The Beginning and the End

I mentioned in an earlier post that the weekday Bible class I attend recently started a study of Genesis. The last book we studied was Revelation. It’s interesting to note that Revelation describes the completion, or fulfillment or correction of events in Genesis. Here are a few:

  1. In Genesis the sun is created; in Revelation the sun is no longer needed.
  2. In Genesis Satan is victorious; in Revelation he is defeated.
  3. In Genesis sin enters the world; in Revelation sin is banished.
  4. In Genesis Adam and Eve hide from God; in Revelation we will live with God forever.
  5. In Genesis human beings are cursed; in Revelation the curse is removed.
  6. In Genesis humans are marred and made sorrowful because of their sin; in Revelation, there is no more sin, mourning or crying.
  7. In Genesis the garden and earth are cursed; in Revelation the earth is made new.
  8. In Genesis humans are not to eat of the tree of life; in Revelation God’s people can eat of the tree of life.
  9. In Genesis paradise is lost; in Revelation paradise is regained.
  10. In Genesis humans are doomed to death; in Revelation death is defeated and believers will live forever with God.

The Bible records the beginning and end of the story of mankind–from the fall into sin to redemption and the ultimate victory of God. Reading these two books side by side surely reveals the Bible as the inspired word of God!

Note: Information for this post comes from the Life Application study Bible, NIV. I highly recommend it as a resource to accompany your study.

For more about Genesis see these posts:

The Things God Made by Andy McGuire — Book Review

What Stands Out –the Book of Genesis

Walking the Bible–Film Review

What is Apocalyptic Literature?

I’ve recently posted about the book of Revelation, as it is the topic of the Bible study I am currently attending. It seems as if every week, my husband (the pastor and teacher) has to tell us –this isn’t describing an actual event — it is simply a symbol. Remember, this is apocalyptic literature. So today I asked him, what are the characteristics of this genre? Here’s what he told me.

  1. Apocalyptic literature is highly stylized. In other words, if follows a certain pattern that would have been easily recognized by people of that time. It was not limited to the Bible.
  2. It uses images to represent reality, but these images should not be taken literally.
  3. Although the works are described as prophetic, in the case of Revelation, the prophecies are meant to describe events that will occur over and over during the course of history. It is not meant to predict specific things that will happen right before the end of time.
  4. This type of literature was often used to criticize or attack a situation or person when to do so openly would have been dangerous. For example, the book of Revelation can be seen as an attack on the Roman Empire.

It’s also important to remember as you read the book of Revelation is that it is not chronological. Writers like John were more concerned with placing themes or topics together, so the events are parallel rather than consecutive.

For more posts about Revelation see:

The Trouble with Churches ….

More about the book of Revelation

What is the White Stone?

Who is this Man?

Continuing our study of the book of Revelation, our class came to the description of four horseback riders in Chapter Six. The first is described this way:

“I looked, and there before me was a white horse. Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Rev 6:2

There’s some debate and mystery about who this rider is. My husband, who is teaching the class, believes this rider to be Christ. The crown and His depiction as a conqueror fit with this assumption. In addition, later in the book (Rev. 19:11), Christ does ride to victory on a white horse.

Some scholars think differently. The white horse is followed by three other horses of different colors, each representing a judgement being visited upon the earth. The red horse is warfare; the black is famine; the pale horse is death. Because these all relate to destruction, some think the white horse is not Christ, but the symbol of an anti-Christ. However, my husband is not persuaded — after all, doesn’t trouble and persecution always follow where Christ leads?

This is another case (like the white stone —What is the White Stone?) when we just can’t be sure. However, we can be sure that God is directing history and these four horses are a foreshadowing of the final judgement still to come.

For more about the book of Revelation see these posts:

The Trouble with Churches ….

More about the book of Revelation


An Open Door

Before you start to read, you may want to turn to Chapter 4 of the book of Revelation, so that you can take a look at the verses I refer to. These explanations are from the weekday Bible Study I attend.

The fourth chapter of Revelation gives us a glimpse of heaven. John, in his vision, sees a door standing open. Inside there is a throne with someone sitting on it. Now, be aware, this is symbolic language. Is God actually sitting on a throne somewhere? No. This is simply a physical representation of spiritual reality. This image lets us know that God is in charge, and His plan is unfolding according to His Will.

The twenty-four other thrones with twenty-four elders should also not be taken literally. Most likely because there were twelve tribes in Israel, and twelve apostles, these elders represent those who have been redeemed in both the Old and New Testaments. All are worshipping God. The “seven spirits of God” is another name for the Holy Spirit, seen symbolically in the seven lamps.

The “four living creatures” represent the attributes of God:

  1. The Lion = might and strength
  2. The Ox = faithfulness
  3. The Man = intelligence
  4. The Eagle = Sovereignty

The point of the entire chapter can be summed up in this verse:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. Rev. 4:11

Reading this chapter without understanding may invoke fear, but that is not John’s intent. Revelation was written to comfort and sustain us through trial and tribulation. It is an attempt to describe what is basically indescribable in human terms. However, we can be sure that whatever is going on, God is in control. He is all-powerful, and He deserves our worship.

For more about heaven see these posts:

A Glimpse of Heaven

Walking Toward Heaven

The Hope of Heaven

The Trouble with Churches ….

Our weekday Bible study has been discussing the book of Revelation. We’ve just finished chapters two and three, in which Jesus commends and admonishes seven churches. Most of the churches receive some criticism. What were they doing wrong? Well ….

  1. False teaching
  2. Compromising with the culture
  3. Tolerating immorality
  4. Self-righteousness
  5. Lack of zeal
  6. Hypocrisy

You get the idea. These are the same problems that still exist in the church today, and so the message is for all of us. When we see these issues in our own congregations, we must recognize our failings, repent and work to correct them.

The good news is this — Christ also recognizes that despite all the evidence of corruption, there are members in every church who remain faithful. These folks are commended and promised a reward. Let’s each strive to be in that number.

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” Rev. 3:11

For more about churches see:

A Praying Church by Paul E. Miller– Book Review

What is a Church?

Rediscover Church by Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman–Book Review

New Month/No Theme?

Hello readers! Normally every other month has a theme, but this month I decided to have no theme again. Why? Well, my study life and faith journey has been VERY eclectic. Our Bible study has been looking at the book of Revelation; in Sunday School we’re reading the book of James. I’ve been reading a book about prayer, and another about Puritan women. I’m preparing for a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat, and as part of that process I’ve been considering personal piety and all that means. There are simply too many topics at work in my busy brain to limit myself (and any other authors) to just one! So this month, expect a wide variety of topics. We’re just going to see where God leads us!

This month also falls during the church season of Lent, a time when we should all be particularly prayerful. You may be attending extra church services, fasting, or spending more time examining your Christian life. Please send us your comments, as the Lutheran ladies would love to hear your story. Our wish is to be Christian women, learning together.

For more about Lent see these posts:

Henri Nouwen on Lent

A Lenten Message Part 1

A Lenten Message Part 2

More about the book of Revelation

This past week in our Bible study we began to look at chapters 2 and 3 — the messages from Christ to the churches. Each of the letters follow the same pattern. I’ll illustrate how that works using the first letter, the letter to the church in Ephesus:

  1. Salutation

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus …” (by the way, the ‘angel’ is not a heavenly being–angel actually means ‘messenger’ and refers to the pastor)

2. Christ describes Himself

“… write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.”

3. Christ’s praise

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

4. Christ’s condemnation

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had a first.”

5. Christ’s warning

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen;”

6. Christ’s exhortation

“… do the works you did at first. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place…”

7. Christ’s promise

“To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

It is interesting to note that the way Christ describes Himself, relates to the punishment that will befall the church if it continues in disobedience.

For more posts about the church see:

What Is the Church?

We (the Laity) Are the Church

The Ship of the Church

What is the White Stone?

In Revelation 2:17 Jesus says:

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

What is this white stone? The short answer is, we don’t really know. The apostle, John (author of the book of Revelation) was writing in a genre known as apocalyptic, prophesying about the end of time in highly symbolic language. Bible scholars have posited a number of educated guesses about what the white stone might mean. Here are a few:

  1. In those times, a person who was taken to court and acquitted was given a white stone he could show to others to prove his innocence. Here, the white stone might mean that as Christians, we are no longer condemned, as Jesus paid the price for our sins.
  2. In certain athletic games, the victors were given a white stone which allowed them admittance into a special banquet. So, the white stone might signify our entry into God’s Kingdom, and the marriage feast of the lamb.
  3. A white stone was given to the High Priest and worn on his ceremonial robes. It was called the seer stone, and it enabled the wearer to discern revelations from God. Possibly the white stone indicates that the believers who have overcome, are now in the presence of God and now completely understand His Will.

However we choose to interpret this symbol, it is obvious that the white stone is a reminder that in time all believers will be reconciled with God. It is a token of His love and a promise that our relationship with Him will be completely restored. In acknowledgement of that fact, we will each receive a new name, one chosen by the Father before we were born — our true name, reflecting the person God created us be.

For more about the book of Revelation see these posts:

A Glimpse of Heaven


What Happens in the End Times?

It’s Not Complicated

Recently the gospel reading at church was the story of Zaccheus from the 19th chapter of Luke. The pastor told us this story is not complicated. It’s the gospel in a nutshell! Jesus chooses Zaccheus:

Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5

He saves him:

“Today salvation has come to this house …” Luke 19:9

The life of Zacchaeus is transformed:

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Luke 19:8

The salvific action belongs to Jesus; the change in Zacchaeus is simply a grateful response.

Sometimes we humans try to make simple things complicated. We feel there must be more to the process than this, right? Don’t we need to earn our salvation somehow? Or at least do something to attract the interest of God? Not really. We just have to trust in Him.

The same thing happens when we think about death and dying. We wonder what happens, and we want to know all the details. We worry and fret — are we ready? Have we done enough work for God? Will it be painful? What will happen to us and to our loved ones? Here are a few answers from the Bible that may allay those fears.

When Jesus was crucified between two thieves. When one of them defended Jesus and asked Jesus to remember Him, Jesus said:

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

The thief had probably led a pretty worthless life. This is truly a deathbed conversion. He simply trusted the one who could save Him–and it was enough. What happened next? Jesus promised the thief would be with Him immediately — the same day! No waiting, no purgatory. Just a joyful reunion with the Lord.

In the book of Revelation, we learn more about what Paradise will be like.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4

We don’t know everything about death, but we do know these things, and that’s enough. It’s not complicated.

Wake Up!

There’s a lot of hype these days around the word “woke”, which has come to mean
alert to injustice and discrimination in society, especially racism. Another kind of wake-up call has been evident in my spiritual life lately.

A few weeks ago my husband’s sermon was based on the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew chapter 25). If you recall, all ten took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. He took so long to arrive that five of them fell asleep. By the time they woke up, it was too late to go out and purchase oil for their lamps, and they missed the wedding feast.

The following week, we worshipped at a different Lutheran church. Both the Sunday School lesson and the sermon that week centered around Matthew 24, a section that discusses the second coming of Jesus (this wasn’t planned, it just happened). We’re told to stay alert and ready because nobody will be able to predict when this will happen. Finally, my reunion group friend, told me this verse came up in the community Bible study she attends:

“(Behold I am coming like a thief) Blessed is the one who says awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed>’ Revelation 16:15

I guess you can see the theme that is developing. Advent is a time of waiting for our Savior to come. He came once, and He’s coming again. We need to anticipate that coming all year, every year, not just for a few weeks before Christmas. If we’re not “woke” to the magnitude of our sin, to our need to repent and live in a way worthy of our King, we’re not going to be ready to meet Him when the time comes.

So, if you’re already awake, stay that way. If you’re not, wake up! It’s not too late, but it might be soon.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” Matthew 24:45-46

For more about being ready see:

Perhaps Today

The End of All Things

Get Ready to Get Dirty