Seeing our World through Jesus’s Eyes, Part 1

Revelation 1:1-3

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. [emphasis mine; see ESV below]

Revelation chapter one reveals Jesus Christ as God’s Messiah (“one anointed with oil”). Three persons were “anointed with oil” in the Old Testament: Prophets, Priests, and Kings. Only Jesus combines all three offices into his one person.

Rev. 1:1-3 presents Jesus as Prophet.
Rev. 1:4-8 presents Jesus as King.
Rev. 1:9-20 presents Jesus as Priest.

In this post we will look at Jesus Christ as the Prophet who faithfully reveals God’s mind and will, especially in His explanation of reality. We can rely on His true account given in His Word!

Rome’s False Narrative of Reality in John’s Day

Jesus Christ as Messiah is presented against the backdrop of Rome’s Imperial propaganda which intruded upon, and sought to control, every person’s daily life in Asia Minor. People in the Empire saw their world through Rome’s eyes.

augustus_pontifex maximus

Augustus dressed as Chief Priest (Pontifex Maximus)

Revelation itself allows no neutral perception: either one shares Rome’s own ideology, the view of the Empire promoted by Roman propaganda, or one sees it from the perspective of heaven, which unmasks the pretensions of Rome (emphasis mine; see Bauckham p. 35 below).

The Roman Empire explained the world through a narrative that promoted its own glory and power. Every government official was also a priest in the Roman Civil Religion who claimed to say the right words and perform the right rituals to bring about success for the Empire and its supporters. (see deSilva below)

Augustus’s claims to be the savior of the world and the one who would end war was false. (Click  on link to read the Priene Inscription
which contains Caesar Augustus’s Birth Announcement.) Christians knew the fallacy of the Roman claims.

Rome’s Position in the World according to Virgil

But thou, O Roman, learn with sovereign swaythe-aeneid-9781625586612_lg
To rule the nations. Thy great art shall be
To keep the world in lasting peace, to spare
humbled foe, and crush to earth the proud.
(emphasis mine; Virgil, Aeneid, Book 6; lines 851-854).

Virgil’s words were no doubt acted on theater stages throughout Asia Minor. Rome promised: (1) to provide just rule through law; (2) preserve universal peace [Pax Romana]; (3) to incorporate the humble into the Roman world; and (4) to crush brutally those resistant to Roman rule. Augustus Caesar was the ideal Emperor pictured in statues all over Asia Minor’s cities. 

Jesus Christ’s Titles in the New Testament

The titles of Christ in the New Testament are set against those used by Rome for Caesar. For this reason, Christians in the first century could not attribute the titles of Christ to Caesar. For this they were ostracized and persecuted. Tertullian, Church father (AD 150 to 240; pictured below left) writes —

TertullianNever will I call the emperor God. I will not because it is not in me to be guilty of falsehood. He is but a man, and it is in his interest as a man to give God His higher place. (selection and emphasis mine; see Tertullian below).

At the end of the day, Rome’s narrative explaining reality was false and self-serving. Christians resisted it. They knew God wouldn’t let Rome and its false claims stand. Psalm 2 informs us of God’s attitude toward false claimants to kingship above his Chosen Messiah — Jesus Christ.

5 Then [God] will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6  “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” [emphasis mine; ESV; click on link to read the whole of Psalm 2]

God will not permit mere humans to usurp what belongs to his King, Jesus Christ — Rome’s or any other nation’s false pretensions to the contrary! We as Christians ought not to give Divine honors to mere humans or human institutions. Soli Deo Gloria!

God Gives us the True Account of How His World Operates

In the Revelation, we are shown God’s view of reality, revealed through Jesus Christ to an angel and then to John. Revelation reveals an interaction between the spirit world and the physical world in the vision (e.g. an angel is the mediator of revelation). Revelation’s worldview alone is worthy of being a guide for our lives in this world. 

The Chain of Revelation


“Preaching in the Catacombs”
by Jan Styka 1902 from WikiCommons

You may ask why give the chain of revelation? I have often been similarly questioned when I explain Scripture in detail in a Bible Study. One lady said to me, “Why burden your mind with all those details?” Why? Because it is God’s Revelation of himself to us to guide our everyday lives and the details matter!

More on this next time.


Bauckham, Richard. (1993). The Theology of the Book of Revelation. (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press).

deSilva, D. (2009). Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

ESV. English Standard Version accessed from

Faulkner, Neil. (2011). “The Official Truth: Propaganda in the Roman Empire.” Accessed January 12, 2019 from

Virgil. (ca. 29-19 BC). Aeneid, Book 6; lines 851-854. Theodore C. Williams. trans. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910. Accessed February 22, 2019 from

Williams, Kurt. (2017). The Roman Empire in the Time of Jesus (Background of Luke’s Gospel). Accessed January 12, 2019 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved


Reading the Book of Revelation Today, Part 2

Revelation 1

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John… [ESV].

Our preoccupation with chronology is not unique to us in the Twenty-first Century. Notice the 1st Century disciple’s concern in Acts 1:6-7. 

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Jesus refused to give his disciples a timetable. John in the Revelation does not give us a chronlogy of the end times. 

Revelation and the Last Days

This area needs to be made clear—the meaning of the phrase “the last days.”

Now but not yet

Chart from

“The last Days” were inaugurated at Jesus’ first coming and will be consummated at his second coming. This is why John writes about “things that must soon take place.” John writes about what will begin after his day and will extend to the time of the second coming. We live between these two days — 1) the First Advent of Christ; and 2) the Second Advent of Christ. This in between time is the “last days.” 

So far in the first century Asia Minor Church, there had been but one martyr — Antipas — Revelation 2:13. John sees Antipas as a specimen of what was to come for the churches after his day (see Fee below). This is prophetic insight drawn from the past and applied to present readers. When we experience troubles for the Gospel’s sake, John’s writings speak to us as well.

Applying the Book of Revelation to Everyday Life

What are we left with if we interpret Revelation other than by the “Left Behind” model? We have the assurance that our Risen Lord will be with us in every trial we face to the end of the history of this old world! 

Revelation’s Connection to Daniel in the Old Testament

Daniel is a book alluded to often by John. We have the experience of the the three Hebrew youths in Daniel 3 (click on the link below if you wish to refresh your memory)

I like the fact that God saved these three — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — within their fiery furnace. He did not snatch them out of the fire. Also, God did not pour out His wrath on them, but he permitted them to pass into tribulation and emerge from it unscathed. Daniel 3:27 records of the aftermath of their experience —

The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.

Not only did they escape harm in the fire, they bore faithful testimony to the God who was with them as the “fourth man in the fire!” (There is an old Johnny Cash song by this name.) The pagan king declared in Daniel 3:29 —

Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way. (emphasis mine; see ESV below.) 

What are we left with if we interpret Revelation in the way I suggest? The Revelaion says who is listen to the book. 

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 2:7, etc.)

We get a global picture of life for Christ’s Church in the “last days,” but we apply Revelation as individuals as this text directs. What remains without a detailed chronology? The comfort and strength that comes from the knowledge of our God who is with us in tribulation and who uses our experiences to glorify His name!

From time to time, I share a hymn that is meaningful to me. This one jumped out at me as I prayed recently. I hope it blesses you as well.

Application Chart

The chart below demonstrates how I propose to apply the teachings of the Revelation One. I want to show how this book impacts us today. This is not teaching only applied to the church as a whole or even any one church in particular. It is a message for every believer facing difficulties from the enemy — physical or supernatural. It is for me and it is for you

Message of Rev 1 to First Century Chart (2)

Enough for now, but I think you can see how I propose to read the Revelation. I think this way enables us to apply the Revelation to our own lives without speculating on a chronology of the end of the world. This is especially true since Revelation does not intend to present such a chronology.

More insights next time, when we “dive into” chapter one!!!


ESV. English Standard Version retrieved from

Fee, Gordon D. Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Reading the Book of Revelation Today, Part 1

Revelation 1

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John… [see ESV below].

Fear of the Revelation Unfounded

Many Christians shy away from the last book in the Bible. John Calvin (pictured left) John Calvin 1844 etchingwrote a commentary on every New Testament Book except Revelation [see Venema below]. He wrote one on Daniel, so we know he was capable of interpreting prophetic/apocalyptic books.

Once I had a church member say she wouldn’t come to our mid-week Bible study on Revelation because “she didn’t understand the book.” I responded that she would gain understanding from the class. She still declined to attend.

In another church, I had an officer ask me to stop my series on Revelation because people were tired of hearing about it (this was code for “I am tired of hearing about it”).

Perhaps all of the above forgot what John writes in Rev. 1:3—

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

I would like to make a few introductory comments about reading Revelation in the 21st Century. This part may appear too technical, but I want you to know how I approach Revelation and then I assure you, I will get into the text in the third post. I will not proceed verse-by-verse. This gets one bogged down with the trees and loses sight of the forest.

Revelation is not a Chronology of the very End of History

Revelation is not a newspaper account of the “End Times.” We should not forget “what John sees is not heaven or [our] universe itself but a symbolic vision.” [emphasis mine; see Hendriksen, p. 128 below]. I would add we should not assume John saw tanks, missiles, bombs, etc. from 21st Century warfare.

Four horsemen and helocopters

Not what John saw in his vision.

Neither, does John receive a detailed, chronological map of the very end of history. We ought to read Revelation in light of its meaning to the original audience and make application to our own lives from its theology.

The introduction promises a blessing to “those who hear and keep” the prophetic word given. Prophesy in the Revelation is telling-forth of the Word of God like the Old Testament prophets did. The foretelling of future events is not the primary reason for Revelation. It is a symbolic vision, not a telescopic view of our future.

A Seen Vision becomes a Written One

Albrecht Durer’s attempt to picture the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse below—


From seeing this picture, we can deduce it says more about Durer’s day than any other age.

What John saw, he wrote down so his churches and future Christians could read it. We are not to assign contemporary incidents as fulfillment of what is written there. Such fanciful speculations would have been meaningless, even ridiculous,  to John’s churches. Any interpretation we make must be derived from the significance to the original readers.

A sound interpretation of the Apocalypse must take as its starting point the position that the book was intended for believers living in John’s day and age [see Hendriksen, p. 14 below].

So, I propose to shed light on the theology of the Book instead of seeking future prophetic and political fulfillments. As you can see, I do not subscribe to the “Left Behind” series of films and books and their view of the Revelation.

John as a Re-interpreter of the Old Testament

There are some 550 references to the Old Testament in the Revelation. None are direct quotations but are allusions. (see Fruchtenbaum below).

Note the following use of the Old Testament book of Daniel in the vision of the Risen Christ in Revelation 1—

White like wool (Daniel 7:9)
One like a son of man, coming with the clouds (Daniel 7:13)
Belt of the fine gold (Daniel 10:5)
Eyes like flaming torches (Daniel 10:6)
Arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze (Daniel 10:6)
Like the sound of a multitude (Daniel 10:6)

John often uses the Old Testament language to describe what he’s seen and heard. (emphasis mine; see 7 Tips below).

However, neither the Old Testament prophecies nor the Revelation is chronological in its presentation of visionary events. John uses Old Testament images, but often re-interprets them to enable his visionary experience to become a written account. (see Fee below).

More next time! And then, to the Text of Chapter 1!!!


7 Tips for Understanding Revelation. (2017). Zondervan Blog. Accessed January 11, 2019 from

ESV. English Standard Version retrieved from

Fee, Gordon D. Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (2007). Accessed January 11, 2019 from

Hendriksen, William. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, ,MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition).

Venema, Cornelis. (2012). TableTalk magazine. “Interpreting Revelation.” Accessed January 11, 2019 from

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

God’s Moral Standards and Our Freedom

To conclude this series on underpinnings to our freedom, let me relate a personal incident.

When I moved out of South Carolina to go to Seminary, I did not have to change my driver’s license. I was a student still residing in South Carolina. However, when I took my first church in Georgia, I had to make the change. Then two years  later, I had to take a South Carolina written test. One question stood out to me.


You are driving on a newly paved road that has no lines painted on it. Which should you do?

a. Drive anywhere you want to.
b. Drive with one wheel on the pavement and one on the shoulder.
c. Drive straight down the middle.
d. Drive as if the lines were still painted there.

I knew “A” was not the answer. The test had been made by older people and the older folks I’d known didn’t let you do anything you wanted to.

“B” was not the case either since the shoulder has objects that could puncture tires.

“C” wasn’t an option since it would result in head-on collisions.

That left “D” as the logical answer. If everyone drove as if the lines were there, everyone would be safe.

We live in a society that once had the Christian principles written large everywhere we looked. However, the lines of God’s law are now erased. “How, then should we live?”

We cannot live anyway we want to. We cannot live recklessly. We can and must live as if the lines were still there. Thus, we will suffer no harm by living according to God’s word and law. Psalm One puts before us two ways to live and the results for each.

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

I end with a prayer from the words of an old Puritan divine

“Things Needful”

[O] Eternal Source,
Author of all created being and happiness,
[We] adore [You] for making [us] capable of religion,
That [all] may be taught to say:
‘Where is God [our] Maker, who gives songs in the night?’
But degeneracy has spread over our human race,
Turning glory into shame,
Rendering us forgetful of [You].
We know it is [Your] power alone
That can recall wandering children,
Can impress on them a sense of Divine things,
And can render that sense lasting and effectual;
From [You] proceed all good purposes and desires,
And the defusing of piety and happiness.
[You have] knowledge of [our] soul’s secret principles,
And [are] aware of [our] desire to spread the Gospel.
Make [us almsgivers] to give [Your]
Bounties to the indigent,
Comfort to the mentally ill,
Restoration to the sin-diseased,
Hope to the despairing,
Joy to the sorrowing,
Love to the prodigals.
Blow away the ashes of unbelief by [Your] Spirit’s breath
And give [us] light, fire, and warmth of love.
[We] need spiritual comforts
That are gentle, peaceful, mild, refreshing,
That will melt [us] into conscious lowliness before [You],
That will make [us] feel and rest in [You] as [our] All.
Fill the garden of [our souls] with the wind of love,
That the scents of the Christian life may be wafted to others;
Then come and gather the fruits to [Your] glory.
So shall [we] fulfill the great end of [our] being-
To glorify [You] and be a blessing to men…

I add these words to the old Puritan’s—

And, may God Almighty—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—bless us. May He preserve our freedom for all time unto future generations. And, may God save our beloved nation from an atheistic life lived in prosperity while forgetting God, our Maker and Sustainer. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Next time: an extended Series on the “Revelation of Jesus Christ,” the last book of our New Testament.

© 2019 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved