The Revelation: Riddles and Enigmas (“the things that must soon take place”)

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaTwice in the Revelation, John is told that the vision’s events “must soon take place.” And yet all but the full Preterists interpret the vision as reaching far into the future.

(Rev. 1:1 ESV) The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

(Rev. 22:6 ESV) 6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

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The Revelation: Summary to this Point and a Peek Ahead, Part 3


This was Alexander Campbell’s view and the prevailing view in the early 19th Century among most Protestants. He (and many others) saw the founding of the American republic as a major step toward the Millennium. He did not teach a Rapture, but he did believe in a 1000-year reign on earth as the culmination of the Kingdom. And he saw the uniting of the Christian sects as a necessary step toward that end — and the reason for the Restoration Movement.

The Second Great Awakening was driven by hopes of a Millennium soon to come. But the Civil War and the world wars of the 20th Century ended the optimism for most, leading to reconsideration of what had seemed certain by many.

Post-millennialists are largely optimistic, believing God’s people will eventually so evangelize the world that Jesus can return and reign for 1,000 years — to be followed by the general resurrection. Continue reading

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The Revelation: Summary to this Point and a Peek Ahead, Part 2


In my youth, the view that the history of the Western church was being prophesied was popular in the Churches of Christ, and I was originally open to the possibility. But things sure seemed forced in places. It really was odd how little the Revelation spoke to the empires that actually ruled Asia Minor, where the seven churches the book is addressed to were. The Revelation was read as being about the Catholic church, the Pope, and the Reformation, none of which had the least thing to do with Asia Minor.

And it was sure odd that we ran out of history around the Reformation and then skipped to the Millennium. It seemed like no one had really thought about this stuff since Luther used the Revelation to lampoon the Pope. The anti-Catholicism and bitterness toward the Catholic Church seemed improbable. Continue reading

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Vine’s Expository Dictionary


Amazon has Vine’s Expository Dictionary for the OT and NT combined on sale for $3.99 in Kindle format.

The NT portion was authored by W. E. Vine in the early 20th Century. He passed away in 1949. He held views very similar to the Churches of Christ, and so this dictionary has been popular in the Churches for many years.

For example,

1. baptisma (908), “baptism,” consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, “to dip”), is used (a) of John’s “baptism,” (b) of Christian “baptism,” see B. below; (c) of the overwhelming afflictions and judgments to which the Lord voluntarily submitted on the cross, e.g., Luke 12:50; (d) of the sufferings His followers would experience, not of a vicarious character, but in fellowship with the sufferings of their Master. Some mss. have the word in Matt. 20:22-23; it is used in Mark 10:38-39, with this meaning.

Vine, W.E.; Merrill F. Unger (1996-08-26). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index (Kindle Locations 20488-20492). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. Continue reading

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The Revelation: Summary to this Point and a Peek Ahead, Part 1



There are just a whole lot of theories about how to interpret the Revelation. And no one is going to hell or ought to be barred from preaching over their opinion on this question. This is not a salvation issue.

On the other hand, neither is one theory as good as another. Some theories have problems that may be fairly pointed out. Maybe they all do. I don’t see that we’re under some sort of obligation to treat all theories as equally likely. Some are better than others. Continue reading

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CENI: Is CENI a Hermeneutic? A Question from the Contact form

CENI is to hermeneutics as McNuggets are to fine dining. (Couldn’t resist…) (Ceni is evidently a world-famous soccer goalie who will endorse any product at all.)

A reader posted an anonymous question in the Contact form. (Which is fine, but I’d really prefer that comments on posts be posted in the comments to that post — even if you think your comment will make me look stupid. It wouldn’t be the first time. And it would probably be good for me.)

The reader wrote (his words are in italics and indented) —

I came across an article by you entitled “Is CENI a Hermeneutic?” 12-12-13. In your comment regarding your wife buying bananas, you stated,

Ponder this long and hard, and you’ll find that the answer depends on the nature of my relationship with my wife and the nature of my own character. What kind of person would I have to be and what relationship would my wife and I have for “Diet Coke” to deny authority to buy bananas?

What you seem to be ignoring is the relationship between you and God is one of Master and servant. In your statement above where it says “wife” replace wife with “God” and read it again.

[JFG: Okay. Let’s rephrase this in God-Christian terms, quoting my earlier post but changing the characters have you’ve suggested: Continue reading

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Question from a Reader

Image result for questionI get emails —

I really enjoy your stuff. The first thing I read of yours I had to stop and see where you grew up I thought it was the church I grew up in. I am still at that church. I would be considered the young married group, and I’m a couple of decades to old; so you get the picture.

The preacher said he told a girl he wouldn’t baptize her because she lived in sin. I understand what he was saying, but would you ever tell someone not to be baptized? 

I’ve had readers get upset when I’ve suggested that it’s common practice in the Churches of Christ for the leadership to refuse a baptism in some circumstances. Other readers have been upset over Churches agreeing to baptize children who are too young or others who aren’t truly ready or penitent.

So when is it appropriate to refuse a baptism, if ever?

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The Revelation: Riddles and Enigmas (the Millennium, Part 5)

Verse 5

(Rev 20:5 ESV) The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.

This is a highly controverted passage. The text implies that the faithful were resurrected early, perhaps at the beginning of the Millennium, whereas “the rest of the dead,” surely meaning the damned, aren’t resurrected until the end of the Millennium. But it’s really hard to fit a resurrection of the saved 1,000 years before the resurrection of the damned into the rest of the Bible, which plainly teaches to the contrary.

The solution is found in thinking less literally, but not all that much less literally. Continue reading

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The Revelation: Riddles and Enigmas (the Millennium, Part 4)


We continue going verse by verse —

Verse 4

(Rev 20:4 ESV)  4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Who reigns with Christ — and when? Well, sometimes the scriptures speak of Christians ruling at the end of time, but sometimes the idea is that Christians rule right now. Continue reading

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The Revelation: Riddles and Enigmas (the Millennium, Part 3)


Let’s now consider chapter 20 one verse at a time.

Verses 1-3

(Rev 20:1-3 ESV) Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.  2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,  3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

How long is 1,000 years? Well, most time indicators in the Revelation are symbolic, and we can’t just assume that 1,000 years is literal, when so many other numbers are not. And the rest of the scriptures make no mention of a 1,000-year reign. Rather, we find the 1,000-year reign in Jewish and Zoroastrian speculations. Continue reading

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