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First Quarter 2019 • January, February, March
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Week 1: December 29–January 4
COMMENTARY ON "The Gospel From Patmos"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
This study could be an amazing, informative and encouraging study of end-times or it could be a rehash of pre-determined ideas that are arranged to fit a previously determined agenda. Which one it turns out to be depends largely on how the book is approached.
As with any book of the Bible, to learn its truths, you must handle it as what it is—God’s inspired word.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
As the Word of God, it is utterly true, it cannot lie or contradict itself, and it must be taken in its entirety, comparing text to related text. To use what is called “proof texting” or “cherry picking” is to distort it into something that will fit whatever meaning you have already determined. This will NOT lead you to any truth but can keep you in your comfortable cocoon of established ideas, without any real basis in fact.
To add to it or delete from it is dangerous and, in fact, is prohibited in the words of Revelation itself:
18 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 which are written in this book;
19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19
That tells us that God is serious about His letter to us, and He will hold us accountable for how we handle it. So we had better handle it accurately.
The best starting point for doing this is what is called the Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation which has been credited to Dr. David L. Cooper:
“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate text, studied in the light of related passages and the axiomatic and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.”
This can be a little difficult to do as the book in question, Revelation, is full of symbols. So, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we must determine which words are symbolic and which are telling about literal, actual things, people or events. Scholars who are familiar with Greek are helpful as is Strong’s Concordance which interprets the Greek words into the closest possible words in our language.
So, lets begin.
Some of Revelation is historical, chapters 1-3, and most scholars believe that these chapters were not only letters to real, physical churches but also represent the general course of the Christian faith from Pentecost until the end.
But from chapter 6 onward, unless you distort it by calling it solely history, it is a clear outline of endtimes. To force it into symbolism is to do it a grave injustice and to miss much of the powerful message it is trying to present to the reader.
I would encourage you to branch out and study some of the great scholarly works that cover this message from God.
I would recommend works such as:
1. J. Hampton Keathley III who wrote Studies in Revelation, Christ’s Victory Over the Forces of Darkness. It is available for free at this link: https://bible.org/series/studies-revelation
This is one of the most complete, and lengthly, studies of the book of Revelation. It was written by a pastor and Greek scholar and is a word-by-word study. Where there are differing interpretations, he says so, presenting the various opinions and finishing with what he believes is the correct one, giving historical and Biblical reasons for it.
2. The Revelation of Jesus Christ by John F Walvoord. This one is not so lengthy so it is easier to get through for those who don’t want an in-depth study. He also relies on accurate interpretation of Greek.
3. Then there are Lehman Strauss commentaries on both Daniel and Revelation. Again, not as in-depth but keeping as close as possible to the true meaning of the Greek.
4. Because The Time Is Near by John MacArthur. This is a verse by verse study of the book of Revelation organized by the chapters of Revelation.
There are many others out there, but I would consider these four to be the most accurate as they never try to change what the Bible says or to insert their own ideas and interpretations into the text. As a result, they are all in close agreement except on some minor points where they all agree there can be different interpretations.
But even with correct interpretations of the Greek and the meanings of the words, there are still other ways that the Bible is distorted. There are two words which mean just about the opposite of each other that describe these two methods:
Exegesis — a descendant of the Greek term exegeisthai, meaning “to explain” or “to interpret”. To use this method is to take OUT of the Bible what it is saying and, by implication, adjusting your theology to fit what is said there.
The other, eisegesis is the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas. This is where the message of the Bible is changed or adjusted to fit your own theology rather than let the Bible speak for itself and adjust your theology.
You can well imagine that the second one leads to a lot of false doctrine by distorting the Bible and changing it to meet predetermined theology. To do this is to directly oppose the core message of 2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
Sadly this is the way that many so-called scholars use the Bible, and it has given rise to some terrible distortions of God’s Word.
So, trying to use exegesis, not eisegesis, let’s see what God’s message in Revelation says to us and compare that to what this quarter’s lesson author has to say.
In the introduction, almost immediately, the author inserts some core Adventist beliefs into the text by just assuming that they are established fact. Let’s look at some of them.
In the very first paragraph, he says this:
On one particular Sabbath, he had a special visit from Jesus Christ
Revelation 1:10 says
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice
There is a lot of extra-Biblical or secular history that clearly says that by AD 120-150 the phrase “The Lord’s Day” meant the first day of the week. In the New Covenant, our Sabbath rest is no longer a day, which was a forecast of our true Sabbath rest —Jesus Christ. Although some of the Jewish Christians still worshipped on Saturday, the Gentile Christians never made the transition TO the 7th day but rather celebrated the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week.
And to those who would accuse them of keeping it holy, for most, even today, it is not a “holy” day but rather a day to worship together.
In the second paragraph, we find this:
The book that he wrote reveals Jesus’ work in heaven and on earth since His ascension and what He will do when He returns. It was intended to assure Christians through the ages of Christ’s presence and to sustain them as they experience the trials of daily life amid a fallen world immersed in the great controversy.
“Revealing Jesus’ work in heaven” is the well-known code in Adventism for the Investigative Judgment which they say is carried out by Jesus as our High Priest after the order of Aaron.
To get to this conclusion, you have to totally avoid Hebrews 5:6
...just as He says also in another passage, “you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
And Hebrews 6:19, 20
19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil,
20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Notice that Jesus is NOT a priest after the order of Aaron but rather, a priest after the order of Melchizadek so His work is not the same thing as the priests of Aaron’s order.
On a side note, Hebrews 6:19, 20 also say that He had already entered through the veil when this was written, not at some arbitrary date in 1844. But that is another discussion.
Then there is Hebrews 7:11, 12
11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?
12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.
This also clearly says that Jesus is not a High Priest in the order of Aaron but rather the order of Melchizedek, so the High Priestly duties are not the same. In the order of Aaron, the duties and ceremonies all pointed forward to the coming Messiah, the perfect Lamb of God. The daily sacrifices were to cover sins but they never brought forgiveness.
Now, in the New Covenant, in the order of Melchizedek, the duties are not the same as before. The Messiah, the perfect Lamb of God, has already come and made the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice. He did not merely cover sins, He paid the penalty for them and permanently put them away. And He has sat down at the Father’s right hand, indicating that His work is completed.
As for the last two words of that paragraph, “great controversy”, this is another heavily weighted code word in Adventism. I wonder how many of the members in the pews in 2019 really know the entirety of what that meant.
For a brief summary, the Great Controversy came out of the Arian beliefs of the church founders. They believed, and never recanted of, the belief, that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. When Jesus was elevated to be God and taken into God’s counsel regarding creation, Lucifer was jealous and plotted a rebellion. The premise for this was his supposed claims that God’s demand that everyone must keep the Law was unfair and impossible, and that it was unjust for Jesus to be promoted ahead of him.
Once his rebellion was discovered (as if God didn’t know all along!) and he was cast out of heaven, he is now at war with God for the souls of everyone ever living on this earth. We, the saved, must obey the Law (or at least carefully selected bits of it) to prove to the “watching universe” that God is not unfair after all.
The built-in but unstated assumption in this is that God is now required to submit His authority to a lesser, created being and let him, Satan, try to steal us away from God and thus prove God to be wrong, unfair and therefore imperfect. It also implies that God is not allowed to intervene, as His created beings must keep the Law to prove Him just. Only if we can perfectly keep the Law will God be vindicated and then able to assert His authority over the earth and over Satan.
God Not Suboridnate
This is so wrong on so many levels! For one thing, God is not now and never has been subordinate to the claims and demands of a lesser, created being. His answer to Job in the last two chapters of that book make that quite clear.
Also, Jesus was ALWAYS God and never elevated to be equal with God. That is blasphemy of the worst kind as it denies the very nature of God. That is the spirit of antichrist, according to 1 John, and it has no place in any theology that claims to be Christian.
But that and the “great disappointment” are the sources of the so-called great controversy belief and so many people, as they don’t know or understand its roots, just blithely believe it and claim it to be doctrine without ever asking the Bible what is true.
It is sad, but not really surprising, to see this core belief tucked into the very beginning of the lesson introduction as if it is fact.
In the next section of the introduction, where the planned study process is laid out in 4 points, we find this under #1:
While the messages of the book came from God, the language in which they were communicated is human.
Once again an apparently innocuous statement is inserted—one which ’insiders’ in Adventism will probably pass by without realizing its true intent.
This is part of the code that is used to prop up EG White’s supposed prophetic message. By lightly implying that God did not “breathe out” His word, but merely influenced the minds and human words of the Biblical writers, they are actually saying that just as there are (obvious) errors in EGW’s writings, these cannot be used to discredit her as there are also errors in the Bible as the human authors used their own human, fallible language to communicate the thoughts from God.
But, when we get down to #2, we see the real agenda explained.
A careful reading of Revelation’s prophecies (like those of Daniel) shows that the historicist method of prophetic interpretation is the correct way to understand the prophecies’ intended fulfillment, because they follow the flow of history, from the prophet’s time to the end of the world.
This is an absolute necessity as Ellen White used this method, and they do not dare to disagree with her interpretation which she largely lifted from 19th century writers.
Now, I know there are several different methods of interpreting Revelation including:
1. The Preterist School—this says that everything in prophecy was fulfilled by the time of Constantine and shows the past victories of the church.
2. The Historical Approach—this sees Revelation as highly symbolic and a record of the church’s history. One problem with this is that each scholar who promoted this idea saw that prophecy culminated in his day which leaves more than 50 different interpretations. This abandons the normal, literal interpretation of prophecy and must of necessity ignore the literal, imminent return of Jesus.
3. The Futuristic Approach—most closely follows a literal, plain or normal method of interpretation. It states that from Chapter 6 onward, things described have not yet happened such as:
a. Chapters 6, 8, 9 and 16 describe judgments which have never been equaled and clearly haven’t happened yet.
b. The resurrection and judgment of Chapter 20 have not happened yet, so they must be future.
c. And obviously, the literal, visible return of Christ has not happened yet.
This method is implied in Revelation 4:1 which says:
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”
After what things? Logically this would be the “things" described in the first three chapters which is generally accepted as being, in part, a descriptive history of the church from Pentecost until the end.
By that logic, “after these things” would mean after the Church age, in the endtimes.
As you can see, the third method, the Futuristic Approach, is the only one that is based on a literal or plain method of interpretation while allowing for symbolic images and words where indicated by the text. Otherwise you have to arbitrarily switch back and forth from symbolic and literal, past and future to suit your needs. This does not “accurately handle” the Word of God.
I heard a sermon on Revelation where the preacher actually said that since we don’t understand this (whatever verse he was referring to at the moment) it must be symbolic not literal! Hardly the way to interpret the Bible which was written for us to read and understand.
I have stated my belief that the Futuristic Approach is the correct one but I will not denounce anyone who believes differently. I will simply try to illustrate how the book of Revelation CAN be understood when correctly read.