Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The exaltation of Jesus (Rev 12)

It is obvious that Jesus, in sending the vision to John, wanted him to share with other believers the situation in heaven as they were suffering on earth. First, they should remember that the Father took Jesus to the heavenly throne. The idea behind ‘caught up’ is that of a rapid snatch, but he was not taken there to escape the troubles of earth, as if he was being rescued. Instead, the rapidity points to the eagerness with which the Saviour was exalted by the Father.

Second, they should remember why Jesus has been exalted. Psalm 2 is quoted where reference is made to him having universal power. Ruling with a rod of iron does not suggest that he is cruel, but instead points to the fact that he has complete control over those who oppose him and ignore his claims. All the opposition against the church does not reduce the authority of Jesus – he remains in complete control even when things may not look like it.

Third, the ascension of Jesus was an incredible step forward in the plan of God for bringing salvation to his people. It guarantees the success of his kingdom and the security of his people. They are described as having already won the victory, even although some of them, those from future centuries, had not yet been born when John received the vision.

Fourth, the followers of the exalted Saviour are more than conquerors through him. Since they have been forgiven and cleansed by his blood, they express great loyalty to him, even willing to sacrifice their lives, because it is the outflow of love. Here we have a huge contrast between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of light is marked by love and the kingdom of darkness is marked by hate.

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Dragon (Rev. 12)

It would have been common knowledge in the church that the devil was the enemy of their souls. What does John want them to see from this unusual vision of their enemy? First, John would want them to remember that although the devil is only a creature he does possess unusual abilities (seven heads, with eyes that can see in lots of directions, and by extension, ears that can hear a lot, and tongues that can say a lot), power (ten horns – he has an empire), authority (diadems point to rule) and followers (a third of the stars may refer to fallen angels). Something of his ability and power is seen in the way he was described as forming a river to engulf the church.

Second, John wants them to remember that the devil attacked Jesus when he was born, but those attacks were unsuccessful. We can think of the attempt of Herod to kill the infant. It may be that John wants his readers to think about the period between the birth of Jesus and his exaltation and recall how unsuccessful the attacks of the devil had been on the Saviour throughout that time. Several are mentioned in the Gospels. It is obvious from them that the powers of darkness knew that Jesus was the Lord and that their fate was decided.

Third, John mentions that the devil was thrown out of heaven after a rebellion that was put down by the archangel Michael and loyal angels. When did this happen? The heavenly announcement seems to connect it to when Jesus ascended to the throne. Jesus, in John 12:31, a verse spoken in connection to his death, says that would be the time when Satan would be cast out. Probably he resisted in some way and discovered that his power was ineffective in comparison to the divine power that enabled Michael and his army.

In Old Testament times, the devil was given access to heaven to accuse Job falsely. Joshua, the high priest with defiled garments mentioned in Zechariah 3, was also accused by Satan. Here in Revelation 12 we are told that the accusations were virtually nonstop. Probably, the accuser was demanding punishment for those believers on earth because they were still sinning. The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus silenced him, which is what Paul says in Colossians 2:14-15.

Fourth, even although Jesus is triumphant over the powers of darkness, John wants his readers to realise that they have to fight on earth against those enemies and that sometimes his people will be martyred. It would have been possible for people to assume that since Jesus is on the throne, his people should not suffer. The reality is very different. Jesus from the throne calls on his people to witness for him, even unto death.

Fifth, the devil prowls the earth in an angry mood. His fury is not only directed at Christians. John refers to the earth and the sea as being the places where the devil is active, and earth and sea is another way of saying everywhere. The devil is here to destroy whatever he can. The chapter closes with him standing beside the sea waiting to do something or for something, which is detailed in the following chapter.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The woman (Rev. 12)

Who is the woman or what does she represent? The description of the woman is that of a glorious person with great authority. She shines like the sun because indwelt by God, and her authority is more than earthly because the moon is her footstool. The crowns she is wearing are not so much crowns of royalty as crowns of victory. At the same time, she is in the process of giving birth.

The dragon, that is the devil, wants to destroy the child at birth. He is prevented from doing so because the child is taken to heaven. Obviously, this is not literal because Jesus did not go to heaven when he was born. One author says that John was guided to think theologically rather than chronologically and therefore he merged events that were separate in time. Instead John, in this vision, is being told that God will take care of the child and ensure that his position as king is secure.

Once the child is safe, the woman flees into a wilderness and she will be there for 1,260 days (the same length of time that the two witnesses mentioned in the previous chapter served, and which we said described the period between the two comings of Jesus). There God provides for her. Later, in the chapter the woman’s flight is miraculous – she can fly like an eagle (we should remember that Exodus 19:4 and Deuteronomy 32:11 say that God carried Israel upon eagles’ wings through the desert). The reason that she had to flee is because the dragon will try and destroy her. Nevertheless, she is miraculously preserved (the earth swallows up the river that the dragon sends after her to drown her).

The woman who had given birth to the child has other children and they are described as those who ‘who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus’. Who is the woman? She possesses an amazing royal status. She exists before the birth of Jesus and continues to live on earth after his exaltation. Despite Satanic opposition and having to live in a hostile environment, she is maintained by God, sometimes miraculously so. Nevertheless, during the period of trouble, her family increases in number.

Who or what is depicted by the woman? The woman illustrates the church. Depicted are the following: (a) its role as the people God has chosen to glorify; (b) it was through the church the Saviour came; (c) after his exaltation, the church suffers persecution, but it is miraculously preserved and provided with spiritual nourishment from heaven; (d) during the period of persecution, the church grows in number; and (e) the unity of the people of God from Old and New Testaments. We are being reminded here not to judge things by sight as far as the church is concerned.