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First Quarter 2019 • January, February, March
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Week 2: January 5–11
COMMENTARY ON "Among the Lampstands"
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.
In discussing the Greek work for revelation, apocalypse, the lesson states that it is our word for revealing or unveiling.
While that is true, it has more than one meaning, and it is frustrating to see an author pick out the one definition that meets his needs without considering the other possible meanings.
It can also mean:
The second one is actually a definition closer to our understanding of the word apocalypse. In that definition we see many of the disasters coming out of the judgments of the Seal, Trumpet and Bowl judgments. This would fit, but when you turn everything up to chapter 15 into a cyclical, repeating history lesson, you diminish and even ignore the dire consequences of God’s judgments on a Christ-rejecting world.
Adventists are big on the idea of Sunday-keepers trying to kill them—the Saturday-keepers—an idea which is rather ego-centric. They don’t seem to see that the judgments of the end-times will be far worse and disastrous than anything we can even imagine and will encompass the entire world, not just their own little, privileged band.
Quoted from the lesson:
The book of Revelation focuses on different aspects of His existence and ministry. Essentially, it begins where the Gospels end, with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Together with the Epistle to the Hebrews, Revelation emphasizes Jesus’ heavenly ministry. It shows that, after His ascension, Jesus was inaugurated into His royal and priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Without Revelation or Hebrews, our knowledge of Christ’s high-priestly ministry in heaven in behalf of His people would be very limited. And yet, besides Hebrews, the book of Revelation provides us with a unique look into the ministry of Jesus Christ in our behalf.
Yes, Revelation does start, essentially, where the Gospels end, with Jesus resurrection and ascension. But then things fall apart when the supposed “ministry in the heavenly sanctuary” is inserted. That so-called ministry can be supported only with serious distortions, additions to and editing of the Bible.
It denies Jesus’ finished work on our behalf and puts much of the finishing of that work back onto our shoulders.
It calls Jesus a liar when He said that it is finished.
It calls the Bible a liar when it puts Jesus back into a High Priestly role based on Aaron’s order instead of that of Melchizedek.
In fact, it largely ignores or changes most of the message of Hebrews, substituting for it the Investigative Judgment heresy and an incomplete atonement which leaves us with no real hope.
From the lesson:
The primary purpose of biblical prophecies is to assure us that no matter what the future brings, God is in control. Revelation does just that: it assures us that Jesus Christ is with His people throughout this world’s history and its alarming final events.
Consequently, Revelation’s prophecies have two practical purposes: to teach us how to live today and to prepare us for the future.
How does it teach us how to live today? By scaring us into law-keeping in fear of being lost.
And how does it prepare us for the future? It actually doesn’t show much of the future if you take the Historisist approach and say that all of it up to chapter 15 is just history. That ignores the plain meaning of the judgments that will fall on the Christ-rejecting world—those outlined starting with chapter 6.
From the lesson:
According to this text, what is the purpose of the things that are revealed to us?
According to the author, it is to impress upon us the need for Jesus and to drive us back to the Law so our obedience will save us from the judgments.
That is exactly backwards when you compare it to Romans 7:6:
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Moreover, all of Chapter 5—indeed, all of Romans—contradicts the lesson’s conclusion!
The Law drives us to the cross and shows us our need for a savior. It cannot save us, and turning back to it to keep us saved is a slap in the face to Jesus who fulfilled it for us. Our faith must be in Him, and not in our own efforts to keep the Law—an effort which is doomed to fail anyway.
The Adventist idea of the Law—the 10 Commandments—is that the Law doesn’t save you, but it is necessary to keep you saved.
They further state that it is the exact expression of God’s character and, depending on the circumstances, it is either eternal and had no beginning, or it was instituted at creation.
If it is eternal and the angels in heaven were always under that Law, you have a contradiction.
If the angels don’t marry or give in marriage why would they need the 6th commandment? Or the 5th for that matter ,as they didn’t have parents?
If you look at the complete 1st Commandment, you see that it includes the part about God bringing you out of the land of Egypt. How does that apply to the angels?
If the angels were created perfect, without a sin nature, why would they need cautions against stealing, killing, coveting or lying?
Besides, if you say that the Law is the exact representation of God’s very nature, that is a slap in the face of Jesus and completely denies Hebrews 1:3 which says:
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
The last question of the day is very accurate:
Read John 14:29. What crucially important principle for the purpose of prophecy can we find here in this verse?
Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.
THAT is the purpose of prophecy—proof of God’s omnipotence and total control over everything that will happen.
Today we get into some problems, starting with the author’s interpretation of Revelation 1:1.
To quote him:
“The word ‘signified’ is a translation of the Greek word semaino-, meaning “to show by symbolic signs.”
In my comments to the introduction of this study, I recommended Strong’s Concordance which is a list of all the words in the Bible and what they mean in English.
STRONGS 1166 - “signified” is translated as: “a mark of uncertainty, to indicate or signify”
There is nothing in that word that means anything resembling “symbolic” so I can only conclude that the author either didn’t consult a good concordance or he just said that because it supports the premise that all of Revelation is just symbols with no literal meaning.
To restate what I said in comments to the introduction, eisegesis is reading into text what you think rather than letting the text tell you what it means. This leads to confusion and error as you can make any Biblical text say whatever you want to support. This is NOT Bible study!
Then the author compounds the problem by saying:
The word “signified” is a translation of the Greek word semaino-, meaning “to show by symbolic signs.” This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) in which Daniel explains to King Nebuchadnezzar that, by the statue made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron, God signifies to the king “‘what will take place in the future’” (Dan. 2:45, NASB). By employing the same word, John tells us that the scenes and events of Revelation were shown to him in vision in symbolic presentations.
In Daniel 2:45 God “made known” to the king what would happen. Even if that was the same word in the Greek translation from the Old Testament, it is not saying that God was using symbols —in effect, hiding the meaning—but rather he MADE KNOWN what was to be.
There is nothing in that word to even suggest hiding things in symbols. Rather, it is revealing things.
Then, in the next paragraph:
But when we read Revelation— unless the text points to a literal meaning—we need to interpret it symbolically. While the scenes and events predicted are real, they usually were expressed in symbolic language.
How did we suddenly jump from literal interpretation to symbolic unless otherwise indicated? The second sentence then contradicts the first by saying that they are expressed in symbolic language but are real events.
The next two paragraphs just compound the problem by turning the whole book of Revelation into a discussion of the plan of salvation rather than any prophecy of future events marking the judgment to come on the Christ-rejecting world. That makes it just a comfortable history lesson, removing the fear from the images of beasts, earthquakes, hailstones, falling stars etc.
Rather ironic given the obsession with those very images in the Prophecy Seminars which are given in lurid detail in an effort to scare people to Adventism.
From the lesson:
God the Father is identified as the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (see Rev. 1:8, Rev. 4:8, NKJV).
Actually, it is Jesus who is named this in both verses. In Chapter 1:8, if you follow into verse 9, it is Jesus who is so identified and says that He is coming.
This is apparently to support the Adventist idea that God is not One, as He says, but rather three separate beings.
Perhaps we should refer to Isaiah 9:6 which says:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
It clearly called Jesus by all those names—all three parts of the God-head are somehow One. We may not be able to understand it or even explain it but to be true to the Bible, we must believe it.
Near the end of this day’s lesson:
In the original Greek, He “loved us” refers to Christ’s ongoing love, which embraces the past, the present, and the future. The One who loves us has released us from our sins by His blood. In the Greek, the verb “released” refers to a completed act in the past: when Jesus died on the cross He provided a perfect atonement for our sins.
He didn’t release us from our sins - that is what the Old Covenant daily sacrifices did. The sins were not forgiven, they were just temporarily removed along with the penalty.
In the New Covenant, we are not just released from them, they are totally paid for and wiped out permanently. It is an insult to the blood of Jesus to relegate it to the temporary effectiveness of the blood of lambs and goats!
And, in the last sentence above, He didn’t just “provide” a perfect atonement for our sins - He completed it as indicated by His last words on the cross. We must not call Jesus a liar just so we can fit His sacrifice for us into our own little theology.
From the lesson:
Every human being alive on the earth at the time, as well as “those who pierced Him” (NASB), will witness His coming. These words point to a special resurrection of certain people right before the return of Christ, including those who crucified Him.
Where is this special resurrection mentioned in the Bible? Another bit of Adventist theology inserted without any supporting texts, just to prop up their own belief system. Must be something EGW said somewhere.
Think about it. They died once.
If they are resurrected just before the second coming, they will die again, then be resurrected at the end of the Millennium.
Whatever happened to “man is appointed to die once”?
This lesson delivers the usual EGW quotes which somehow don’t mention her claims that while waiting for Jesus to come we must keep ourselves from every sin or “spot or wrinkle” in order to be saved.
In the discussion questions I would like to address #1:
Why is the word fear often associated with Revelation’s prophecies?
I would surmise the Prophecy Seminars are a huge contributor to that fear—it is their main function, to scare people to come to the Adventist church.
And the last question:
As a people who believe in prophecy and who look for end-time events as waymarks, how do we strike the right balance in how we understand prophecy and how we teach it to others?
It would seem that the only prophecy they really believe in is that of the Old Testament. If you twist the meaning of much of the book of Revelation, how can you say it is prophecy you believe in? If it is no more than a history lesson, there is no real prophecy to it.