Exposition of Romans 2:14-16 Conscience-judged behavior sometimes pleases God

The fact that all people are sinners does not mean they are as bad as they could possibly be. Sometimes conscience — given by God in creation — may guide even the unsaved to meet Gods requirements in limited situations.

It is a mistake to elevate ourselves by demonizing others. Sometimes they get it right and we do not.

(ESV) Romans 2:14-16

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Romans 2:14 clearly says one thing: Gentiles sometimes do what the law requires. What is less clear is how to position the phrase by nature. English translations all agree with ESV that by nature modifies the verb do. Other authorities think Paul is saying that Gentiles do not have the law by nature, letting by nature modify the verb have. While the former view seems more likely, the real point is not lost either way: Gentiles sometimes do what the law requires.

Douglas Moo correctly summarizes: Paul pursues his policy of putting the Jews and Gentiles on the same footing. The Jew does not have in the law a decisive advantage when it comes to knowing and doing the will of God, Paul suggests; for Gentiles have some of the same benefits.[1]

Looking at the Gentiles, Paul says (2:15) that the work of the law, the conscience and the thoughts mix in a complex way that often accuses and sometimes excuses them. Grant Osborne says, Their minds form a type of law court in which actions are judged.[2] But it is vital to realize that even within the court of their own minds the Gentiles are not exonerated; so, they will certainly stand guilty before a holy God.

C.E.B. Cranfield discusses the concept of conscience by saying, The basic idea conveyed is that of knowledge shared with oneself.[3] Sometimes this information is shared after the behavior and sometimes before; the verdict reached is by no means guaranteed to be the same that God would reach!

In Romans 2:16, Osborne correctly points out that Paul elsewhere uses the day for the Day of the Lord at the end of history (e.g., Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 1:14; Eph. 4:30; Phil. 1:6, 10).[4] No matter what Jews and Gentiles think about their own behavior, God has set a day when he will judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus (2:16).

Romans 2:16b closely resembles Pauls speech in Athens: he [God] has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31, NET).

Humanitys good is not good enough

The Jews have been busy justifying their own righteousness by wrongly relying on their possession of the law. The Gentiles have sometimes managed to meet Gods requirements as evaluated by their own conscience, but they too fall short.

1. Why do you think people spend so much effort justifying themselves and their group by comparison with other groups, races, classes, genders or ethnicities? How do people try the same thing with God?

2. If you were convinced that self-justification was futile, what would you do next to become acceptable to God?

Perhaps these questions seem contrived, but they are not. Various cultures have spent millennia trying to figure out how human works relate to acceptance before God. The sad thing is that our culture does not even want to know. By Gods grace, you can prove to be an exception!

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas). Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 151.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 70.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 159-160.

[4] Osborne, Romans, 70.

Exposition of Romans 1:7–12 — Imparting spiritual gifts describes our role

The elders at Ephesus could look back in later years to their last meeting with the Apostle Paul at the port of Miletus. His parting words were full of emotional memories: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

(ESV) Romans 1:7-12  To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Romans 1:7 is the concluding verse of a single Greek sentence that includes the first seven verses of Romans chapter 1. Sometimes modern people think the ancients to be less intelligent than we are because they lived so long ago. Hopefully, the profundity of Romans will help put that idea into well-deserved oblivion.

Another tendency we may have is to toss off anything said in the salutation of a NT epistle [letter] and get on to the main event; that is a mistake. In wishing the Roman Christians “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7), Paul is telling important things about his presentation of the gospel. “Grace” is used twenty-four times in Romans, and half of those instances occur in chapters 1-5; the next occurrence will be in Romans 3:24 — “they are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (HCSB) — where Paul presents God’s solution to humankind’s problem.

“Peace” is used ten times in Romans, most notably in Romans 5:1 — “therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” — where Paul presents the outcome of being justified by faith. As we will see, peace is not the absence of war but rather the wholeness and solidarity we enjoy through faith in Jesus Christ.

So, when Paul opens by wishing the Roman Christians grace and peace, he is telling them how they become justified before God (grace) and the result of that justification (peace). See also Romans 16:20 where these two giant concepts are combined.

In 1:8 we see that we are reading a letter and not a book on systematic theology, because Paul takes time to let the Roman Christians know that knowledge of their Christian faith has spread far and wide. Osborne says, “This refers not so much to the quality of their faith as to the fact of it.”[1] In terms of the spread of information, NT scholar Craig Keener informs us, “Couriers in the first century could get from Rome to London in one week.”[2] Word got around!

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407 AD), patriarch of Constantinople until his preaching against corruption landed him in Antioch, made fascinating remarks on the origin of the Roman church:

Having recently acquired a worldwide empire, the Romans were elated, and they lived in riches and luxury, and then fishermen brought the preaching there, Jewish fishermen moreover, who belonged to a nation which was hated and despised by everyone. And these Romans were asked to worship the crucified one who was brought up in Judea. Moreover, along with this doctrine, the teachers proclaimed an ascetic life to men who were used to luxury and concerned with material comforts.[3]

In a sense, Paul is letting them know that he realizes his visit to Rome will not establish a church but will nurture one that is already thriving. Even though Paul is an apostle, he is taking pains not to talk down to the recipients since that would impede acceptance of his message.

By essentially taking an oath before God (1:9), Paul “wants the Romans to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he continually holds them up in prayer.”[4] Paul states that he is always asking God to allow him to visit the churches in Rome (1:10), but he is plainly uncertain of the answer. He was right to doubt, because his eventual arrival in Rome occurred under the custody of a Roman guard during a legal appeal to Caesar (Acts 28:11-31).

Paul’s tone is warm in 1:11-12. Osborne says, “This is a wonderful way for all of us to think of our ministries as sharing our spiritual gifts with others.”[5] Paul again takes up spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, where he names prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation. giving, leadership, and mercy. Each of us has a spiritual gift to use: “And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us” (Rom. 12:6, NET). What are we to do with them?

How to frame your ministry

What frame of reference should we use in thinking about our personal ministries within the church? Osborne captures Paul’s answer by having us think of our ministries as “sharing our spiritual gifts with others.”

1. How has your spiritual gift been used to bless other believers? How did it affect you to see that others benefitted from your gift?

2. When did you receive a spiritual gift from others and how did it move you closer to Christ? Did you let that person know how Jesus used them to strengthen you? If not, how could you do so now?

John Chrysostom said of Paul’s intended spiritual gift to the Roman Christians: “It was not his own things which he was giving them but what he had himself received.”[6] May we too give to one another from what we have received from the Lord!

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas), by permission.


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 35.

[2] Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John, vol. 1 (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003) 185.

[3] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 19.

[4] Osborne, Romans, 36.

[5] Osborne, Romans, 37.

[6] Bray, ed., Romans, 23.

Exposition of Romans 1:1-6 — The significance of the resurrected Son

This post begins a series on Romans 1-5. The subtitle is “The Significance of the Resurrected Son.” I hope you enjoy it!

Partial Outline of the Romans 1–6 (C.E.B. Cranfield)

I.          Superscription, address and salutation (1:1-7)

II.         Paul and the Roman church (1:8-16a)

III.       The theme of the epistle is stated (1:16b-17)

IV.       The revelation of the righteousness which is from God by faith alone — “He who is righteous by faith” expounded (1:18-4:25)

1. In the light of the gospel there is no question of men’s being righteous before God otherwise than by faith (1:18-3.20)

a. Man under the judgment of the gospel (1:18-32)

b. Jewish man is no exception (2:1-3:20)

2. The manifestation of the righteousness that is from God in the gospel events (3:21-26)

3. All glorying is excluded (3:27-31)

4. The case of Abraham as confirmation of the statement that glorying has been excluded (4:1-25)

V.         The life promised for those who are righteous by faith — “shall live” expounded (5:1-8:39)

1. A life characterized by peace with God (5:1-21)

a. Peace with God (5:1-11)

b. Christ and Adam (5:12-21)

2. A Life characterized by sanctification (6:1-23)

The significance of the resurrected Son

If we look at church steeples or at interior areas near the pastor, we will see the cross, the symbol of Christ’s death. Nowhere will we see any symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. God’s good news for humankind has always been about both the cross and the resurrected Son, yet Christ’s church has been slow to grasp this.

The cure for this imbalance is not to put less emphasis on the cross but to enhance understanding of how important the resurrection really is. The resurrection of Jesus Christ authenticated his sacrificial death for our sins and provided the power to resist sin (Rom. 6). Further, it is as our risen Lord that Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 7:25).

(ESV) Romans 1:1-6  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

This remarkable letter begins with a name that stands among the top ten in human history ? Paul. In calling himself “slave” (1:1, NET), he immediately declares his utter commitment to the one who summoned him ? Christ Jesus. New Testament scholar Douglas Moo says: “’Slave of Christ Jesus’ is patterned after the familiar OT phrase ‘slave’ or ‘servant’ of Yahweh.”[1] That puts Paul in the company Moses, David and the prophets.

In saying he has been “set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1), Paul mentions the likely theme of his letter ? the gospel, a term not accurately understood by many Christians. In evangelical circles, “the gospel” is often seen as a brief set of ideas shared with non-Christians to which they may respond with faith in Jesus as their savior. That understanding of the word gospel is far too narrow to fit Paul’s meaning.

To understand the word gospel as Paul used it, we will first look at its lexical meaning. The Greek euangelion means “good news,”[2] originally news of victory. Both NLT and HCSB use the phrase “good news” in their translation of Romans 1:1. [We get our English word “evangelism” from the Greek euangelion.]

It is obviously important to consider what gospel would have meant to Roman citizens. NT scholar C.E.B. Cranfield says, “For the inhabitants of the Roman Empire it had special associations with the Emperor-cult [worship of the Emperor as a god], since the announcements of such events as the birth of an heir to the Emperor, his coming-of-age, and his accession, were referred to as [euangelia].”[3] Since gospel had these secular associations for Romans, Paul expressed it as the “gospel of God” (1:1) to distinguish it from the Roman civil idea; then he elaborated the broader meaning in the immediately following verses.

Summarizing Paul’s statements about the gospel in Romans 1:2-4, NT scholar Grant Osborne says: “First, he tells us it was promised beforehand in the Old Testament. . . . Second, the heart of the gospel is the Son of God as descended from David. . . . The gospel centers on God’s designation (better than NIV’s declared) of Jesus as his divine Son.”[4] To this we should add some other things — chiefly justification by faith — but to show the breadth of Paul’s concept of gospel we must consider that he even adds judgment when he speaks of the “day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (2:16).

Moo delivers what I consider the correct conclusion about the theme of Romans when he says, “My own outline reflects what I think is the theme of the letter: the gospel.”[5] The ESV Study Bible says, “The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[6] The NIV Study Bible agrees: “Paul’s primary theme in Romans is the basic gospel, God’s plan of salvation for all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike.”[7]

Now that we have considered the theme of Romans — the gospel concerning Jesus Christ — we will focus our attention on Romans 1:3. Above all else, what God promised beforehand in the holy Scriptures was “concerning his Son.” The remainder of 1:3 focuses on Jesus’ physical descent from David, which was necessary for him to qualify as the promised Messiah (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Isa. 11:1, 11:10). Using his famous contrast between flesh and Spirit, Paul next adds to Jesus’ title of Messiah another title that comes in the spiritual realm; NET says that Jesus was “appointed the
Son-of-God-in-power” (1:4, NET) by virtue of his resurrection from the dead.[8]

This is a very important point: Jesus has eternally been the Son of God, but he took on added authority after his resurrection. Moo summarizes, “What Paul is claiming, then, is that the preexistent Son, who entered into human experience as the promised Messiah, was appointed on the basis of . . . the resurrection to a new and more powerful position in relation to the world.”[9] This explains why Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection to say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mat. 28:18). He was announcing his new status!

Osborne notes that “Jesus Christ our Lord” culminates verses 3-4,” and then he adds: “This incredible passage tells us that the Gospel is all about Jesus — Messiah, Son of God and Lord of all creation.”[10]

If you think Paul has merely been exercising his theological skills, get ready for his powerful application. Paul has revealed the supreme power of the resurrected Jesus. Now he reminds his Roman readers that this exalted Lord has appointed Paul his apostle “to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5) among all nations, including the Christians in Rome! Zap! Roman Christians certainly understood imperial politics, and Paul represents a ruler far above the emperor.

The phrase “obedience of faith” (1:5) is subject to various interpretations. Osborne summarizes the most probable one: “Obedience is the natural result of a faith relationship with Christ, and faith always produces obedience.”[11] NT scholar Ernst Käsemann says, “When the revelation of Christ is accepted [faith], the rebellious world submits again to its Lord [obedience].”[12]

The Son-of-God-in-power

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Jesus made this audacious statement because he knew that he would rise from the dead and that our faith in him would bring us the same result.

1. Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22. How important does Paul say the resurrection is to your faith?

2. Read Psalm 2 about the enthronement of Christ as King. How is the Son-of-God-in-power received by the rulers and nations? What does the final verse mean to you personally?

In the days of the Roman Empire men and women would aspire to be named a “friend of Caesar.” We have the greater privilege of being the friends of Jesus Christ, the Son-of-God-in-power. That is worth celebrating!

 [1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 40-41.

[2] BDAG-3, euangelion, good news, q.v.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 55.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 29.

[5] Moo, Romans, 32.

[6] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2151.

[7] Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) 1736.

[8] TNIV corrects NIV (1984) in Romans 1:4 so that it reads “appointed the Son of God in power.”

[9] Moo, Romans, 48-49.

[10] Osborne, Romans, 32.

[11] Osborne, Romans, 33.

[12] Ernst Käsemann, Romans, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980) 15.

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

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 20:4-6

Revelation 20:4-6

Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
(NET Bible)

A rough sketch of the Millennium

It only takes a glance at the face of a child, crushed by finishing second, to know that our culture is cruel for insisting that first place is all that matters. At times there is more discussion going on about how to determine the best college football team than there is to figure out how to feed those going hungry. That is a measure with our obsession to be first.

Fortunately for us, the one time it is essential to be first — taking part in the first resurrection — is within the reach of anyone. It requires giving your life to Jesus. Finishing second is for those who prefer an eternity of suffering. Will you be among the first to rise?

Revelation 20:4 is an enigma, and other parts of the Bible must come to the interpreters rescue. In particular, Jesus has promised that the twelve apostles will judge Israel in the kingdom while sitting on thrones (Luke 22:30). That may partly explain who are those who had been given authority to judge (20:4).

Before you get to thinking that you will spend the Millennium at the French Riviera, consider that Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 6:2a that Christians will also be involved in judging the world. Besides, the Riviera probably falls with Babylon. :)

Consider too that the camp of the saints (20:9) should reasonably include all who take part in the first resurrection. Accordingly, Grant Osborne says, All the saints — those persevering during the OT, NT, church age, and tribulation periods — will be present during this final period of history.[1]

The rule of all the saints with Christ during the Millennium requires that the faithful dead must be resurrected. Revelation 20:5 calls this the first resurrection. It adds that the rest of the dead — who by elimination must be the unbelieving dead — will not rise until the end of the Millennium. Osborne[2] explains that for unbelievers who die, the next conscious thought will be when they face Gods judgment at the great white throne (20:11-15). Craig Keener[3] points out that the resurrection to damnation is so horrible that it is given the name second death (20:6; 20:14) rather than second resurrection. That is a somber thought indeed.

When discussing the honor and blessing due those who take part in the first resurrection, John explains three advantages (20:6): (1) the second death cannot touch them; (2) they will represent God and Christ to the people as priests; and (3) they will rule with Christ for a thousand years. I plan to ask for Bariloche (Argentina) and Mount Hood (Oregon), so, hands off! [Both feature mountains and lakes, and God made them beautiful.]

Alternatives

Of course, the world will offer you many alleged ways to be first, and the Scriptures support the idea that sin may be pleasurable for a time (Heb. 11:25). The problem with that path is that it ends with the second death rather than the first resurrection. That is not acceptable!

When Jesus was executed as a capital criminal, it appeared that he was anything but first. But Paul explains:

As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11)

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material developed 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) 705.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 708.

[3] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 467.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 15:1–4

Revelation 15:1–4
Then I saw another great and astounding sign in heaven: seven angels who have seven final plagues (they are final because in them God’s anger is completed).
2 Then I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and his image and the number of his name. They were standing by the sea of glass, holding harps given to them by God. 3 They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and astounding are your deeds, Lord God, the All-Powerful! Just and true are your ways, King over the nations! 4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name, because you alone are holy? All nations will come and worship before you for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
(NET Bible)

The demonstration of righteousness is just beginning!

I was never fond of getting a spanking, and my guess is that some of you feel the same way. Such experiences, however, may cloud our emotions in relation to understanding and accepting God’s acts of judgment. The conquering saints pour out praise to God for his “righteous acts” (15:4), which are his acts of crushing judgment against his enemies.

Why do we not respond with worship and praise when God judges rebellion? Have we been so blinded by contemporary culture that we think we can sit in judgment of God?

Revelation 15:1 serves as a summary for the whole of 15:1–16:21.[1] The avenging angels do not enter the scene until 15:8, and the bowls of judgment do not start until 16:1 (my next post).

When John says, “I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire” (15:2), try to imagine the flickering of flames within the crystal before the throne of God — an ominous symbol of what is coming!

Grant Osborne describes the song sung by the conquering saints (15:3b–4): “The whole celebrates the saving deeds of God and the worship that results from it. No details of victorious deeds are mentioned here because they have been recounted in chapter 14. . . . To the wonder of his judgments in line one [15:3b] is added the justice and truth behind those judgments in line two [15:3b].”[2]

The second part of the song (15:4) emphasizes both God’s holiness and the theme of the nations coming to Zion to worship God (Isa. 2:2–4; 45:23; 60:1–3; Jer. 16:19; Zech. 8:20–23; Rev. 15:4; 21:24, 26). Osborne ably summarizes the latter theme: “For the OT the coming of the nations to Zion was final proof of the glory and might of Yahweh [God], and this theme is central to the Apocalypse as well. Of course, this does not imply universalism [universal salvation] for most among the nations will refuse to repent (Rev. 9:20–21; 16:9, 11).”[3]

John next sees seven angels, dressed as priests, emerging from the temple “holding the seven plagues” (15:6, NLT), which they have clearly received from God. The word translated “plague” can refer to a blow which one receives (Luke 10:30; 12:48) or to the figurative extension of that idea: “a sudden calamity that causes severe distress . . . plague.”[4] The latter meaning is the one used in the Book of Revelation.

Next, the seven angels each receive a golden bowl from one of the four living creatures, and the bowl is filled with God’s wrath (15:7). Any ruler could be wrathful and yet his enemies could always hope he will die before inflicting harm, but those who oppose “God who lives forever and ever” (15:7) have no such hope! They can run, but not forever.

John’s final glimpse shows a temple so filled with God’s glory and power that no one can enter it[5] (15:8). No one dares to try!

We must get our heads straight!

Those whom God struck in Revelation 8, 9, and 14 have not only rebelled against God, but they have also killed multitudes of Christians in obedience to the commands of the beast. By judging them, God vindicates his own reputation for holiness and justice and he vindicates the obedient behavior of the believers who have fallen before the rage of the beast. When God behaves in a manner consistent with his character, we should each stand up and shout praise, because that means God will also do for us just what he promised in Christ.

Osborne tells us, “The righteous justice of God in judging his enemies is a time for joy, not sorrow.”[6] After recovering from his own severe experience of God’s judgment, the mighty Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar (634 – 562 B.C.) said: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all his deeds are right and his ways are just” (Dan. 4:37). He got the point!

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) 560.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 564-565.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 568.

[4] BDAG-3, pl?g?, plague, q.v.

[5] Similar incidents may be found in Exod. 40:34–35; 1 Kings 8:10–12; Isa. 6:1–4 and Ezek. 10:2–4..

[6] Osborne, Revelation, 574.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 14:6–10

Revelation 14:6–10
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, and he had an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth– to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7 He declared in a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!”
8 A second angel followed the first, declaring: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great city! She made all the nations drink of the wine of her immoral passion.”
9 A third angel followed the first two, declaring in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and takes the mark on his forehead or his hand, 10 that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb.”
(NET Bible)

The Tale of Two Cities

Revelation 14 reminds us not to become victims of divided interests. We cannot serve both God and the things offered by this world. Those who try to have it both ways always find in the end that the powerful tug of sexual immorality, power and wealth are too great to resist.

And we all know how that works out, do we not?

If Revelation 13 presented the conquest of the saints, Revelation 14 shows that the beast’s victory will not last. Revelation 14 begins the “Tale of Two Cities,” a contrast between the city of God (Zion, 14:1) and the city of the world (Babylon, 14:8).

This helps explain the otherwise difficult 14:4, which says of the 144,000 that they “have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins.” That is a figurative statement, which Craig Keener explains by saying: “These 144,000 have refused to commit immorality with Babylon, the prostitute (cf. 18:3). The symbolism thus makes a strong point: Christians must be pure and faithful to Christ if they wish to be prepared for and engage in the Lamb’s holy war. Unlike the world (13:17), believers cannot indulge in divided interests.”[1]

Revelation 14:6 marks a signal moment in human history: the very last offer of the gospel to lost humanity. Grant Osborne says: “Everywhere that [Greek] euangelion [“gospel”] is found in the NT, it implies the gracious offer of salvation.”[2] When you consider how the people dwelling on the earth have helped the beast kill Christians, and probably Jews as well, this final extension of grace speaks of God’s preference for mercy over judgment (James 2:13).

A second angel follows (14:8) with a momentous announcement: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great city!” The angel speaks of a future event (see 16:19 and 18:2–4) as if it had already taken place. God’s promised future actions are so certain that they may be stated in the same manner as completed history!

Concerning the name Babylon, Keener informs us:

There can be no question that this text [14:8] implies especially Rome. Early Jews often used Babylon as a code name for Rome, as did early Christians (1 Peter 5:13). Such allusions made sense; as Israel once experienced exile under the evil empire Babylon, now they are experiencing the captivity of a new evil empire in Rome. Both Babylon and Rome destroyed the temple.[3]

Both Babylon and Rome were known for three things that resonate with the end of history: power, wealth and sexual depravity (Isa. 13:19–22; 14:20–23; Jer. 25:12–14; 50:35–40; 51:24–26.). The added metaphor in 14:8 of drinking someone’s wine means to participate in their lifestyle. Like Babylon and Rome, the beast’s empire will force others to participate in “the wine of her passionate immorality” (BDAG-3, the standard lexicon for New Testament Greek).

A third angel ( 14:9–11) warns the world that those who have a taste for the beast’s wine will “also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath” (14:10). Keener explains: “Ancients normally diluted wine with two parts water to every part wine, except when they wished to get drunk. But God will administer this wine of his anger ‘full strength’ (14:10).”[4] Those who drink with the beast will be made sloshing drunk with the wine of God’s wrath!

The final interpretation-issues for chapter 14 involve 14:14–20. The key issue is to determine the nature of the two harvests (14:16 and 14:19). For brevity, I will give my conclusions. Osborne says, “It is likely that 14:15 describes the harvest of the redeemed and 14:17–20 of the unsaved.”[5] Presumably the redeemed are those who responded to the final offer of grace (14:6–7).

Through an angel, God speaks from the temple to Christ, who reaps the redeemed before the harvest of others for the “great winepress of the wrath of God” (14:19). God makes no apology for dealing finally and effectively with the wicked rebels who refuse his mercy (14:17–20).

The output of the great winepress will be blood (14:20) — a very great deal of blood!

Two roads and a winepress

The discerning reader will realize that in the end times there will be no neutral parties. There will be those who are marked as the beast’s own and those who belong to the Lamb, who are mostly killed for their faith. The wide road that leads to destruction will have plenty of worldly reward, while the narrow way that leads to life “requires the steadfast endurance of the saints” (14:12).

Did I mention that the wide road leads to a great winepress?

Craig Keener, whose insights we frequently enjoy, says that many today try to avoid scaring people into the kingdom. Then he reveals that as a young atheist he decided the doctrine of hell made the stakes too high to ignore. He gave his life to Christ and has no regrets. [6]

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



[1] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 371.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 535.

[3] Keener, Revelation, 373.

[4] Keener, Revelation, 374.

[5] Osborne, Revelation, 552.

[6] Keener, Revelation, 382.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 13:1-4

Revelation 13:1-4

Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns were ten diadem crowns, and on its heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority to rule. 3 One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: Who is like the beast? and Who is able to make war against him?
(NET Bible)

One beast to rule them all: the antichrist

When asked by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2003 to vote on the best-loved work in the history of Britain, the people voted for J.R.R. Tolkiens epic high fantasy The Lord of the Rings. Infused with many Christian themes, Tolkiens work fashions an ancient age of earth in which good fights a death-struggle with personal evil. Its thematic poem mimics Satans true plans for the last age of our world:

One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.

Revelation 13 introduces one of the most famous biblical personalities: the Antichrist, presented as the beast coming up out of the sea (13:1). He will be Satans primary leader to rule the world.

The hideous figure that rises from the sea bears a blasphemous name on each of its seven heads (13:1). Osborne says: These blasphemous names probably allude to the titles of divinity attributed to the Roman emperor (lord, savior, son of god, our lord and god).[1] Such titles would not only resonate for Johns original readers but would also fit in Satans plan to make the beast from the sea into a counterfeit Messiah at the end of history.

Satan, symbolized by the dragon, gives the Antichrist, symbolized by the beast from the sea, everything he needs to rule the world (13:2). But why does the world submit to such rule? The first reason is that they were dazzled by a miraculous mockery of Christs resurrection.

Grant Osborne describes the reaction of the whole world to the beasts recovery: They are deceived by the miracle (see also 13:13-14; 16:14) and do what the crowds failed to do in Jesus ministry: worship the beast.[2]

In explaining 13:5-6, Osborne describes Satans deception: Here we are at the heart of the blasphemy (13:1, 5) of the beast, deceiving the nations into worshiping him as God.[3] This sickening worship goes on for three and a half years (13:5). Worse still, only one group will refuse to worship the beast: those committed to the Lamb (13:8).

But a decision has to be made about the translation of 13:8b:

(NET) everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed.

(NIV 2011) all whose names have not been written in the Lambs book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

The correct translation hinges on which verb a Greek prepositional phrase modifies (see italics above), and numerous scholars take each side.[4] I side with Osborne in favor of the NIV 2011: It is better here to respect the [original] word order and recognize that it is Gods plan that has been established from the foundation of the world.[5]

Aside from the beast, the story of this chapter is told in 13:7, which says, The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. He is assisted by a second beast, another beast coming up from the earth (13:11), who is often called the false prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). Not only will the false prophet promote the worship of the Antichrist, but he will also organize the worlds commerce so that only those bearing the mark of the beast (13:17) can buy or sell anything.

666

Revelation 13:18 is legendary because of the number 666. I find Greg Beales idea simple and persuasive: The number 666 is likely no exception to Johns figurative use of numbers. The number seven refers to completeness and is repeated throughout the book. But 666 appears only here. This suggests that the triple sixes are intended as a contrast with the divine sevens throughout the book and signify incompleteness and imperfection.[6] Satan is not divine and neither is the beast; they can claim only to be perfect evil!

Do not take the fake!

A regrettable number of Christians have become caught up in following a teacher because of some complex interpretation of the beast or 666. Instead of speculation, we should focus on the revelation God provides us so that we can be prepared to represent Christ in a deceptive world.

In Tolkiens fantasy world, evil did not prevail, but for a time its power was ascendant. Likewise, in our own future the beast will be given authority to conquer the saints for a little while, but his destiny is not rulership but torment. Instead, Jesus will rule and we who overcome will rule with him. The Lamb was slain, but he did not stay that way!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. 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) 491.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 497.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 498.

[4] The Greek word order favors the NIV translation (slain from the creation of the world), but Rev. 17:8 favors the NETs view (written since the foundation of the world).

[5] Osborne, Revelation, 503.

[6] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 721-722.