The Dangers of Reading Providence

Sam Storms: As I’ve been preaching through the book of Revelation it has become ever more evident to me that reading divine providence is a tricky and often dangerous business. By “reading providence” I mean the tendency that all of us have to interpret what God is doing in the world around us and even in our own lives. We typically try to read providence because we are uncomfortable with mystery. We don’t like being kept in the dark about why God does or doesn’t do certain things. We don’t like having to tell people that we can’t answer their questions about why, if God is good and powerful, he permits evil to flourish in the world. We would much rather create an answer, even when the Bible remains silent. I am regularly asked what natural disasters mean. Why do they occur? Is God trying to tell us something? Is it always punishment for sin, or could it be a

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The First and Second Resurrection

Dennis E. Johnson:   In a second perspective on the “thousand years” following the binding of Satan, John saw thrones and the judges who occupied them, the souls of those who had been beheaded for staying true to Jesus (Rev. 20:4–6). These souls “came to life” and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Their coming to life is “the first resurrection,” and it shows that “the second death”—the eternal torment that awaits God’s enemies (19:20; 20:10, 14–15)—has no power over them. Some premillennialists construe “the first resurrection” as believers’ bodily resurrection at Christ’s second coming (see 1 Thess. 4:13–17; 1 Cor. 15:20–23). Although John does not mention a “second resurrection,” these premillennialists believe that a subsequent bodily resurrection of unbelievers is implied in the statement, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (Rev. 20:5). In this premillennial view of the future, therefore, there are two bodily resurrections separated by a

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5 Tips for Reading the Book of Revelation

Leah Baugh: The book of Revelation is a tough book to read. It is full of strange and often scary imagery, confusing numbers, time references, and much more. However, with just a few tips for understanding certain confusing elements, the book opens up as an important and helpful book for Christians. 1. The book is visual prophecy. One of the first things that help us understand the book is understanding what kind of book it is. John tells us in the opening chapter that what he has written is a prophecy from Jesus. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3) 2. This prophecy was given to John in a series of visions.  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see.” (Rev. 1:10-11)

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How Should We Interpret the Book of Revelation?

Sam Storms: Perhaps the single greatest controversy surrounding Revelation and the most important issue when it comes to interpreting the book, is the question of its structure. Many, perhaps most, evangelicals read Revelation as if it is describing a short period of time that is still in the future. Those who embrace what may be called the futurist view of the book most often will argue that what we have in Revelation 6-19 is a description of events that will take place in the future in a period of seven years they call The Great Tribulation. And as you know, there are many who insist that Jesus will return and rapture his people out of this world prior to the outpouring of divine judgment in the “Great Tribulation.” The result is that what we read in Revelation 6-19 has little, if any, immediate practical relevance for a lot of Christians. For them it is fascinating to talk about, but it

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The 144,000 of Revelation 7

Kevin DeYoung: The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4) represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim. First, in chapter 13 we read that Satan seals all of his followers, so it makes sense that God would seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones. Second, the image of sealing comes from Ezekiel 9, where the seal on the forehead marks out two groups of people: idolaters and non-idolaters. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 makes a similar distinction based on who worships God, not who among the Jewish remnant worships God. Third, the 144,000 are called the servants of our God (Rev. 7:3). There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that. If

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The Book of Revelation Is Not Just about the Future

This post is adapted from the chapter entitled “Revelation” by Charles E. Hill in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, edited by Michael J. Kruger. The Denouement of Scripture The “Revelation of Jesus Christ” portrays in dramatic fashion the paradoxical present rule of Jesus Christ as King of all the kings of the world, his ultimate triumph, and the salvation of his people through tribulation. As monumental as this is, it is not all. In the course of re-experiencing the visions John saw on Patmos, John’s audience witnesses not only the salvation of man, God’s image, but also the reclamation of the heavens, the earth, and the subterranean regions (i.e., the sea, the abyss, hades, fountains of water), the domains of man’s dominion as originally given in Genesis 1–3. Revelation presents to us a great Serpent, a woman who brings forth a male child who is to rule the earth, and a final restoration of the

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You’re ‘More than a Conquerer’—But What Does that Mean?

Justin Holcomb: Because of Jesus’s resurrection, all threats against you are tamed. Jesus conquered death, so death and evil aren’t the end of the story. You can have hope. In Revelation, one of the key themes is conquering through suffering. The number of occurrences of the verb “to conquer” illustrates this (it appears 17 times). John describes amazing promises, addressing them specifically to those who “conquer”: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7) “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (2:11) “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (2:17) “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (2:26) “The one

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