Exposition of Daniel 4:19–27 Fair warning

Daniel 4:19–27

19 Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds — 22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.

23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

After Nebuchadnezzar finishes recounting his dream, Daniel is appalled[1] and is momentarily terrified by the thoughts running through his head, but the king swiftly reassures him (verse 19a).

Daniel answers with a verbless sentence that amounts to a fervent wish: “My lord, the dream to your enemies and the interpretation to your adversaries!” (verse 19b). English versions have added various verbs to make a viable sentence. Daniel describes the world-spanning tree in all its abundance, and then says, “It is you, O king!” verse 22a, NET). Since Nebuchadnezzar had been terrified by the dream, there is little doubt that he anticipated this interpretation.

Next, Daniel recalls the appearance of the watcher from heaven (verse 23) and explains the vision (verses 24–26). Daniel leaves no doubt in verse 24 that the decree against Nebuchadnezzar was issued by the Most High God. The danger he faces does not come from among men but from heaven itself. As such, there is no resisting it; instead, he must hope for some basis for relief in the decree.

The divine decree about Nebuchadnezzar’s future contains several elements: (1) isolated from people and living among the animals of the field, (2) eating grass “like the ox” and experiencing the rigors of the weather, and (3) enduring an appropriate period of these behaviors until he understands that the Most High is the Lord of all kingdoms and all kings (verse 25). Whether the metal fetter is literal or figurative of the limits set for the king by God is not clear; both are possible. While this period of less-than-human existence might feel pointless to the one in its grip, God plainly has a transformative purpose in it. Destroying Nebuchadnezzar would have been a trivial matter, but saving him from himself takes grace, discipline and time.

Two matters have made interpretation of these revelations difficult. First, conservative scholars have gone to some effort to identify Nebuchadnezzar’s divinely-caused affliction using standard psychological categories (e.g. lycanthropy or boanthropy). Perhaps they felt that such an identification would make the explanation more acceptable to those who reject supernatural causes. Such efforts seem misguided since the testimony from heaven is that God caused this mental state and later lifted it for a purely theological reasons. It makes no difference whatever if scientists or psychologists find the malady a realistic possibility; God is not waiting for their diagnosis or their approval!

Another difficulty is the phrase “seven times will pass by for you” (verse 25); the word “seven” is clear enough, but what is the unit of measure that belongs to “times” — days, weeks, months, years? Conservative scholars, such as Wood and Miller, generally believe this Aramaic noun (`iddanin) means “years” in this context. The standard lexicon offers both “time” and “year” as possible meanings for the word,[2] which happens to be plural (“times” or “years”) in our verses. English versions generally follow the same path as NIV by saying “seven times” and not attempting to guess on a definite measure. We agree.

Wood says that the interpretation “years” fits the likely duration of Nebuchadnezzar’s illness and explains: “To speak of seven days, or weeks, or even months appears to be too short in view of the overall story.”[3] Miller accepts and repeats this view.[4] I do not find the argument to be convincing, much less compelling. One week on your knees eating grass would be quite instructive, especially for a proud man accustomed to luxury. It is difficult to see why a period of years is required, but the possibility remains.

NIV once again mentions the nonexistent “stump” in verses 23 and 26, but the latter verse is best translated by NET: “They said to leave the taproot of the tree, for your kingdom will be restored to you when you come to understand that heaven rules.” See our explanation of verse 15 for more details about the taproot.

Verse 26 concludes the interpretation on a more hopeful note. Once Nebuchadnezzar understands — with the implication that he also assents — that Heaven rules, his kingdom will be restored. In apparent concern for the well-being of a king he both likes and admires, Daniel risks adding respectful but challenging advice (verse 27). He calls on the king to wipe away his sins by behaving in accordance with righteousness, which in this context probably means humility (= righteousness) must replace pride (= sins). Further, the king’s prosperity was not being shared by all his subjects, so Daniel urges him to show kindness to the oppressed. Daniel suggests that such a change might lead to a continuation of the king’s prosperity.

Daniel’s closing suggestion, and the tantalizing possibility that crushing judgment might be avoided, provides a crucial theological lesson. God has declared through the dream and through Daniel what he will do, but humble repentance can still alter the picture. Under similar circumstances, God had spared a repentant Nineveh from impending judgment not so many years before this (Jonah 1–4). What does this prove? Heaven rules. Any judgment that God declares, he is free to rescind. It is for us to remember that he is God and we are not, and to live a humble life of mercy under his compassionate rule.

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] HALOT, shamam, be appalled, q.v.

[2] HALOT, `iddanin, time, q.v.

[3] Wood, Daniel, 111.

[4] Miller, Daniel, 134–35.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:7–8

Genesis 6:7–8
7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth– everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”  8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD.
(NET Bible)

Extermination and grace

Many people in our contemporary world just cruise along thinking that God will continue to tolerate the deterioration of moral behavior among humanity. Indeed, the Bible warns that in the last days scoffers will say, “Ever since our ancestors died all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).

How do we reassess our behavior before God? Does God ever reassess his actions and make a change? How and when might such a thing happen? What can we do to prepare for such a change?

In saying “I will wipe humankind . . . from the face of the earth,” God uses a verb that means “wipe clean” or “wipe out,” depending on the context.[1] It is used for wiping names from records (Exod. 17:14) and for wiping a plate clean (2 Kings 21:13). The ancient method for erasing a name from a scroll is illuminating: “Note that erasures in ancient leather scrolls were made by washing or sponging off the ink rather than blotting. ‘Wipe out’ is therefore more accurate for the idea of expunge.”[2]

Victor Hamilton puts matters bluntly by saying, “God not only erases sins [Isa. 43:25], but he erases sinners—he judges them by drowning them.”[3] Genesis 6:7 makes it clear that all animal life will be included in the judgment on humanity.

We have already learned in a previous post that God saw evil and violence throughout the earth. In response, God felt the pain of “regret,” the same verb N?M (roughly nakam) which we discussed in Genesis 6:6. Recall that this verb can mean both “be pained” and “be relieved of pain.” God feels the pain of regret, but he intends to relieve that pain by destroying those who have caused it through sin.

The duality of the Hebrew verb is not just a technical curiosity; it provides insight into the process of repentance. When our actions bring a sufficient degree of pain, we experience regret. A critical strategy to relieve that pain is to change our minds and take different actions that result in relief of that pain. Humanity acted in sin and brought about a world covered with evil and violence. The right solution would have been to turn away from that sin and turn to God, but that did not happen.

On God’s side of the relationship, he had created the world, humankind and all other life. But the penetration of evil and violence into human behavior, spoiling creation, caused God to feel the pain of regret. Instead of continuing to maintain such a world, God relieves his pain by destroying those who have refused his ways.

Hamilton says, “The fact that the OT affirms that God does repent . . . forces us to make room in our theology for the concepts of both the unchangeability of God and his changeability.”[4] Waltke adds, “People can count on God always to reconsider his original intention to do good or evil according to the human response.”[5]

In this gloomy situation there is just one ray of light: “But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The word translated “favor” is one which everyone should embrace; it is often translated “grace.” In this case it is the action of the stronger (God) on behalf of the weaker (Noah). The NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:8 make clear the common basis for such favor:

The favor/kindness is often earned, coming in response to an action or condition (see Gen. 32:5; 39:4; Deut. 24:1; 1 Sam. 25:8; Prov. 3:4; Ruth 2:10). This is the case in Gen. 6:8, where verse 9 gives the basis (Noah’s righteous character) for the divine favor.

The consonants in the Hebrew word for “Noah” are the reverse of the consonants in the Hebrew word for “favor.” In English we might quip that “Noah” is “favor” spelled backwards. In fact, there are many variations on Noah’s name that infuse this entire narrative—apparently a big hint from the author that he would survive.

Apart from God’s favor toward us in Jesus Christ, we would have suffered the same fate as Noah’s contemporaries. In the next post we will see more of Noah’s character before God.

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



[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) ma?ah, wipe out, q.v.

[2] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (TWOT) 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980), ma?ah, wipe out, q.v.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 275.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1–17, 275.

[5] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 119.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:5–6

[NOTE: This post is one of the most important to appear on this blog in relation to what God is like!]

The ruined earth

How many times have you heard someone say about their sin, “I wasn’t hurting anybody but myself”? But the truth is that all sin hurts God!

How does God feel about sin? What will God do in reaction to the pain which sin causes him? How will God comfort himself concerning the pain caused by human sin?

One thing about being God is that you never have to explain yourself! Yet Gen. 6:5 does exactly that; it explains why God decided to destroy the world he originally created. Clearly, God does not provide this explanation as a matter of obligation but to inform his servants of his motivation and character. God takes sin so seriously that he will ultimately destroy those who carry it out.

Victor Hamilton does an excellent job of summarizing our two verses:

Here, first of all, is what God saw (v. 5), then how he felt (v. 6), then what he intends to do (v. 7). What God saw was both the intensiveness of sin and the extensiveness of sin. Geographically, the problem is an infested earth. Note that in Gen. 6:5–13, the earth (Hebrew ha’arets) is mentioned eight times.[1]

In Genesis 2:16–17 we found a pattern of a general observation followed by a specific exception. The Lord first said (2:16) the man could eat “from every tree” in the Garden of Eden. Then came the specific exception that the man “must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17). The same pattern occurs in Genesis 6:5–8, in which God condemns the evil of all humankind (6:5) and then introduces the specific exception—Noah (6:8).

Genesis 6:5
But the LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time.
(NET Bible)

Point of no return

Recall that in Genesis 1:31, God saw all that he had made and it was “very good.” By this point (6:5), the picture has totally changed to evil! This state of affairs is the direct result of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “Here is the result of falling into the ‘knowledge of good and evil: Evil becomes dominant, and the good is ruined by the evil.”[2] “Ruined” is the operative word for this section of Genesis.

The word translated by NET as “inclination” primarily means “something made into shape,” like a pot fashioned by a potter, and then secondarily means “inclination,” which is an idea shaped by the mind.[3] Good things were fashioned by the mind of God, but evil things were the creative product of pre-flood humanity. In what may be a fitting description of the effects God saw, the apostle Paul describes the “depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28) of those who refused to acknowledge God, and he further describes them as “contrivers of all sorts of evil” (Rom. 1:30). That last phrase in Paul fits nicely with the second half of Genesis 6:5.

Wenham correctly says, “Few texts in the OT are so explicit and all-embracing as this in specifying the extent of human sinfulness and depravity.”[4]

Genesis 6:6
The LORD regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.
(NET Bible)

Underneath this verse’s clearly-stated meaning lies a world of theological reflection. For centuries the church held that God was incapable of feeling emotions; some Christian scholars still take that position today. Those interpreters take the view that this verse is a case of anthropopathism, meaning “the ascription of human feelings or passions to God.”[5] The idea behind anthropopathism  is that God cannot actually feel emotions such as we experience — a doctrine called “impassibility” — but the only way we can comprehend him is to act as if he is like us in this way. Moreover, to assume the Bible contains just-pretend sections opens Pandora’s Box for deriving the meaning of any biblical text.

I believe that God feels emotions just as the Bible describes them, and we also have such emotions because we are made in his image.[6] The NET Bible clearly takes the same view in its translation and Notes for Genesis 6:6; you should read those notes. Hamilton says, “Verses like this remind us that the God of the OT is not beyond the capability of feeling pain, chagrin, and remorse.”[7]

Remember that in Genesis 5:29 it was predicted that Noah “will bring us comfort,” using the verb N?M (the unfamiliar symbol ? sounds like the last two letters of the Scottish word “loch”). That very same verb is used in a different sense in Genesis 6:5 to say “the LORD regretted” making humankind.

Hamilton observes, “It will be noticed that there is a polarity between several of these meanings; thus, N?M means both ‘be pained’ and ‘be relieved of pain.’”[8] Sometimes, when we feel pain, that pain can be relieved when it moves us to take action. That is exactly how God will soon relieve the pain he feels about humanity’s pervasive sinfulness—he will take decisive action.

To make sure we get the point, the author of Genesis adds a second clause to describe God: “he was highly offended” (Gen. 6:6b). The verb in this clause “is used to express the most intense form of human emotion, a mixture of bitter rage and anguish.”[9] Wenham adds that Dinah felt this after being raped (Gen. 34:7) and so did Jonathan upon learning that his father Saul planned to kill his best friend David (1 Sam. 20:34).

When God feels such emotions, the status quo is headed for a reversal! Yet God’s mercy and kindness lead him to allow 120 years before the torrential rains begin to fall.

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



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 273.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 6:5.

[3] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000)  yetser, form, intention, q.v.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 144.

[5] “anthropopathism.” Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 20 Oct. 2008..

[6] Occam’s Razor: all things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.

[7] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 274.

[8] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 275, fn 5.

[9] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 144.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 3:14–19

Revelation 3:14–19
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,’ but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! 19 All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!’”
 (NET Bible)

The Church at Laodicea

Your wife wanted to paint the bedroom in earth tones and sent you to Lowe’s. Do you have any idea how many earth-tone paints there are at Lowe’s? Dozens, maybe hundreds, if you count mixing options. And don’t forget the drop cloth, brushes, and putty knife — each available in several types.

When you got home, you just wanted to watch a little TV and rest. But which of the six football games did you want to see? Or maybe seven hours of President’s Cup golf would be better.

Dreamer! You forgot your own daughter’s soccer game, which starts in twenty minutes!

So, when the Holy Spirit knocked at the door of your heart, it was just easier to wait for him to go away or get in line with all the other things. What is wrong with this picture?

The Laodiceans were also paralyzed because they could not make up their minds! In contrast to them, Jesus presented himself as the epitome of rock-solid reliability: “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation” (3:14).

But the people in the church at Laodicea were not committed to a new creation; they were quite happy with the current one (3:17). As a result, they had made no clear commitment to Christ and his kingdom, no clear break with the wealthy, corrupt culture in which they lived; their deeds were neither cold nor hot (3:15).

Relevant to the hot/cold metaphor used by Jesus is that fact that Laodicea had access only to a heavily mineralized water supply that tended to cause nausea. Nearby Hieropolis had a medicinal supply of hot water, and neighboring Colossae had pure, drinkable cold water. Laodicea had none of these benefits. Greg Beale says, “‘The effect of their conduct on Christ was like the effect of their own water’ — Christ wanted ‘to spew them out of his mouth.’”[1] [Spew is positive spin on the word; the Bible is sometimes more graphic than its translators can stomach.  :) ]

The church in Laodicea — like the city itself — was blinded by its own wealth. Craig Keener[2] says that Laodicea was a wealthy banking center, a source of great civic pride.

Before we consider Jesus’ words to this wealthy city, you should also know that Laodicea was famous for black wool and an eye salve made by a noted doctor who lived there. With all these things in mind, reread Jesus’ mocking words in Revelation 3:17–18 (see Scripture box above).

The people with the great eye doctor are blind! The city famous for black wool is naked! The wealthy bankers need to buy gold from Jesus to purchase white clothing and eye salve! The biting irony is only apparent when you know the city’s historical circumstances.

In spite of the sharp tone, Jesus intends to bring the Laodicean Christians close to him, and he calls on them first to repent and then to join him in fellowship symbolized by sharing a meal (3:19–20)

Beale[3] offers an insightful analysis of what it means to be one who conquers, a theme appearing in all seven messages to the churches. With unexpected irony, this overcoming depends on imitating Christ in his willing self-sacrifice on the cross. Jesus conquered through being obedient to the Father even to his death. Overcoming is to be understood primarily as persevering in faith and good works.

One choice matters the most!

Most Americans do not look upon themselves as wealthy, but many people on earth would find that view a bit silly. While we are deciding what to have for supper, millions are desperate for food. We are trying to decide when to go to bed, yet many know that malaria-bearing mosquitoes will be on them the moment their eyes close. But a malaria-ridden and hungry African who lives in obedience to Christ will conquer, and a wealthy American who focuses his life on how to enjoy his wealth will not.

Remember, the next distraction is just one telephone call, one trip to Lowe’s away. That could prove a very costly trip! Focus instead on Christ and his kingdom.

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) 253, quoting C.J. Hemer.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 159-160.

[3] Beale, Revelation, 270-271.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 2:18–23

Revelation 2:18–23
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Son of God, the one who has eyes like a fiery flame and whose feet are like polished bronze: 19 ‘I know your deeds: your love, faith, service, and steadfast endurance. In fact, your more recent deeds are greater than your earlier ones. 20 But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and by her teaching deceives my servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Look! I am throwing her onto a bed of violent illness, and those who commit adultery with her into terrible suffering, unless they repent of her deeds. 23 Furthermore, I will strike her followers with a deadly disease, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts. I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve.”
 (NET Bible)

The Church at Thyatira

People who are involved in questionable activities routinely hide them. Perhaps for a time they succeed, and no other person knows what they are doing. More than a few of these wrong-doers make the leap in thinking that God is busy elsewhere and does not know. When lightning did not fall from heaven after the first day, they felt emboldened.

But Jesus is not absent from his church; he graciously allows time for repentance. But time is running out!

Thyatira was a town which included a Roman military garrison at a road crossing. Trade guilds were especially strong in the city. Grant Osborne says, “Each craftsperson (merchants, tanners, potters, bakers . . . etc.) was part of a ‘guild,’ and though they were not obligatory, few workers failed to belong, for the guilds were centers of social life as well as commerce.”[1] The problem for Christians lay in the fact that each guild had a patron god or goddess, and their frequent feasts were religious in nature. A sexual component to such celebrations would be nothing unusual.

Jesus commends the church for its deeds and notes that it is getting stronger with time (2:19). But then he turns his burning gaze to the church’s greatest problem: “that woman Jezebel” (2:20). No woman of the Old Testament had a more evil reputation than Jezebel, so the use of that symbolic name is ominous. The NET Bible Notes say, “Jezebel was the name of King Ahab’s idolatrous and wicked queen in 1 Kings 16:31; 18:1–5; 19:1–3; 21:5–24.”[2] She was a figure of profound evil and God struck her with judgment; both facts fit the woman in Thyatira. Would she repent?

The church was guilty of tolerating this self-proclaimed prophetess, who was using that toleration to lead Christians into sexual immorality and into eating food sacrificed to idols (2:20). This set of practices is probably the very same as the hated teachings of the Nicolaitans in the churches at Ephesus (2:6) and Pergamum (2:15).

In spite of the severity of her behavior, Jesus has given the woman called Jezebel time to repent (2:21). This reminds us of the “wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience” (Rom. 2:4). But Jezebel proved unwilling to repent (2:21).

The result of Jezebel’s refusal was swift. Jesus had warned Pergamum, “but for Thyatira the coming judgment is announced as a fact.”[3] Her violent illness was an object lesson to those committing adultery with her that they must repent or take the grim consequences (2:22). This again is God’s grace promoting repentance! Unless they repent, they may expect “terrible suffering” (2:22).

If Jezebel’s illness were an object lesson for the benefit of the other fornicators, then what Jesus pledges to do to those followers — unless they repent — will serve as an object lesson to all the churches: “all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts” (2:23). The Greek text says Jesus threatens to “kill with death” the unrepentant followers of Jezebel, but that phrase generally means “divine judgment of a plague or pestilence.”[4] Jesus knows what is going on in all the churches, and “I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve” (2:23).

What Jesus promises to those who hold on until he comes is that they will share his rule over the nations. The wording of Rev. 2:26–27 paraphrases Psalm 2:8–9. Such co-ruling believers — probably including all believers through the ages — will have important new responsibilities. Craig Keener says, “They are not only a kingdom and priests (1:6; 5:10) but those who will reign with him (5:10), both during the thousand years (20:6) and eternally (22:5).”[5]

The final gift to the conquering believers is that, in Christ and with Christ, we who trust in him are all conquerors!

To conquer you must serve Christ!

In some ways America is set up to encourage the example set by the guilds of Thyatira and Jezebel. Our economic system greatly rewards those who do whatever it takes to maximize the bottom line. And we regularly find out that certain corporate and public leaders arrange wild parties, often at public or shareholder expense. Jezebel and the Thyatiran guildsmen would feel right at home. Christians invited to take part in all these things should remember the eyes like a fiery flame (2:18) that see all we do.

Jesus knows what the score is! He says: “I am the one who searches minds and hearts. I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve.” (Rev. 2:23). If you want to conquer, serve Christ every moment!

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) 151.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Revelation 2:20.

[3] Osborne, Revelation, 158.

[4] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 135.

[5] Keener, Revelation, 135-136.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 2:1–5

Revelation 2:1–5
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand – the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 ‘I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false. 3 I am also aware that you have persisted steadfastly, endured much for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! 5 Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place – that is, if you do not repent.
 (NET Bible)

NOTE: The next five posts cover Revelation 2–3, but the Bible quotes that accompany the posts will not contain all of that text.

The Literary Patterns of Revelation 2–3

If you have ever spent any time camping in the back-country, then you know how useful a flashlight can be. It is simply amazing how dark it can be in the wilderness, especially after the moon sets.

But if your flashlight fails in the wild lands, few things can be more useless. What would you do with a light that gives no light?

While the messages to the churches in Revelation 2–3 are often called letters, each of the seven messages generally conforms to an internal pattern presented by Craig Keener:

“To the angel of the church in a given city, write:
Jesus (depicted in glory, often in terms from 1:13–18) says:
I know (in most instances offers some praise)
But I have this against you (offers some reproof, where applicable)
The one who has ears must pay attention to what the Spirit says
Eschatological [end-times] promise”[1]

Since the seven messages fit a literary pattern, what are we to make of them? Grant Osborne suggests: “It is clear from the text that the characteristics of these letters were meant for all the churches of Asia Minor [now Turkey] and indeed for all periods of church history. . . . What we are to do with these seven is to ask: To what extent does this situation fit our church? How can we maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses seen in these churches?”[2] That is a sound approach!

The Church at Ephesus

By any standard, Ephesus was a challenging spiritual environment. Robert Mounce informs us that by NT times the city had a population of about 250,000, an amphitheater seating 25,000, and the enormous Temple of Artemis (Diana in the Roman pantheon).[3] A Roman writer gave the dimensions of the Temple as 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, and 60 feet high; it doubtless employed thousands of people. Idolatry had profound clout in Ephesus.

Jesus commends the Ephesian Christians for their works, especially their vigilance in excluding false apostles (2:2). He is in a position to commend or rebuke because he “walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1), a metaphor meaning the churches. Jesus is present in every church! He walks among us unseen, which should give each of us cause to reconsider our lives.

One of the two biggest issues in this section is determining what Jesus means by your first love (2:4). Some say he means love for God and others say love for fellow Christians, but I join Greg Beale in a minority opinion: “The idea is that they no longer expressed their former zealous love for Jesus by witnessing for him in the world.”[4] The Lord commands repentance in Ephesus in the form of a return to what was done at first (2:5). The consequences of not doing so will be severe; they will cease to be a church! (What use is a light that gives no light?)

The next mystery occurs in 2:6 where Jesus expresses hatred for the deeds of the Nicolaitans. While more will be said at a later point, the NET Bible Notes explain, “The Nicolaitans were a sect . . .  that apparently taught that Christians could engage in immoral behavior with impunity.”[5]

For the moment we will discuss only one element of Rev. 2:7, and that is the reward Jesus will give to “the one who conquers.” Osborne says, “The reward for the faithful is striking ? they will participate in the blessing intended at creation but never realized by Adam and Eve ? to ‘eat of the tree of life.’”[6]

Is your light shining?

Many of us were active in sharing our faith at the outset of our Christian experience. I remember having a commitment to share my testimony with a group of Marines at Quantico one night after getting stitches in my mouth from a Navy surgeon. My mouth would scarcely open. I wanted to laugh, but it hurt too much!

One who gave witness on a dark day was the thief who spoke out for Jesus from the cross next to him. To him Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

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) 105.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 105.

[3] 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) 67.

[4] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 230-231.

[5] NET Bible Notes for Revelation 2:6.

[6] Osborne, Revelation, 123.

The Death of Osama Bin Laden

Tonight President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Some people deserve to face God’s judgment sooner than others. Osama Bin Laden is such a man.

It is a cautionary lesson to all rebels against God that Bin Laden already knows what a big mistake he made with his life.

However, it is wise to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-4:

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

As an American, I rejoice that Osama Bin Laden will now face judgment. But I am also aware that, while life and opportunity remain, many others should face up to the lives they have led. They should bow the knee to Jesus of Nazareth while they still have the chance to do so!

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