Overview of Revelation: What all Scholars Agree On

Over the last few weeks, I’ve presented many eschatological views concerning the return of Christ.  We’ve discussed the rapture, the tribulation, and the millennium.  However, there are three things all eschatologists can agree on:

1)  There will be a Great Tribulation

2)  After the Tribulation, Christ will establish his kingdom on earth

3)  There will be a rapture (where all believers will become immortal and dwell with Christ forever).

The time frame is what is in question here, which leads to what will Christ’s Second Coming look like.

Why is this important for us?  Because Christ can come at any time.  We should be familiar with the signs so we are not fooled by any of Satan’s trickery.  Most importantly, the Second Coming gives us hope and faith.  Hope when things are bad.  Faith that God has not forsaken us.  Through this study of Revelation we should see both our hope and faith grow in leaps and bounds.

Overview of Revelation: Where did the “Church” Go?

The word “church” is used 19 times in the first 3 chapters of the book of Revelation.  Then it’s not used again until Revelation 22.  So what happened in Revelation 4-21?

We are not sure.  Scholars use this fact to support the pretribulationist view that Christians are indeed exempt from any tribulation because the word is not used.  In fact, the word “church” is never used in Revelation when discussing the Tribulation.  Romans 8:1 says Christians will not experience any wrath from God.  This is the strongest evidence for this view in the Bible.

Those who disagree say the word “saints” used throughout Revelation 4-21 means the church.  However, this is a different Greek word and why would John, the author of Revelation, use a different word here unless they were different?

However, scholars will point out that the Greek word “saints” is used 59 times in the New Testament to refer to a true believer in Christ.  So perhaps the writer of Revelation merely switched terms.  Furthermore, the word “church” is also missing from the books of Mark, Luke, John, and others.  Does this mean the church didn’t exist?

No.  As most of us know, the idea of the church meaning the body of Christ developed after the apostles were dead and has evolved over time to mean believers.

Hence, in my opinion, we can’t conclusively draw any conclusions as to why the word “church” is missing here but used elsewhere as well as the word “saints”.  As a writer, word choice is subjective and a prerogative by the writer.  John could have simply been bored and wanted a change!

My reason for this post is two-fold:  1)  Don’t read too much into word choice and translation choices. The Word is God-breathed but man-written and man-translated.  2)  I just wanted you all to notice this in Revelation.  I’m unsure if BSF will even mention this as the debate is intense in the eschatological community.  But I find it interesting and good to know.  If you read much on the End Times, you will see this mentioned over and over again.  With so many out there with an opinion, it’s good to form your own opinion.  But you can’t without the knowledge.

Overview of Revelation: What is the Rapture and What Does that Have to do with the Tribulation?

The rapture is the belief that either before or after Christ returns the Christians still alive on earth will be transformed, receive their resurrected bodies, and be taken in the clouds with Jesus.  This is based entirely on Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Again, there is debate amongst eschatologists about the timing of the rapture.  They are divided into three camps:  Pretribulation, Midtribulation, and Posttribulation.

Pretribulationists believe the rapture will occur at the beginning of the 7 year tribulation period.  This means no believers will experience any tribulation period.  This belief holds all believers on earth will be members of the restored Jewish nation.

Midtribulationists believe the rapture will occur at the halfway point, 3 1/2 years before the return of Christ at the very beginning of the Great Tribulation period.

Posttribulationists believe the rapture will happen when Christ returns at the very end of the Great Tribulation or 7 year time frame before Christ returns.  The church will continue throughout the tribulation.

Paul also discusses the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 51-52.

Some scholars even profess a partial rapture where only the pious Christians will be taken with Christ while the rest must suffer first and then be taken.

The rapture and Christ’s Second Coming are different events although both involve the End Times. The rapture is where Christ gathers the believers in clouds.  The Second Coming is where Christ returns to earth to establish his kingdom, defeat the AntiChrist, and judge non-believers and end the tribulation.

Keep in mind all of these are theories.  We know the rapture will occur.  We don’t know when.  God does not tell us.  We know Christ will return.  God does not tell us when.  Furthermore, Scripture doesn’t expressly teach one view over the other.  Thus, what we have is man trying to determine God’s ways given what little we are told in the Word.  There is nothing wrong with this; in fact it is our job as Christians to try to divine what God is telling us.

We just have to remember our knowledge is limited and in the end only one thing matters:  we will be with God.  In the meantime, we live like He tells us to live.  God will take care of the rest.

Overview of Revelation: What is the Great Tribulation? And What’s So “Great” about It?

Definition of tribulation according to Webster’s:  “distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution; a trying experience.”

The Tribulation and the Great Tribulation are all part of the study of eschatology (the End Times).  In terms of the Bible, the tribulation is the seven-year time frame (note the number 7) when God will finish gathering his disciples from His chosen people (Israel) and judge all of the unbelievers.  Believers will be exempt from this judgment (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 5:9), commonly known as the rapture.

The Great Tribulation refers to the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation.  Revelation 13:5 designates the time the Beast will be in power as 42 months.  Why the separation?  In the Great Tribulation, the Beast or Antichrist will be revealed and God intensifies His wrath.  Revelation 13-19 details God’s wrath on earth.

In the Tribulation there will be unparalleled suffering sent from God to earth for His purposes. This includes persecution of Christians by non-christians and in the Great Tribulation (the last 3 1/2 years) God will pour out his wrath on the ungodly.

Daniel is the first to reveal the tribulation in Chapter 9.  “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people (the Jews) and your holy city (Jerusalem) to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy” (Daniel 9:24).  Seventy sevens is 490 years (note the number 7 again).

Now here’s where it gets confusing.  Most scholars agree that 69 of the 70 ‘sevens’ have passed (Daniel 9:25-26).  This is 483 years, the exact time since the decree to build the Temple at Jerusalem until Jesus’s crucifixion.  This leaves one 7 year period to come (the Tribulation).  When is the question that is debated amongst scholars.

This leads us back to the differing views of eschatology:  preterists, futurists, historicists, and idealists who all hold differing views of when the 7 years will occur and what exactly will happen during those 7 years.

The preterists believe the 7 year period has already happened around the time of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and it affected only the Jews.

The historicists like the preterists believe the tribulation has already happened as well; however, they believe it occurred when Rome fell from power in the Middle Ages.  They use the term “the persecution of the Saints” instead of the term tribulation which was used in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13.

Amongst the futurists, there is debate but in general they hold the 7 year period will begin when mankind is at its worst in terms of wars, poverty, and overall chaos and it will occur before Jesus’s Second Coming.

The idealists who generally believe Revelation is spiritual and not literal believe we are in tribulation now and dismiss the 7 year time period all together.  We wage war spiritually every day against the devil.

In sum, the tribulation is the 7 year period when God will judge humanity, which has reached its peak of evil.  Whether or not believers will face the tribulation is much debated and will be discussed in my next post along with the rapture.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 30

Hey all,

As all of these are personal questions, I won’t be posting my answers here.  I’ll just give you all a summary of what I learned for the year.  This will be my Sharing Day so to speak.

I learned that God only desires our faith in Him and obedience.  That’s it.  Later, it’s changed to faith in His son, Jesus Christ.  It’s so simple that most people are tripped up by it.

I learned how truly amazing Moses was.  Everyone knows about Moses but most people just know him as the guy who parted the Red Sea and turned some water into wine (this was my impression at least).  But Moses was so much more.  He was the closest to God a person can be.  He did amazing things for 40 years for millions of people.  He had a heart for God.  He stumbled and paid the price like we all do.  But his life was extraordinary.  It gives courage to those of us who live ordinary lives.

I learned how incredibly stubborn God’s people were and how this explains much of how we are today.  Man’s nature never changes.  Neither does God’s.  Repeatedly, the Israelites fell. Repeatedly, they rebelled.  Repeatedly, they turned away.  Always God picked them up.  Always God forgave them.  Always grace prevailed.  God is amazing and loving and awesome. Compassionate, forgiving, and omnipotent.  Protector.  Provider.  Comforter.  The story of the Israelites journey out of Egypt is a story of grace and God’s goodness.  His will in all.

I learned about the importance of helpers.  How we all need them.  Asking for help is okay. Humbly receiving it is even better.

I learned how God’s grace and judgment are not to be questioned.  We all know His ways are not our ways.  We all deserve death.  Anything we receive in our walk on earth is all by Him.  Every breath is by His grace alone.  One day we will all take our last when He deems it so.  What would happen if we all lived out that truth?

The Study of Moses was a struggle for my kids, especially the giving of the laws.  The first half of Moses they loved.  Full of heroic stories and deeds.  The second half was a drag.  Archaic laws that went over their heads.  But they came and they had fun and I know they got something out of it. Even if they don’t realize it until later on down the road.

Anytime I read God’s word my faith is strengthened.  Moses is a man after God’s own heart. Knowing more about him helps me to know more about what God wants for me.  Moses’s walk was an extraordinary one.  I only hope I can lead one half as well!

Final Link:  Just a little summary in a nutshell of Moses’s life and some important lessons to glean:

http://www.gotquestions.org/life-Moses.html

Thank you all for studying with me, for sharing your thoughts, for being my “group”.  It was amazing.  I can’t wait for Revelation!  Bring it on!  Have a great summer break and God bless!

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 29, Day 5: Deuteronomy 34

Summary of passage:  Moses climbed Mount Nebo and God showed him the Promised Land.  Moses died as the Lord had said and was buried in Moab.  He was 120 years old.  The Israelites mourned his death for 30 days.  Joshua took over as leader of the people.  There has never been anyone before or since like Moses.

Questions:

10a)  God promised the Promised Land to Abraham and his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, etc).  The land was from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River, which included the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Raphaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites–the whole land of Canaan.

b)  It is a fulfillment of God’s promise, one the Israelites have waited for for centuries.  Finally, the time has come.  All of the people (including Moses) must have been overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness and their faith must have grown.  God would keep His promises of a Savior and a time when all would live forever with Him on heaven and earth.

11)  Filled Joshua with the Holy Spirit.  Thus, the Israelites listened to him and accepted him as their new leader as well.

12)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Faith.  Prayer for decisions.  Prayer for guidance in his role for my life.

Conclusions:  Dang!  I really wanted to study the Israelites in the Promised Land!  Is that a study in BSF?  The Minor Prophets perhaps?  I know BSF alternates Old Testament with New Testament, but it would be cool to do this study back-to-back because I fear when we get to the Minor Prophets in a few years I won’t remember a lot of the details of the study of Moses.  I’m an order/chronological freak so I’d love to do the bible straight from the beginning to the end.

Good lesson today.  Great conclusion to the Life of Moses as we see him ascend into God’s arms.

End Notes:  Moses does get to set foot on the Promised Land with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17; Mark9; Luke 9).

Mount Nebo scholars believe is in the country of Jordan today.  The list of places is in a counter-clockwise circle from north to south.

Can you imagine Moses’s thoughts and feelings?  Immense job mixed with incredible sadness.

Note what Moses is called:  The servant of the Lord.  Not great leader.  Not prince of Egypt.  Not miracle-worker.  Not prophet.  Servant.  That is the greatest job God wants from all of us.

Moses died as the Lord had said.  This is usually translated “at the mouth of the Lord.”  This shows us that God keeps all of His promises–even the judgement ones.  Ancient Jewish custom says that Moses died as God took away his soul with a kiss.  Of all the ways to die, this is the best!

Note the Lord Himself buried Moses where no one can find his body.  Jude 9 tells us that the devil wanted the body of Moses.  We are not told why the devil wanted Moses’ body and scholars speculate reasons.  But we do know Moses appeared for the Transfiguration.  God was not done with him yet!

Notes Moses life divided by 40:  40 years in Egypt.  40 years in the desert leading sheep.  40 years leading people to the Promised Land.  God prepared Moses for 80 years for the last 40 years of His life.

God’s plan moves on as it always does.  But Moses is remembered for his intimacy with God, his miracles, and his leadership over Israel.  Moses was prophet, lawgiver, deliverer, and judge.  Before Jesus, he was the closest to God and in my opinion still is/was the closest human being (Jesus was both man and God) to God.

Scholars debate whether or not Deuteronomy 34 should really be the first chapter of Joshua.  First, it obviously wasn’t written by Moses (and no one knows who wrote this chapter).  Second, it seems to transition well into the first chapter of Joshua.  Furthermore, when these books were originally written one book followed another.  The modern divisions and chapter breaks are just that–modern.  This was an advent of the Middle Ages beginning in 1227 (Great note HERE) for the sole purpose of our convenience.  They are not from God.

One scholar believes the Bible was meant to read as a whole–the books without stopping.  The divisions can cause problems in interpretation as well.  (See article HERE).  Fascinating in my opinion.

Summation:  The bible is God-breathed.  The divisions are not God-breathed.

Modern Country of Jordan showing Mount Nebo:  http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/map.jpg

Mount Nebo is now a tourist destination.  Note this is where scholars think is the likely Mount Nebo from the Bible.  We are not 100% sure.  Information HERE

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 29, Day 4: Deuteronomy 33:26-29

Summary of passage:  Moses leaves the people with encouraging words, telling them there is no one like God who is their refuge and salvation and protector and provider.  They are blessed and will drive out their enemies with the Lord before them.

Questions:

8 )  They are God’s chosen people no matter their sins (just like we are today).  God chose them from the beginning and God will never abandon them.  They are righteous if they follow the sacrificial law despite their rebellion.  They are blessed and righteous because God said they are blessed and righteous.  In my book, that’s proof enough.

9)  Personal Question.  My answer:  God is omnipotent.  God never abandons us.  God drives out our enemies so we can live in safety.  God blesses us and is our shield.  God walks with me in my daily struggles which compound sometimes into the big struggles.  Knowing He is there makes life indescribably easier.

Conclusions:  Felt these questions could have been deeper.  Moses sums up his whole experience with God in these three verses and gives them as a gift to us.  God is there always and we should feel forever humbled and grateful and reverent for what He has done.

End Notes:  Note the power in these words:  “eternal God” and “everlasting arms”.  God is forever.  No other god was/is.

Israel shall live alone means Israel shall never merge with other people.  They shall continue to be separate and set apart from all the other people–which is true to this day.  Try reading the translation:  “Israel shall dwell in safety; alone shall the fountain of Jacob be”.

Most translations render “Blessed” in verse 29 as “Happy.”  Reads different, doesn’t it?  We should be happy God has saved us and chosen us.

On this side of heaven, we are to read this victory as Jesus’s victory on the cross as well.  These words instruct us:  The One, True God has saved us completely; therefore, He is to be our refuge, our shelter, our protector, our provider.  And in return we offer full faith, worship, and surrender to Him.