Archive for 3. Themes and theology

Nine ways in which the exodus event is echoed by Revelation

Richard Bauckham and James Ressequie say that Revelation portrays an ‘eschatological exodus’ of a new Israel to a new promised land (the new Jerusalem), where Christ leads his people out of Babylon just as God led his people out of Egypt. Here is the evidence they provide:

  1. Jesus is portrayed as a lamb that acts as a ransom (similar to the Passover lamb)
  2. Jesus makes his people a kingdom and priests that serve God (Rev. 1.6, 5.10; see Exodus 19.5-6)
  3. The ten plagues of the exodus are intentionally echoed by many of the plagues in Revelation.
  4. The sealing of the saints in Revelation 7 to protect them from the plagues (see especially Rev. 7.3 and 9.4) is similar to the protection God gave Israel during the Passover, when the last plague hit the Egyptians but did not touch the Jewish people who had the blood on their doorposts.
  5. Revelation 10.1, where the angel’s legs are described as pillars of fire
  6. The two witnesses in chapter 11 have the power to turn water into blood and strike the earth with all kinds of plagues, just as God did through Moses in Egypt (Rev. 11.6). And in Revelation 11.8 Jerusalem is called Egypt.
  7. Revelation 15.2-4 is reminescent of Exodus 15: just as Israel stood by the sea and sang the song of Moses in praise to God after pharaoh’s army was destroyed by the red sea, so in Revelation 15.2-4 the people of God stand by a sea in heaven and “sing the song of Moses”. In Exodus 15.11 the people sing of God’s glorious deeds and wonders, and ask, “Who is like you?” In Revelation 15.2-4 the people sing of God’s great and amazing deeds, and ask, “Who will not fear you?”
  8. The cosmic phenomena in Revelation 16.18 are reminescent of those at Mt. Sinai when God appeared there.
  9. Revelation 18.4, where a voice from heaven calls out, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues”.

Sources: Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); James Ressequie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009)

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An “inventory” of Revelation 4

Imagery and symbols (‘this is that’ or ‘this is like that’)

  • Voice like a trumpet (Rev. 4.1)
  • appearance of jasper and carnelian (Rev. 4.3)
  • A rainbow, resembling an emerald (Rev. 4.3)
  • seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God (Rev. 4.5)
  • sea of glass, clear as crystal (Rev. 4.6)
  • The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. (Rev. 4.7)

Names for God

  • the Spirit (Rev. 4.2)
  • One sitting on the throne (Rev. 4.2, 4.3)
  • the seven spirits of God (Rev. 4.5) / God
  • the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come (Rev. 4.8)
  • him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever (Rev. 4.9, 4.10)
  • our Lord and God (Rev. 4.11)

Cast of characters

  • the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet (Rev. 4.1)
  • twenty-four elders (Rev. 4.4, 4.10)
  • four living creatures (Rev. 4.6-9)
  • All things (Rev. 4.11)

Literary elements

  • Hymns (Rev. 4.8, 4.11)
  • Action and dialogue (Rev. 4.1-2, 4.8-11)
  • Description of people and things (Rev. 4.3-8)
  • Reasons (Rev. 4.11)
  • After this I looked, and there before me (Rev. 4.1)
  • I was in the Spirit (Rev. 4.2)
  • there before me (Rev. 4.2)
  • What John hears (Rev. 4.1b)
  • What John sees (Rev. 4.1a, 4.2-11)

Visual elements

  • a door standing open in heaven (Rev. 4.1)
  • what must take place after this (Rev. 4.1)
  • The throne (Rev. 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.9, 4.10)
  • Jewels (Rev. 4.3)
  • Rainbows (Rev. 4.3)
  • White clothing (Rev. 4.4)
  • Crowns (Rev. 4.4, 4.10)
  • Lamps (Rev. 4.5)
  • Lightning, rumbling, thunder (Rev. 4.5)
  • Sea of glass (Rev. 4.6)
  • Eyes (Rev. 4.6, 4.8)
  • Lion (Rev. 4.7)
  • Ox (Rev. 4.7)
  • Eagle (Rev. 4.7)
  • Wings (Rev. 4.8)
  • Day and night (Rev. 4.8)

Themes and theology

  • God (Rev. 4.2, 4.3)
  • God as king (Rev. 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.9, 4.10)
  • The Holy Spirit (Rev. 4.2, 4.5)
  • God’s beauty and glory (Rev. 4.3)
  • Worship (Rev. 4.8-11)
  • God’s holiness (Rev. 4.8)
  • God’s power (Rev. 4.8)
  • God as past, present, future (Rev. 4.8, 4.9, 4.10)
  • Glory, honor (Rev. 4.9, 4.11)
  • Thanks (Rev. 4.9)
  • Worthiness (Rev. 4.11)
  • Creation (Rev. 4.6-9, 4.11)
  • Possibly omniscience and omnipresence (Rev. 4.6, 4.8)

Source: author’s personal study

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Eleven interesting facts about worship in Revelation

  1. Revelation is the New Testament book in which worship is most prominent. (Thompson)
  2. Worship provides the main conflict of the book of Revelation, the contrast between those who worship God and those who worship the beast. God will not tolerate false worship, so the story revolves around the theme and is punctuated often by scenes of true worship. “Every stage of God’s victory — through chapters 7-19 — is accompanied by worship in heaven.” (Bauckham, Kindle section 459)
  3. Thompson mentions “several threats to authentic worship” found in Revelation: emperor worship (ch. 13), the synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2.9, 3.9), Satan’s throne (Rev. 2.13), idolatry (Rev. 9.20), the eating of food sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2.14), attempts to worship angels (Rev. 19.10, 22.8-9), and a false prophetess (Jezebel, Rev. 2.20) in or at least influencing the churches. The church must keep its worship pure while surrounded by opposing religious alternatives.
  4. Worship is pictured in political and imperial terms. Chapter 4 is not modeled on worship services in Jewish, pagan or Christian circles in the first century, but on teh worship rendered to the emperor. The most frequently used word for worship in Revelation is “bow down” – an act of submission to God’s kingly sovereignty. Crowns are cast before God’s throne, just as senate members and delegates from other communities in the empire  would do before Caesar to acknowledge his authority over them. Even the act of singing around the throne is a political parody: the emperors kept courtiers close at hand, who were “notorious for keeping up a perpetual chorus of praise, lauding him day and night….” (Gloer) There are also references to God as ‘Almighty’ and calls to render power and authority to him.
  5. Gloer writes that the acclamation that God is “worthy” is not found in the Old Testament or in Judaism. Nahkro says it was widely used of people in high political and military positions like the emperor’s bodyguards and army commanders. It originally meant “of equal weight”, but came to mean “‘worthy,’ ‘deserving,’ ‘fit,’ ‘estimable,’ and ‘appropriate.'”
  6. Worship is given to both God the Father and Jesus Christ. This would have been scandalous to first century Jewish people, good monotheists that they were. But the first Christians, also strict monotheists, found room within their monotheism for worship of Jesus.
  7. Reasons that God is worshiped in Revelation: God is worthy, he is eternal, he is sovereign, he is holy, he is the Creator, he is the Redeemer, he is Judge, his plan is coming to pass. All of these themes tie into the circumstances and purposes of the book:
    • Saying that only God is ‘worthy’ of worship is a declaration that the emperor and pagan idols were not worthy.
    • Saying God is eternal and sovereign is a comfort to persecuted Christians, who, looking at their immediate situation, may have been tempted to lose sight of the long-term plans of God, who is sovereignly bringing those plans to pass.
    • Saying that God is holy would call up memories of many OT verses about his holiness and his intolerance of idolatry and immorality with which first century Christians were tempted.
    • Saying that God is the Creator emphasizes the obedience God is due by every creature, including those who opposed the churches. It also reminds us that humanity is only a small part of a much larger picture. In Revelation we see the forces of creation reacting to sin and rescuing God’s people, and the redemption of the earth itself. The Creator will indeed restore the creation that “the dragon, that serpent of old” corrupted by leading humankind astray.
    • Saying that the Lamb who was slain is Redeemer would call to mind the exodus, where Israel was redeemed the day after the Passover lamb was slain. Powerful and idolatrous Egypt, also with a king who claimed to be God, was defeated, and God’s people were called out of her. John and his readers faced a very similar situation.
    • Saying he is Judge comforts persecuted Christians tempted to cave in to the status quo: if they remain faithful, God will reward them and judge those who tempt and persecute them.
  8. There are numerous worship elements found in Revelation: amens, antiphonal singing, doxologies, gifts (crowns placed before the throne), hymns, incense, maranathas, palm branches, prayers,  prostration, robes, sacred meals, shouts of celebration, silence, thanksgiving, trumpet-blowing, victory songs
  9. Thompson mentions a sense of lingering mystery and distance involved in worship. We do not see a description of God himself, only of what is going on around his throne. This counteracts both the tendency to be too intellectual and the tendency to be overly familiar with God.
  10. Revelation also connects worship with the themes of fear (Rev. 11.18, 14.7, 15.4) and service (Rev. 7.15, 22.3).
  11. Until chapter 19, all of the worship and singing in Revelation occurs in heaven, not on earth. There is no worship on earth, and the only singing found on earth are the laments for Babylon in chapters 17-18. But when the final victory is won, there is praise in both heaven and earth, which eventually become one. (Thompson) As Bauckham puts it, the goal of worship in Revelation is “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Sources: Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); W. Hulitt Gloer, “Worship God! liturgical elements in the Apocalypse.” in Review and Expositor 98 no 1 Wint 2001, p 35-57; Mazie Nahkro, “The manner of worship according to the book of Revelation.” in Bibliotheca sacra 158 no 630 Ap-Je 2001, p 165-180; Mazie Nahkro, “The meaning of worship according to the book of Revelation.” in Bibliotheca sacra 158 no 629 Ja-Mr 2001, p 75-85; Marianne Meye Thompson, “Worship in the Book of Revelation.” in Ex Auditu 8 1992, 45-54;

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Six ways that Revelation displays God’s sovereignty over time

  1. God and Christ are everlasting: Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and end (Rev. 1.4, 1.8, 1.17, 2.8, 21.6, 22.13)
  2. God knows what must take place (Rev. 1.1, 4.1)
  3. God gives permission for evil to occur, but for short periods of time (Rev. 2.10, 3.10, 6.11, 11.2-3, 12.12, 13.5)
  4. God protects his people or gives them rest for specific time periods (Rev. 3.10, 7.3, 8.1, 12.6, 12.14, 20.2-7)
  5. God has a set time in which to judge the world (Rev. 10.6-7, 11.18, 14.7, ch. 18 repeats the phrase “in one hour” three times)
  6. Even John is not permitted to reveal everything about God’s timetable (Rev. 10.4)

Source: author’s personal sermon preparation

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Two ways in which Revelation uses the theme of repentance

1. Jesus calls the seven churches to repent (Rev. 2.5, 2.16, 3.3, 3.19) » Continue reading “Two ways in which Revelation uses the theme of repentance”

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