Vol. 6, No. 1
~ Page 12 ~
Sad it is that the editor of a much read Gospel paper, irritated by church divisions over interpretations of the Book of Revelation, wrote that he hoped someone would publish a Bible without the last book!
One can understand his irritation, but actually, he was criticizing God! "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable" (2 Timothy 3:16). All 66 of the divinely authored books impart blessings, but only in the Book of Revelation is that fact specifically stated: "Blessed is he who reads, and the ones who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things written in it, for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3).
Many subjects about which God wants us to know are addressed in the first 65 books, but some are not finished. One wants to know more, and the Lord thought that we should know more, and supplied the need. The Book of Revelation completes the Bible.
The Holy Book begins with arresting words, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). What a creation! The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1), even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them (Nehemiah 9:6).
But after the sin of Adam and Eve, God was forced to curse his beautiful world, putting thorns (qus) on roses, and weeds (dardar) everywhere (Genesis 3:17-18; 5:29). Man's death was part of the curse (Genesis 2:17; 3:19), which probably explains the origin of disease germs and tornadoes and floods.
Apparently the puzzling contexts of God's promise through Isaiah (65:17; 66:22) of "new heavens and a new earth" (perhaps meaning figuratively the New Testament church; cf. 65:17, 25 with 11:1-9) do not refer to a replacement of our present day heavens and earth: "We know that the whole creation groans and is in great pain until now" (Romans 8:22).
The curse originally spoken in the Garden of Eden is still with us, and will stay with us until the earth "and everything in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). But, thank God, "in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13).
The apostle John, on the Isle of Patmos, was privileged to see in a vision the passing away of our doomed physical universe and its replacement by "a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1). Moreover, John was informed that "no longer will there be any curse" (Revelation 22:3), and so, finally, God's words to Adam, "Cursed is the ground for your sake" (Genesis 3:17) are canceled.
In the Garden of Eden, located in the present day Iraq (Genesis 2:14), besides "every tree pleasant to see and good for food," and besides "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," God "caused to grow" in "the middle of the garden" the "tree of life" (Genesis 2:9).
If Adam and Eve had not sinned, apparently the Edenic paradise (paradeisos, Genesis 2:8 LXX) would have been their home forever, with trees supplying nourishment for their bodies, and the tree of life supplying nourishment for their souls (Genesis 3:22). But after they obeyed Satan instead of God, he was forced to expel them from their home (Genesis 3:23).
Apparently God thought that they would try to sneak back in, for he placed living beings called "cherubs" (probably angels) "and a revolving flaming sword to guard the way of the tree of life" (Revelation 3:24).
Biblically (cf. Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4), nothing else is said about a tree that could impart eternal life until one reads Jesus' promise in the Book of Revelation: "to the one who overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in God's paradise" (Revelation 2:7).
The heavenly tree is pictured as superior to all others: "bearing twelve fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree heal the nations" (Revelation 22:2). Those "who wash their robes" have "access to the tree of life" (Revelation 22:14). Anyone who "takes away from the words" written "in this book [Revelation]" God "will take away his part from the tree of life" (Revelation 2:19).
As the Book of Revelation completes what God wants us to know about "the new heavens and the new earth," and about "the tree of life," so the whole history of the blood of Jesus awaited the writing of the last book of the Bible. The history begins with Abel's sacrifice, requiring the blood of an animal (Genesis 4:4), followed by the altar offerings of Noah, Abraham, Jacob and other patriarchs (Genesis 8:20; 12:7-8; 13:18; 31:54; Exodus 18:12).
Then, among the Israelites, once a year, on "the day of atonement" (Yom Haccippurim, Leviticus 23:27), the high priest entered the most holy place of the tabernacle with the blood of "the goat of the sin-offering" and sprinkled "it upon the mercy-seat" (Leviticus 16:15). Actually, however, it was "impossible" for "the blood of bulls and goats" to "take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). So, God prepared a human "body" in Mary's womb that would have blood with sin-forgiving ability (Hebrews 10:5-7, 17-18).
Later, Jesus' cousin (Luke 1:36), John the immerser (Matthew 3:1), called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus has asked us to look upon the "fruit of the vine" in the Lord's Supper as "my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28).
Like a scarlet thread, from Abel on down, the story of Jesus' blood is woven through the Bible, and climaxed in the Book of Revelation with the picture of an uncountable number of people from "every nation," standing "before the throne and before the Lamb," who have "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9-14).
As God, in the Book of Revelation, has completed the history of the new heavens and the new earth, and the tree of life and the blood of Jesus, so in the final book he has given us our final information about the church.
Before the "morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God (probably angels) shouted for joy" (Job 38:7), "before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), the One, whose understanding and love are unlimited (Psalm 147:5; 1 John 4:8), had already planned, "according to" his "eternal purpose," to build the "church" (Ephesians 3:10-11).
The birth of that divinely planned church was on Pentecost Sunday, May 28, A.D. 30, in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-47). On that day "about three thousand souls" came to believe that Jesus is "both Lord and Christ," repented and were baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:36-38).
The three thousand were added to the apostles and to "about a hundred and twenty" disciples who had previously been baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 7:29-30; Acts 1:13-15; 2:41), and so they were the first congregation of the church that Jesus had come to build (Matthew 16:18). From that day onward, "the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47, following uncials E, P, and Psi).
The saved are set forth in the New Testament in a variety of ways:
(1) They are a "called out" people, an ekklesia, who have responded to Jesus' call "through the gospel" to live in a "holy" and a "heavenly calling" (2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:1).
(2) The saved are "one flock" under the "good shepherd" (John 10:11, 16).
(3) The saved are "branches" with Jesus being "the vine" (John 15:5).
(4) The saved are "many members" of "one body" under Jesus as "the head" (1 Corinthians 12:20; Colossians 1:18).
(5) The saved are "citizens" in an "unshakable kingdom" under King Jesus (Ephesians 2:19; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28).
(6) The saved collectively are a "fiancee" who, at the time of their submitting to "the washing of the water" in baptism are presented to Jesus "in splendor, having no spot or flaw or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:26-27), engaged to marry Jesus when they get to heaven! Paul likened himself to a matchmaker, saying to those who "believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8): "I have betrothed you, a chaste virgin, to one husband, even to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). "I am speaking about Christ and his church" (Ephesians 5:32).
(7) The saved now collectively are a holy fiancee waiting for a happy marriage to Jesus. Without the Book of Revelation, we would not know in this life the details of Jesus' future marriage to the saved. But John's last book gives us a preview of what will take place "in heaven" (Revelation 19:1): "Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give him glory! The Lamb's marriage has come, and his fiancee has prepared herself" (Revelation 19:7).
How had the fiancee (the saved) prepared for her wedding? What was in her trousseau? Look! She is "clothed in fine linen, bright and splendid" (Revelation 19:8). Linen? Literally? No, her "good deeds" back on the earth are her "fine linen" in heaven (Revelation 19:8). So, Christians, ready for "every good work" (Titus 3:1), "doing good" (Acts 10:38), are preparing a trousseau ("a bride's outfit of clothe," Webster) for their wedding day in heaven.
Following the wedding comes "the Lamb's marriage feast," to which those "invited" are "blessed" (Revelation 19:9). However, that joyous marriage celebration means more to Christians than their being guests at a wedding banquet. Instead, Christians look upon themselves as being that day the bride of Christ. They have the same overflowing joy that is in the heart of a girl who has kept herself pure for her wedding day. Her delight is in her fiance, who, to her, is "the fairest among ten thousand" and the One "altogether lovely" (Song of Solomon 5:10, 16).
"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). If only 50 prophecies of the coming Messiah had been made, the probability against all 50 being fulfilled is greater than 1125 million to one that all of these circumstances do turn up (Alexander Campbell, The Evidences of Christianity: A Debate, pp. 338-339).
Furthermore, the chance that the predictions, even 100, would happen to one man is mathematically demonstrable to be less than the number of drops of water in the ocean, although the whole world were one drop of water (Alexander Keith, Evidences of the Truth of the Christian Religion, pp. 368-369).
Canon Liddon wrote that there are 332 prophecies of Christ. The chance that all these could be fulfilled by one man "is one over 84 plus 97 ciphers" (Floyd Hamilton, The Basis of the Christian Faith, p. 157).
A Messianic Jew, Alfred Edersheim, lists 456 passages (75 from the Pentateuch, 243 from the prophets and 138 from the other books) referring to Christ and his days as used by the Jews in their Talmud and Targumin (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, II, 710-741).
Jesus himself predicted that "false Christs" would arise (Matthew 24:24). In the 2nd century a Jew picked one prophecy, "There shall come forth a star out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17), and claimed that he was that star, calling himself Bar- Kokhva, "Son of a Star." After his rebellion against Rome was defeated by Emperor Hadrian (117-138), he was called Bar-Koziva, "son of a Lie."
The first prophecy (the protevangelium, Qrotos, "first," and euangelion, "gospel") of the coming Messiah is in the proclamation that "man" (mankind) was to have "dominion (radah, "rule," "subdue") over all the earth" (Genesis 1:26). "All things were put under his feet" (Psalm 8:6).
The Creator "left nothing not subject to" mankind (Hebrews 2:8), yet, thousands of years later, "we do not see everything subject to" human beings (Hebrews 2:8). Specifically, death has not been subjected to man.
Has prophecy failed? By no means, for Jesus came into the world as a human being in "flesh and blood" (Hebrews 2:14) in order that he might become one of those prophesied as having dominion "over all the earth," and he conquered "him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14).
Furthermore, when he raises all mankind from the dead (John 5:28-29), then the "dominion over all the earth" promised in Genesis 1:26 to mankind will finally be fulfilled. Thus Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 1:26, and without his accomplishments the prophecy comes up lacking.
The second prophecy (the deuterevangelium, deuteros, "second," and euangelion, "gospel") of the coming Messiah is in the words which God spoke to the snake: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he will crush your head and you will bite his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
Some say that the phrase "her seed" must refer to the virgin birth of Jesus, for, except in Mary's case, only males have seed (semen). It is true that the word "seed" can mean the "seed of copulation" (Leviticus 15:16-18). However, if the word "seed" is restricted to one meaning, then not only was Jesus virgin born of Mary, but also Ishmael was virgin born of Hagar (Genesis 25:24-26), and Esau and Jacob were virgin born of Rebekah (Genesis 25:24-26), for both Hagar and Rebekah had "seed" (zera, Genesis 16:10; 24:60).
The word "seed" in the Old Testament is used to mean (1) the male semen (Leviticus 15:16-18) and (2) one descendant, as Seth, Samuel, etc. (Genesis 4:25; 1 Samuel 1:11) and (3) a plurality of descendants, as Abram and Jacob's "seed as the dust of the earth" (Genesis 13:14-16; 28:14).
In Genesis 3:15, the woman's "seed" would be a "he," and so only one descendant was in God's mind. The "he" would be fatally serpent-bitten (shuh, "crush," "bruise," i.e. "bite" (Benjamin Davies, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, p. 626)" "being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18). In turn, he would "crush" Satan's head, conquering "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 2:14).
That only one descendant was in God's mind in the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 and in 22:18 is clear because God "did not say 'and to seeds' as of many, but as of one, 'and to your seed,' who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).
"The Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Jesus crushed "the head" of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) and "cast out" the "ruler of this world," the one who keeps cemeteries closed (John 12:31). Christ entered "the house of a strong man" and bound him (Matthew 12:29), leading "captivity captive" (Ephesians 4:8). Indeed "he" abolished death, "and brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). The happy promise that "death shall be no more," written in the Bible's last book (Revelation 21:4), was actually foretold in the Bible's first book, that Jesus would crush the "head" of Satan (Genesis 3:15). From the last Bible book, we are informed that Jesus has "the keys of death and Hades" (1:18), that he "opens and no one will close," and he "closes and no one opens" (3:7), and that he is the "Lord of lords and King of kings" (17:14).
He paid a debt he did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song, "Amazing Grace!" Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay. ("American Folk Hymn," arr., Michael Greene)
Were not the right man on our side, The man of God's own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He! Lord Sabboath His name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle. (Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress")
A superior kind of water, different from hydrogen-oxide (H~O), is an important Bible teaching: "with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 2:3). "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters" (Isaiah 55:1). "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you" (Psalm 63:1). "As a deer craves the water brook, so I crave you, O God! I am thirsty for God, the living God!" (Psalm 42:1-2). "You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isaiah 58:11).
Only Jesus has the ability to supply water that never fails, "living water" (John 4:10). Only he could say: "He who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).
"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture [Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; 58:11] says," "rivers of living water shall flow within him" (John 7:37-38). "He said this about the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive" (John 7: 39).
The Book of Revelation completes the Bible teaching about spiritual water, the water of eternal life, saying that the Lamb will guide all who "have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb" to "fountains of waters of life" (Revelation 7: 14-17). The Father repeats the promise: "I will freely give to him who is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life" (Revelation 21:6).
An angel showed the apostle John "a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and from the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1). And John heard Jesus extend a universal invitation: "Let him who is thirsty come. Let him who wants the water of life receive it without cost" (Revelation 22:17).
Over 3,000 years ago, it was said that "of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Many of them deserve respect, but reverence should be reserved only for the 66 books that originated in heaven, the Holy Scriptures. Any human being thinks too much of himself who presumes to add to or to subtract from the words of the Bible. God gave the Israelites complete instruction in this regard: "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2). "See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:32).
David was privileged to be one of God's penmen: "The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue" (2 Samuel 23:2). He magnified the integrity and purity of heaven's communications: "The words of Yahweh are pure, as silver melted in a furnace, refined seven times" (Psalm 12:6). "Forever, O Yahweh, your word is settled [nasab, "set," "fixed," "made to stand"] in heaven" (Psalm 119:89).
David's son Solomon also was privileged to write Bible books. Of all inspired books he wrote: "Every word of God has proven to be true" (Proverbs 30:5). "Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found false" (Proverbs 30:6).
Paul wanted the Corinthians to "learn from us" [the inspired apostles, 1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1-2] "not to regard men more highly than what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). The apostle John quoted Jesus as speaking about the integrity (from the Latin, integer, meaning "untouched," "whole," "entire") of the Book of Revelation: "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, of the things written in this book, God will take away his part from the tree of life, and from the sacred city" (Revelation 22:18-19).
The Lord did not need to add that what he had said about the Book of Revelation applies also to the other 65 Bible books. What Jesus said ought to make everyone say: "The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it!" Truly, John's last book completes the Bible!