Monthly Archives: January 2019

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 2-3)

In Lesson #3 of January 12-19, some editorial changes were made. In particular, the person who implemented the late modifications was eager to specify the exact years marking the beginning and ending of different periods in the historical application of the churches. Also, some modifications were made in the lesson on Friday that diminished the application of the promises given to the overcomers.

God’s People in Cities

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:10-11; 2:8-3:22; 22:16-17.
Memory Verse: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3: 22, NKJV).
From the barren island of Patmos, Jesus sent via John a letter with seven messages to His people as a token of His care for them (Rev. 1:11). While those messages originally concerned the churches in Asia of John’s day, they were also written for all Christians throughout history, including our day.
A side-by-side comparison of these messages shows that they follow the same six-fold structure. Each message opens with an address in which Jesus addresses each church by name. The second part begins with the phrase: “These things says He who . . . ” in which Jesus introduces Himself to each church by mentioning some of the descriptive features found in chapter 1. Those descriptions of Jesus were suited to the specific situations and needs of those churches. In such a way, Jesus pointed to His ability to meet their different needs and situations. This brings to mind the four Gospels. The Gospels present four distinctive portraits of Jesus to four different groups of people.
Next, Jesus gives an appraisal of the church and then counsels the church how to get out of their situation. Finally, each message concludes with an appeal to hear the Spirit and with promises to the overcomers.
As we saw in last week’s lesson in our analysis of the message to the first church in Ephesus, and as we will see this week in our study of the remaining six messages. We invite you to list the features of Jesus mentioned in each of the seven messages. Then, locate those features in the description of Jesus in chapter 1. As we briefly analyze the message, we will try to see how the features of Jesus in each message suited the situation of the Christians of John’s day and what they mean for God’s people today.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 20.
Sunday January 13
Christ’s Messages to Smyrna and Philadelphia
Jesus’ second and sixth messages originally addressed the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia. These two churches did not receive rebukes from Jesus.
Smyrna was a beautiful and wealthy city, next to Ephesus in its importance. It was reputed for its science and medicine industries as well as for its famous stadium, library, and the largest public theater in the province. The city was a center of emperor worship, which was compulsory for all citizens. The immediate consequences for refusing to comply with this mandate were the loss of legal status, persecution, and martyrdom.
Read Revelation 2:8-11. How does the way Jesus presents Himself to this church relate to the church’s situation? What was the situation of the church? What warning does Jesus give to the church of what was coming in the future? What promise did He give to this church?
The message to the church in Smyrna also speaks to the church in the postapostolic era, when Christians were viciously persecuted by the Roman Empire. The “ten days” mentioned in 2:10 pointed to the severe imperial persecution that started in A.D. 303 by Diocletian and continued until A.D. 313, when Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan granting Christians religious freedom.
Can you think of Christians around the world who are suffering persecution? Would you keep them in your prayers?
The next church addressed by Jesus was located in Philadelphia (“brotherly love”). It was founded in the second century B.C. by the king of Pergamum, Attalus II Philadelphus, in honor of his brother. The city stood on the imperial trade road connecting all parts east with all parts west of the province. It was founded as a center for promoting the Greek language and culture in the area of Lydia and Phrygia.
Read Revelation 3:7-13. How does the way Jesus presents Himself in this message relate to the situation of this church? What does Jesus’ statement, “you have a little strength” say about the condition of the church? What promises does Jesus give to this church?
The message to this church aptly applies to the great revival of Protestantism during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The church of this period was driven by a genuine desire to carry the gospel to the whole world. As a result, there was a great explosion of the gospel that had not been experienced since the time of Pentecost.
Do you feel spiritually weak in your relationship with Christ? In what way does Christ’s promise to the Philadelphians apply to you?

Monday January 14
Christ’s Message to Pergamum
Pergamos or Pergamum was the center of intellectual life in the Hellenistic world. It was famous for it’s library of nearly 200,000 volumes. It was also famous for its magnificent temples, in particular, the grand altar of Zeus that dominated the city. The city was the center of the cult of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, who was called “the Savior” and represented by a serpent. People from all over the world were coming to the shrine of Asclepius to be healed. Pergamum had a leading role in promoting the cult of emperor worship, which was, as in Smyrna, compulsory. In such a way, the Christians in Pergamum lived in the city “where Satan dwelt” and where his throne was located.
Read Revelation 2:12-15. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? What was His appraisal of the spiritual condition of this church?
Surrounded by paganism and its grand temples, the Christians in Pergamum faced temptations from both outside and inside the church. While most of them remained unwavering in their faithfulness to Christ, there were some in the church who advocated compromise with paganism in order to avoid persecution and martyrdom. They were called Nicolaitans, most likely the followers of Nicolas, one of the seven deacons in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5) who later turned to heresy. They are linked to another heretical group named after Balaam who seduced the Israelites on the way to the Promised Land (Num. 31:16). These two groups advocated conformity to pagan practices in order to avoid the discomfort of persecution. While the church in Ephesus did not tolerate such teaching (Rev. 2:6), these heretical teachers were able to seduce some in the church in Pergamum.
Read Revelation 2:16-17. What does Jesus urge the church to do in order to help them improve their spiritual condition? What promises does Jesus give to this church?
The message to the church in Pergamum also aptly describes the situation of the church in the period after A.D. 313. As Christianity won its struggle with paganism, many in the church went the way of compromise. Although many remained unwavering and faithful to the gospel, the fourth and fifth centuries witnessed spiritual decline and apostasy, during which the church wrestled with the temptation of compromise.
How does the message to the church in Pergamum apply to the situation of the church today? Do you see any parallels between the spiritual condition of church that you are a part of and the church in Pergamum?

Tuesday January 15
Christ’s Message to Thyatira
In comparison with other cities, Thyatira had no political or cultural significance. It was rather known for trade. The population consisted mainly of laborers and tradesmen who belonged to different trade guilds. Lydia, the purple fabrics dealer in Philippi, was originally from Thyatira (Acts 16:14). In order to run a business or have a job, people had to belong to trade guilds. Members had to attend the guild festivals and participate in temple rituals that included eating meat sacrificed to the patron god and immoral activities. Those who did not comply experienced exclusion from the guilds and economic sanctions. The Christians in this city had to choose between compromise and remaining faithful to the gospel.
Read Revelation 2:18-23. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? What were the qualities that Jesus commended the church for? What was the problem that troubled the church?
Like the church in Pergamum, the threat to the church in Thyatira was compromise with the pagan environment. They tolerated in their midst a female member who claimed to be a prophetess. Jesus names her Jezebel, after the wife of King Ahab, who led Israel into apostasy (1 Kings 16:31-33). Jezebel in Thyatira taught that it was okay for Christians to compromise with pagan practices in order to avoid the hardships. Jesus portrays her as a spiritual harlot. Those who condoned her teaching were committing spiritual adultery with her.
Read Revelation 2:24-29. While many in the church turned to apostasy, there was a remnant of those who remained faithful. What do you think are “the deep things of Satan” that this remnant did not come to know? Deliberate on the counsel and promise that Jesus gave to this faithful remnant?
The situation in the church in Thyatira applies to the condition of the church at large during the period of the Middle Ages. The danger to the church did not come from outside but from those who claimed to receive their authority from God. During that period, tradition replaced the Bible, a human priesthood and sacred relics replaced Christ’s priesthood, and works were regarded as the means of salvation. Those who did not condone the corrupting influences of the institutional church experienced persecution and even death.
How does Jesus’ message to the church of Thyatira apply to the congregation you are a part of? What kind of compromise are you tempted with in your life? Do you feel that you are a part of the remnant that has chosen to remain faithful and obedient to God?

Wednesday January 16
Christ’s Message to Sardis
The city of Sardis had a glorious history. A few centuries prior to Revelation, it was one of the greatest cities in the ancient world and the capital of Lydia, ruled by the wealthy Croesus. By the Roman period, the city had lost its prestige. While still enjoying prosperity and wealth, its glory was rooted in its past history rather than in present reality. The city was built on top of a steep hill and, as such, inaccessible. The citizens felt so secure that the city walls were carelessly guarded. The city was twice captured by surprise by soldiers who climbed the cliff and found that the overconfident citizens failed to post a guard on the walls.
Read Revelation 3:1. How does Jesus present Himself to this church and how does it relate to the church’s needs? What was His appraisal of the spiritual condition of this church?
While Jesus recognizes a few Christians in the church in Sardis as faithful, most of them only have a name, but are in reality spiritually dead. The church is not charged for any open sin or apostasy like those in Pergamum and Thyatira but with spiritual lethargy.
Read Revelation 3:2-6 along with Matthew 24:42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8. What three things does Jesus urge the Christians in Sardis to do as a cure for their spiritual condition? What did the church have to remember? How did Jesus’ warning to “watch” correspond to the historical background of the city? What promise did Jesus give to those who remained faithful?
The message to the church in Sardis aptly applies also to the spiritual situation of the Protestants in the post-Reformation period, as the church gradually degenerated into lifeless formalism and a state of spiritual complacency. Under the impact of the rising tide of rationalism and secularism, focus on the saving grace of the gospel and commitment to Christ waned, giving place to rationalism and theological arguments. The church at this period, although appearing to be alive, was in reality spiritually dead.
The letter also applies to every generation of Christians. There are Christians who always talk in glorious terms of their past faithfulness to Christ. Unfortunately, the same do not have much to share about their present experience with Christ. Their religion is nominal, lacking the true religion of the heart and genuine commitment to the gospel.
Do you see symptoms of complacency in your own life? How can Jesus’ counsel to the church in Sardis help you personally in curing such a spiritual situation?

Thursday January 17
Christians in Laodicea
The last church addressed by Jesus was located in Laodicea, a wealthy commercial, industrial, and financial city situated on the major trade road. It was famous for a woolen manufacturing industry, its banks, which held a vast quantity of gold, and a medical school producing eye salve. The prosperity filled the citizens with self-sufficiency. Around AD 60, when an earthquake destroyed the city, the citizens declined an offer of assistance from Rome, claiming to have all they needed. Since the city lacked water, it was supplied through an aqueduct from hot springs from Hierapolis, which, as it reached Laodicea, became lukewarm.
Read Revelation 3:14-17 along with Hosea 12:8. Draw parallels between the historical characteristics of the city and Christ’s appraisal of this church. How did the self-sufficient spirit of the city pervade the Laodicean Christians?
Jesus did not rebuke the Christians in Laodicea for some serious sin, heresy, or apostasy. Their problem was rather complacency leading to spiritual lethargy. Like the water that reached the city, they were neither refreshingly cold nor hot, but lukewarm. They claimed to be rich and in need of nothing; yet, they were extremely poor, naked, and blind to their spiritual condition.
The church in Laodicea aptly represents the spiritual condition of the church at the close of this earth’s history. This is shown by strong verbal links with Revelation 16:15 in connection with the preparation for the final crisis, which shows that the church in Laodicea was set to be the model for the end-time church. The last church will exist in times of great political, religious, and secular upheavals and will face challenges like no previous generation. Yet, this church is self-sufficient and struggling with its authenticity. Christ’s warning to her has a far-reaching implication for all who are a part of that church.
Jesus assures the Laodiceans that He loves them and he will not give up on them (3:19). He concludes His appeal by picturing Himself as the lover in Song of Songs 5:2-6 standing at the door and knocking and pleading to be let in (3:20). Everyone who opens the door and lets Him in is promised an intimate dinner with Him. This call is not to be missed.
Read Revelation 3:18-22. What counsel did Jesus give to the Laodiceans as a cure for their self-sufficiency? What do gold, white garment, and eye salve symbolize (see 1 Pet. 1:7; Isa. 61:10; Eph. 1:17-18)? Jesus offered the Laodiceans “to buy” from Him these things. What did they have to trade in exchange for these riches?

Friday October 18
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Revelation,” pp. 578-592, in The Acts of the Apostles.
The seven messages to the churches show spiritual decline in the seven churches. The church in Ephesus was still faithful, although it had lost its first love. The churches in Smyrna and Pergamum were faithful, only a small number of wayward members were unfaithful. Thyatira was a divided church with two phases of her faithfulness to Christ. The churches in Sardis and Philadelphia were in a very serious condition. The majority in these churches was out of harmony with the gospel, while the remnant represented the faithful few. The church in Laodicea was in such a condition that there was nothing good to be said about that church.
In concluding each message, Jesus makes promises to those who accept his counsel. One might observe, however, that along with the evident spiritual decline in the churches, there is a proportionate increase in promises given. Starting with Ephesus, which receives only one promise, as each church follows the downward spiritual trend, each receives more promises than the previous one. Finally, the church in Laodicea, while given only one promise, receives the greatest: to share Jesus’ throne (3:20). This promise encompasses all the other promises given to the churches.
Discussion Questions:
How does this increase in promises along with the spiritual decline in the churches reflect the statement that when sin increases, grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20)? Think of that in light of the statement that, “the church, enfeebled and defective though it be, is the only object on earth on which Christ bestows his supreme regard. He is constantly watching it with solicitude, and is strengthening it by his Holy Spirit.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, 2:396.
Often Christians say that it is hard to be a Christian in industrial, commercial, and metropolitan cities. What can be learned from the fact that in the prosperous cities in Asia there were Christians who remained loyal to the gospel and unswerving in the midst of all the pressure of the pagan environment?
Think of those Christians in Asia in light of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:15-19? How does the concept of being in the world but not of the world apply to Christians today, in particular those living in metropolitan cities?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 3, January 13-19 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Message to Six Churches (Rev 2:8 – 3:22)

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were fairly small for this week, I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

My introduction statement was completely replaced. I was summarizing the order in which the seven messages were address in the main lesson, the editors instead summarized the theme of the messages as encouragement to God’s people over the centuries. A major editorial change, but not theologically significant.

A minor change occurred in Main Theme I. I had written that the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia were “very largely positive.” The editors removed the “very” leaving them “largely positive.” A meaningful change that I could have made in thinking about it more. Later in the same paragraph I wrote that the chiastic structure of the seven message “tells us” that Laodicea, like Ephesus suffers from a deficiency of love. The editors changed the phrase to “suggests,” appropriate scholarly caution.

I was pleased that my section (Main Theme III) on the dark side of missionary endeavors (which is true but not pleasant for Christians to hear) was retained intact.

In Main Theme 5 the editors switched from third person to first person (“us” instead of “them”). I was writing with the assumption that some readers would not be Seventh-day Adventists and leaving them space to understand and appreciate what was said there. The change is aimed to identify with SDA readers and could make “outsiders” feel left out. I prefer the former, but it is the kind of decision best made from leadership’s perspective. Perhaps they know that non-Seventh-day Adventists won’t be reading the Teacher’s Edition.

In the Life Application I section, the editors added to a discussion of the Lamb’s bride “symbolized by the New Jerusalem.” I think that was a good addition. In Life Application II my clause “identify with His death and resurrection” was replaced with “invite Jesus to rule over our hearts and overcome,” eliminating a reference to Revelation 5:5-6.

In sum, you can work with this week’s lesson as if it came directly from my hand. There were no changes of major theological significance.
Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at https://www.absg.adventist.org/. My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at http://pineknoll.org/sabbath-school-lessons.

Werner Lange’s Observations on This Week’s Lesson

The Messages to the Seven Churches
(Revelation 2–3)

The first part of the Revelation is devoted to praise and rebuke, advice and promises to the seven churches to which John’s letter (the Revelation) was addressed (Rev 1:4-11).

Try it yourself
What indications can be found in the seven epistles in Rev 2–3 that they refer to the situation in the congregations at that time, to later times or also to church history?
What indications are there that this section is meant as a prophecy of seven periods in church history, or what contra-dicts this notion in the text and the context?
What allusions can be found in the messages to the seven churches, and what do they imply for the interpretation?

Signposts / keys for the interpretation
In the context of the seven epistles there is a hint for their interpretation which is mostly overlooked. Immediately before Jesus Christ says to John, according to Rev 1:19:

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now
and what will take place later. (NIV)

And right after the seven messages we read his command to John in Rev 4:1c (NIV/ESV):

Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.

The difference is obvious: The words what is now are missing.
Where is this what is now—in other words: the present conditions in the time of John—described? Logically between them in chapters 2 and 3. Therefore, the descriptions of the seven churches refer to their present condition; future deve-lopments are described only afterwards in the Revelation.
That the messages to the 7 churches (and the promises to the overcomers) were not only meant for them, but were addressed to all Christians in every age, is clear from the exhortations at the end of each message:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says
to the churches. (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)

This means that every congregation in the post-apostolic period should ask itself which of the descriptions of the churches applies also to them, and then follow the advice that Jesus gave to the congregation in question. And, likewise, each church or faith community should ask itself again and again critically whether one of the descriptions applies to it.
In this way, these seven epistles, like all the letters in the New Testament, are relevant to all Christians and churches throughout the time until the Second Coming of Christ.

Dead ends
The application of the seven churches to seven periods of church history has been widespread since the post-Reformation period, and Seventh-day Adventists were not the first to interpret the messages in this way. But this interpretation is supported neither by the context or the description of the churches nor by logic or church history.
An attentive perusal of the seven messages shows that there are no internal indications that they were also meant prophetically.
One argument for this, which is repeatedly stated, is the prediction to the congregation of Smyrna that some members of the congregation will be thrown into prison, be tested and will have a tribulation for ten days (Rev 2:10b). This is applied to the great persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian, and the year-day principle is applied to the ten days. However, this principle of a prophetic day signifying a real year only applies to symbolic biblical predictions (such as in Daniel 7 and 8). However, in Rev 2:10 no symbols are used, everything is to be understood literally. And the Diocletian persecution lasted only 8, not 10 years (303-11). In addition, the text includes a possible allusion to Daniel 1:12-14, which describes the trial of Daniel and his friends with regard to their diet. In the Greek text of the Septuagint, three words agree (test [peirasein] and ten days), the subject is the same.
A lot of factual and historical arguments speak also against the interpretation of the seven epistles as seven consecutive periods of church history.
Ephesus is applied to the state of the churches in the first century, but the seven epistles testify that the churches in the first century differed greatly from each other.
Sardes is applied to the Reformation period, but the church receives less praise than the church of Thyatira, which sup-posedly represents the medieval papal church. (Compare this with the very positive evaluation of the protestant reformers by Ellen White in her book The Great Controversy, chaps. 7–13). Moreover the description of the church in Thyatira does not accord with the description of the papal church in Rev 13:1-7.
Jon Paulien concedes that the verbal parallels between Rev 16:15 and 3:18 are “the best evidence” that “Laodicea represents the final church of earth’s history,” but this is not convincing at all, for there are also verbal and especially thematic parallels of Rev 16:15 to 7,14 and 22,14, while 3:18 has several thematic differences to Rev 16:15.
And how should the church of Laodicea accomplish the necessary proclamation of the eternal gospel before the Second Coming of Christ (14:6; cf. Matt 24:14), if all churches in the last days would be in the state of lukewarmness?
When the seven churches are interpreted in terms of periods of church history, either the text of the Revelation or the facts of church history are distorted.
Contemporary historical background
The descriptions of the churches contain numerous references to the situation in the respective cities:
• Smyrna (today Izmir) was an important harbour and trading centre, one of the wealthiest cities in Asia Minor (cf. 2:9: but you are rich).
• Pergamum had a famous temple of Zeus with a monumental altar that was twelve metres (40 feet) high; it looked from afar like a throne (cf. 2:13: throne of Satan, Zeus was sometimes represented by a serpent, as well as the god Asclepius, who was also worshipped in Pergamum; cf. 12:9).
• Thyatira possessed a sanctuary of the goddess Sambethe, an oriental Sybil and alleged prophetess (cf. 2:20: Jezebel … who calls herself a prophetess).
• Sardis was a centre of the wool and dyeing trade (cf. 3:4: white garments).
• Laodicea did not have sufficient water sources; the water that was needed was therefore led from hot springs, located six miles the north of Laodicea, by means of an aqueduct. It arrived in Laodicea lukewarm (cf. 3:16: because you are lukewarm).
The situation of the churches and their members was marked by the circumstances in the province of Asia in which they lived. Since Augustus it was the stronghold of emperor worship in the Roman Empire. The first provincial temple of the imperial cult was erected in Pergamum as early as 29 B.C. Smyrna got a temple for Tiberius in 26 A.D. and Ephesus a temple for Domitian in 89/90 A.D.
The Christians were exposed to possible persecutions du-ring this time. There was no general persecution of Christians (the first general persecution took place only in the years 249–51 under Emperor Decius), but the edict of Emperor Nero in the year 64, which had condemned the Christians in Rome to death, was probably included in the collection of edicts for the governors in the provinces, so that Christians could be con-demned on complaint for the simple reason that they were Christians (no special misconduct was required). If they participated in the imperial cult, they could escape punishment or execution (cf. the case of Antipas in Rev 2:13; the wording hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith points to the context of a lawsuit).
The letters to the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia indicate that these complaints probably came frequently from the Jewish side (cf. 2:9; 3:9). The historian Ethelbert Stauffer explains:

When the trials against Glabrio, Clemens and comrades on account of lese majesty became known in the year 95 … severe anti-Christian excesses and executions took place in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and elsewhere, and we have many evidences to the fact that the Jewish community in Asia Minor participated in these like [the Jewish historian] Josephus did in Rome at the same time.
The structure of the letters with introduction, central section and a double conclusion reflect the structure of royal and imperial edicts. Moreover, the introductory formula Thus says… was the primary feature of imperial decrees promulgated by Roman magistrates and emperors. Ethelbert Stauffer observes:

The introductory formula of the seven decrees of Jesus
is unmistakably formulated in antithetical analogy to the
introductory words of the Dominitian edicts.

Thus the seven letters should not be understood as informal letters, but rather as formal and public edicts. Christ thus presents himself to the churches as the eternal sovereign and King of kings (19:16b), who gives instructions to his subjects. In fact, the messages to the seven churches have almost nothing in common with personal letters.
On the other hand, the seven epistles also have parallels to the structure of ancient covenants with (1) a preamble, (2) a prologue, (3) stipulations or demands, (4) blessings and curses and (5) witnesses. The preamble (1) introduces Jesus with the phrase The words of him who (literally: Thus says), followed by a title; the prologue (2) speaks of past relations in such terms as I know your works; the stipulations (3) are introduced with the imperative of repent (to change one’s mind), usually follo-wed by instructions as to what should be done; the blessing (4) consists of a statement of reward in the promises to the over-comers, or sometimes of threats (2:16; 3:3b); and the Spirit, who must be listened to, acts as witness (5). The seven epistles would thus function as a statement of a kind of covenant renewal to each of the seven churches.
Both interpretations of the structure of the seven messages to the seven churches have some merit and are not mutually exclusive. In the following studies we will find again and again that both the Old Testament background and the parody of the Roman imperial cult play an important role in the Revelation.

Some explanations
Rev 2:6, 15: works/teachings of the Nicolaitans. Who are meant by this is unknown and has often been the subject of speculation. The term derives from the Greek name Nicolaos, which is a compound of the verb nikeiv = to win and laos = people, meaning “the one who conquers the people.”
2:9/3:9: synagogue of Satan. Both times this expression is related to the phrase those who say that they are Jews and are not. After the lost war against the Romans and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Jewish Christians were no longer tolerated in the synagogues because they refused to take part in the fight against Rome. In order to identify and disfellowship them from the synagogues, an 18th blessing was added in 90 A.D. to a Jewish prayer with 17 blessings. This was pronounced in religious services, and was actually a curse on the Nazarenes (the followers of Jesus of Nazareth; see Acts 24:5) and on heretics. The Jewish Christians were thus forced to identify themselves by their silence at this point and could then be excommunicated. The sharp judgment in Revelation against the Jews may have been a reaction to this. Christ called the Jews who wanted to kill him children of the devil (John 8:41, 44).
2:14: teaching of Balaam. In this verse we find an allusion to the machinations of Balaam against the people of Israel. The story in Genesis 22–25 must be taken together with the remark in 31:16 in order to interpret the statement in Rev 2:14. Balaam was a role model for false teachers and seducers.
2:14b, 20b: eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. Already the Council of Jerusalem ordered the Gentile Christians to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols … and from sexual immorality (Acts 15:29). This involved sacrifices in pagan temples and participation in public festivals, when sacrificed meat was eaten, as well as participation in cultic temple prostitution, which at that time was part of the cult and generally accepted. Paul also warned emphatically against these practices in his letters (see 1 Cor 10:14-22; 6:15-20; the private consumption of meat from the market, which may have been offered to an idol before, was considered harmless by Paul, if the Christian brother was thereby not wounded in his conscience, see 1 Cor 8). It is possible that the teaching of the Nicolaitans led to the same practice as the teaching of Balaam; the connection between Rev 2:14 and V. 15 supports this suggestion.
2:20: Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. The name Jezebel refers to the wife of King Ahab, who led him into idolatry (1 Kings 16:31-33; 21:25), killed the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4a, 13a) and practiced idolatry and sorcery (2 Kings 9:22b). The false prophetess Jezebel in the church of Thyatira, like Balaam, also seduced Christians to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Through the seductions by Balaam and Jezebel, behind which was certainly Satan (cf. 12:9), and the frequent mention of Satan (2:9, 13, 24; 3:9) and the devil (2:10), we also see how the basic motive of the conflict between Christ and His church and Satan shines through in the seven epistles.
3:19: those whom I love. Here the usual NT verb for love (agapeiv) is not used, but the verb for amicable or brotherly mutual love (phileiv). When we respond to God’s love, a amicable relationship also arises from God’s side, as John 16:27 shows (here, too, phileiv is used).
3:21: the one who conquers. The term literally means who wins and according to the grammatical form in Greek (a present participle) points to a constant victory or overcoming. This verse gives us a clear explanation of what is meant by it the comparison with Jesus. It is not about overcoming sin, but overcoming all Satan’s hostilities and temptations. How this is possible is explained in Rev 12:11, immediately after the description of the central motif of Revelation (vs. 7-9):

They (the brothers and sisters) have conquered him
by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death.

This overcoming is possible because of Christ’s redemption, and their public loyalty to him, and the use of his help (cf. Heb 2:17-18; 4:15-16; Jude 24-25). Because of the conflict between Christ and Satan, into which every follower of Christ is drawn, undivided faithfulness to Jesus is required. This includes:
• to hold fast to the first love for Jesus (2:4);
• to remain faithful in persecutions until death (2:10);
• to abstain from idolatry and fornication (2:14, 20);
• to persevere in awaiting the return of Christ (3:3);
• not to be lukewarm and satisfied with oneself (3:16-17).

Promising pathways
Make a list of everything Jesus praises in the churches, and a second list of what he rebukes. Which focal points do you recognize?
Follow the basic motive of the Revelation, the conflict be-tween Christ and Satan, in the seven letters to the churches.
Find in Rev 21–22 how the promises to overcomers at the end of each letter will be fulfilled on the new earth.

Statements by Ellen G. White
The only time Ellen White dealt with the Revelation in an entire chapter of a book is in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 57, where she applies the message to the congregation of Ephesus “as a symbol of the entire Christian church in the apostolic age”. She wrote about the other messages in general (on p. 585):

The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal
the condition of the church at different periods in the history
of the world.

Ellen White, however, wrote nothing more in her chapter about the meaning of the other epistles and did not apply them to periods of church history. Moreover, the above passage is a paraphrase of Uriah Smith’s statements about the meaning of the seven epistles.
Ellen White applied the message to Laodicea to the Adventist churches from 1873 onwards (her husband James had done this first). This statement from 1889 may serve as an example:

If ever there was a people that needed to heed the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodicean church to be zealous and to repent before God [Rev 3:19], it is the people who have had opened up before them the stupendous truths for this time, and who have not lived up to their high privileges and responsibilities. We have lost much in not living up to the light of the solemn truths which we profess to believe.

But she often applied the rebuke to the church of Ephesus for leaving their first love (2:4) also to the Adventist churches.
She had already written in 1859 on the individual application of the counsel to the church in Laodicea:

Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness [Rev 3:18]. If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge: “They are joined to their idols, let them alone,” and they pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels. Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.

Applications
Which of the seven churches most closely resembles our local church? Which advice of Jesus is therefore applicable to us? (This question should be discussed in a group.)
Which accusation against one of the seven churches applies to me personally? What then am I supposed to do?
Preparation for Revelation 4–5
Search in Revelation 4–5 for parallels and possible allusions to statements in the Old Testament.
Notice the drama described in chapter 5, in contrast to chapter 4. What might that indicate, in connection with the statements about the lamb, regarding the opening and the content of the scroll with seven seals?

© Werner E. Lange
Retired book editor of the German Adventist Publishing House

Reactions to my elaborations are welcome. They can be sent directly to me per e-mail (lektorat-wernerlange@t-online.de).
I would welcome, too, if the PDF is shared, or the website with the elaborations is recommended to other church members.
In the coming weeks I will discuss in my local church the inter-pretation of the chapters of the Revelation corresponding to the theme of the respecting Sabbath School lesson. A summary as PDF will be provided each Friday on the website before the respective lesson begins in the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.
You can download all PDFs of the project “Revelation DIY” under https://1drv.ms/f/s!Agfvhk0oak34jZBoDxAbbPJKmCC2JQ. Link to an overview of all available files and a video (Hints in the Introduction):
https://hansa.adventisten.de/aktuelles/offenbarung-diy/diy-english/

Original Teacher’s Notes for Rev 2-3 (Week 3)

LESSON 3

GOD’S PEOPLE IN CITIES

Part I: Overview

Focus of the Lesson: Rev. 3:21.

Study Focus: Messages two through seven to the seven churches of Revelation (Rev. 2:8 – 3:22).

Introduction: This lesson first pairs the messages to Smyrna and Philadelphia. The messages to Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea are then examined in the order they appear in the text.

Lesson Themes: The lesson and the focus passage introduce the following themes:

1. The Chiasm of the Seven Churches. The seven churches are structured in a typical Hebrew style (see commentary below for details).
2. Encouragement in Trouble. The messages to the seven churches exhibit both spiritual decline and a corresponding increase in the number and weight of promises made to each church.
3. Christianity’s Greatest Advance and Its Contemporary Consequences. The message to Philadelphia forecast a time of great missionary advance. But that advance included aspects that have put Christianity on the defensive today.
4. The Message to Thyatira Is Different. The churches as a whole exhibit spiritual decline. That is also manifest in the messages to Ephesus, Pergamum and Sardis. But the message to Thyatira goes against the grain in a couple of ways.
5. Laodicea and the Final Era of Earth’s History. Evidence from the text supports the idea that Laodicea represents the church at the close of Christian history.

Life Application. The inclusion of Jezebel in the message to Thyatira invites the participants to reflect on the role of the four women in Revelation. Seventh-day Adventists are also invited to apply the message to Laodicea to themselves.

Part II. Commentary

The messages to the seven churches have a common structure, similar in form to ancient letters. 1) Jesus addresses each church by name. 2) He then introduces Himself to each church, using characteristics drawn from chapter one. 3) He offers an analysis of the strengths and/or weaknesses of each church. 4) Jesus provides counsel suitable to His analysis of each church. 5) An appeal is made to listen to the Spirit. 6) Each message concludes with a promise or promises to those in each church who overcome. In messages four through seven (beginning with Thyatira), numbers five and six are reversed.

Main Themes of Lesson 3 Elaborated:

1. The Chiasm of the Seven Churches. The structure of the seven churches exhibits a literary form that is grounded in Hebrew logic. In western thinking A + B = C. But in Hebrew logic A + B = A enhanced. This literary form is called chiasm (from the Greek letter X [pronounced “key”]). Writers produce chiasms when they reason full-circle back to the beginning point of an argument. The first point parallels the last point. The second point parallels the next to last point, and so on, with the climax at the center rather than the end. It is, perhaps, not coincidental that the form of the seven-branched lampstand in the tabernacle is analogous to a literary chiasm.
The letter to Smyrna (second) has many similarities with the letter to the Philadelphians (sixth), both are very positive messages. The letters to Pergamum (third) and Sardis (fifth) are both to churches in steep decline. The message to Thyatira (the fourth and middle church) is twice as long as the others and is different from all the others (see theme 4 below). This means that the first and last letters (to Ephesus and Laodicea) are also parallel. This tells us that Laodicea, like Ephesus, suffers from a deficiency of love.

2. Encouragement in Trouble. When you look at the seven churches as a whole, they seem to be in a state of decline and the rebukes from Jesus become more and more serious. The churches at Ephesus and Smyrna are faithful churches, only that Ephesus has a deficiency of love. But as you go through the churches things seem to decline from Pergamum through Sardis until you get to Laodicea, where Jesus cannot think of anything good to say about the church. While the message to Philadelphia is positive, the church is much weaker than Smyrna. In the message to Ephesus, there is a threat that Jesus will take a closer look at them. Laodicea makes Jesus feel like vomiting. This is a serious picture.
But this leads in to the most encouraging part of the messages to the seven churches. The first church gets one promise: The tree of life. The second church gets two: The crown of life and deliverance from the second death. The third church gets three: hidden manna, white stone, new name. The fourth church gets four, the fifth church gets five, the sixth church gets six. Each church gets more promises than the church before, and the seventh church, Laodicea, gets the promise to end all promises, to sit with Jesus on His throne.
As the condition of the churches declines, as the rebukes of Jesus become more severe, the promises of Jesus abound more and more. The worse things get, the greater the grace and power that God exerts. The deeper the problems you may have in life, the more powerful is the grace of Jesus Christ. This message speaks as powerfully for us today as it did in ancient times.

3. Christianity’s Greatest Advance and Its Contemporary Consequences. The lesson brings out that the message to Philadelphia applies to the great revival of Protestantism during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This motivated the church to carry the gospel to the whole world. It resulted in the greatest expansion of Christianity since the time of Pentecost.
But there was a dark side to this expansion. Missionary endeavors too often rode on the back of the West’s colonial expansion in the economic and political realms. As a result, many non-Christian peoples today see Christianity as a self-serving tool of Western imperialism rather than a humble, self-effacing movement that seeks to improve the lives of others. This attitude is increasingly found even in the more “Christian” parts of the world. Christianity as a whole is on the defensive today. In this context manipulation or political involvement of any kind on the part of the church plays into the negative stereotypes that have arisen. The gospel message can no longer rely on political and economic support for its success. It has been thrown back to Jesus’ original plan of “power made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

4. The Message to Thyatira Is Different. As mentioned earlier, the churches of Rev. as a whole exhibit spiritual decline. That is also clearly manifested in the messages to Ephesus, Pergamum and Sardis. But the message to Thyatira goes against the grain in several ways. First of all, it is twice as long as the other six messages. This is fitting to its role at the center of the chiasm. Second, it is the only church whose faithful members merit the title of “remnant” (the “rest” [Greek: loipois] in Thyatira– Rev 2:24, KJV).
Third, it is the only church that is getting better. Jesus says that their “latter works exceed the first” (Rev 2:19, ESV). While all the other churches are either in decline or holding steady, Thyatira was already improving when Jesus came to deliver His message to the church. Placed at the center of the chiasm of the seven churches, this positive message means that all the churches are capable of the changes Jesus calls them to. While Satan accuses in order to discourage and distract, Jesus and the Holy Spirit rebuke in order to encourage and to heal.

5. Laodicea and the Final Era of Earth’s History. Seventh-day Adventists have often seen the message to Laodicea as applying particularly to the church at the end of time. The best evidence for this is the connection between Rev. 3:18 and Rev. 16:15. No other text in the Bible contains the four major words found in both of these passages. Both verses have the Greek words for “seeing” (Greek: blepô), “clothing” (Greek: himation), “shame” (Greek: aischunê, aschêmosunê) and “nakedness” (Greek: gumnotês, gumnos). This is a striking parallel. In the midst of the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:14-16) there is a call to end-time watchfulness in the language of Laodicea (Rev. 16:15, cf. 3:18). This is striking evidence that Laodicea represents the final church of earth’s history.

Part III: Life Application

1. How many women are portrayed in the Book of Revelation and what is their role in the message of the book? There are four women portrayed in Revelation. Two are positive figures and two are negative. The first is Jezebel, the leader of the opposition to the faithful ones in Thyatira (Rev. 2:20-23). The second is the godly woman of Revelation 12 (Rev. 12:1-2, 5-6, 14-17). The third is prostitute Babylon (Rev. 17:1-7, 16). The fourth is the bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-8). All four are ultimately associated with the church, either positively or negatively. Jezebel, the opponent of Thyatira anticipates prostitute Babylon, who is dressed like the High Priest (Rev 17:4). If the first part of Thyatira represents the medieval church, then the two images are very closely related. Opposition to Christ often wears a Christian face.
Similarly, the woman of Rev. 12 represents the faithful people of God throughout history. The bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19) represents the faithful of God at the end of history. So it stands to reason that Babylon (Rev. 17-18) represents opposition to God from within the church at the end of time. “Woman” in Rev. represents both the best and the worst of human interaction with God.

2. How should Seventh-day Adventists apply the message of Rev. 3:18-21 to themselves? What is there in the text for all of us to learn? Gold can express the value we have in God’s eyes. White raiment represents the righteousness of Christ that is given to us. Eye salve represents the spiritual discernment that helps us clearly see our need for Christ.
Although Jesus disciplines as needed (Rev. 3:19), He never forces anyone to follow Him. He gently invites and leaves the decision to us (3:20). And He holds out the promise to end all promises to us. If we identify with His death and resurrection (Rev. 3:21; 5:5-6), we will participate in His throne. As expressed by the gold tried in the fire, God sees infinite value in us.

3. What encouragement can we take from an awareness that many ancient Christians remained faithful to God in the midst of godless cities?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 2, January 6-12 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition in Portuguese

Share this analysis with your Portuguese speaking friends, courtesy of Matheus Cardoso, a Brazilian follower of this site:

Tema básico: A visão de Cristo e a igreja em Éfeso (Ap 1:9–2:7)

As mudanças no auxiliar de professor da Lição da Escola Sabatina para adultos foram relativamente pequenas nesta semana. Vou analisar as mudanças que foram mais interessantes ou significativas. No final do Esboço (Parte I), menciono originalmente a “imagem assustadora de Jesus” em Apocalipse 1:12-16. Os editores alteraram “assustadora” para “surpreendente”. Suponho que consideraram desagradável a ideia de que Jesus poderia ser assustador. No entanto, baseei esse adjetivo em Apocalipse 1:17, onde Jesus assegura a João: “Não tenha medo” (NVI). Compreendo a mudança, mas prefiro usar a linguagem bíblica sempre que possível.

No primeiro parágrafo do Comentário (Parte II), os editores eliminaram uma frase em que observo que os versículos 11 e 19 formam um “invólucro” (ou envelope) em torno da visão de Jesus (Ap 1:12-18). Sendo que o verso 11 convida João a escrever o que ele vê, e o verso 19 o encoraja a escrever o que viu, considero que toda a visão do Apocalipse (resumida em 1:19) foi comtemplada entre esses dois versos (minhas razões são apresentadas na terceira seção do Comentário, cujo texto foi mantido). Isso significaria que todo o livro de Apocalipse foi dado em uma única visão. Já os editores preferem a ideia de várias visões. Se Apocalipse 1:19 descreve todo o livro – “as [coisas] que são” descrevendo as mensagens às sete igrejas e “as [coisas] que hão de acontecer depois destas” se referindo a Apocalipse 4–22 (compare com Ap 4:1) –, então meu ponto de vista é preferível. Acredito que a razão para remover essa frase seja proteger a ideia de que o papel profético das sete igrejas seja a intenção primária, o que considero difícil de enxergar no próprio texto. Entendo as mensagens às sete igrejas como cartas proféticas, com um endereçamento primário para a audiência original (“as [coisas] que são”), mas tendo implicações proféticas para a história da igreja. Essa não é uma questão de vida e morte. De qualquer forma, a aplicação profética das sete igrejas é exegeticamente justificável, mesmo se não for exegeticamente convincente. Relacionado a isso, na terceira seção do Comentário, é removida uma sentença na qual declaro que as mensagens às sete igrejas não são de estilo apocalíptico, como Daniel 7 e Apocalipse 12. Deixo que o leitor compare esses textos e decida por si mesmo.

Na segunda seção do Comentário, uma sentença foi removida: “Nenhuma igreja individual, portanto, tem a imagem plena de Jesus.” Acredito que esse fato é evidente no texto, já que cada igreja é endereçada com uma a três características de Jesus, e não com a totalidade do que é descrito em Apocalipse 1:12-18. [É interessante notar que a segunda sentença que apresenta essa ideia foi mantida: “E se nenhuma igreja ou nenhum cristão têm a imagem plena de Jesus […].” – Nota do tradutor.] Suspeito que a frase tenha sido removida para evitar que os leitores concluam que a Igreja Adventista do Sétimo Dia possui menos do que uma imagem completa de Jesus. Podemos discutir o que “imagem plena de Jesus” significaria nesse contexto. Em minha experiência, tenho aprendido muito a respeito de Jesus com cristãos que não são adventistas do sétimo dia.

Os editores acrescentaram a quinta seção do Comentário, já que originalmente não abordo a mensagem à igreja em Éfeso, deixando que o leitor estude a respeito do assunto a partir da lição de aluno. Em minha opinião, esse foi um acréscimo bastante útil e positivo.

Finalmente, na Aplicação Para a Vida (Parte III), observei que os editores mantiveram minha declaração de que “a aparência de Jesus tenha atemorizado [em inglês, “frightened”, assustado, apavorado] João”. Isso me diz que a alteração anterior foi uma preferência editorial, em vez de uma profunda diferença na teologia ou na interpretação bíblica.

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for This Week (Rev 1:9-20)

From Ranko: “In this lesson, some problematic changes have been introduced. The most problematic is introduced the last paragraph that was inserted stating that Rev 1:12-20 describe Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. This is opposite of what Revelation clearly shows. John is not taken in vision into the heavenly sanctuary until 4:1, where he is taken up to look through the door inside the heavenly throne room of the heavenly sanctuary.”

Lesson 2 *January 6-12

Among the Lampstands

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:9-20; 2:1-7; Lev. 26:11-12; Ps. 73:2-28; Rom. 5:20.
Memory Verse: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21, NKJV).
Psalm 73 describes the Psalmist’s bewilderment as he observed the boastful pride of ungodly people. They lived in abundance and ease with their heads lifted toward heaven mocking, “How does God know?” Unfortunately, the prosperity of the ungodly is starkly juxtaposed with the suffering of the righteous. This injustice greatly distressed and troubled the Psalmist (Ps. 73:2—16). In his perplexity, he went to the sanctuary (73:16-17). There, in the presence of God, he acquired a deeper understanding of the matter. He left the place of his encounter with God with the determination: “It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works” (Ps. 73:28, NKJV).

Centuries later, an aged apostle found himself on a rocky prison island because of his faithful witness to the gospel. In his distress, he got news that the churches he was in charge of were suffering. It was at that critical moment that he had a visionary experience in a sanctuary setting where he had a special encounter with the resurrected Christ.
Similar to the experience of the Psalmist centuries earlier, this visionary experience revealed to John the mysteries of this life. This sanctuary scene provided him with the assurance of Christ’s presence and care for his people. This assurance he was to pass on to the churches in Asia as well as to the succeeding generations of Christians throughout the centuries until the end of this world’s history.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 13.

Sunday January 7

On Patmos
Read Revelation 1:9. What does John the Revelator tell us of the circumstances in which he received the visions of Revelation? Why was he on Patmos?

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Patmos (modern Patina) was a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea; it was ten miles long and six miles wide across its widest part. Romans used it together with some other surrounding islands as a penal colony for banished political offenders. Early Christian authors living relatively close to the time of Revelation state unanimously that Roman authorities banished John to Patmos because of his faithfulness to the gospel. The aged apostle endured on Patmos all the hardships of Roman imprisonment. He was treated as a criminal, chained in fetters, given insufficient food, and forced to perform hard labor under the lash of the whip of merciless Roman guards.
John’s exile to Patmos led to the writing of Revelation as did Daniel’s exile in Babylon led to the writing of the book of Daniel. Therefore, in what way do you think their experiences helped them to relate to the situations of God’s people to whom they communicate God’s message?
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“Patmos, a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, had been chosen by the Roman government as a place of banishment for criminals; but to the servant of God this gloomy abode became the gate of heaven. Here, shut away from the busy scenes of life, and from the active labors of former years, he had the companionship of God and Christ and the heavenly angels, and from them he received instruction for the church for all future time”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 570.
The followers of Christ should never forget that whenever they find themselves in circumstances similar to that of John, they are not left alone. The Patmos experience always results in a revelation of Christ. The same Jesus, who came to John with the words of hope and encouragement in the midst of his hardship on Patmos, is still present with His people to sustain and support them in their difficult life situations.

Monday January 8

On the Lord’s Day
Read Revelation 1:10 along with Exodus 31:13; Isaiah 58:13; Matthew 12:8. According to these texts, what day in the Bible is clearly specified as the Lord’s? How meaningful this day must have been for John in the midst of his hardships?
“It was on the Sabbath that the Lord of glory appeared to the exiled apostle. The Sabbath was as sacredly observed by John on Patmos as when he was preaching to the people in the towns and cities of Judea. He claimed as his own the precious promises that had been given regarding that day”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 581.
The expression “the Lord’s Day” brings also to mind another day in the Bible called the “day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6-13; 2 Pet. 3:10). This is the day of the Second Coming when God will bring the history of this world to its end and establish His kingdom. This suggests that the apostle John received the vision of Revelation on the seventh-day Sabbath in which he witnessed the future events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ (cf. 1:7). That is the reason why the Sabbath became for him a foretaste of a life free from suffering, which he and the faithful of all ages will experience at the Second Coming.
“The Sabbath, which God had instituted in Eden, was as precious to John on the lonely isle . . . What a Sabbath was that to the lonely exile, always precious in the sight of Christ, but now more than ever exalted! Never had he learned so much of Jesus. Never had he heard such exalted truth.”—Ellen G. White, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 955.
Compare the two versions of the fourth commandment of the Decalogue in Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15. These two texts point to the seventh-day Sabbath as a memorial of both creation and deliverance reminding us that God both made us and purchased us. What implication does this twofold aspect of the Sabbath have for you personally? What special meaning does the Sabbath have to you when you find yourself, like the apostle John, in the midst of perplexity and suffering?
The first angel in Revelation 14:7 urges the inhabitants of the earth at the time of the end to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water,” which is the language from Exodus 20:11. What does this tell us of the end-time significance of the Sabbath in Revelation?

Tuesday January 9

Encountering Christ on Patmos
Read Revelation 1:12-18. Compare John’s portrayal of Christ with the divine being in Daniel 10:5-6. How does Jesus appear in the vision? What is He doing?
John sees Jesus dressed in a priestly robe walking among the lampstands. The vision reflects the ancient Israelite temple in which the lampstands provided light (see 1 Kings 7:49).
The picture of Jesus walking among the lampstands points to God’s promise to ancient Israel to walk among them as their God (Lev. 26:12). In Revelation, the lampstands represented the seven churches in Asia to whom Revelation was originally sent (Rev. 1:20). In the symbolic walking among the lampstands, Jesus fulfills the covenant promise given to Israel; He will be continually with his people until he brings them to their eternal home.
Moreover, the picture of Jesus as a priest among the lampstands is drawn from the cultic practice in the Jerusalem temple. The daily task of an appointed priest was to keep the lamps in the Holy Place burning brightly. He would trim and refill the lamps that were waning, replace the wick on the lamps that had gone out and refill them with fresh oil and re-light them. In such a way, the priest became acquainted with the situation of each individual lamp. In the same way, Jesus is personally acquainted with the needs and circumstances of the seven churches.
Read Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19, etc. What does the statement, “I know” say about Jesus’ acquaintance with the situations and needs of God’s people in those churches?
Jesus came down to Patmos, first to provide encouragement to John. He identified Himself with the titles of God as ”the First and the Last” (see Isa. 44:6; 48:12). The Greek word for “last” is eschatos from which the word eschatology (“end-time”) comes. This shows that the focus of eschatology is on Jesus Christ who has the last word with regard to the final events. He is “the living one” and is in possession of “the keys of death and of Hades” (1:18). Keys are a symbol of power and authority. His faithful followers don’t need to fear because death and the abode of the dead are under his control. No matter what the future brings, He will always be with His people until the very end.
Do you sometimes find yourself on a “patmos,” surrounded by a sea of dire circumstances that cause fear in your life? What lesson does the scene of Jesus among the lampstands speak to you?

Wednesday January 10

Christ’s Messages for Then and Now
John lived the last part of his life in Ephesus. He was a pastor overseeing the churches in the province. While he was on Patmos, those churches started experiencing serious problems. However, the aged apostle could not provide them with guidance.
Read Revelation 1:11 and 19-20. Jesus also gave to John distinctive messages for the seven churches in Asia. What does the fact that there were more that seven churches in the province and that only seven were chosen suggest about the symbolic significance of these messages for Christians in general?
The messages that Jesus commissioned John to send to the seven churches are recorded in Revelation 2-3. Their meanings apply on three levels:
Historical application. Those messages were originally sent to the seven churches located in the prosperous city centers in Asia in the first century. The Christians there faced serious challenges from the pagan environment. Several cities set up emperor worship in their temples as a token of their loyalty to Rome. Emperor worship became compulsory for all citizens in those cities. Citizens were also expected to participate in the city’s public events and pagan religious ceremonies. Because Christians refused to participate in those events they faced losing their legal status, persecution, and even martyrdom. Commissioned by Christ, John wrote the seven messages to help them with the challenges of their pagan environment. An understanding of this historical context helps us understand the primary meaning of those messages.
Prophetic application. The fact that Revelation is a prophetic book and that only seven churches were chosen, points to the prophetic character of the seven messages. The spiritual conditions in the seven churches coincide with the spiritual conditions of Christianity in different periods of history. The seven messages are intended to provide, from heaven’s perspective, a panoramic survey of the spiritual condition of Christianity from the first century until the time of the end.
Universal application. While originally sent to the churches in Asia, the seven messages contain lessons that apply also to different Christians in every period in history. They were sent together as one letter and they had all to be read in every church (Rev 1:11). In such a way, they represent different types of Christians in any place and time. For instance, while the general characteristic of Christianity today is Laodicean, some Christians may, instead, have the characteristics of some other church. The good news is, God “meets fallen human beings where they are”—Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, p. 10.

Thursday January 11

Message to the Church in Ephesus
Read Acts 19. What do you learn here about the city of Ephesus and the beginning of the church there? What were some of the challenges of the pagan environment that Christians in Ephesus faced?
Ephesus was the capital and the largest city in the Roman province of Asia, located on the major trade routes. As the chief seaport of Asia, it was a very important commercial and religious center. The city was filled with public buildings such as temples, theaters, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and brothels. It was known also for magical practices and arts. The city was, however, notorious for immorality and superstition. Yet, the most influential Christian church in the province was located in Ephesus.
Read Revelation 2:1-4 along with Jeremiah 2:2. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? For what great qualities does Jesus commend the church? What concern does Jesus express about the members in the church?
In their early days, the Ephesians were known for their faithfulness and love (Eph. 1:15). Although experiencing pressure both from outside and inside the church, the Christians in Ephesus remained firm and faithful. They were hardworking and doctrinally sound. They could not tolerate false teachers in their midst. However, as the members emphasized sound doctrine and orthodox behavior, their love for Christ and their fellow members began to wane. Although firm and faithful, in the absence of love, their works became cold and legalistic.
Read Revelation 2:5-7. What three things does Jesus urge the church to do in order to revive their first love and devotion to Christ and their fellow believers? How are these three things sequentially related?
Prophetically, the situation in the church in Ephesus corresponds to the general situation and spiritual condition of the church in the first century. The early church was characterized by love and faithfulness to the gospel. But by the end of the first century, the church began losing the fire of its first love, thus departing from the simplicity and purity of the gospel.
Throughout history Christians have always found themselves torn between practicing sound doctrine and expressing love and compassion. Imagine yourself as part of a congregation whose love is waning? The members may not be rebuked of any open sin. They are doing what’s right, yet they suffer from formalism and coldness. How can Jesus’s counsel help such a church get out of such a situation?

Friday January 12

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Patmos,” pp. 567-576, in The Acts of the Apostles.
“The persecution of John became a means of grace. Patmos was made resplendent with the glory of a risen Saviour. John had seen Christ in human form, with the marks of the nails, which will ever be his glory, in his hands and his feet. Now he was permitted again to behold his risen Lord, clothed with as much glory as a human being could behold, and live. What a Sabbath was that to the lonely exile, always precious in the sight of Christ, but now more than ever exalted! Never had he learned so much of Jesus. Never had he heard such exalted truth.
“The appearance of Christ to John should be to all, believers and unbelievers, an evidence that we have a risen Christ. It should give living power to the church. At times dark clouds surround God’s people. It seems as if oppression and persecution would extinguish them. But at such times the most instructive lessons are given. Christ often enters prisons, and reveals himself to his chosen ones. He is in the fire with them at the stake. As in the darkest night the stars shine the brightest, so the most brilliant beams of God’s glory are revealed in the deepest gloom. The darker the sky, the more clear and impressive are the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, the risen Saviour.”—Ellen G. White, “John the Beloved,” in Youth Instructor, April 5, 1900.
“Looking down through long centuries of darkness and superstition, the aged exile saw multitudes suffering martyrdom because of their love for the truth. But he saw also that He who sustained His early witnesses would not forsake His faithful followers during the centuries of persecution that they must pass through before the close of time.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 588.

Discussion Questions:

John the Revelator shares with the readers what he saw and heard on Patmos. As you read Revelation 1:12-20, what do you see and hear? How does the vision of the glorified Christ impact your daily life today and your walk with Him?

Somebody said that religion is something people try in their life after they have tried everything else. As we have deliberated this week about John’s experience on Patmos, what impact has this made on your decision, after all you have tried in your life, to try Jesus Christ?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 2, January 6-12 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: The Vision of Christ and the Church at Ephesus (Rev 1:9 – 2:7)

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were fairly small for this week, I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive. Toward the end of the Overview (Part I) I spoke of the “frightening picture of Jesus” in Revelation 1:12-16. The editor(s) changed “frightening” to “startling.” I suppose they found the idea that Jesus could be frightening distasteful. But I based that adjective on Revelation 1:17 where Jesus assures John afterward, “Do not be afraid.” I understand the shift, but prefer to use biblical language when possible.

In the first paragraph of the Commentary section (Part II) the editors took out a sentence where I note that verses 11 and 19 form an “envelope” around the vision of Jesus (Rev 1:12-18). Since verse 11 invites John to write what he sees and verse 19 encourages him to write what he has seen, I take it that the entire vision of Revelation (summarized in 1:19) was seen in between (my reasons are spelled out in the third section of the Commentary part, which survived). That would mean that the whole book of Revelation came in a single vision. The editors prefer the idea of multiple visions. If Revelation 1:19 describes the whole book (the “things which are” describing the seven churches and the “things which must happen after this” [compare with Rev 4:1] from Revelation 4-22), then my view is to be preferred. I think the motive in removing this sentence is to protect the idea that the prophetic role of the seven churches is primary, which I find hard to see in the text itself. I see the seven churches as prophetic letters, with a primary address to the original audience (“the things which are”), but prophetic implications for church history. This is not a life and death sort of difference. The prophetic view of the churches is exegetically defensible either way, even if not exegetically compelling. Related to this, in the third section of the Commentary part, a sentence is removed where I said that the seven churches are not apocalyptic in style, like Daniel 7 and Revelation 12. I will let the reader compare these texts and decide for themselves.

In the second section of the Commentary part, a sentence was removed (“No individual church, therefore, has the full picture of Jesus”). I think that is evident in the text, as each church is approach with one to three characteristics of Jesus, not the whole of Rev 1:12-18). I suspect the sentence was removed so readers would not get the implication that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has less than a full picture of Jesus. We can discuss what “full picture of Jesus” means in that context. In my experience, I have learned a lot about Jesus from believers who are not Seventh-day Adventist.

The editors added the fifth section of the Commentary part, as I did not say anything additional regarding the message to the church at Ephesus, leaving the reader to draw that from the standard lesson. I thought it was a good and helpful addition.

Finally, in the Life Application section, I note that the editors left my reference to the appearance of Jesus frightening John “to his core.” That tells me that the change was editorial preference rather than a deep-seated difference in theology or interpretation of the Bible.

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at https://www.absg.adventist.org/. My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at http://pineknoll.org/sabbath-school-lessons.

Original Teacher’s Notes for Rev 1:9-20 (Week 2)

Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 2:7.

Study Focus: Introduction to the messages to the seven churches (Rev. 1:9 – 2:7).

Introduction: Rev. 1:9-20 provides the backdrop for the messages to the seven churches in chapters two and three. Aspects of the glorious vision of Christ provide the unique setting for each of the seven messages. Jesus knows each of the seven churches and meets them where they are. The lesson closes with a more detailed look at the message to Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7).

Lesson Themes: The focus passage introduces the following themes (Rev. 1:9 – 2:7):

1. The Identity of the Lord’s Day in Rev. 1:10. The Sabbath is the most likely option for John’s understanding of the Lord’s Day.
2. Jesus Meets the Churches Where They Are. Jesus approaches each of the seven churches with different characteristics drawn from the introductory vision (Rev. 1:9-20).
3. John’s Basic Outline of Revelation (based on Rev. 1:19). In Rev. 1:19 John summarizes the whole vision as concerning the things which are and the things which will happen after these things. Rev. 4:1 shows that much of Rev. focuses on John’s future.
4. Interpreting the Seven Messages to the Seven Churches. The prophetic letter style of the messages to the seven churches points to a three-fold approach to interpreting them.

Life Application. Participants are invited to consider the implications of the frightening picture of Jesus in 1:12-16, John’s reaction to this picture (1:17), and Jesus’ gracious and comforting response to John (1:17-18).

Part II. Commentary

The introductory vision (Rev. 1:12-18) centers on a glorious picture of Jesus. He is the Son of Man (1:13), the one who died and is alive forevermore (1:18). Based on Daniel 10:5-6 and a number of other OT texts, this vision portrays the kind of Jesus who was seen only at the Transfiguration during His earthly ministry. The characteristics of Jesus in the vision are repeated throughout the seven messages of chapters two and three. The vision is like the stage backdrop to the first act of a play. The envelope of verses 11 and 19 make it clear that John received the vision of the entire book between those two verses.
In addition to the vision of Jesus (1:12-18) the lesson also addresses the location and time when John received the vision (1:9-11), a basic interpretation of the vision (1:19-20), and an analysis of the message to the church at Ephesus (2:1-7).

Main Themes of Lesson 2 Elaborated:
1. The Identity of the Lord’s Day in Rev. 1:10. The most popular view of Revelation 1:10 among commentators is that the “Lord’s Day” of Revelation 1:10 is Sunday, the first day of the week. The strength of this view is that later Church Fathers used the phrase with reference to Sunday, and the Latin equivalent, dominus dies, became one of the names for Sunday in the Latin Church. But all clear references to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” are much later than Revelation and thus cannot serve as evidence for the meaning when John wrote.
The best explanation for the Lord’s Day in Rev. 1:10 is that John was referring to the seventh-day Sabbath. While the exact phrase “the Lord’s Day” (kuriakê hemêra) is never used elsewhere in the New Testament or in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, many strong equivalents refer to the seventh-day Sabbath. The seventh day is “a Sabbath to the Lord (kuriô) your God” (Exod 20:10; Deut 5:14). “The Lord” (kurios) often refers to the seventh day as “my Sabbath” (ta sabbata mou– Exod 31:12-13; Lev 19:3, 30; 26:2; Isa 56:4-6; Ezek 20:12-13, 16, 20-21, 24; 22:3-8; 23:36-38; 44:12-24). In the Hebrew of Isaiah 58:13 Yahweh calls the Sabbath “My holy day.” And finally, all three Synoptic Gospels (Matt 12:8; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5) quote Jesus as saying “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (kurios tou sabbatou). It would be strange, therefore, if John used the phrase “the Lord’s Day” for any other day of the week than the one we call Saturday.

2. Jesus Meets the Churches Where They Are. Jesus appears on the scene of Revelation in spectacular fashion (Rev. 1:12-20). The same Jesus is in close relationship with the seven churches (1:20). He knows each of them intimately (Rev. 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). And He introduces Himself to each church with one, two or three characteristics from the earlier vision.
The message to Ephesus (Rev. 2:1), for example, describes Jesus as the one who holds the seven stars in His hand (Rev. 1:20) and walks among the seven golden lampstands (1:12-13). In the message to Smyrna (2:8), Jesus is the first and the last, the one who died came to life (1:17-18). In the letter to Pergamum, He approaches with a sharp, two-edged sword (1:16). So it goes throughout the seven church letters.
Here’s the interesting thing. Jesus presents Himself differently to each of the seven churches. No individual church, therefore, has the full picture of Jesus. He is able to adapt to each church’s particular needs and circumstances. In other words, He meets each church where they are. And if no church and no Christian has the full picture of Jesus, then we all have reason to be humble. We are all learners. And we all have something to teach each other.

3. John’s Basic Outline of Revelation (Rev. 1:19). The author of Revelation often embeds clues about the organization and key ideas of the book in the transition texts. One of those transition texts is Rev. 1:19. In this text he lays out the plan of the whole book. It begins, “Write, therefore, what you have seen” (translations by author). This sentence parallels verse 11, “Write what you see.” Verse 11 is present tense and verse 19 is past tense (Greek aorist indicative). This means the entire vision of Revelation was given between the command in verse 11 and the command in verse 19. Now he is told to write it out.
What has John seen? Two things: “The things which are” and “the things which are about to happen after these things” (Rev. 1:19). So the book of Revelation will include both things current at the time of the seven churches, and things which were yet to come from their perspective. One part focuses particularly on the time in which John lives, and one part focuses on events that will follow after John’s time.
In Rev. 4:1 Jesus says to John, “Come up here, and I will show you the things which must happen after these things.” This is a nearly exact parallel to Rev. 1:19. Beginning with Rev. 4:1, the rest of Rev. focuses primarily on John’s future. While there are flashbacks to the cross (Rev 5:6; 12:11), to the enthronement of Jesus (Rev. 5:6-14), and even events before creation (Rev. 12:4), the primary focus from chapter four to the end of the book on is events future from John’s day.
What, then, are “the things which are” in Rev. 1:19? Everything between 1:19 and 4:1, namely the messages to the seven churches. While the seven messages have powerful implications for the whole Christian era, their primary focus is on the situation of those seven churches, and on the messages that Jesus brings to them. Careful attention to Rev. 1:19 shows how key texts of Revelation can help readers see the structure in John’s mind and in the mind of the One who gave him the vision.

4. Interpreting the Seven Messages to the Seven Churches. The messages to the seven churches are not apocalyptic in style, like Daniel 7 or Revelation 12. They are “prophetic letters.” They are more like the letters of Paul or like Matthew 24 than they are like Daniel 2. So their primary message was for seven actual churches in Asia Minor, the ones that originally received them (Rev 1:4, 11), and by extension for all those who read these messages (Rev 1:3; 2:7, 11, 17, 29, etc.).
There were, however, more than seven churches in Asia Minor and the spiritual conditions in those churches parallel the spiritual conditions of Christianity in different historical periods from the time of John until today. So embedded in these messages to seven historical churches was a grand survey of the major developments of Christian history. These periods are briefly discussed in the specific comments on each church in lessons two and three.

Part III: Life Application

1. Why is the gracious, forgiving Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples, portrayed in such a spectacular and frightening way in Rev. 1:12-16? While the appearance of Jesus frightened John to his core, fear was not the response Jesus desired (Rev. 1:17-18). Like an elementary-school teacher in the classroom, God sometimes has to earn our respect before we will take His graciousness seriously. But to truly know God is to love Him. The Father is just like Jesus (John 14:9).

2. When Jesus meets people where they are, how far is He willing to go? In coming to John as the First and the Last (Rev. 1:17), Jesus assumes a title claimed by Yahweh in the Old Testament (Isa. 44:6; 48:12). He is everything the Jews of His time were looking for. But there is more. Rev. 1:17-18 presents Jesus as the fulfillment of (Gentile) pagan longings as well. In Asia Minor there was a Greek goddess named Hekate who exhibited many similarities with the picture of Jesus here in Revelation 1:17-18. She was called the first and the last, the beginning and the end. She was the goddess of revelation. She held the keys to heaven and hell. She could travel to and from these realms and report what she experienced there. She was also known as “Saviour” and used angels to mediate her messages.
Jesus, therefore, offers the reader everything that the worshipers of Hekate were looking for. This is a surprising extension of the principle that God meets people where they are (see also 1 Cor 9:19-22). Revelation teaches us that Jesus loves us and meets us just where we are. And as we come to Jesus, He will also lead us to where we need to go.

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes in the Main Lesson for this Week (Rev 1:1-8)

The paragraph that follows is a summary of the changes made in this week’s main lesson (by Ranko Stefanovic). What follows is the original text that Stefanovic turned in, before the editing process, for those who would like to know that he originally intended. Please ignore the daily dates, they were put in just to fill space.

I (Ranko Stefanovic) share here the pre-edited original manuscript of the Lesson #1 (Dec. 31 to Jan. 5) of Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for those who want to compare it with the edited version. In this week’s lesson, not too many changes were introduced. Two paragraphs were completely changed: the last paragraph in the Monday’s lesson and the second Discussion Question in the Friday’s lesson. I fully concur with the observations and comments shared by my friend Jon Paulien who authored the Adult Teacher’s Edition of the Sabbath School Quarterly.

Lesson 1 *December 31-January 5

The Gospel from Patmos

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:1-8; 22:16-19; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Amos 3:7; Deut. 29:29.
Memory Verse: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, NKJV).
The prophecies of Revelation were revealed in vision to the apostle John more than nineteen centuries ago during his exile on a small rocky island in the Aegean Sea known as Patmos (Rev. 1:9). Revelation intimates that it was to be read aloud in the church. Revelation 1:3 promises a blessing for the person who reads it aloud and for the ones listening to the reading. The listeners mentioned are the congregation assembled in the church to hear the messages of Revelation. However, they are not blessed because they simply read or listen, but because they heed the words of prophecy (see also 22:7).
The prophecies of Revelation are an expression of God’s care for his people. God wanted to reveal to us the things that would shortly take place in the future to make us realize the fragility and uncertainty of this life. He also wanted to inspire us to take seriously our eternal destiny and to reach people around the world with the gospel message of the kingdom.
Biblical prophecies are like a lamp shining in a dark place (1 Pet. 1:19) showing us where we are now and where we are going. They are intended to provide guidance for our life today and hope for our future. We will need this prophetic guide until the Coming of Christ and the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 6.

Sunday September 30
The Title of the Book
Read Revelation 1:1-2. What is the complete title of the book of Revelation? Who is the ultimate author of the book? What was John’s role as the human author?
Revelation 1:1 states the title of the book as the “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis (“apocalypse”), which means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.” The Apocalypse is thus an unveiling of Jesus Christ; it is both from Jesus and about Him. While it came from God through Jesus Christ (see Rev. 22:16), the book testifies that Jesus is also the focus of its contents. The Apocalypse is thus His self-revelation to His people and an expression of His care for them.
The title of any book states in a nutshell the book’s content. What does the title of Revelation reveal to us about Jesus and His activities on behalf of His people?
Jesus is the central figure of Revelation. The book begins with Him (Rev. 1:5-8) and concludes with Him (Rev. 22:12-16). Also, the Jesus of the Apocalypse is the Jesus of the four gospels. Revelation continues the description of Jesus and His work of salvation on behalf of His people described in the gospels, but focuses on different aspects of his existence and ministry. Essentially, it begins where the gospels end-with his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Together with the epistle to the Hebrews, Revelation emphasizes Jesus’ heavenly ministry since his ascension. It shows that after his ascension Jesus was inaugurated into His royal and priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Without Revelation our knowledge of Christ’s ministry in heaven on behalf of his people would be very limited and shrouded in mystery. Thus, the last book of the Bible provides a unique portrayal of Christ not found anywhere else in the Bible.
Read Matthew 28:20 and John 14:1-3. What two major promises did Jesus leave with His people before His ascension into heaven? How does Revelation show Jesus fulfilling these promises? How will Jesus fulfill His final promise to come back to take His people to their eternal home?
Consider the following statement: “Let Daniel speak, let the Revelation speak, and tell what is truth. But whatever phase of the subject is presented, uplift Jesus as the center of all hope, ‘the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star’”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 118.

Monday October 31
The Purpose of the Book
Revelation 1:1 tells us further that the purpose of the book is to show us the things that will happen in the future. Anyone familiar with Revelation will notice that future events—whether those already fulfilled or those yet to take place—occupy most of the book’s content. While the first half of Revelation (chaps. 1–11) focuses on the events that occurred from the first century to the time of the end, its second half (chaps. 12–22) focuses on the events leading up to the Second Coming.
How do you understand that the book titled the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” shows us things that will take place in the future?
The primary purpose of biblical prophecies is to provide us with the assurance that, no matter what the future brings, God is in control. The entire Book of Revelation is structured in such a way as to assure 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. Studying them should make us better Christians for God’s glory, motivate us to take seriously our eternal destiny, and inspire us to reach others with the gospel message.
Read Deuteronomy 29:29. Revelation informs us of what will happen at the end-time. In your view, what two things that Revelation does not reveal to us about the end-time events?
Revelation’s end-time prophecies are not revealed to satisfy our obsessive curiosity about the future. The book only reveals those aspects of the future that are essential for our salvation and entry into the kingdom. They are disclosed to impress upon us the seriousness of what will happen so that we will realize our dependence on God. Anything else would go beyond God’s intention.
Much has been written and many predictions have been made regarding when and how end-time prophecies will be fulfilled. However, most of those predictions have been proven misleading, for they are drawn not from the Bible but rather from human imaginings or past or current events. The timing and manner of the unfolding of the final events will be clear to us only at the time of their fulfillment. The prophecies must not be a subject of speculation and sensationalism, but rather for strengthening our faith in the prophetic word. Their fulfillment will be a reminder to God’s people of Christ’s promise to be with them and to sustain them during those difficult times.

Tuesday October 2
The Symbolic Language of Revelation
Revelation 1:1 further states: “And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”
Here we find a very important word in the book. The word “signified” is a translation of the Greek word semainō meaning, “to show by symbolic signs.” This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) where Daniel explained to King Nebuchadnezzar that with the statue made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron God signified to the king “what will take place in the future” (Dan. 2:45). By employing the same word, John tells us that the scenes and events of Revelation were shown to him in vision in symbolic presentations. Guided by the Holy Spirit, John faithfully recorded these symbolic presentations exactly as he had seen them in the visions (Rev. 1:2).
This shows that the language in which the Revelation’s prophecies were described must not be interpreted literally. As a rule, while the reading of the Bible in general presupposes a literal understanding of the text (unless the text points to intended symbolism), studying Revelation calls for a symbolic understanding of the scenes and events recorded unless the text points to a literal meaning. While the scenes and events predicted per se are real, they were expressed in symbolic language.
Keeping in mind the symbolic character of Revelation will safeguard us against distorting the prophetic message. In trying to determine the meaning of the symbols used in the book, we must be careful not to impose on the text a meaning that comes out of human imagination or current meanings of those symbols. Their meaning must be in agreement with God’s intention as well as with the meaning of those symbols at the time of the writing of Revelation.
In trying to unlock the meaning of those symbols, we must remember that most of them were drawn from the Old Testament. By portraying future in the language of the past, God wanted to impress upon our minds that his acts of salvation in the future will be very much like his acts of salvation in the past. What he did for his people in the past, he will do for them again in the future. In endeavoring to decode the symbols and images of Revelation, we must start by paying attention to the Old Testament.
Why did God give the prophecies of Revelation in symbolic rather than in literal, straightforward language? Also, why did He use images and scenes from His former acts of salvation to reveal future events?

Wednesday October 3
The Trinity of the Godhead
Revelation begins with an epistolary greeting similar to the ones found in Paul’s letters. The book was originally sent as a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor in John’s day (see Rev. 1:11). However, Revelation was not written only for them, but for all generations of Christians throughout history.
Revelation 1:4 offers an epistolary greeting: “Grace and peace to you” (cf. Rom. 1:7). This phrase consists of the Greek greeting charis (grace) and the Hebrew greeting shalom (“peace,” “well-being”). Why are these two words always written as “grace and peace” and never “peace and grace”?
The givers of grace and peace are the three persons of the Godhead. Like the rest of the book, these three persons of the Godhead are identified in symbolic language.
God the Father is identified as the One “who is and who was, and who is to come” (see Rev. 1:8; 4:8). This refers to the divine name Yahweh, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14) referring to God’s eternal existence.
The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of “the seven Spirits” (cf. Rev. 4:5; 5:6). Seven is a number of fullness. “The seven Spirits” correspond to the seven churches in which the Spirit operates. This refers to the universality of the Holy Spirit’s work among God’s people enabling them to fulfill their calling.
Jesus Christ is identified by three titles: “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth (NKJV).” They refer to his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his reign in heaven. Then, John states what he does: He “loves us and released us from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (NASB).
He “loves us” in the original Greek 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, this refers to a completed act in the past; Jesus died on the cross when he released us from our sins forever. Because of what He did on Calvary, we enjoy the status of being “kings and priest” to God (see Rev. 5:9–10).
Read Ephesians 2:6 and Philippians 3:20, which describe the redeemed as the ones who are raised and made to sit with Jesus in heavenly places. How do you think that though we presently enjoy this glorious status in Christ as “kings and priests,” we are still in this sin-cursed world?

Thursday October 4
The Keynote of Revelation
The conclusion of the prologue of Revelation points to what is the focus the whole book: the return of Jesus in power and glory. Christ’s promise to come again is reiterated three times in the conclusion of the book (22:7, 12, 20).
Read Revelation 1:7-8. The wording of this text is derived from several prophetic texts: Daniel 7:13; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 24:30. What does this tell us of the certainty of the Second Coming?
In Revelation, the second coming of Christ is the point towards which history moves. The Second Coming will mark the conclusion of this world’s history and the beginning of God’s eternal kingdom, as well as freedom from all evil that causes anguish, pain, and death.
Like the rest of the New Testament, Revelation 1:7 points to the literal and personal coming of Christ in majesty and glory. Every human being, including “those who pierced him”, will witness his coming. These words point to a special resurrection of certain people right before the return of Christ, including those who crucified Christ on the cross of Calvary. While Jesus will, with His coming, bring deliverance to those waiting for Him, He will bring judgment to those who have spurned his mercy and love.

In the New Testament, Christ regularly refers to his coming as: “I am coming” never as “I will come.” The futuristic present tense points to the future event as already occurring. If you know that Jesus is indeed coming very soon, how would this affect your life today?

The certainty of Christ’s coming is affirmed with the words, “Yes, Amen.” The word “yes” translates the Greek word nai and amen is a Hebrew affirmative. These two words together express an absolute certainty. This affirmation also concludes the book (see also Rev. 22:20).
“Belief in the near coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven will not cause the true Christian to become neglectful and careless of the ordinary business of life. . . . Their veracity, faithfulness, and integrity are tested and proved in temporal things.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 309.
A well-known fact is that a given promise is only as strong as the integrity of the person giving it and his/her ability to fulfill it. How does the fact that the promise of the Second Coming has been given by God who has in the past kept all his promises, provide you with assurance that Christ will return as He has promised?

Friday October 5
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Study of the Books of Daniel and Revelation,” pp. 112-119, in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers.
“This revelation was given for the guidance and comfort of the church throughout the Christian dispensation. . . . . A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book, and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new.
“Let none think, because they cannot explain the meaning of every symbol in the Revelation, that it is useless for them to search this book in an effort to know the meaning of the truth it contains. The One who revealed these mysteries to John will give to the diligent searcher for truth a foretaste of heavenly things. Those whose hearts are open to the reception of truth will be enabled to understand its teachings, and will be granted the blessing promised to those who `hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written therein.’”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 583-584.
Discussion Questions:
If Revelation is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, why does the word “apocalypse” have a negative meaning today? What does this tell us about the popular perception of Revelation among Christians? Why is the word “fear” often associated with Revelation’s prophecies?
Ellen White stated that when the book of Revelation “is better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience” so that “heart and mind will be impressed with the character that all must develop”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 114. Do the people in your church who claim to study Revelation appear blessed to you? How do you feel being around such people? How does their study of the book’s prophecies reflect in their daily life and the way they relate to and treat other people, both inside and outside the church?