Books: Worm by Mark Bowden

No, this is not a book about Christian theology or the Bible. The subtitle of the book Worm by Mark Bowden is “The first digital world war.” To read and hear a fascinating interview with the author, use this link.

Bowden explains the emergence of the Internet worm known as Conficker, discovered at Stanford University in 2008. An estimated twelve million computers around the world are thought to be infected by Conficker, insidious software that takes control of the computer whenever the hacker wants. To determine whether your computer has been infected, you may go to this Web page created by the Conficker Working Group to combat the problem. Just by looking at that page in your browser and reading the description there, you will know whether you have a problem or not. Sounds too easy, but it is clever work!

Not only is Bowden’s tale fascinating and scary, but it has some relevance to our daily lives and the earth’s future. Think for a moment how dependent you are on the Internet and how dependent the world economy is on both the Internet and computer networks. How would your life change if the Internet became unusable? What if the good guys were unable to get the Internet working again in any reasonable period of time?

Chapter 18 of the Book of Revelation tells about the sudden collapse of the world system called “Babylon the great” (Rev. 18:4-19). The description reveals a world-spanning economic arrangement that falls in a single hour never to rise again. How is that possible? God has any number of ways to do it, but now there are ways that evil people can threaten world stability. In the currently weak state of the world economy, dangers of all kinds become greater.

How should a Christian respond to all this? Stay close to Christ and be watchful for his return as you live your life and serve his kingdom. Technology will not and cannot save you. But Jesus can and will!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:18–21

Revelation 22:18–21
I testify to the one who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. 20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
(NET Bible)

The message must stand!

My grandmother and my mother’s siblings treated me like royalty! (Hey, the first child/grandchild/nephew gets the best of everything!) When we rode in the car — a stick-shift for those who recognize the term — I could sit anywhere except the driver’s seat.

Then one afternoon I decided to see what would happen if I reached across the front floor with my foot and stepped on the gas while we were moving down the street. For a while after that a cloud hid the sunshine in my young life. Some things you cannot do!

Since Jesus was the speaker in 22:16 and also in 22:20, he is the probable speaker in verses 22:18–19. In addressing the one who hears (22:18), he speaks to a large audience that should include us.

The warnings from Jesus to anyone who would dare to add to or subtract from the words of the Apocalypse amount to punishment in the lake of fire (22:18–19). As suggested in the questions above, this punishment is similar to warnings in the covenants God had with Israel (Deut. 4:2); the integrity of the words was crucial so that any person would know exactly how to keep the covenant. I keep italicizing words to point out that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the very words chosen by God to express his revelation (2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet. 1:21). It is no accident that the devil added and subtracted words when discussing God’s command with Eve (Gen. 3).

But who would add to or subtract from the words? While no explicit answer is given to that question, we do know that they will not be living in the New Jerusalem or eating from the tree of life. Whatever they may have claimed about themselves, their decisions receive the lake of fire.

In 22:20a, Jesus affirms for the final time that he is indeed coming soon. John joyfully responds in 22:20b, and the grammatical form implies the obvious — there is advantage to John (and us) for Jesus to come soon. But if the coming of Jesus is good for the church, it also closes the opportunity for unbelievers to bring their thirst to the one with living water. As Grant Osborne points out, “The coming of Christ is both a promise and a warning, and it provides a fitting conclusion to John’s book.”[1]

Grace in the promise and the warning

When the wicked fall into the lake of fire, it will happen in spite of God’s gracious warnings. God even sent his Son to die for the sins of the world in demonstration of his love for the lost (John 3:16). But certain people would have none of it, preferring the immediate rewards of the world.

When the righteous enter the splendor of Eden, it will happen because of the grace and truth embodied in Jesus Christ. He did everything to make it possible. All we had to do was accept his merciful gift and wait for the time when God will reveal the wonders he has prepared for us.

The grace of God in Jesus Christ is one thing we cannot live without! “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.” (Rev. 22:21). Amen!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 798.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:14–17

Revelation 22:14–17
Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood!
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.
(NET Bible)

Washing your robe

We rose after a night of much-needed rest at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The famous rock spires called hoodoos made the view from the rim one like a forest of stone towers and spears. We learned that you could hike down there, but it was dangerous and hot — a stone maze.

That afternoon, when we discovered the man and his wife lying in the highway, it was a shock. They had wandered for hours among the hoodoos without water, and their heat exhaustion was plain. Cold water and a fast trip to the ranger station set these German tourists right, but what if relief had not come?

As we enter this section, we do well to hear Grant Osborne’s words: “’We are saved by grace and judged by works.’ The teaching here deals not with salvation by works (though it does deal with salvation in the broad sense) but with our eternal reward.”[1] With that caveat, we will press on.

In 22:14 we find that washing your robe is vital to having access to the tree of life by entering the city gates. The key to such washing, which grammar suggests has an ongoing quality, is the washing based on Christ’s redemptive death: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:14). That is the basis for all Christian living.

Those with authority to enter the city and eat of the tree (22:14) are contrasted with those outside (22:15) — a word which, unusually, stands first in word order — people who are unfit for God’s presence or blessings. Indeed, the word translated outside is quite ominous when used in this way; see Luke 13:22-28, where Jesus warns those rejecting his message that they will end outside where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). See also 3:12 where the overcomers are told, “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it [literally: ‘go away outside’]” (Rev. 3:12, NLT).

Without apology to our family dogs, the Bible uses the term dog (22:15) in a negative sense that was common in the ancient world. Greg Beale[2] says that the reprobates listed in 21:15 have no place in the new creation; further, he says that outside means the lake of fire and that city is another word for the new creation. Those conclusions are likely to be correct.

When 22:16 says “testify to you,” the personal pronoun in italics is plural in the original language. This is probably a reference to the members of the seven churches and to all who have an ear to hear what Jesus reveals through John.[3] Jesus reiterates his role as the Davidic Messiah and perhaps as the savior of the gentiles as well; the bright morning star uses a title applied to the Roman Emperor.[4]

Verse 22:17 presents a puzzle as to who is invited to come. Some say Jesus, but Beale[5] correctly notes that the threefold come of 22:17 mimics the same phenomenon in Isa. 55:1. The appeal is to people who need to come to Jesus for the water of life and the food that heals forever.

Only the thirsty will come.

Many of us had to memorize this stanza from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, whose sailing ship was becalmed and without fresh water: “Water, water, everywhere/ And all the boards did shrink/ Water, water, everywhere/ Nor any drop to drink.”

This is the desperate plight of people in our time who are surrounded by many candidates for god, including the currently fashionable atheism. Just as sea water will kill rather than nurture the thirsty sailor, these false gods cannot touch the spiritual thirst of our time. Only Jesus can truly offer the water of life.

In offering the water of life, Jesus says, “Whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Come, and drink freely!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 788.

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1142.

[3] Beale, Revelation, 1143, citing Beasley-Murray.

[4] Witherington, Revelation, 282, citing the Roman poet Martial’s appeal for Caesar to soon appear.

[5] Beale, , Revelation, 1144.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:10–13

Revelation 22:10–13
Then he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy contained in this book, because the time is near. 11 The evildoer must continue to do evil, and the one who is morally filthy must continue to be filthy. The one who is righteous must continue to act righteously, and the one who is holy must continue to be holy.”
12 (Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done! 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!)
(NET Bible)

The Paymaster is on the way!

During my years in the Navy, I served with the operating forces only for brief periods. I saw two occasions when sailors could be counted on to show up with exceeding promptness: mail call and getting paid. Even on a ship far at sea, the ship’s store always had some goodies waiting!

As Christians, our Paymaster will come aboard at any moment. Do you plan to run right down there or hide in a dark storage locker?

Is there a doctor in the house?

The words that Jesus wants us to have are in plain sight (22:10). Anyone can see what Jesus has said and make of it what they will. But what will they make of it?

Rev. 22:11 presents the answer to that question in an unusual form. Here is a more helpful translation[1] from the ESV: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev. 22:11, ESV). The problem that confronts all interpreters is that God (through the angel) seems to command that evildoers keep it up! What sense does that make? Actually, it makes ironic sense[2], like a dare.

Jesus told us exactly how people will respond when he returns. He said it would be like the days of Noah, when people went about their business “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (Matt. 24:38). Jesus went on to describe how oblivious they were when the flood swept them away (Matt. 24:39) and then added, “It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.”

We come face to face with an unpleasant fact: a heart that hardens itself against God is very likely to end in that state. That is what Jesus discussed in the parable of the four soils (Matt. 13:1–9), and he quoted Isaiah to attribute the issue to a dullness of heart, an inability to hear, and a closing of their eyes (Matt. 13:14–15). The truth is that those who are intensely committed to the world would rather be shut away from God for eternity than to repent. Unfortunately, that strategy ends in “the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).

But believers enjoy a tremendous opportunity here! The concept of people being repaid for what they have done cuts both ways. Theologian Wayne Grudem says, “Scripture teaches that there will be degrees of reward for believers.”[3] This idea comes across clearly in the parables where Jesus describes different levels of reward for those whose performance pleases their master on his return (e.g. Luke 19:17, 19, 26). Paul also takes up this theme in 1 Cor. 3:12–15. Check it out!

How much pay would you like?

The fact that the Paymaster is on the way means that you should consider what Paul advised the Colossian believers: “that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects– bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

Paul counsels how to live: “We ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). When the Paymaster arrives, you will be delighted to see him!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] “Must” is used four times by NET to translate commands; this is not a typical style of command translation.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 491, footnote 109.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 1144.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:6–9

Revelation 22:6–9
Then the angel said to me, “These words are reliable and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
7 (Look! I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book.)
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them, I threw myself down to worship at the feet of the angel who was showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Do not do this! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets, and with those who obey the words of this book. Worship God!”
(NET Bible)

Spoiler alert

One of the big principles in American law is giving notice. The idea is that you are given adequate knowledge in advance of a needed response or decision you must make. Generally, this advance knowledge and your required actions must be put into writing.

Through John and the angels, God is putting us on notice that obedience and perseverance are required in response to the disclosures God is making to us through his agents. What will you do with the holy summons?

If you analyze this biblical text for frequency, “words” occurs three times, and the combination prophets-prophecy-prophets also grabs attention. When you combine that knowledge with the statement from Jesus in 22:7 — “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book” — you have to realize that obedience to the challenge to overcome is a crucial theme in Revelation.

Greg Beale[1] says that the purpose of Revelation is to induce obedience among God’s people and supports his statement by pointing out that eight of the final fifteen verses exhort or warn toward that goal. This general theme is stated a little differently by Grant Osborne[2], who says that perseverance is the primary theme of the book.

When Jesus says that the one who obeys is blessed (22:7), the previous context describing the splendor of the New Jerusalem fills that word with substance that had not previously been revealed.

John again puts considerable emphasis on his own eyewitness testimony (22:8). These visions and words are not idle thoughts or a creation of John’s own mind, and he makes that very clear to his readers.

Understandably, John is once again overcome by what he has seen and heard, and he falls down to worship the angel (22:8). The angel rebukes John in a manner virtually identical to 19:10. Explaining John’s lapse, Osborne[3] says that the two almost identical incidents serve as bookends for the material from 19:11 to 22:5, which includes the end of the former age and the creation of the new heaven and earth. The angel again stresses to John the equality of angels with the saints and prophets who all serve God. Note the particular emphasis on “those who obey the words of this book” (22:9).

The angel’s words “Worship God!” (22:9) do not in this context mean to sing praise songs or any of the other activities normally associated with corporate worship. Instead they mean to worship God by persevering and staying in readiness for the any-moment return of Christ.

To be or not to be?

Osborne[4] makes the telling point that every passage in the NT on the imminent return of Jesus ends with a demand to walk worthily of the Lord because he is coming soon.

The thing is, in an hour from this moment your decisive interview with Jesus may be over!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1122.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 782-783.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 784.

[4] Osborne, Revelation, 783.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 22:1–5

Revelation 22:1–5
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life– water as clear as crystal– pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
(NET Bible)

New Jerusalem as the final Eden

One of my favorite images from a lifetime ago was a painting called “Break Time,” showing a dusty cowboy drinking his fill of cold water after a long day’s work was done. Whatever image refreshes you, it cannot describe the refreshment we will have in the final Eden. Are you ready for that break time?

Just as we saw New Jerusalem presented as the Holy of Holies in Revelation 21, so the section 22:1–5 portrays New Jerusalem as the final Eden. Both Genesis 2 and Ezekiel 47:1–12 provide the background to the vision.

Grant Osborne describes the water of 22:1 when he says, “This life-giving water . . . is also emphasized in John 4:10-14 (Jesus as the ‘living water’) and 7:37–39 (the Holy Spirit as ‘streams of living water’).”[1] Just as water is crucial to life, so these living waters sustain us throughout eternity. The source of this water is God and the Lamb (21:1). Can you imagine how it tastes?

One of the striking features of the water of life (22:1) is its total accessibility as it flows down the middle of the city’s main street (22:2). As with the water, so with the food; the tree of life lines both banks of the river and provides twelve kinds of fruit (22:2). That much is plain, but 22:2b presents a familiar issue: who are these nations and why do they need healing by the leaves of the tree?

Commentators strain to explain — unconvincingly — that this healing has already taken place prior to the descending of the New Jerusalem. Such healing would, by that theory, apply to the nations of the old earth. Greg Beale[2] asks whether the tree’s leaves will continue to heal throughout eternity and answers no because there is nothing to heal. Ben Witherington[3] says it is the saints’ memories of the old world that need healing, but Isaiah 65:17 says otherwise!

I have already presented my view that the newly created earth has nations in it (see discussion of 21:24–26 in Week 9, Day 5). These are the nations that will need the healing God here provides. Like all spiritual healing, it comes from God and is based on what Christ has done.

When Adam failed to guard Eden (Gen. 2:15 and Gen. 3:6) from the incursion of Satan, the result of the sin which ensued was both death and a curse (Gen. 3:14-19). Adam and Eve were forcibly expelled from Eden (Gen. 3:23) and an angel was set to guard the entry. The New Jerusalem, presented as the final Eden, is amply guarded by angels at the gates (21:12), and no evil may enter there (21:27).

In place of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life at the center of the former Eden (Gen. 2:9), we find the throne of God and the Lamb (22:3). Instead of Adam and Eve hiding from God, we have a picture of unbroken fellowship between God and his redeemed people (22:4–5). Even though the delegated rulership of Adam and Eve over the old earth (Gen. 1:28) was shattered, now the saints reign forever on a new earth (22:5) with Christ.

That is a sight better than a cold drink after a hard day!

Beauty, refreshment and fulfillment

In our fallen world, some people do immoral things to live a life full of comforts for a short time. But a life lived for God will result in experiencing the best food, drink and companions in the most beautiful setting, forever. Oh, did I mention you get to live with God?

Through Isaiah the prophet, God says: “Why pay money for something that will not nourish you? Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing! Enjoy fine food!” (Isa. 55:2).

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 769.

[2] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1108.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Revelation, The New Cambridge Bible Commentary (New York: Cambridge University Press) 272.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 21:22–27

Revelation 21:22–27
Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God– the All-Powerful– and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. 25 Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). 26 They will bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it, 27 but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(NET Bible)

Keep your eye on the ball!

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). We have often understood this statement to refer to the gospel by having it mean light of salvation. But could Jesus have been telling us about the life we will live with him in eternity?

Grant Osborne[1] notes that most Jewish literature on the New Jerusalem puts the temple at its center, as in Ezekiel 40–48. But the flaw in that thinking is that the rationale for the temple was as a place for the people to encounter God. But in Revelation 21 we find that God “physically resides among his people (Rev. 21:3), and the entire city has been made into a Holy of Holies (21:6).”[2]

As John continues to contrast the holy city with the present age, he says the city needs no sun and moon due to the illumination provided by the radiance of God in Jesus, the Lamb (21:23).

Rev. 21:24–26 is very challenging for all commentators. Craig Keener explains: “The image of the conversion of the nations (21:24) is a problematic one if pressed on a literal level against other images in Revelation. One possibility is that God creates new peoples for his saints to rule, but because this is not stated, commentators have rarely proposed it.”[3] This rarely proposed idea is exactly the solution that I advocate to resolve this mystery.

The key problem is that the phrase “kings of the earth” (21:24) has uniformly served as a reference to those who will persecute the saints, gather with the beast, oppose the second coming of Christ, and then probably rise in rebellion when Satan leads the nations against the camp of the saints at the end of Christ’s earthly rule (see 16:14; 17:2; 17:18; 18:3; 18:9; 19:19; 20:8). So, it is sufficiently difficult to see these wicked kings coming to the New Jerusalem to worship — in the new heaven and new earth — that a few interpreters have said they were brought back from the lake of fire and converted! That idea is so contrary to the theology of both Revelation and the entire New Testament that it has gained no support.

The alternative is to take God more seriously: “For look, I am ready to create new heavens and a new earth! The former ones will not be remembered; no one will think about them anymore” (Isa. 65:17 ). I suggest that in this new creation there is no fall into sin and the result is the worship of God in Jerusalem by the leaders from nations around the newly created world.

This potential solution is far more complex than the usual fuzzy view of eternal life that most Christians hold. It may not express the actual course of events, but no viable alternative to the mystery of the “kings of the earth” in 21:24–26 has been proposed.[4]

No matter what God will show to be the solution to these questions, the nations will flock to the light of the Lamb, and those whose names are in the book of life (21:17) will see it all!

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the new world!

It is so difficult for us to imagine the new heaven and earth. As I write, the sun is shining and an electric light illumines my work area, but in the New Jerusalem the light from the Lamb’s presence will bathe every activity. Perhaps the biggest difference in the world-to-come is that it will focus far more attention and activity on Jesus than our fallen world does.

Jesus said to his enemies: “I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” (John 8:21). Rejoice that every Christian can come where Jesus is going!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 759.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 759.

[3] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 505.

[4] John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966) 327, and Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Rev. Ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997) 397, adopt certain parts of the literal view I have expressed, but they back away in different ways. G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 1098, retreats into symbolism, as usual. Osborne, Revelation, 762-763, discusses the issue but presents no credible resolution.