Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Revelation 18-22

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

It's the end of the year, and the last chapters of the Bible!  This week, I am working through Revelation, chapters 18-22.


Chapter 18
  • I have often heard it said that the message of Revelation can be summed up as "God wins!"  Perhaps this chapter can be summed up as "Babylon loses!"
Chapter 19

  • Verse 8 - I find it especially interesting that the author goes to the trouble to spell out that "fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's people" when so much of the other imagery of this book remains unexplained.
  • Verse 10 - I'm reminded of Peter's reaction to Cornelius in Acts 10:25-26.
Chapter 20
  • Verses 1-10 - I'm trying to look at this passage in any way I can think of: with a "literal" 1000 years, with the 1000 being a number chosen for its connotations of completeness and therefore being an indeterminate "actual" length of time, with the periods of time representing reigns on earth vs. a more spiritual domain.  I just can't make sense of it.  I especially cannot comprehend why Satan and Satan's forces should be bound for a period of time only to be released, and to be released only to be eternally defeated so effortlessly (if the length of time devoted to it in this chapter is anything to go by) just afterward. 
Chapter 21
  • Verses 1-3 - I see a couple of potential call-backs to Genesis here.  The first is the lack of sea.  If memory serves, Genesis has waters as one of the pre-existent "chaos elements" from which God set order to the world.  The lack of such water here would be an indication of the perfection of the new earth.  The second element would be the idea of God dwelling among the people, as God was depicted as walking around the Garden of Eden.
Chapter 22
  • Verse 1 - The lack of sea water obviously doesn't mean a lack of water altogether.  Water is the stuff of life, after all.
  • Verses 6-7, 10, 12 - I wonder what John supposed the angel (and Jesus, at the end) meant by the word "soon."1
  • Verse 9 - Once again, John has to be reminded not to worship things that aren't God....
  • Verses 18-19: "If any one of you adds anything to them... if any one of you takes words away..." - There seems to be a school of thought that takes these words as a sign that the canon of Scripture itself should not be amended.  I confess that I've never understood how this understanding came to pass, as it seems self-evident that the words are only to be taken in reference to the prophecy of Revelation itself.  In any event, it must be recognized that the canon of Scripture (certainly the New Testament, but even the Old, if we're honest) was not solidified for several centuries yet after the text was written.

1Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), Eerdmans, 1977, pp. 390-391, notes that the problem that an author sees eschatological events as somehow imminent is hardly unique to Revelation.  I've mentioned this kind of thing a few times over the course of this year-long project, myself.

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