The Revelation: An Outline of What Is to Come; The Trinity

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaGorman does not attempt a verse-by-verse interpretation of the next several chapters of the Revelation. Rather, he works his way through the text to demonstrate the meaning of key symbolic “actors” in the vision seen by John.

He first outlines the book in very broad terms.

Act 1: Satan is on the Move

Satan is directing the powerful, idolatrous culture of death, which has seduced both nations and individuals, including some in the churches of Asia. In his employ are two key figures, the beast from the land and the beast from the sea (ch. 13). The former claims godlike power and prerogatives over all the earth, while the latter urges people to worship it. This unholy trinity constantly pursues the faithful people of God, seeking to win their allegiance and worship. The faithful are being seduced, and some are caving in.

Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 2870-2873). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Act 2: The Prophet Speaks

In the midst of increasing pressure and the threat of an imminent outbreak of serious persecution, John calls the churches back to faithfulness to God (chs. 1–3). … Together with his resurrection/ascension, [Jesus’ resurrection] was also a divine act of cosmic warfare, the decisive victory over the unholy triumvirate and its power of oppression and death. John reminds the churches that all who believe this good news, faithfully worshiping God and the Lamb in liturgy and life, are liberated from their sins and from both the power and the fate of Babylon.

Despite the seductive power of Babylon, the churches who heed the voice of the prophetic Spirit bear faithful witness to God and the Lamb, becoming a partial and proleptic (anticipatory) embodiment of the coming city of God.

(Kindle Locations 2875-2882).

Act 3: God Judges

The powerful, idolatrous culture of death, Babylon, is under divine judgment and doomed to fall (chs. 17–18). God and the Lamb begin that judgment now (much of chs. 6–20), resulting in the swift and certain demise of the unholy trinity. This is the longest act in Revelation, consisting of multiple scenes and comprising the bulk of the narrative, but it can be summarized in just a few words: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great” (18:2). Not only does God defeat the unholy trinity, but God defeats death itself (20:14), the ultimate instrument of idolatrous power and the ultimate enemy of the human race.

(Kindle Locations 2883-2888).

Act 4: God Renews

Babylon, the city of oppression and death, is replaced by the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and earth, the new culture of wholeness and life (chs. 21–22). It is a place where pain and sorrow are absent, a time when oppression and death are gone. The healing of the nations begins, and humanity is restored to God’s original intentions for worship, communion, and harmony. God and the Lamb come to dwell permanently with a renewed humanity.

(Kindle Locations 2889-2892).

So that’s pretty much the whole book. Right? It’s not complicated, but it is rich in detail and allusions to OT prophecies and all sorts of other cool things. We’re not done yet.

The Characters

Gorman next addresses the presence of true Divinity in the Holy Trinity, and shows how the monsters — the dragon and beasts — are a parody of the Trinity. And so we start with the heroes of the story — the members of the Godhead.

God the Father and Jesus, God the Son, are the main characters, although God the Holy Spirit is not left out by any means. There is, in fact, a fairly comprehensive Christology to be found in the Revelation, that is, there is a theologically rich and thoughtful reflection on the nature of Jesus as the Messiah and his role in our salvation.

God the Father

But John’s understanding of Jesus is found in his understanding of the Father —

God of Revelation stands in continuity with the God of Israel’s Scriptures. This is the God who indicts domination systems, delivers his people (as in the exodus), vindicates the faithful, rules the cosmos, promises final shalom, and exhibits extraordinary patience with rebellious humanity—though not forever. This God alone is worthy of worship and ultimate allegiance.

All of this theology proper (doctrine of God), however, must be understood in connection to and in light of Christ the Lamb, as we saw in the previous chapter. The God of Revelation is not a violent and capricious deity on the warpath, but the Holy One of Israel who has, above all, brought salvation in Christ.

(Kindle Locations 2917-2923).

God the Son

Of several important images of Jesus in Revelation, we should especially note the two that are most prominent early in Revelation: Lamb and faithful witness. The image of the slaughtered Lamb centers our attention on Christ’s death. It is a sacrifice, but it is also much more. The Lamb imagery highlights Christ’s vulnerability in faithful witness. Those liberated by the death of the Faithful Witness (1:5) are shaped into his image as faithful witnesses as well.

No less important than these images, however, is the fact that Jesus is so fully identified with the One on the throne, as we noted in the previous chapter. He too is the Alpha and Omega (1:17; 22:13), he also is worthy of worship (chapter 4), he too is the coming one (1:7; 22:12, 20), and more. “What Christ does, God does” and vice versa. But also—and this is critical— how Christ does is how God does. We see in the slaughtered Lamb of God both that God is ultimately victorious over sin and death and how God is victorious over sin and death. The divine status of Christ does not make him aloof from the churches, however. He is present among them in their trials (1:13), and the Lamb is destined, ironically, to be his people’s shepherd (7:17), a pastoral role he exercises even now.

(Kindle Locations 2933-2944).

God the Holy Spirit

The Spirit functions primarily as the prophetic voice of God and the Lamb, speaking to the churches, but also bringing them into the presence of God for worship and enlarging their vision, forming them into faithful witnesses to the Faithful Witness (Jesus), and comforting them in times of tribulation and grief. John may be on Patmos, but he is in the Spirit (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).

The nomenclature for the Spirit in Revelation is unusual but appropriate: “the seven spirits of God” (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6), the fullness of God’s Spirit. As such, the Spirit is closely connected to both God and the Lamb. The seven spirits are before God’s throne (1:4; 4:5), signifying their relationship to God. When Jesus speaks to the churches, at the end of each address he instructs them to “listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The voice of the Spirit, that is, is the voice of Jesus. The Spirit prophetically calls the churches to play their appropriate role in the unfolding drama: to abandon idolatry and be faithful to God, especially during tribulation.

… Finally, acting as the Comforter, the Spirit reassures the church that faithful witness will result in ultimate rest and reward, not defeat (14:13).

(Kindle Locations 2950-2958, 2064).

The seven spirits

We’re a little surprised to see references throughout the Revelation to “seven spirits,” which seem to be references to the Holy Spirit. How can this be?

On the whole it seems most probable that we should see seven as signifying perfection or the like, and the whole expression as pointing to the Holy Spirit. The number may derive from Isaiah 11:2–3, and be meant to remind us of the seven modes of operation of the Spirit.

Leon Morris, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 20; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 54.

The wording is likely a figurative designation of the Holy Spirit, expressing the diversity of God’s work in the church and the world. The expression “seven spirits” is part of a paraphrased allusion to Zech. 4:2–7 (as is evident from 4:5; 5:6), which identified the “seven lamps” as God’s one Spirit, whose role was to bring about God’s grace (cf. Zech. 4:7: “Grace, grace to it”) in Israel through the successful completion of the rebuilding of the temple (see commentary on Rev. 1:12; 4:5; 5:6 below). It is possible that Isa. 11:2–10 LXX is included along with Zechariah in the background of the “seven spirits,” since this text is alluded to in 5:5–6 (cf. the “root” of Isa. 11:1 in 5:5, and the mention of “the seven spirits of God” in 5:6 [see Farrer 1964: 61]; note also the use of Isa. 11:4 in 1:16 [for agreement about the presence of both OT influences, see Skrinjar 1935: 114–36]).

G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 1089.

(Zech. 4:2-6 ESV)  2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.  3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”  4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”  5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”  6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 

(Isa. 11:1-2 ESV) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  2 And [1] the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, [2] the Spirit of wisdom and [3] understanding, the [4] Spirit of counsel and [5] might, the [6] Spirit of knowledge and [7] the fear of the LORD.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to The Revelation: An Outline of What Is to Come; The Trinity

  1. laymond says:

    When we as Christians look for God we see only one facet of a multi faceted being. In order to truly see God we have to look at both sides and everything in between. No one truly describes God in writing , why, because humankind fears God, and they love God. We fear one side of the God we think we know, and we love the other. Why, because we know what God is capable of doing, on both sides. God tells us he created both good, and evil, and he has proved it more than once. When we read the bible we can see God has a war going on inside him, just as humans (his image ) does. The story tells us that just like his creation, on one side God fights for what he wants, (power and glory) the other side strives for what he needs, as we all do, (love and acceptance). “Man became like gods, knowing both good and evil” He tells us we became like him, think, who created life, and who created death. Life was created out of love, death was created out of vengeance. Revenge for disobedience. God hasn’t changed. When we are small our parents are like gods, they give life, and they dole out punishment when we don’t obey the rules of their house. the same thing only a smaller scale. Try to stay on the “good side” of God and everything will be fine, cross over to the dark side, not so good.

  2. Alabama John says:

    One thing for sure is when we wake up from being dead there will be a lot of surprises we didn’t expect.

    What we know now is just the bottom of a Big, Big bucket. None of us can say we have it all straight and figured out.

    Lets just look forward anxiously and wait to see!!!

  3. Dwight says:

    Laymond, from the beginning man was created in the likeness of God, so Satan’s lie was based on something more akin to the power that God had. True they became like God in knowing good and evil, but they didn’t become like God in power as good and evil didn’t give them power, even though they were created initially in His image.

    AJ, I think you are correct. All of the things we thought we knew, will probably be wrong. So we should remain humble.

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