Thursday, March 10, 2011

Revelation: Preview of Things to Come

First of all, 'things to come' in the title line does not mean events soon to come in 2011 or beyond, but rather the things that I will be sharing with you in blogs and emails.

Almost a month ago, on Feb 15 I published an extensive quotation from Barnes' "Notes on Revelation," and I will be the first to admit that it could easily have been tedious reading to many.

As it happened, seven or eight years ago, while we lived in Maine I had mentioned this whole subject, (Guinness and Barnes, etc) to some ladies our age who had Sunday gatherings in their mobile home 50 miles away, which we attended regularly for nearly a year. One of the ladies mentioned to me that a relative had connections in the book business.

The result was that either by hand or in the mails, I forget which, a free copy of the Barnes book was one day put in my hands, and after an initial burst of interest it has lain on my shelf almost ever since gathering dust.

Now, only a few weeks ago, I have reopened it, and to my enormous satisfaction it possesses what Guinness book leaves out, namely a verse by verse treatment of the entire book of Revelation.

In the very front of the book, after the table of contents, is a several page outline of the entire book in column form, with corresponding events in history that are interpreted to be the fulfillment of the particular prophecies.

I say 'interpreted' because rigidity does not lend itself to this study very well. On the other hand as I continue reading in Guinness book it is very striking that some of the authors he quotes spend several years studying and meditating on certain portions of Revelation, with a careful attention to the events of history that were unfolding in their time period, to see if 'this' matched 'that,' that is, to see if the event in history fit, without forcing, the verse or verses in Revelation that were the center of attention.

One illustration ought to whet the appetite of those who are truly on the search here.

The pages in Guinness book that have captivated my attention in the last few days deals with the French Revolution in general (some of it very, very specific) and Napoleon Bonaparte in particular.

As I have been reading these pages I find myself admitting that my knowledge of history is very, very shallow. Yes, perhaps we were given a two or three minute, or one or two day cursory treatment in our history classes, in high school or college, on the French Revolution, but nothing that indicated the epochal transformation of society all over Europe that that Revolution brought.

It might be interesting, digressing for a moment, to consider that some of the Republicans with whom I associated in the Ron Paul campaign three or four years ago were what they called Jeffersonian Republicans. Thomas Jefferson was an admirer of the French Revolution. I would suggest that the reason why he admired it was because he didn't see it up close, and whether he did or didn't is not the subject of my writing, but rather to show that the events in Europe were felt by the founders of our own country.

Historically, however, it was the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte that were instrumental in bringing down what at that time was the universal despotic power of the Roman Papacy. The only part of Europe that was not touched was England.

As I bring this post to a close I wish to emphasize an important biblical principle. "In the multitude of counselors there is safety," says Proverbs 11:14, and that which Guinness shows over and over and over again is that the interpretations held by himself and Barnes, were also held by many, many others, most of whom did not even know of each others studies. The co-incidence of this, multiple times, is very affirming.

May the Lord bless you in your studies.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Revelation: The Opening of The Seals

Dear Friends,
As I continue writing on this subject I must share with you a few things.

The first is that I am doing the same thing I have asked you to do (and which at least a few are doing), namely reading "History Unveiling Prophecy" again myself. And if I sound repetitive, so be it. It would enhance your study significantly if you would acquire the book for yourself.

It is as if I had never read it before.

The first and by far the deepest impression I get, which at times is overwhelming, is the sheer numbers of those, our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith of Jesus Christ, who have 'loved not their lives unto the death.' The immensity of the numbers is simply staggering.

It is easy to understand why the Roman Catholic Church, in the generations following Martin Luther, made every effort to suppress the study of church history. It is very, very ugly.

The second thing is that, apart from the enabling and calling of the Spirit of God, which I confess I feel deeply, not only I but also everyone in the western world, or more especially in the 20th and 21st century United States, are utterly unworthy to approach the subject.

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to look at the amazing, and apart from the Spirit of God totally inexplicable paradox in the metaphors of chapter five. It is this chapter that gives me the title of this post, "The Opening of The Seals."

I write here NOT to expound on what the seals refer to as regards history, but rather the matter, made clear in the very text itself, as to the worthiness required of the one who would open them.

I am assuming, in few words, that OPENING the seals equates to the beginning of the revelation of what is to come, and of course, what was to come (emphasis--past tense) as I have already said, was human suffering on an unimaginable scale.

The metaphors in the passage could not be more opposite. The elder tells John that THE LION OF JUDAH has prevailed, but when John looks to see this awesome Lion he does not see a lion but rather a defenseless little lamb, and if my understanding of the words employed is accurate it was a lamb with its throat cut, since that is the way every butchering process begins.

While not exactly a digression, allow me an explanation from my own early years. My teen years were spent on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont, and on at least two occasions my dad had me help him butcher one of the cows for meat for our own freezer. Once the animal is dead--either a bullet or a sledge hammer to the head--the throat is cut and then the whole animal is hoisted up by the back legs so as to allow the bleeding to be complete.

Revelation 5 says a lamb as it has been SLAIN, i.e. a live animal that had been dead, which of course Old Testament history would have made totally understandable at least to early readers of this text.

Remember that for centuries, as both Exodus and Leviticus explain as part of the law and Hebrews 9:22 mentions in one verse recounting the principle that governed that entire history, the sacrificing of a lamb as required by God, was so common an occurrence as to be as common as eating itself.

I fear we lose the sense of it in our bloodless lifestyle, and in due time, of course, they did also, becoming hardened to it all. Indeed, if there is one thing apostates of our day absolutely hate it is the thought of a blood sacrifice. They hate it and they hate those who preach it!

But to return to our subject, and in this instance my own feelings as I contemplate the task before ME, in one sense at least I feel the utter unworthiness to treat the subject.

It is as if the inspiring Spirit was saying that the only one worthy to open the subject of human suffering is One who has already suffered.

And so it is, in very truth, it is the great Sufferer Who now abides within us, as we have been baptized into His death, who qualifies us to consider these things. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Beast of Revelation

In an earlier post I quoted a section from Guinness' book in which he stated that in ten consecutive chapters in Revelation the beast is mentioned.

This post will be to enumerate them in detail.

I will not attempt in this post to interpret, --that may or may not come later, but rather only to enumerate consecutively those verses in which the beast is mentioned, with a few remarks at the end. (All quotations are from the New King James.)

Chapter 11:7, "When they (the two witnesses -v3-) finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them."

Chapter 12 The whole chapter describes the war of the dragon against the woman with the man child. The word beast does not occur, but 13:2 directly connects the dragon and the beast.

Chapter 13:1, "I saw a beast rising up out of the sea,...
verse 2, "the beast I saw was like a leopard,...The dragon gave him his power, his throne,
and great authority."
verse 3, "And all the world marveled and followed the beast
See v 4, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18. (Verse 17 mentions the oft-mentioned 'mark of the beast', and
we will return to that in another post later.)

Chapter 14:9, "If anyone worships the beast and his image,..." See also verse 11

Chapter 15:2, "And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name,..."

Chapter 16:2, "So the first (angel) went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast ..."
verse 13, "And I saw three unclean spirits from frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet."

Chapter 17:3, "And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast..."
Pay special attention to verse 7, since he angel gives the interpretation. "I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her,..." and the entire remainder of the chapter is given to interpretation, and the city (v. 18) has been UNIVERSALLY understood by the fathers in all the ages to mean ROME. ZERO EXCEPTIONS.

Chapter 18:2. The focus here is on Babylon, rather than the beast, but chapter 17 directly connects Babylon with the harlot and the beast.

Chapter 19:19,20 "And I saw the beast,...Then the beast was captured..."

Concluding observations:
1. I remind my readers again that Guinness' book is NOT a book of interpretations verse by verse, but rather a collection of opinions in books spanning nearly the entire church age.

2. Note in chapter 13 that the dragon gave the beast great authority. Guinness estimates that the beast used that authority to murder somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million people over a 1500 years period. The offense, not submitting to Rome.

3. Note that in 12:11 that the means by which the saints of all ages have overcome is by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. It seems to me that this should cause us all to think much upon the blood, what it means, and that we have truly been cleansed by it, and know that we have been cleansed, which is essentially what a testimony is.

May your study be blessed. Amen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prophecy: The Central Issue

Make no mistake. The difference in effect between historicism and futurism is huge!

That effect ought to be self evident but apparently isn't, and is a principal reason why I feel such urgency in setting forth these things. Those who are laboring under a futuristic mindset are laboring under an enormous deception which history will show clearly got its beginning as recently as the early nineteenth century, only a couple of short decades before our own Civil War.

To state the matter in its utmost simplicity historicists believe that very important prophecies have already been fulfilled, while futurists are convinced that they have yet to be fulfilled.

And since much of these prophecies (i.e. as a generalization the entire book of Revelation) have as their central theme the immense conflict between the true followers of Jesus and the pseudo followers thereof, collectively identified as the great harlot, and the awful, awful, unimaginable sufferings of the former at the hands of the latter, those who embrace Revelation as a current and past tense see themselves as part of a great worldwide body of SUFFERERS, while those who see Revelation as basically yet to start (i.e. chapter six and following) see themselves as fundamentally exempt from any appreciable suffering. Don't you know, say they, that we will be raptured out before 'The Great Tribulation.'

Reviewing ground we have covered earlier, take note that the tribulation above is capitalized, since to futurists it is a one great, and very brief yet future enormous time of world wide suffering, and the fundamental passage that justifies it all is Daniel chapter 9:24-27. We won't go back there now, but if you missed those emails (which I began before starting this blog format) email me at and I will send you that material.

This post is long enough.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prophecy: The Testimony of Albert Barnes

Over the decades and centuries one of the most common practices among serious Bible students has been that of consulting others, whether scholars or simply disciplined writers and ministers of the gospel who have already studied the same subjects and recorded their findings.

One of the more prodigious of those ministers was a brother named Albert Barnes, the pastor of presumably a large congregation in Philadelphia in the late 1800's.

In faithfulness to what he considered his pastoral responsibilities he undertook successfully over a period of several decades the writing of a commentary on every book of the Bible. Every book, that is, except Revelation, and here I will leave off my remarks, and quote directly from Barnes' remarks, which Guinness has included in the introduction to his book, "History Unveiling Prophecy."

This lengthy quote illustrates two important principles quite graphically. The first is that Barnes was honest enough to admit that he had no real understanding of what Revelation was all about, and the second that he pursued his studies with no preconceived notions as to where his studies would take him.

The result was such a resounding affirmation of the truth of the principles he was, over time, lead to believe that it left him almost speechless, and very, very convinced.

We begin our quote here. "Up to the time of commencing the exposition of this book (the Apocalypse) I had no theory in my mind as to its meaning. I may add, that I had a prevailing belief that it could not be explained, and that all attempts to explain it must be visionary and futile. With the exception of the work of the Rev. George Croly, which I read more than twenty years ago, and which I had never desired to read again, I had perused no commentary on this book until that of Professor Stuart was published, in 1845. In my regular reading of the Bible in family and in private, I had perused the book often. I read it, as I suppose most others do, from a sense of duty, yet admiring the beauty of its imagery, the sublimity of its descriptions, and its high poetic character; and though to me wholly unintelligible in the main, finding so many striking detached passages that were intelligible and practical in nature, as to make it on the whole attractive and profitable, but with no definitely formed idea as to its meaning as a whole, and with a vague general feeling that all the interpretations which had been proposed were wild, fanciful, and visionary.

"In this state of things, the utmost that I contemplated when I began to write on it was, to explain, as well as I could, the meaning of the language and the symbols, without attempting to apply the explanation to the events of past history, or to inquire what is to occur hereafter. I supposed that I might venture to do this without encountering the danger of adding another vain attempt to explain a book so full of mysteries, or of propounding a theory of interpretation to be set aside, perhaps, by the next person that should prepare a commentary on the book.

"Beginning with this aim, I found myself soon insensibly inquiring whether, in the events which succeeded the time when the book was actually written, there were not historical facts of which the emblems employed would be natural and proper symbols, on the supposition that it was the divine intention in disclosing these visions to refer to them, and whether, therefore, there might not be a natural and proper application of the symbols to these events. In this way I examined the language used in reference to the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth seals, with no anticipation or plan in examining one as to what would be disclosed under the next seal; and in this way also I examined ultimately the whole book: proceeding step by step in ascertaining the meaning of each word and symbol as it occurred, but with no theoretic anticipation as to what was to follow.

"To my own surprise, I found, chiefly in Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' a series of events recorded such as seemed to me to correspond to a great extent with the series of symbols found in the Apocalypse. The symbols were such as it might be supposed would be used, on the supposition that they were intended to refer to these events; and the language of Mr. Gibbons was often such as he would have used, on the supposition that he had designed to prepare a commentary on the symbols employed by John. It was such, in fact, that if it had been found in a Christian writer, professedly writing a commentary on the book of Revelation, it would have been regarded by infidels as a designed attempt to force history to utter a language that should conform to a predetermined theory in expounding a book full of symbols. So remarkable have these coincidences appeared to me in the course of this exposition, that it has almost seemed as if he had designed to write a commentary on some portion of this book; and I found it difficult to doubt that that distinguished historian was raised up by an overruling Providence to make a record of those events which would every afterwards be regarded as an impartial and unprejudiced statement of the evidences of the fulfilment of prophecy. The historian of the 'Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire' had no belief in the divine origin of Christianity, but he brought to the performance of his work learning and talent such as few Christian scholars have possessed. He is always patient in his investigations; comprehensive in his groupings, and sufficiently minute in his details; unbiased in his statement of facts, and usually cool and candid in his estimates of the causes of the events which he records; and, excepting his philosophical speculations, ans his sneers at everything, he has probably written the most candid and impartial history of the times that succeeded the introduction of Christianity that the world possesses; and even after all that has been written since his time, his work contains the best ecclesiastical history that is to be found. Whatever use of it can be made in explaining and confirming the prophecies will be regarded by the world as impartial and fair; for it was a result which he least of all contemplated, that he would ever be regarded as an expounder of the prophecies in the Bible, or be referred to as vindicating their truth.

"It was in this manner that these Notes on the Book of Revelation assumed the form in which they are now given to the world; and it surprises me--and, under this view of the matter, may occasion some surprise to my readers--to find how nearly the views coincide with those taken by the great body of Protestant interpreters. And perhaps this fact may be regarded as furnishing some evidence that after all the obscurity attending it, there is a natural and obvious interpretation of which the book is susceptible." End of quote.

The above is from pages xii-xv of my original copy of Guinness book, with italics the same as in the original.

I close this post out with the renewed encouragement that my reader go to Amazon and purchase the reprint for himself. If you even have even a spark of interest in history, especially history as 'divinely' foretold, you will find this book captivating.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Prophetic Challenge

Whenever anything new comes across the theological landscape it is inevitable that it be looked upon with suspicion. I suppose that is unavoidable.

On the other hand, where the true lover of Jesus Christ and lover of the truth has pledged in his heart as a lifetime principle to embrace the truth wherever he finds it, just because something is suspicious doesn't automatically constitute it untrue, only rather that it be tested and researched more carefully, perhaps as did the Bereans of Acts 17 when Paul argued from the scriptures (the Old Testament scriptures) that Jesus was indeed the Messiah of prophecy.

Ah! The golden word! And it is likely, in my opinion, that the corroboration that the Bereans of his day arrived at with regard to Paul's assertions will not likely be different than what I maintain to my readers will be found in our day as a result of a close inspection of the events of the past when compared to those marvelously mysterious prophecies of Revelation. The book will come alive!

It is written somewhere in the book of Proverbs that in the multitude of councilors there is wisdom, and as I have stated earlier that which separates from so many others the book from which I will be drawing the great majority of my information is that it is not--I repeat for emphasis- is NOT--the fanciful new (or old) ideas of one man, be he ever so well educated and well read, as to the interpretation of these prophecies.

No, no, no!

It is rather the recorded beliefs, understandings, observations--some of them by hindsight manifestly inaccurate--of a whole host of serious Bible students and expositors from the entire span of seventeen long centuries, from the 19th century (the author published the book in 1905) all the way back to the third century at least, and possibly to the second. The only thing--I think I can say safely--that united them was that they unswervingly believed that that mysterious Book before them was speaking of things that were occurring in their own day, not things that were in the yet to be begun future.

Perhaps one notable illustration of this is to be found in the cataclysmic events that occurred in the fourth century when Constantine became victorious, and established Christianity as the religion of the whole empire. Any person who is knowledgeable of the character of the Roman emperors before Constantine will know that for three long centuries they did their very best to exterminate the Christian religion. (Kindly for the moment forget the modern semantics about the faith of Jesus Christ not being a 'religion' and hear what I have to say.) Christians were put to death by the thousands, if not millions, by the Roman emperors, and then along comes Constantine and reverses everything almost in a day's time, and makes Christianity supreme.

They thought the millenium had come!!! and do you blame them?

Well, hindsight tells us that the millenium did not come, and indeed, as well described in Guinness' book and also in many others, not only did it not come, but the more long lasting effect of Constantine's actions weakened the church, not strengthen it.

The point here is, the believers at that time didn't know that; they were dancing in the streets!

The entire above illustration, to keep our focus, is to show that they ALL believed that Revelation was speaking to events of their own day, even thought they missed it as regard the particulars.

Going back to where I started, let me emphasize once again that in bringing forth these long forgotten facts of history we begin to acquire the very sobering understanding of two things: one is the horrendous sufferings of our brothers and sisters of earlier centuries, and two, that the Lord of glory spoke, albeit in disguised language, well ahead of their sufferings, and thus gave them hope.

Moving into particulars (at least soon) Guinness' book is divided into several sections, two of which we have already touched on here, namely the Pre-Constantine stage, and the Post-Constantine stage, both in them in specific reference to how the fathers of their day interpreted Revelation. As the centuries progressed, however, so also did their understandings of how the prophecies were being fulfilled.

We will pursue that soon, as the Lord leads.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Central Subject of The Book of Revelation

Although I won't be quoting Guinness in every post, today's post continues where the last one left off. All italics and paragraphing are from the original, although I'm not sure I can exactly reproduce them here.

"In agreement with the foregoing principle I have written, among others, two works on the interpretation of the symbolical prophecies in Daniel and the Apocalypse by means (I) of divinely given explanations of their meaning contained the books themselves, and (2) by the events of history. The first of these works, published in 1899, is entitled "A Kay to the Apocalypse, or the seven divinely given Interpretations of symbolic prophecy." The second is the present work. In the first of these I have shown that as God has graciously given us His own all-wise and infallible explanations of the meaning of certain leading and determinative portions of the symbolical prophecies in the book of Daniel and the Apocalypse, no interpretation of these prophecies can be secure and trustworthy which does not rest on these divine explanations, and employ them as keys to unlock the meaning of the prophecies as a whole.

The seven divinely given interpretations of Daniel and the Apocalypse are the following:
I. The interpretation of the vision of he great image of Daniel 2.
II. The interpretation of the vision of the great tree in Daniel 4.
III. The interpretation of the handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar's Palace in Daniel 5.
IV. The interpretation of the ram and he-goat in Daniel 8.
V. The interpretation of the four wild beast kingdoms, and of the kingdom of the Son of Man, in Daniel 7.
VI. The interpretation of the seven stars, and seven candlesticks in Revelation 1.
VII. The interpretation of the woman "Babylon the great," and of the seven-headed, ten-horned beast that carried her, in Revelation 17.

"Concerning the last of these interpretations I have shown that "of all the visions in the prophetic part of the Apocalypse (chaps. vi-xxii), that of Babylon and the beast in chap. xvii, is the only one divinely interpreted;" and that through the interpretation of this vision a door is opened to the understanding of the rest of the prophecy.
(1) The woman is interpreted as signifying the city of Rome.
(2) The city is represented as sitting on "seven hills," the well known seven hills of Rome.
(3) The "many waters" over which she rules are interpreted as "peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues."
(4) The wild beast which sustains and carries her--the ten horned wild beast of Daniel's prophecies, the fourth of his four Gentile kingdoms, the kingdom of Rome--is interpreted in detail.
(a) It seven heads are interpreted to represent ruling powers. Of these it is expressly stated "five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come." Thus the sixth head of the wild beast power which carried the harlot is stated to have been in existence when the Apocalypse was written; and must necessarily therefore refer to the government of the Caesars, as then represented by the Emperor Domitian. This locates the visions of the Apocalypse as relating to Roman and Christian history.
(b) The ten horns are interpreted as ten kingdoms, then future, into which the empire should be divided. These horns, or kingdoms first submit to the harlot city, and then rise against her and "make her desolate and naked, and eat her flesh, and burn her with fire."

"As to the use of this central interpreted vision to explain the other visions of the Apocalypse I have pointed out that there are three visions in the Apocalypse of the ten horned wild beast power.
The first in chapter 12.
The second in chapter 13.
The third in chapter 17.
(1) That the interpretation of one of these in chapter 17, determines the meaning of all three.
That these three visions of the wild beast power represent successive stages in the history of the Roman Empire, as first under the government of its seven heads; secondly under the government of its ten horns, for in the prophecy the crowns are transferred from the heads to the horns, and thirdly as carrying, and then casting off and destroying, the harlot Babylon.
(3) That the story of Babylon and the Beast occupies the largest and most central part of the Apocalyptic prophecy, being referred to in no less than ten successive chapters: Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
(4) That to the visions relating to the Roman Empire under its revived eighth head prophetic times are attached representing--
1. The period of the sun-clothed woman in the wilderness (chap xii).
2. The period of the rule of the eighth head of the wild beast (chap xiii).
3. The period during which the outer temple court is trodden under foot by the Gentiles (chap xi).
4. The period during which the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth (chap. xi).

"These four periods are manifestly the same period stated in three forms, as days, months, and "times," or years--1,260 days; forty-two months, and three and one-half "times," or years; and are to be interpreted on the year-day scale; a scale recognized in both the law and the prophets; the scale on which the "seventy weeks" to Messiah are universally interpreted; a scale justified by the course of chronology of Christian history, and confirmed by the discoveries of astronomy as to the cyclical character of the prophetic times.

The interpretation of the Apocalypse thus reached is in harmony with that of the book of Daniel, and links both prophecies with one and the same series of events--the course of five kingdoms, the temporal kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the eternal kingdom of God. The Apocalypse is simply the story told in advance of the last two kingdoms of Daniel's prophecy; the story of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and of the rise and establishment of the kingdom of God."

End of quote.

Next time will not be a lengthy quote, but the above lays out fairly clearly the historicist approach to Revelation, and will give a firm footing to any who wish to pursue further serious study of the book. Amen.