Tag Archives: theology of Revelation

Concluding Q and A (New Earth 8)

Why is the millennium necessary when the Second Coming seems to have brought all things to an end?

1) It is recovery time for the righteous. While there will be no conversions in heaven, there will be an ongoing need for personal and relational growth. Rev. 22:2 speaks of the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations. The choice of “nations” suggest societal and emotional healing more than physical. There may be people in heaven you didn’t like on earth or didn’t expect to see in heaven. Others you expected to see are missing. The thousand years will provide a safe space to learn and grow and transition into eternity.

2) It is examination time for the righteous. The redeemed will be free to explore the “books of heaven” getting answers to questions about God, about those we loved who are not there, and about issues in the Great Controversy. We will be able to explore a detailed biography of our own lives that will transcend anything we or anyone else could have done here on earth. We will share our biographies with each other in group healing sessions. There will be many questions and plenty of time to answer them.

3) Demonstration time for Satan and his followers. At the close of the millennium, Satan will be allowed totally free reign outside the City to run this earth the way he wants to (the text gives us on idea how long this period will be). Together, Satan and his followers will demonstrate one final time the destructive nature of their characters and the destructive nature of Satan’s form of government. This final demonstration will help to secure the redeemed and the unfallen universe in loyalty to God throughout eternity.

What ultimately is the purpose of the Book of Revelation?

The purpose of prophecy is not to satisfy our curiosity about the future, it is to teach us how to live today. The study of Revelation should motivate us to right living and to the avoidance of choices that are ultimately self-destructive and harmful to others. It helps to know that the little battles we face each day are just a microcosm of a much bigger war. Everything we think and everything we do truly matters in the ultimate sense of things. Revelation was designed to prepare people for the challenges of the end and in the process has brought hope, meaning and purpose to millions ever since it was written and will continue to do so until the conclusion of earth’s history (Rev. 1:3).

The Shape of the New Jerusalem, Pyramid or Cube? (New Earth 7)

The length, width and height of the New Jerusalem are all the same, suggesting a perfect cube (Rev. 21:16). But there is another shape whose length, width and height are the same, and that is the pyramid. There is nothing in the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation that requires either a cube or a pyramid? So how should we decide? Should we envision the New Jerusalem as a cube or as a pyramid?

Most interpreters envision the New Jerusalem as a cube and, in my view this is probably correct. A cube has twelve edges, but a pyramid has only eight. The description of the New Jerusalem makes abundant use of the number twelve and never uses the number eight. The New Jerusalem has twelve gates, twelve foundations, walls 144 cubits high, and dimensions measuring 12,000 stadia (Rev. 21:12-21). This wide-spread use of twelve coheres with the major use of twelve elsewhere in Revelation and the New Testament. It is the number of God’s people and the city becomes the bride of Christ when it is filled with saved humanity. While the text does not specify the shape, a cube would be consistent with the symbolism of Revelation.

What is theologically significant about the cube is that the only other cube in the Bible is the Most Holy Place of the Old Testament temple (1 Kings 6:20). Its sides and height were completely equal. The New Jerusalem, then, is modeled on the Most Holy Place. What is forbidden to all but the High Priest in Old Testament times is now open to all the redeemed. Relationship with Christ elevates all to the roles of kings and priests. All have face to face engagement with God (Rev. 22:4) in the heavenly Most Holy Place, the New Jerusalem.

The Backgrounds to the New Jerusalem (New Earth 6)

The vision of the New Jerusalem is grounded in the rest of the Bible. The waters flowing from the throne (Rev. 22:1) and the tree of life (Rev. 22:2) recall the Garden of Eden. So the New Jerusalem is the culmination of the whole Bible’s promise to one day restore the perfect conditions in which Adam and Eve were first placed. And those perfect conditions will build on the “healing of the nations” to bring about unity in the middle of breath-taking diversity.

The radiance of the city and its cubical shape (Rev. 21:11,16) recall the tabernacle and the temple (Exod. 40:34-35; 1 Kings 6:20; 8:11). There are only two cubes in the Bible, the Most Holy Place in the sanctuary and the New Jerusalem. With the New Jerusalem, the most hidden parts of the sanctuary are open and available to all. Where God was once hidden behind layers and layers of curtains, He is now available to be experienced face to face (Rev 22:4).

The very name “New Jerusalem” brings to mind the capital city of David’s kingdom. Jerusalem was the very center of the Israelite kingdom. There were three main north/south roads, one up the Mediterranean plain, one along the Jordan Valley, and one along the spine of the central ridge. There were three main east/west roads, one through the valley of Megiddo, one south through Beersheba and one across the central ridge from seacoast plain to Jordan Valley. Jerusalem was located at the intersection of the central north/south road and the central east/west road. Since there was also an abundant supply of water there, it was the natural location of Israel’s capital city. Just as Jersualem was the center-point of ancient Israel, so the New Jerusalem is the center-point of the New Earth.

Many parts of the design of the city also recall Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezek. 40-48). The New Jerusalem is the culmination of the prophetic vision for an ideal land and people that God would create. It would also be the center of the New Israel’s worship of God.

Many details of the New Jerusalem also recall the promises to the overcomers in the seven churches portion of Revelation (for example, the tree of life from the original paradise of God– Rev. 2:7; 22:2, the absence of the second death—Rev. 2:11, the importance of names—Rev. 2:17; 3:5, 12; 21:12, 14; 22:4, authority over the nations—Rev. 2:26; 21:24, the morning star—Rev. 2:28; 22:16, the New Jerusalem—Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10, and the promise of the throne—Rev 3:21; 7:15; 22:1). The seven churches represent the church militant, the New Jerusalem represents the church triumphant.

The vision of the New Jerusalem doesn’t arise out of thin air, it is a blending of many allusions to the history of God’s leading throughout the Bible. It is truly the grand finale to the biblical symphony.

Will Eternity End Up Boring? (New Earth 5)

What Will God’s People Be Doing With All That Time?

The Bible indicates at least three significant roles which redeemed sinners will play throughout eternity. They will be kings, priests, and scholars. 1) Revelation indicates that redeemed sinners will join God in rulership over the universe (Rev. 3:21; 7:15-17). Sitting with Jesus on His throne means that they will be part of the government of the universe. Jesus said at the conclusion of one of the parables, “You have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt 25:23). What would count as “many things” with God? A star cluster? A galaxy? Think of the privilege and responsibility. Think of the many exciting things to get involved in.

2) The redeemed will serve not only as kings but as priests. In the ancient world there were two kinds of high status people. The highest status in the political realm was the king. And the highest status in the religious realm was the priest. Power corrupts, but those who have been humbled by suffering can be trusted with power. To be a priest in eternity includes taking an active lead in worship (Rev 5:9-13) and bearing a unique testimony based on earthly experience with sin and its consequences (Rev. 14:3). Those who have been redeemed from sin will have a testimony that even the angels could not have. God will use them to safeguard the universe against a second rebellion.

3) While school can sometimes be a chore, real learning is never a chore. God has ingrained curiosity into the core of our being, and there are few joys as meaningful as the joy of discovery. When we learn at our own pace, when we learn in our areas of interest, when our curiosity provokes our attention, learning is the most joyous possible experience. And there are so many things in the universe to learn. We will spend an eternity learning and growing, and it will be truly a delight.

Yes, eternity could be boring, if we were simply doing the same thing over and over again. But God is creative. And He plans to include us in that creativity. In the words of inspiration: “Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body.”
Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 677

Three Views of the Millennium (New Earth 4)

In the 20th chapter of Revelation it speaks about a thousand year period, something not directly mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. This singularity, and the challenge of the complicated imagery, has led to three main views of what the millennium is all about and where it is located in relation to the Second Coming. I will examine the three briefly and then offer some evidence for the position I hold. Before I do that let me offer a tongue-in-cheek option from the former pediatrician for my children, pan-millennialism. He believes that it will all “pan out” in the end.  No doubt.

1) Option number one is Pre-millenialism: the Second Coming of Jesus is before the thousand years. The thousand years are a literal period on earth that comes after the Second Coming and leads up to a third coming at the end with a final judgment. During that period those who oppose God are asleep in the grave, with the exception of Satan and his angelic supporters. The followers of God are taken to heaven and spend the thousand years there, processing the big picture. The close of the millennium ushers in the full and final destruction of sin and the purifying of the universe.

2) Option number two is Post-millennialism: In this view the millennium is the last thousand years of human history. During this period, things get better and better as God’s ways are more and more followed on the earth. At the end of that period the Second Coming of Jesus will finalize this gradual improvement and usher in the kingdom of God on earth. As the world careens toward self-destruction, this view has nearly disappeared.

3) Option number three is Amillennialism: The thousand years come before the Second Coming (like post-millennialism) but are not a literal period of improvement, but are simply a metaphor for the entire Christian age, there is no literal thousand years. The latter view requires that the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4-5) at the beginning of the millennium be a spiritual one, the new creation that comes with the gospel (John 5:22-25; 2 Cor. 5:17). The second resurrection is the one that comes at the Second Coming itself. This view is the most widespread and popular among Protestants today. In its favor is the observation that everything that happens at the close of the millennium in Revelation 20, happens at the second coming somewhere else in the New Testament. But I do not hold this view for the reasons stated below.

What is the biblical evidence for pre-millennialism, the Seventh-day Adventist position on the thousand years of Rev. 20? 1) The structure of Revelation. The dragon (chapter 12), beast (13), false prophet (13) and Babylon enter the end-time picture in that order. They then exit in reverse order: Babylon (18), false prophet (19), beast (19) and dragon (20). If the beast, the false prophet and Babylon have passed off the scene by Rev. 20:3, the millennium must be after the second coming. (2) The normal meaning of “came to life” (Greek: ezêsan, Rev. 20:4) and “resurrection” (Greek: anastasis, Rev. 20:5) is bodily resurrection not a spiritual one (John 11:25; Rom 14:9; Rev 2:8; 13:14). The word used here is not a metaphor for conversion. (3) The resurrection of people who have been “beheaded” (Rev. 20:4) must be more than just a spiritual one. 4) The “beheaded souls” suffered the beheading because they had accepted the gospel, their resurrection is not when they received the gospel, their resurrection is after their beheading. There is no spiritual meaning for the word “beheading” in the original (Greek: pepelekismenôn). So placing the millennium after the Second Coming with a desolate earth and God’s people in heaven (see John 14:1-3) makes the most sense to me.

Relation of Babylon’s Fall to the Fifth Seal (New Earth 3)

An upcoming Sabbath School lesson states: “With the destruction of Babylon, the prayer of God’s people, in the scene of the fifth seal, is ultimately answered.” How is this so? Revelation 19:1-2 makes a strong allusion to Revelation 6:10. In that verse, the souls under the altar cry out to God: “How long will it be before you “judge” and “avenge” our blood. . .” (Rev. 6:10, NRSV)? What the Greek literally says is “How long will you be. . . not judging (Greek: krineis) and not avenging (Greek: ekdikeis)?” The verb “is” or “will be” is understood in the original and can be appropriately inserted into a translation. It is like a predicate nominative in English. It is assumed rather than stated. The overall message of Revelation 6:9-10 is this: From the perspective of the souls under the altar, there is no evidence that God is judging or avenging their martyrdom.

It is striking, therefore, that Revelation 19 uses the same two judgment words (“judging” and “avenging”) in the past tense to describe the fall of Babylon. The great multitude in heaven celebrate the fact that God has “judged (Greek: ekrinen) the great prostitute. . . and has avenged (Greek: exedikêsan) on her the blood of his servants” (Rev. 19:2, ESV). There is a clear relationship in the text between the prayer of the fifth seal and the fall of Babylon. In fact, there are no less than eight major words in common between the fifth seal and Revelation 19:1-2. This means that Revelation 19 is to be understood as an answer to the prayers of the saints in the fifth seal. At the end of earth’s history, God will be seen to be righting the wrongs that occurred in the course of that history (Rev. 15:3-4). If there is no judgment and no Second Coming, there will be no justice in this world. Thus, judgment in the Bible is more good news than bad news.

Will God Transform the Old Earth or Make a New One? (New Earth 2)

Revelation 20:11 states that the old earth and sky “fled away” from the presence of the one seated on the great white throne (ESV, RSV). Good synonyms for “fled away” (Greek: ephugen) are “vanish” and “disappear.” Since “no place was found for them” after they vanished, it could imply that when God makes “all things new” (Rev. 21:5, NKJV) He will build a brand, new earth rather than “recycle” the materials of the old earth into the new one. On the other hand, “new” in Greek (kainos) means something new in quality rather than in origin or time (see 2 Corinthians 5:17, but notice also Mark 2:21, where new in time is also implied).

Which of the two options makes the most sense? Perhaps the original creation story can help us decide. In Genesis 1 the first verse seems to describe the creation of the whole universe (Gen. 1:1). The second verse focuses on the condition of the earth after the original creation (Gen. 1:2). Verse three commences the creation of this world and describes it as more of a recycling project than something built from nothing (Gen. 1:2-31). With the exception of the light on the first day (Gen. 1:3-5), God’s creative work with the planet itself was largely shaping the environment out of pre-existing matter (Gen. 1: 6, 7, 9, 14).

In conclusion, the total evidence related to the new earth falls short of certainty on this matter. But we do know two things. God is not indebted to pre-existing matter, yet He seems rather fond of recycling.

The Millennium and the New Jerusalem (New Earth 1)

Revelation chapters nineteen through twenty-two begin with final events just before and during the Second Coming of Jesus (Rev. 19) and then give readers a glimpse of the future beyond that event; through the millennium (Rev. 20) and into eternity (Rev. 21 and 22). These four chapters of the book of Revelation offer the clearest and most detailed account in the Bible of events just before, during and after the Second Coming. While there are hints of a millennium elsewhere in the Bible (1 Cor. 15:20-22; Isa. 26:19-22), this is the only place where such a time period is clearly laid out. The account of the thousand years comes between the Second Coming of Jesus and his third and permanent return to this earth.

These chapters of the book of Revelation introduce the following themes and issues:

1. Will God Transform the Old Earth or Make a New One? The meaning of the term “new” earth.
2. Relation of Babylon’s Fall to the Fifth Seal.
3. Three Views of the Millennium.
4. Will Eternity End Up Boring? What Will God’s People Be Doing With All That Time?
5. The Backgrounds That Explain the New Jerusalem.
6. The Shape of the New Jerusalem, Pyramid or Cube?

In addition to the above, I plan to explore God’s purpose for both the thousand years of Revelation 20 and for biblical prophecy. I will conclude with some thoughts on how to respond to the teachings of Revelation.

Some spiritual Lessons from Rev 17 and 18 (Judgment 6)

In a passage to focused on the events of the end-time, life applications can be difficult to find. The following suggestions may be helpful.

1. What are the implications for today in the fact that God has His people in the midst of Babylon almost to the very end (Rev. 18:4)? The realization that end-time Babylon has a Christian face should not lead us to harsh and disparaging statements aimed at Catholics or others (see statements from Ellen White in Evangelism, 575). While the Jewish religious leaders and the Zealots both opposed the mission of Jesus, He nevertheless dealt graciously with individual representatives of those groups (Luke 6:15; Mark 12:28-24). Even the evil system of ancient Babylon had a Nebuchadnezzar in it!

2. What are the similarities and differences between the women of Revelation 12 and 17? What can we learn from these comparisons? There are startling similarities between the women of Revelation 12 and 17. Both are women located in the wilderness (Rev. 12:6,14; 17:3). Both are religious in nature (prostitute Babylon is dressed like the High Priest in 17:4). But the woman of Revelation 12 is the church as seen in the middle period of Christian history, the 1260 day/years. What causes John amazement is that the end-time opponent of God and His people wears a Christian face! This should sober all who follow Jesus. Our pride and stubbornness (unwillingness to change even when things aren’t working well) can lead us to destruction even when we think we are following God (John 16:2).

The Narrative of Revelation 17 (Judgment 5)

As I have shown in a previous blog, Revelation 17 understands there to be three worldwide alliances that develop in the end-time; an alliance of religious institutions in opposition to God, an alliance of secular political power, a true united nations, and an alliance of the saints. All three are precipitated by the final worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) and its evil counterpart (16:13-14). The world is divided into those who accept the gospel (saints), those who reject it (Babylon) and those who are indifferent (secular).

Through the counterfeit gospel of demonic angels (16:13-14), Babylon (demonic trinity—16:19) gathers the secular/political powers of the world to its cause (16:14, 16). She “rides” the beast (17:2-7). For a short time, united institutions of religion dominate the world’s governments, turning their fury against the saints (17:6; 13:15-17). But God intervenes (17:17), drying up Babylon’s support system (secular/political powers—16:12), and they end up turning on her and destroying her (17:16). By this means God saves His end-time remnant from destruction (17:14). After the fall of Babylon, the secular powers of the world are destroyed in the context of the Second Coming itself (19:17-21).

Crucial to the above scenario is the discovery that many of the symbols of Revelation are multiple way of saying the same thing. For example, the seven heads of the beast turn out to be seven mountains and seven kings, three images of secular, political power in the world. Earlier we noticed that the remnant of Revelation 12:17 is elaborated as the 144,000 in 14:1 and as the saints in 14:12. Similarly, the prostitute of 17:1 is the same as the woman who rides the beast (17:3) who is the same as Babylon the Great, mother of prostitutes (17:5). The three great alliances of the End-time are all named by many names.