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A Couple of Spiritual Lessons From Rev. 1:12-20 (Vision 6)

1. Why is the gracious, forgiving Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples, portrayed in such a spectacular and frightening way in Revelation 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. Revelation 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.

The Main Themes of Revelation’s Prologue (Prologue 1:2)

The Prologue to the Book of Revelation (Rev 1:1-8) introduces the following themes:

1. Jesus is the Central Figure of Revelation. This is made clear by the title of the book (Rev. 1:1), the qualities and actions of Jesus Christ (1:5-6) and His central role at the Second Coming (1:7).

2. The Book Concerns Future Events. These are not just end-time events, most were already future in John’s day (Rev 1:1).

3. The Vision Is Given in Symbolic Language. This is clear from one of the key words in Rev. 1:1 and that verse’s allusion to Daniel 2.

4. The Threeness of God. There is a “triple trinity” of persons, qualities and actions in Rev. 1:4-6.

5. The Return of Jesus. Rev. 1:7-8 addresses this.

I will have more to say about each of these themes in the blogs that follow.

The Prologue (1:1-8) of the Book of Revelation (1:1)

This is the first in a series of blogs on the big picture of the book of Revelation. On Facebook and Twitter I have been working the details of the book of Revelation piece by piece over many years. In the process of looking at the details, the big picture can easily be lost. So halfway through the larger project (chapters 1-5 and 10-14 are complete), I thought it would be helpful to go through the entire book in a series of blogs that would bring out the big picture view of each section. The first few blogs will focus on the Prologue to the book of Revelation, Rev. 1:1-8.

The Prologue to Rev. (Rev. 1:1-8) introduces the main themes of the book in relatively plain language. These verses contain no scary beasts, no heavenly journeys and no seven-fold sequences. Instead, they describe how the book got here (1:1-3), who sent it (1:4-6), and how everything will turn out in the end (1:7-8). The Prologue expresses the centrality of Jesus Christ to the whole book and prepares the reader for what is to come in straightforward language.

New Work on Revelation (The Big Picture)

I have completed blogging ten of the twenty chapters in the new book Conversations About God. Since I am not entirely done with editing that book, I am pausing the publication of those chapters in order to share some of my new work on the Book of Revelation. In the Facebook commentary I am publishing a paragraph a day toward a complete commentary. I started five or six years ago and have completed chapters 10-14 and 1-5. I plan to continue posting those daily, working through the four horses of chapter six right now. But that is the detailed picture. What often goes missing in that work is the big picture. I plan to blog the big picture for the next several months, chapter by chapter and section by section, building toward a complete theology of Revelation. Stay tuned.

Questions and Answers (10:4)

Lou: Here is a somewhat unrelated question. “The Larger View,” this person writes, “seems very intricate, very subtle and needing of a lot of study. Does this imply that a simpler view is still necessary for the masses of people who do not have the time or the knowledge to understand the Larger View?” And here’s a related question, “What is the truth about God? I hear it must be simple, and yet it seems almost too complicated to encompass. Please help me understand.”
How would you respond to these?
Graham: Ah, those are very fair questions. I think that the number one characteristic of the Larger View is its simplicity. Nevertheless, it might require a good deal of study to figure out. But when you apply the very best scholarship available to you, and you do a thorough job on the sixty-six books, you come up with this view about our God. All He asks of us is trust; not trust in a stranger, or trust in mere claims, but on the basis of demonstration. I don’t think anything could be simpler than that.
But I see validity to the question. Paul on Mars Hill delivered a magnificent address (Acts 17:22-31). He quoted the philosophers. He quoted the poets. He used long words. In fact, he used the longest word in the Greek New Testament. To the Athenians he said, “Oh, you are deisidaimonesteros (very religious)” (Acts 17:22). He even won a few of them that way (Acts 17:34). But in 1 Corinthians he says, “I’ll never preach like that again, magnificent as it was. This one thing I’ll do from here on: I will preach the message about Christ and Him crucified” (based on 1 Cor 2:1-2). So Paul, with all his scholarship, eventually focused in on the all-important thing. But when he preached Christ and Him crucified, he was preaching the Larger View about the One who died for angels as well as men. So the focus on the cross led him to the Larger View. I believe the thief on the cross knew enough to be saved, but I wouldn’t want to settle for that. So I’m going to keep on investigating, but if my discourses become more complicated, I’m moving in the wrong direction. So I like the implication here. It ought to be clear. It ought to be simple. But there are no shortcuts to that kind of clarity and simplicity.

Lou: Here’s a question that really touched my heart. This person wrote, “How are we, who have been raised as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, and have been taught to fear God and His judgments, to change to a love relationship? I am afraid of God! How do I dispel this fear?”
Graham: The One who would love to hear that question the most would be God Himself. If you came face to face with God and said, “God, I hesitate to tell You this, but I’m scared,” I wonder what He would do. Would He say, “I appreciate that?” Or would He say, “I think maybe I’d better not talk to you any longer, you’re so scared. I’ll send for My Son.”
In practical terms, the solution is to become convinced from Scripture that the One who came down to earth is fully God. We’re not afraid of Jesus. Yet the One who was with us is no less than God! And that’s what the Sabbath reminds us of, that same gentle Jesus is the Almighty Creator. When we know Him, perhaps, we could truly accept the “testimony of Jesus.” The ultimate testimony of Jesus is, “Do you want to know what My Father is like? If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). We find it hard to believe that. It takes a little time. For one thing, it seems incredible on the face of it. And second, the enemy is opposed to our knowing this, so he will throw up every roadblock he can to keep us from believing this incredible truth.

Lou: In the next chapter we’re going to talk about “God’s Emergency Measures.” Those are the actions of God in the Bible that have raised a lot of questions.
Graham: Yes, because these measures can be misunderstood as supporting Satan’s charges. But when I think about God’s use of emergency measures, I think it speaks very well of Him. He took a number of risks when He chose to run things the way that He has done. We’ll get into all that in the next chapter.

Questions and Answers (10:3)

Lou: When we talk about the seventh day, we’re talking about thousands of years, and the question has been asked, “How do you know what day is the seventh day? Could we be mistaken?”
Graham: One thing is for sure, nothing has meant more to a devout Jew than the seventh-day Sabbath. Jews can certainly look back to when the manna fell, double on Friday and none on Saturday. When that happened, everyone knew that was the seventh day—by God’s direction. And no devout Jew has lost track of the weekly Sabbath since that time. I would say that’s not debatable. We definitely know.
Lou: Jesus didn’t seem confused about it when He was here, either, and even the idea of Sunday as a day of resurrection would confirm the consistency of the weekly cycle.
Now the Sabbath command says, “Thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy manservant. . .” and so forth (Exod 20:10). Is the Sabbath a day to just sit in a rocking chair in total idleness? What is the meaning of the phrase “Thou shalt not do any work?”
Graham: I’m curious that God would say, “In it thou shalt not do any work,” yet not tell us what work is. I take that as a compliment. God says, “The day is yours. I have suggested its many meanings. Just to sit there under duress and do nothing all day is not keeping the Sabbath. It’s supposed to be a delight.” And so God leaves it up to us to decide what work is. But many devout people through the years have consulted their theologians to determine what work is. In fact, I have a very large volume which describes Sabbath work. This book, called the Mishnah, says, “There are forty kinds of work save one.”
There are thirty-nine kinds of work, in other words, and each of the thirty-nine is broken down into many sub-categories. How far may you walk on the Sabbath? May you carry a pencil on the Sabbath? How many letters can you write on the Sabbath? I don’t mean epistles, I mean letters of the alphabet, all spelled out. The beauty of that system is, you always know whether you’re keeping the Sabbath or not. On the other hand, those rules also leave you fearful that you may have broken the Sabbath. That is why Jesus said, “You have placed burdens on people that are too heavy to bear.” The God of the Sabbath intended it for us to remember Him. But just how to do that is left up to us, and I like that.

Lou: A “Dear Abby” column once responded to a girl who wrote in saying she was going to marry a Seventh-day Adventist, and she wondered what that might mean. Abby suggested that she ought to talk to the man’s pastor and find out. But then another person wrote in and said, “I know about Seventh-day Adventists. If you marry a Seventh-day Adventist, there a whole lot of things you won’t be able to do.” Among these, the person suggested that the girl and her husband would never have any kind of marital relationship on the Sabbath. Some think Isaiah 58 says you shouldn’t do anything that’s your own pleasure on the Sabbath. Is God wanting us to be unhappy on the Sabbath?
Graham: When I heard about that column, I did a little research on the meaning of Isaiah 58:13. It really reads, “If you restrain your foot on the Sabbath from doing your business on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath delightful and Yahweh’s holy day honorable, if you honor it by refraining from business, from pursuing gain and from excessive talk then you will delight in Yahweh, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth” (The Anchor Bible).
Many other versions agree that the word “pleasure” is better translated “business.” You are invited on the Sabbath to enjoy yourself all you like, but don’t do your own business on that day. You don’t pursue your own interests on that day. It even says, “Value My holy day and honor it by not traveling, working or talking idly on that day.” Or as The Jerusalem Bible puts it, “Abstaining from travel, from doing business and from gossip.” But the main point there is, “Call the Sabbath a delight.” We’re supposed to enjoy the day, rather than pursue our own business or our own worldly gain on that day.
Lou: How can you command someone to “call the Sabbath a delight?”
Graham: Now we know from experience you can’t do that. When your girls were growing up, did you ever say to one of them, “Now look, don’t make any more faces. I want you to eat your spinach?”
“Yes, Daddy.”
“Yes, but I want you to enjoy it.”
“Yes, Daddy.”
“I want you to tell me how delicious it is.”
“Daddy, I’d be fibbing if I did, and I’d be breaking one of the commandments.”
There’s no way you can order somebody to enjoy something. But consider the things that God desires the most: Love? You can’t command it. Trust? You can’t command it. The enjoyment of the Sabbath? You can’t command it. It’s an invitation. We either do it or we don’t, and if we really observe the day, we do it in the highest sense of freedom and it is truly a delight.

Questions and Answers (10:2)

Lou: Here’s another question: “In Colossians 2 doesn’t Paul say that the Sabbath has been nailed to the cross? And in light of that, doesn’t Paul say that no one should judge you regarding religious festivals or even a Sabbath day?” What about that Colossians 2?
Graham: That question is important enough for a whole chapter, but I’ll try to deal with the basics in a paragraph or two. I think first we need to note just what it was that was nailed to the cross. The King James Version says it was “the handwriting of ordinances” (Col 2:14). Many take that to be the Law. But the first key word is literally “hand writing” (Greek: cheirographon), a word compound combining “hand” and “writing.” The second is “requirements” (Greek: dogmasin). The phrase “handwritten document of requirements” is a technical term for a legal obligation. The “document” contains the sentence that stood against us because of rebellion and sin. That is what was nailed to the cross.
When people read this text to suggest that the Sabbath was nailed to the cross, that reading creates a serious difficulty. You see, whatever the “handwritten document of requirements” is, the text says it was “contrary” (Greek: hupenantion) or “hostile to us” (Col 2:14, KJV). In other words, Jesus took it out of the way because it was bad for us. But nowhere in the Bible is the Sabbath pictured as against us, or bad for us. Rather, it was given to help us. Did Jesus say, “The Sabbath was made for you, but in a short while I’m going to nail it to the cross because it’s been against you?” No, the Sabbath was made for our sake (Mark 2:27, Greek: dia ton anthrôpon). So some interpreters have been nailing the wrong thing to the cross! Rather, when Jesus died He took care of the sin problem. He took care of the sentence against us, or whatever word you want to use there. And I think when Paul says “Don’t let anyone judge you with respect to the Sabbath, either” (Col 2:16), he was saying, “You’re right. Don’t you go around condemning people who disagree with you on the Sabbath.”
Sometimes we say that Paul is talking about ceremonial Sabbaths in Colossians 2. In that case he would be saying, “Don’t criticize people when they disagree on the ceremonial laws. But when they disagree with you on the seventh day, you can go condemn them all you want to.” Paul did not want us to condemn anybody for anything. That’s not our business. His message was the same in Romans 14: “One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom 14:5, RSV). . . . Why do you pass judgment on your brother?” (Rom 14:10, RSV). I include the seventh-day Sabbath in that. We are in no position ever to criticize or condemn anyone who disagrees over this matter of the Sabbath. “No,” Paul says, “Each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12, RSV).
So going back to Colossians, something that was against us was nailed to the cross. And once we understand how God has handled this problem of distrust in the universe, we won’t go around condemning other people. But in my own heart I’m very much persuaded that the Sabbath is for me. I wouldn’t want to waste it. I hope I can make it look good to other people so they won’t waste it either. We should present it as a gift, not as an obligation.

Lou: Graham, some of our friends of other faiths see Sabbath-keeping as legalistic. When you’re concerned about sundowns and what is appropriate to do on the Sabbath, aren’t you back into a kind of bondage, where you’re so careful about these things? Isn’t that legalism?
Graham: That word “legalism” needs to be defined, and in Chapter Twelve we’ll have more to say about it. But to me, the essence of legalism is preoccupation with one’s legal standing with God. Many of the same people who think Sabbath keepers are legalistic are themselves utterly concerned with their legal standing before God. They thank God that His Son came and paid the penalty so that they could be in good legal standing. It seems to me that if you have a legal model, you’re a legalist, whether or not you observe the Sabbath. But in the larger view, you’re saying, “God, I don’t want to miss out on a thing You have given me.” The Sabbath is a gift that points us to so many of God’s acts of blessing. We keep the Sabbath as a blessing, not as a burden.
Lou: It makes so much difference whether a person is keeping the Sabbath as a requirement or keeping it as a celebration of the glorious things that the Sabbath stands for.
Graham: Yes, it’s supposed to be all about freedom. If in the middle of church a person does not feel free, maybe he should walk out, take a breath of fresh air and decide whether he wants to come back in or not. Nobody should be sitting in church because he has to. Everybody should be in church because they feel good about it.
Lou: You might lose your audience if they did that. What if some children hear about that comment and decide not to go to church anymore?
Graham: Well, that’s a different story. It makes me think of the next chapter, “God’s Emergency Measures.” You can’t expect little children to understand these things. For example, they won’t brush their teeth because it’s good to brush their teeth. They brush their teeth because Mommy says so. They don’t want to upset Mommy. She might take “emergency measures.” Our little children might not gladly follow us to church. But while you want to preserve their freedom, when it becomes time to go to church you say, “Billy, we’re leaving, and you’re coming, too.” So there are children who sit in the pews under some duress. But you hope they’ll sit there long enough to hear the pastor tell them that God values nothing higher than their freedom, and you hope that one day they’ll choose to continue on their own.

The True Meaning of the Sabbath

The Sabbath has answered the basic questions of thoughtful people through the years. Questions such as: Where have we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go in the future? And above all, what kind of a Person is our God, and what does He want of His children? The Sabbath all through the years has answered those four questions. Where have we come from? We were made in the image of God at Creation. Why are we here? How do we attain to the greatest good in life? Our whole purpose in the present is restoration of the damage done by sin, through faith in God. The Sabbath encourages us to rest from our futile striving to heal ourselves. Instead, all good things will come to those who trust God. And where do we go in the future? The Sabbath has always pointed forward to the second coming and the earth made new. And what about our God? Every Sabbath we are reminded that God is just like Christ our Creator, for Christ is God.

Is there any information Satan would like to hide more than this? No surprise then, that Satan seeks to confuse the meaning of the Sabbath day. Notice Moffatt’s rendering of that Exodus 20:12 text: “I gave them my Sabbath to mark the tie between me and them, to teach them that it is I the Eternal, who sets them apart.” Most of the world has broken that tie. The last message of God to the world is the restoration of that tie. It’s a message of love and trust.

Keeping the Sabbath is not legalism: It is not God saying “If you don’t keep this day, I will kill you.” Rather, whenever we preach Christ as our Creator, our Saviour, and the One who is coming again, whenever we preach that God is like His Son, we are preaching the message of the seventh day. According to the sixty-sixth book, the world will be divided into two sides at the very end. Revelation 13 speaks of Satan’s final campaign, and that the whole world will be worshiping him, except the few described in Revelation 14:12: “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus” (GNB). In that day, the intelligent, wholehearted observance of the seventh-day Sabbath will represent this very faithfulness and loyalty to Jesus. There will be a group who still worship Jesus as their Creator and their God.

Notice that the Sabbath is really not about us. It is about God. I like to think that is why we put it in our name: Seventh-day Adventists. We didn’t put it in there to say something good about us, but to say that we have taken a position about God. I believe a real Seventh-day Adventist is a Christian who accepts and believes all that the Sabbath has to say about our God. I wish it always meant that.

Someday God will recreate our world and give it to His trusting saints. We know that the world as we know it has to be purified by fire: “The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10, KJV). A burned up earth would be no place to live, so after that there will be a re-creation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev 21:1, RSV). And Isaiah adds: “Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17, NIV).

How do you think God will create our world the next time? He, of course, could do it in an instant, as He could have during creation week. But patient Teacher that He is, is it possible that He might do it in days one, two, three, four, five, and six again? Just to say something to saints that have questions about that simple Genesis account. I can see Him doing it like that and smiling the whole week. But there will be one difference between the creation and the re-creation. There will be no need to create another Adam and Eve. He will just open the pearly gates and welcome His children home.

Isaiah describes how in the new earth we will be delighted to meet and worship our God. Isaiah 66:23: “Month by month at the new moon, week by week on the Sabbath, all mankind shall come to bow down before me, says the Lord” (NEB). If on the first Sabbath in the new earth, God should say, “Children, would you like to join with me in celebrating? I’d like to keep this first Sabbath as the most special one we have ever had.” Would you say, “Oh, no! There we go—back under the law again. Why do you need to put an arbitrary test of our obedience upon us? Haven’t we proved that we can be trusted? How could you talk about the Sabbath still?”

Would you say that to God? Think of all there would be to remember. Can you imagine the first twenty-four hour Sabbath in the new earth? What a celebration! And if at the end of that first happy Sabbath, God would say “I have enjoyed this so much, I would like to do this again every week from here on,” would you say, “Well, one is surely enough. Do we have to do it again and again?” No, Isaiah says it will be our delight to meet and celebrate with God.

Summing up. Is Sabbath-keeping arbitrary legalism? It can be. And it was on that sad Friday 1900 years ago. But as God designed it, it is supposed to be a monument to freedom. It is supposed to remind us of the evidence; that infinitely costly evidence, that God is not the kind of person His enemies have made Him out to be. He is not arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving and severe. He gave us the Sabbath to remind us of that everlasting truth. He designed it to be a day of freedom, peace, love and trust. But most of all, it is a day to remember and be with our God.

The Sabbath and Creation

Now when we read that first angel’s message to “worship the Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator of the sea and springs,” we are reminded that the first mention of the Sabbath comes in the Bible at the end of creation week. Think back in imagination to the very dramatic events of that first week of this earth’s history. The war had begun already in heaven. Satan had already leveled his charges and his accusations. One third of the angels had already agreed with him that God is not worthy of our love and our trust.

Right in the middle of that devastating crisis, God invites His family to watch Him as He creates yet another world—this time, ours. How easily He could have created our world with a snap of His fingers, in just an instant of time. But in the dramatic and significant setting of the great controversy, He chose instead to do it in six twenty-four hour days. On the first day, all He said was “Let there be light.” That’s all. And then on days two, three, four, and five, God in unhurried majesty and drama unfolded His plans for our earth. By the sixth day, what a beautiful place this was! Where now were Satan’s charges that God was selfish?

The most unselfish of God’s gifts in creation was freedom. He created us in His own image with power to think and to do. And we know from human history that He created us free to either love and trust Him, or hate Him and spit in His face, because both of them have, in fact, happened. He created us able to do it! God even allowed Satan to approach our first parents at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And He didn’t hide that tree in some dark corner of the garden; He put it right in the middle near the Tree of Life, so that Adam and Eve would see it every time they came to that other tree. “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:9, NIV).

Now the God we know could be trusted not to allow our first inexperienced parents to be tested more than they were able to resist. You know He would not do that. And so Satan was only allowed to approach them at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were warned not to risk a confrontation with their wily foe. In that warning God was already demonstrating the meaning of that famous key text, 1 Corinthians 10:13: “But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm” (GNB). Paul could have said instead, “God can be trusted. . . ,” that’s what God keeping His promises is all about.

You see, that tree was not put there as an arbitrary test of obedience. That tree was put there to help them, to protect them. What is not directly stated in Genesis is that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not placed there before sin, but after sin. The war had already begun. The Enemy was already on the loose. If the tree had been placed in the garden before sin, it would have been an arbitrary test. But coming after sin, it was there to help them and protect them like every other one of God’s gracious laws. Then God stunned the universe by sharing with us some of His own marvelous creative power. God so designed it that when a man and a woman come together in love, they are able to share life with little people; to create little people in their own image.

Isn’t it interesting to watch our children and our grandchildren? They look so much like us. They behave like us, at our best points and at our worst points. Truly, they do reflect our image and God designed it to be this way. You may recall God’s words in Genesis 1:28: “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control” (GNB). That was His original plan. The Song of Solomon right in the middle of the Bible reminds us that this whole thing was God’s idea. That we should be male and female and feel the way we do about each other, and say the things we do to each other, and come together in love, and create little people in our own image. He thought that all up Himself.

He could have created us to look like E.T. or maybe little green people with antennae. And babies could have come in test tubes. But that is not the way that God designed it. That worries some people. “What kind of a God must He be to think it up this way?” And then to put a whole book in the middle of the Bible that confuses some people and delights others? Think what The Song of Solomon says about our God; reminding us of the original creation week and of the Sabbath that came at the end of it. The universe watched all this, the universe that had heard the charges against God. And when creation was over, they said “That’s very good.” Love and admiration for God must have known no bounds. Where now were Satan’s charges that God does not respect the freedom of His creatures? Or that He’s very selfish in His use of authority and power?

The climax of the creation story comes in Genesis 2:2, 3:

On the sixth day God completed all the work he had been doing, and on the seventh day he ceased. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he ceased from all the work he had set himself to do (NEB).

When the text tells us that God “rested,” it does not mean that He was tired. It was more like an attorney saying, “I have presented all my evidence. I now ‘rest’ my case.” God ceased from all His work. Can you imagine how the universe spent the next twenty-four hours as they celebrated with God the first seventh-day Sabbath?

Now this Sabbath was not Adam and Eve’s seventh day. It was their second day. And if the Sabbath were designed to give us a rest every seventh day since our creation, we should be observing Thursday. The first Sabbath was God’s day of celebration. He called on His family throughout the universe to join with Him in reflecting on the significance of what had been done; the answers He had given to Satan’s charges, the falsity of Satan’s accusations, and the truth about freedom, love, and generosity on the part of our gracious Heavenly Father.

You see, the Sabbath was given after sin, not before. If it was given before, we might think of it as an arbitrary test of our obedience. But it was given after sin, because we needed it. It must have seemed to the universe looking on that the great controversy had been won that Friday night. But no event of creation week had answered Satan’s most serious charge, the charge that God had lied to His children when He warned that the consequence of sin is death. Nothing during creation week, eloquent as it was, spoke to that issue.

Questions and Answers (5:1)

In the original lecture series done in 1984 at the Loma Linda University Church, Graham Maxwell spoke for about a half hour each Friday night following by written questions and answers from Lou Venden and also from the audience. The next several posts contain questions and answers from the fifth presentation, “The Record of the Evidence.”

Lou: No one has wanted to burn a new version in quite some time, as far as I know. Although I do know someone who wanted to burn the Reader’s Digest Bible.

Graham: Well, that’s an improvement, in any case. In Tyndale’s day they burned the translator. In modern times, they burn the translation. Now they cremate people with words as they talk about them in the press.

Lou: In a way Graham, I can understand the frustration of a person who says, “Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of all these versions? It’s so confusing. Why are there so many? I go down to the religious book store, and I say, ‘I would like to buy a Bible.'” But it’s not that simple any more. The sales person responds, “Well now, what version do you want?” How do you respond to the confusion that is created by all these versions?

Graham: It’s a pity that such a blessing is perceived as confusion. I think a lot depends on how much one knows about the source of the Bible. If it had been written originally in our own language, maybe one version would be enough. But when you look at the Greek and the Hebrew and the Aramaic, you realize that the same phrase can be translated in different ways. Like, “Be ye therefore perfect,” in Matthew 5:48. Now is that a command, or is it a promise? You cannot tell from the Greek. It is very difficult to bring that ambiguity over into English. This is where Goodspeed shows himself such a master. His English translation of Matthew 5:48 is, “You are to be perfect.” That can be read as either a command or a promise. But most versions would say it either one way or the other. So in view of the difficulty of bringing ambiguity over into English, I don’t want to limit myself to a single version that would give me only one possibility. I want to have all the possibilities that are available.

Lou: I noticed you spoke of Goodspeed, I’ve sometimes thought that was your favorite. But then I’ve heard you say, “Well, today this one is my favorite, but tomorrow it may not be.” Of all these translations, which one is the most trustworthy and reliable?

Graham: It’s simply incredible that the Goodspeed translation has held up so well over the decades. By the way, Goodspeed did the New Testament and he did the Apocrypha. He did not do the Old. In The Chicago Bible, a group of others under Dr. Smith did the Old. That’s why it’s sometimes called the Smith-Goodspeed Bible. Which is my favorite? Which is the best? It all depends on what you use it for. When I get home at night, if I want to put my feet up and read something inspiring, it’s still difficult to beat Phillips. Absolutely marvelous! But if I am doing serious preparation for teaching, I’ll have the original out in front of me but also several versions. One of them would be the Revised Standard Version. Though it was burned in 1952, it has proven to be one of the most precise, conservative, and safe English translations ever.

Lou: Do you think that a group translation, a committee translation, is a little more reliable than one by an individual?

Graham: That’s a very useful question. Group translations may be a little more dull. For example, when the Revised Standard Version was being prepared, they always had to have a two-thirds vote before they would arrive at a decision. Often, Goodspeed was on the committee and so was Moffatt. Sometimes they would disagree with the two-thirds vote. So when it was all over, Goodspeed wrote a book, Problems in Bible Translation, to list the one hundred or so places where he was voted down. And it’s very exciting reading. So if the translator is an individual, there is a little more freedom. And in spots an individual translation may even be more correct, because the group had to arrive at a compromise in order to get the two-thirds vote. You know, textbooks written by committees aren’t as exciting as books written by an individual.