36396 [1]

Summarized:

  • Mine is mine & thine is thine: The Commonly Held Position (Men of Sodom position!)
  • Mine is thine & thine is mine: Ignorant Position
  • Mine is thine & thine is thine: Magnanimous Position
  • Thine is mine & mine is mine: Godless Position

Interestingly, according to the Talmudic view, Jesus held the “ignorant” position! (a judgement I can see many staunch capitalists making without knowing the context!) To be clear, the Talmud makes no mention of Jesus. Likely it was the other way round: Jesus was quoting oral tradition and must have known the context.

One difference between John 17:10 and Talmud is the one is talking about “property” and the other, ostensibly, people.

Was Jesus trying to convey something profoundly counter intuitive? (to the Jews [& Americans], foolishness?) Perhaps that when we are “One” enough, there is not a distinct line between who is who’s? Interestingly the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary takes exactly this economic message from the verse, without mentioning the Talmud context:

Absolute COMMUNITY OF PROPERTY between the Father and the Son is here expressed as nakedly as words can do it.” -JFB commentary [2]

And the result of this is glorification.

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Tract Aboth, Mishnah O: Location 36396 Click Here
[2] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on John 17 Click Here