Posts by rickbarbareblog

I am a retired Clergyman and a retired College instructor. I live in Trenton, SC in Edgefield County.

Revelation 21 The New Jerusalem Descended, Part 2

Revelation 21:15-17

Recreated 3D image of ancient Rome above is from YouTube. You can view the (1min:32sec) panoramic view at https://youtu.be/8Wuwa3UllKA

John sees the New Jerusalem as it was descending from God in Revelation 21:1-14. Now in 21:15-21 the New Jerusalem has taken the place of the old order on the earth. We should also remember that John prior to the appearance of the New Jerusalem, had witnessed the destruction of Babylon. As one theologian points out “The brightness of God’s work is best seen against the dark backdrop of evil as it is destroyed” (see pictures below).  

The_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath_-_Google_Art_Project

(1) Babylon destroyed is the dark backdrop.

eternity

(2) the New Jerusalem is established on earth as the pure and glorious bride of the Lamb.

We need to understand that the New Jerusalem is of God’s doing, and not of man’s making! The City/Bride descended from God to the earth. 

Let’s see some application out of these verses for the church of all ages.

I. God secures His people forever against contamination and harm. vs. 15

vs. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 

A thing can be measured for: (1) preservation or (2) destruction or (3) restoration. The comments on 11:1 give us the  best significance of “measuring” here—the worshipers are restored and marked out for preservation. In 11:1, God is pledging to protect his Church while she carries out her testimony in the world. Now in Rev. 21:15, God is pledging to preserve His church from all evil and calamity forever.

“This measuring of the city-temple here figuratively represents the placing of God’s boundaries around the city by which it is protected from harm and from the entrance of any form of evil.” (see Beale, p. 482; below.) 

The background for this passage is:

Zechariah 1:16—16 “Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”
Zechariah 2:1-2—1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.”
Zechariah 2:10-11—Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Old_City_of_Jerusalem_map_by_Survey_of_Palestine

Survey of Palestine, 1936. Wikimedia Commons 

By comparing the description of the New Jerusalem, we can see John does not have in mind the old landscape of Palestine as being restored. “The measuring is thus the same as the sealing of believers pictured in 7:3.” (see Beale, p. 482, below.) 


Our Knowledge about Heaven now is Small

We know very little about heaven, but I once heard a theologian describe it as “an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant,” and there is not a better way to think of it than that.

Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But tis’ enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us. (see Packer, below.)


Babylon of old

3D Picture of Ancient Babylon (https://rezatayebi.cgsociety.org/fr0k/babylon-era-of-cyrus)

II. God Himself dwells in that city with His people. vs. 16

vs. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 

A stadion is about 220 yards—”a measure of length comprising 600 Greek feet, or 625 Roman feet, or 125 Roman paces 12,000 stadia would be about 1,500 miles.” (from Bible Hub)  This means that it is a 1,500 mile cube.  This distance is about the Mississippi River to the Pacific ocean in length. But it is a cube so that distance would be the height, the width, and the length all 1,500 miles. It is obvious that John sees a symbol for the City and the Bride combined. It is a view of God’s people in the eternal state. 

H. B. Swete notes that the cube appears in the OT in the following places: 

1. The altar of burnt offering in Exodus 27:1.
2. The incense altar in Exodus 30:2.
3. The High Priest’s Breastplate in Exodus 28:16ff. (not including the width) 
4. Ezekiel’s new city and temple in Ezekiel 40:3ff.
5. The Holy of Hollies in Solomon’s temple. 

The entire city and inhabitants are a temple (sanctuary). 

Unasailable Ancient City

Image of an ancient unassailable city with high walls and secure gates. (Pinterest) 


Will my pets be in Heaven?

We cannot visualize heaven’s life and the wise man will not try to do so. Instead he will dwell on the doctrine of heaven, where the redeemed will find all their heart’s desire: joy with their Lord, joy with his people, and joy in the ending of all frustration and distress and in the supply of all wants.

What was said to the child—”If you want sweets and hamsters in heaven, they’ll be there”—was not an evasion but a witness to the truth that in heaven no felt needs or longings go unsatisfied. What our wants will actually be, however, we hardly know, except the first and foremost: we shall want to be “always…with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).


III. God ensures that our fellowship and communion with Him will never end. vs. 17

vs. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 

The wall is approximately 200 feet thick. A cubit is “traditionally the distance from the elbow to the end of the fingers, about eighteen inches.” (from Bible Hub) Again, we are reading symbols for spiritual truths. Nothing sinful or unclean will ever enter into the New Jerusalem. 

It does not imply that there are enemies attempting to assail the city. The image would have spoken to the first century audience in Asia Minor who had fears of invasion from Parthia. It ought to speak to us in the 21st century of God as our defense.


C. S. Lewis’ Desire for another World

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

Little Girl’s Imagination

A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” (see Allen, below.) 


Most of us are regular people doing our duty where we are. Christians are considered to be little people not worthy of consideration. Rome’s monuments would have made marginal people feel smaller. Looking away from Rome’s monuments, religion, and buildings to God, ought to set us in proper prospective. The New Jerusalem described here should cause us in the 21st Century to look away from all other enticing things to Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Michael Card sings about the New Jerusalem. 

Next week we will look at the materials that make up the vision of the New Jerusalem. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Allen, C. L. (1987). Home Fires: A Treasury of Wit and Wisdom. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York City: NY: The Macmillan Company. 

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Chicago, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Swete, H. B. (1909). Apocalypse of St. John. 3rd Edition. London, UK: MacMillan and Co. Ltd. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Jerusalem Descending, Part 1

Revelation 21:9-14

Image above is of a 14th Century Tapestry of John the Apostle seeing the New Jerusalem descending from God to Earth (Public Domain image by Octave 444 ). 

The theme of Chapter 21 is—

Christ will fully consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

Structure of Chpater 21_1-22_5

I made the Chart above based on information in Beale’s Commentary, p. 463. “This section further interprets the yet-future-fulfillment of Ezekiel by collapsing temple, city, Garden of Eden, and new creation into one end-time picture portraying the reality of God’s communion with His people.” (see Beale, p. 476, below.) “This opening paragraph [21:1-8] serves the twin purposes of both introducing the final events (21:9 through 22:5) and bringing closure to what has immediately preceded.” (see Fee, G. D.; p. 290; below.) 


Application of Revelation 21:1-22:5

This section of Revelation deals with the eternal destiny of God’s people. It had application for the first century church on earth and it has application for the church in each age until the Second Coming of Christ. The earthly Church ought to aspire to her eternal “blueprint” given by God in Revelation 21:1-22:5. 

(1) We get the privilege of setting our hearts on imitating the “New Jerusalem” as a model for the church now, and not seeking to conform the Church to the current political-religious movements in our society. 

(2) We have ample resources to resist the “Prostitute-of-Babylon” culture of our own age. 

Our current culture seeks to bring in a secular utopia by human means. It seeks to destroy all that is past so a new utopia will appear and take its place. This is not God’s blueprint from His Word. God ushers in the New Jerusalem by His own power.


This section of Revelation from 21:1-22:5 gives a view both of the “hidden Church” during this age and the “revealed Church” in the age to come. (see Beale, p. 476; below). 

This vision emphasizes (1) what we will have in eternity; and then, (2) what we are building now based upon eternal values.

I. Believers are Christ’s Bride, and His covenant people on earth, and thus are headed for the New Heavens and Earth. vs. 9

vs. 9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 

Compare Revelation 17:1—One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.

Roman Madam in a Brothal 3

Isabella Rossellini (daughter of Ingrid Bergman and film director Roberto Rossellini) as Balbina, the Madam of a Roman Brothel in the TV-Epix TV Series “Domina.” 

Jewish-Wedding

A Jewish Wedding under a huppah—symbolizing the home that the couple will build together. (Image from tasc-creationscience.org in the public domain.)

The desire of God is to build His house out of human beings redeemed and headed to the New Heavens and Earth. The question is—(1) what kind of “house” are we building here on earth and (2) which “pattern” are we using? I am not referring to architecture of a meeting place for a local church. I am referring to a spiritual house for God to use in saving people and making disciples of them. 

Compare I Peter 1:4-6—

4 As you come to him [Christ], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone  chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

The contrast of the Bride with the Prostitute is deliberate. The Prostitute is an “prototype” of the Satanic world system set in opposition to God which expresses itself in Antichrist’s aim to rid the earth of Christians. 

II. Christ’s people have a view of this present world from God’s perspective in His Word. vs. 10

vs. 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

Compare Revelation 17:3—And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

Note the difference of locations for viewing the Bride and for the Prostitute. 

“Desert” is herēmon—”barren, empty, desolate, wilderness place.” From a barren place, John can best perceive the terrible, sinful character of the Prostitute.

Patmos-Cave-of-the-Apocalypse_2

Aegean Travels image of the Grotto where John slept and received the Revelation visions.
The gate protects the ledge at the bottom of the wall where allegedly John lay his head to sleep.

In order to see Christ’s Bride, the Spirit takes John to “a great (megas) and high (hupsēlos) mountain (oras). From such an exalted height John can best appreciate the exalted Bride of the Lamb.

John in seclusion reading his bible

Each of us needs to have a private space where we go in the morning to have a few vital moments with our Lord before we begin the day. There “on the heights” of detachment with our Bibles, we get a renewed vision both of our world from God’s perspective and our place in it.

Note the picture left with St. John receiving the visions though an Angel. His Bible is open before him. (Image from Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.)

“In order to worship God properly we need strength and consolation in the Christian life. [We especially need both] strength to faithfully obey and consolation when we fail. In particular, we need strength to pray, to meditate on Scripture in Christ’s presence, and to obey what God makes known to us.” (See Herrick, below.)

I believe personally that John saw visions which he expressed through Old Testament passages. John is updating OT prophecy in light of Christ’s appearing and work on the cross. 

III. When Christ’s glory is manifested, the Church is now, and later will be fully, transformed. vs. 11. 

vs. 11 …having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 

“The jasper is an opaque, impure variety of quartz. It comes in red, yellow, and some duller colors” (Biblical Almanac). The light is crystal clear. This brilliant display is caused by the presence of God within the city. His glory lights it. 


God’s Glory

glorious-light-rays-green“It is hard for us to understand exactly what God’s glory may look like, but the various descriptions of it in Scripture seem to indicate that it will be the most beautiful sight we will ever experience. All of the goodness and beauty we see in the present will be nothing in comparison to the refulgent glory of God. As we think on the Lord’s glory, let us be concerned to reflect His beauty and goodness in all that we do and say.” (see Sproul, R. C., below). 

Moses and the Burning BushThe theologians call a believer’s first sight of God in heaven the beatific vision (the blessed sight). “That blessedness in view in 1 John [4:1-3] is the beatific vision. It is so wonderful that the vision itself brings with it the fullness of the blessing.” (see Sproul, R. C. below) A glorious light display usually accompanied a theophany—”an event where the manifestation of a deity occurs in an observable way. Specifically, it refers to the temporal and spatial manifestation of God in some tangible form.” An example is the burning bush Moses saw while tending sheep (see Theophany, below.) (image right from Pinterest.)

I Timothy 6:15-16 gives an accurate depiction of God’s presence in heaven now— 15 He…is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

We will see Jesus in His human body, but heaven is a created place and the Angels dwell with this theophany of unapproachable light. 


Earthly Rulers’ False Glory

Caesar AugustusCaesar Augustus is remembered as the first and greatest of the Roman emperors. By political skill and military power he eliminated his enemies, expanded the empire, and lifted Rome from the clutter of rundown neighborhoods into a city of marble statues and temples. Adoring Roman citizens referred to Augustus as “the divine father and savior” of the human race.

The Bible presents Caesar Augustus as only an actor on God’s stage of history. Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Without the decree of earthly Caesar, Joseph and Mary would not have traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy about Jesus being born there. 

Image above left is Caesar Augustus dressed as Pontifex Maximus (Chief Priest of Rome). From Wikipedia. 

As his forty-year reign came to an end, his official last words were, “I found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of marble.”

According to Livia Drusilla, his wife, he assumed he was only an actor and his last words actually were—

“Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.” (quoted in Our Daily Bread Canada). 

We must remember no matter how glorious a world leader appears to the outside world, he is merely an actor on God’s stage. In the end, the actors (all anti-Christian world leaders) depart this world’s stage to stand before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to give account of their actions. 


IV. Christ provides ultimate security for all His people who are citizens of the New Jerusalem. vss. 12-14. 

vs. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 

The walls, etc. symbolize the security of the saints. They are not necessary for protection from anything evil since all evil people were consigned to Gehenna in Chapter 20.

vs. 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 

The numerous gates symbolize the accessibility to the city.

vs. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The names on the gates and foundations symbolize inclusion—all believers both Jew and Gentile merged into the Bride of Christ. 

Note that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the gates, and the names of the twelve apostles are on the foundations. This fact symbolizes that the ancient people of Israel and the “new Israel” are united in eternity. God does not have two peoples for all eternity. In Christ, the barriers are broken down. Compare Ephesians 2:11-22

Revelation 21:9-14 is an expansion of the theme in Rev. 21:2—the Bride of Christ.

Next time we will look at 21:15-21 which gives us an expansion on Rev. 21:6 the Tabernacle of God.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Heavens and Earth, Part 3

Revelation 21:7-8

Image above is from https://youtu.be/xI6DBVATM1Q

As we saw in the last post, Chapter 21 teaches—

Christ will consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

Let’s continue from last week’s post—

III. God will establish close family ties with His people making each a child of His own and a sibling of all other family members. vs. 7

vs. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 

John is not speaking of a select group of Christians. He is speaking to all Christians. Compare Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

The promise connected to these verses in Romans 8 is the essence of the covenant—a personal relationship with God through Christ.

Covenant defined

Compare Genesis 17:7…I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. [ESV]

Compare the Genesis verse with Exodus 6:7—I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. [ESV]

IV. Nothing harmful or sinful will be permitted into God’s newly restored heavens and eart. vs. 8

vs. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

John uses the contrast “but” (de in Greek) to indicate that this list stands in marked contrast to the people just mentioned above.


An Example of Faith without Full Understanding

The question of what about those who’ve never heard of Jesus always comes up in the discussion of Christianity’s necessary exclusiveness. John 14:5-6 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (ESV; emphasis mine.)

We as humans do not have all the information about the lost. God does.

Bethan Lloyd-JonesBethan Lloyd-Jones, an M.D. herself and wife of the famous preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., at Westminster Chapel, London, UK; had a good answer to that question. She always referred to Abraham’s intercession for the city of Sodom. Genesis 18:25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from You! Shall not the Judge† of all the earth do what is just?”

† The word “judge” (in Hebrew shaphat) at the end of this verse does not refer to a trial judge. “The “Judge” of a Semitic people was ruler, judge, and advocate. God does not judge after the sight of the eyes, or the hearing of the ears, but righteous judgement. Cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 11:3. (see Ryle, H. E., below.) 

We may not understand God’s ways with other people, but He always does the right thing in regard to them. Of this we can be sure even though we do not understand God’s ways. As an older Christian said to me, “Where we cannot trace the hand of God, we can trust His heart.”


Note these are a list of sinners who refuse(d) Christ’s offer of forgiveness.

  1. The fearful cowardly, timid (in Greek deilos; mentioned only 3 times in the NT; these are afraid of allegiance to Christ in times of persecution in John’s day (and in the future).
  2. The unbelieving faithless, disbelieving (in Greek apistos; these refuse to commit themselves to Christ.
  3. The vile, detestable, abhorrent (in Greek bdelussomai; this occurs in its perfect participial form (ebdelugmenos—”those who were in the past and continue to be in the present vile persons”); this word is used regularly to describe those who worship idols. (In classical Greek the word bdeō meant to “break wind silently and send out such a stench that others distance themselves from the vile odor”). (BDB Hebrew Lexicon.)
  4. Murders, killers (in Greek phoneus; they are such because they have killed the saints.
  5. Sexually immoral, fornicators, whore-mongers (in Greek pornos; this the most general word In the Bible that is used to describe any and all forms of deviant, anti-Biblical sexual behavior.
  6. Those who practice magic arts, sorcerers (in Greek pharmakeus); this word is used of one who mixes potions and poisons in order to manipulate people through so-called magic arts; it includes the use of drugs to achieve ‘religious experiences,’ (Timothy Leary’s “God in a bottle,” a reference to LSD.) This also includes all attempts to alter one’s consciences by any drug. It doesn’t include experimental use when one is young. In other words, use of mind-altering drugs once or twice or even more is not an unpardonable sin. It is a problem when mind-altering drugs become the controlling desire of one’s life. Paul makes this clear in Romans 12:1-2—1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV; emphasis mine.)
  7. Idolaters (in Greek aidōlolatrēs); those who worship idols.
  8. Liars (in Greek psuedēs; note the definite article is used with the adjective as a substantive—the (all) liars.”

John is describing a group of individuals who possess a certain character. He is not describing individuals who may have once, or twice, etc. done these things. Some struggle with substance abuse all their lives, but they are struggling to quit. Those who reject Christ’s forgiveness are settled in their practice of these sins. God condemns those who refuse to repent of sin and turn to Him. Those who repent and throw themselves on the mercy of God in Christ are saved from this lifestyle. The exclusiveness with Christianity is asserted by Jesus Himself. Dr. Alexander Whyte used to say, “The perseverance of the saints is made up of multiplied new beginnings.”

In every place of ministry there has been at least one timid soul who was fearful he or she had committed the unpardonable sin; and, therefore, would absent themselves from Communion. I always assured the person she or he has not. The person who has committed that sin did so after hardening his heart, and he would not entertain such thoughts as, “I might have committed the unpardonable sin.” The only unpardonable sin is the rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior for the final time.


Prayers with the dying

I heard a man was in the hospital who was a notorious profligate in our community, or at least he had been in his youth and middle-aged adulthood. People said, “Don’t go visit him; he is a vile man and will curse you out.”

Man in Hospital bedI had heard all the curse words before, so I went. I spoke with him in the bed he knew he would not arise from again. I had visited him often when he was wheelchair bound. We would sit on the side porch of his house with another friend and just talk. I never had heard him curse at me before.

We talked briefly at the hospital. At the end of my visit I asked him, as I do all hospital patients, “Could I have a prayer with you before I go?”

He replied calmly, “I would like that.” I prayed, as I do with all persons I visit, “Lord, forgive us of our sins.” I then left him, and he died the following week. I believe I will see him in heaven.

You might think that I “let him up light.” Are we not in the “salvation business”? I do not play the attorney for the prosecution! I hold out hope for the dying.

For the living, I usually urge repentance of sins. And will pray this prayer above with the repentant who is not at death’s door.

I heard of a man who put off the offer of forgiveness of sins for a later time. “Not at present, but maybe tomorrow.” The pastor said, “Tomorrow is not promised.”

The man countered, What about the thief on the cross!

The preacher replied, “Which one?” 

We must remember one refused salvation. Another one accepted it. 

The final question is, “Will we let Jesus save us from our sins.”


Dr. Alexander Whyte Administering Communion

Portrait_of_Alexander_WhyteIn the summer of 1974, I spent several weeks in Scotland working with smaller churches so they could have Vacation Bile Schools. I spent most of my time in the border areas and began at and ended at Edinburgh. I saw Free St. George’s Kirk where Alexander Whyte ministered from 1870-1916.

He was a “hard preacher” when it came to sin. One older man said after hearing a sermon, “Yon man was a devil of child, I suspect.”

However, Dr. Whyte was kind in preaching forgiveness and grace. One day he was serving communion and came to a young girl sobbing. She tried to push the cup away. He looked down at her and lifted her hands with the cup to her lips saying, “Go ahead, Lass. It’s for sinners!” One of my earlier pastors added, “The Lord’s Supper is for sinners who are tired of their sinning.” (Image of Whyte above is from Wikimedia Commons.)


Romans 5:8 reminds us “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We must always remember salvation is by grace through faith.

Next time we will see the meaning of the Bride of the Lamb and the New Jerusalem.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Rushdoony, R. J. (2002). Genesis: Commentaries on the Pentateuch,Vol. 1. Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Ladd, G. E. (1972). A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition 

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Ryle, H. E. (1914). Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges Volume I Genesis with Notes. Cambridge, UK: at the University Press.

Sproul, R.C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, a Division of Ligonier Ministries.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Heavens and Earth, Part 2

Revelation 21:5-8

Image above is from Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.

As we saw in the last post, Chapter 21 teaches—

Christ will consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

I. God will make a new cosmos out of the old for His dwelling with His people. vs. 5

vs. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [ESV]


Funeral Text

Behold I make all things newI use this verse often at funerals, especially if the deceased has gone through intense suffering in their earthly lives. (It doesn’t matter if some of the suffering was brought on by bad behavior.) Rev. 21:5 is an assurance that nothing sinful or harmful will come into the renewed order. This means glorified people will not experience any harmful memories!

The word “new” is kainos in Greek, as we saw last post, “new in the sense of not used up.” God will take the old elements of our universe and remake them into something new.

“Salvation in the Biblical sense is not only the salvation of the souls of men; it includes the redemption of the body and even of their physical environment.” (See Ladd, pg. 278, below)


God’s environmental plan is for mankind to do two things:

1. The cultural mandate—”Subdue the earth.” Mankind is given dominion over the earth in order to bring it under subjection to him in order that he might have a place in which to live. See Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

We should take note that man (‘adam in Hebrew) is the generic name for God’s creation of humans. Both male (zakar) female (neqebah) are included in God’s mandate. Also, note dominion (radah in Hebrew) is given to male and female. God established two sexes to complement each other and exercise dominion together.

2. The stewardship mandate—”Tend the earth.” In this mandate mankind responsible for the care of the earth’s environment. We must not destroy the cosmos for our comfort, but we must tend is as a garden given to us by God to tend. See Genesis 2:15

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Here in the last book of the Bible is a reference to God as Creator. “There can be no understanding of the God of Scripture, nor of Scripture, without an acceptance of creationism. The goal of the evolutionists is not to present assured and substantiated facts but, first, to replace God with chance.” (see Rushdoony, [Vol. 1, pg. 19], below).

The foundation upon accurate theology is developed is the Creator/creature distinction. God is with us and yet He is appreciably different than we are and the cosmos!

Everyones a Theologian

“The first sentence of sacred Scripture sets forth the affirmation upon which everything else is established: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1: 1). Three fundamental points are affirmed in that first sentence of Scripture: (1) there was a beginning; (2) there is a God; and, (3) there is a creation.” (See Sproul, below.)

We must care for the earth without worshiping nature. God’s ultimate environmental plan is to redeem the earth and renovate it for His people as a place to live for all eternity. Until God acts, the earth cannot be made into a “humanistic utopia” for mankind by Marxist teachers.

The book left can be obtained from https://www.ligonier.org/ or Amazon.


A Personal Testimony for Sproul’s Book

Dr. Sproul’s teaching has saved me from a number of pitfalls in ministry. We used Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine as a kind of “cliff-notes” to Berkhof’s Systematic Theology theology in Seminary. I noted that Everyone’s a Theologian has replaced Berkhof’s Summary by my theology professor, Dr. Douglas Kelley, in his classes. The difference I believe is that Dr. Sproul deals with 21st Century problems we face in Theology.


II. God will establish His new order, and will meet all of His people’s needs. vs. 6

vs. 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Compare the last sentence in this verse to John 4—

10 Jesus answered [the Samaritan woman], “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring† of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

pēgē = a fountain, spring gushing water


A memory from “Old Camp Parker” in Upper Greenville County, SC

Blythe Shoals Rd cabinThis verse in Revelation reminded me of an earlier event involving a cool spring. When I was in school from grade 7-12, we went to band camp in the summer every year for two weeks. We were taught how to march. We had two different kinds of programs we prepared to march for. (1) Military maneuver marching for half-time shows at football games and competitions; (2) Military ordered marches for Christmas parade competitions when the football season ended.(by the way the prize money helped for the band’s expenses ($500.00 at small town Christmas parages and more for larger ones ($500.00 in 1968 = $3,667.51 adjusted for inflation in 2021).

We learned the commands and steps on the field next to the open air pavilion. Then, we marched the back roads surrounding Camp Parker (Blythe Shoals to older folks) to learn a 90 degree turn left or right as a group, etc. I was new to the band that year (1968). Those back roads were grueling for new people. The heat radiated from the tar and gravel coating on the road.

Water from springWe marched for a good while when we came to a house (similar to the one above left) that sat back in the woods, but still close to the road. The command to halt was given and we stopped, but were not given the command “parade rest.” We could all see out of the corner of our eyes a pipe coming down from the hills emptying a constant stream of fresh, cool water into a barrel, and we could hear it distinctly. Mr. James B. Senn, our band director, sent someone to the porch to ask if we could fill a canteen with some of their water. The folks consented, and he filled that canteen with the fresh cool spring water. Mr. Senn and an officer passed through the columns and gave each new band member a cap-full of that water. (Image above from Pinterest.) I can still in my mind feel that cool fresh water on my tongue!

When I read these two Scripture passages about springs of water, my mind goes back to that day on the back roads around Camp Parker. It helped with physical thirst, but Jesus promises complete satisfaction of body and soul in his new heavens and earth. 


John uses the perfect tense of ginomai (“to become or happen”). It reads literally “it has happened.” At this point in the vision the new order has appeared on the earth. All that follows is a description of the total satisfaction that the new heavens and earth provide. For the first time since its creation earth provides full satisfaction to mankind; God is central in the new order. All serve and love him supremely.

Alpha and Omega

The Greek letters Alpha and Omega serve as a brachylogy. The outer limits are mentioned in order to include everything in between in the figure of speech. God is all-in-all in the new heavens and new earth. “Salvation is beautifully depicted by the image of drinking at the spring of life.” The mention of this at this juncture in the book of Revelation does not mean that salvation will be offered to people at that time. It is mentioned pastorally to the readers and hearers of Revelation from John’s day to the Second Coming. After that, it will be too late to drink. John knows that mention of the offer of salvation coupled with the bliss of the new heavens and new earth will create a hunger and thirst in the hearts of some. He mentions the offer to show how people may participate in the new order. Outside of salvation through the God appointed means there is no way to be present in that order and enjoy its bliss. (Image above of “AΩ” is from Wikimedia Commons.)

Next time we will conclude the examination on the New Heavens and Earth.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Rushdoony, R. J. (2002). Genesis: Commentaries on the Pentateuch,Vol. 1. Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Ladd, G. E. (1972). A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition 

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Ryle, H. E. (1914). Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges Volume I Genesis with Notes. Cambridge, UK: at the University Press.

Sproul, R.C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, a Division of Ligonier Ministries.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Heavens and Earth, Part 1

Revelation 21:1-4

Image above from Pinterest.

Some commentators have mistakenly concluded that Rev. 21:1ff is a description of an earthly millennial kingdom. Note the following non-millennial presuppositions about Rev. 21.

  1. The Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation passages deal with the full expression of the kingdom of God—the new heavens and new earth. This is not a description of a mere earthly millennium.
  2. The former heavens and earth are said to have passed away by the time 21:1 occurs.
  3. Pain, sorrow, tears, etc. are no longer existence when 21:4 occurs.
  4. All sinners are in Gehinna when Rev. 21 occurs—21:8.
  5. That the gates of the city are not shut (21:25) is merely symbolic of the permanent security of God’s people. There is no need to bar admittance to anyone.The same symbolism is found in the angelic sentinels, as well.
  6. Most of the events in Rev. 21-22 are assigned by all to the eternal state. To pick out certain events and make them “earthly millennial” is to mar the focus on the very end from 17-22.

Chapter 21 teaches—

Christ will consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified  people.

I. Sin, Satan, and his emissaries must be removed before the Kingdom is established on earth. vs. 1

vs. 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

eternity

The Eternal State of Man pictured from Pinterest

“From the smoke and pain and heat [of the preceding scenes] it is a relief to pass into the clear, clean atmosphere of the eternal morning where the breath of heaven is sweet and the vast city of God sparkles like a diamond in the radiance of his presence.” (quoted in Johnson, A. F.; pg. 776; see below.) 

I like the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s summary of what life in the new heavens and earth will be like.

Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A. At the resurrection, believers will be raised up in glory, will be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and will be made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity. (see Snoke, D., below.)

Now that’s a future we can all look forward to!

The occurrence of the phrase “Then I saw” (kai eidon) is an indication that John is seeing a new set of visions. We should note there are two different words in Greek for “new.”

  1. Neos = “new with reference to time, freshly produced.” In English we would say, “It’s brand new!”
  2. Kainos = “new in the sense of not being used up, but new to the one who has it.” In this sense we would call a used car “new” because it is new to us.

model-honda-new-model-2021

If I buy the 2021 model in 2021, I buy a “brand new” car.

honda_accord_a1275984008b3713478_orig

If I buy a used 2008 model in 2021, it is new to me but old in time.

The word describing the “new heaven and new earth” is kainos. God will not create an entirely new universe for the eternal state. He will renovate the old universe by removing all that is sinful. II Peter 3:10-13 gives details of the earth’s future destruction—

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

God will use the old materials, purified from sin, to create the new universe for mankind’s eternal dwelling place.

Note Romans 8:19-22—

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

God always intended for mankind to live on the earth. We saw this in Rev. 4-6. In the eternal state, God will purge the earth of all that is inconsistent with his holiness and our happiness and recreate it as an eternal dwelling place for us. The verb “passed away” (aperchomai in Greek) is used of someone “departing from his house.” The tense of the verb indicates a simple past event. At this point in the future, the old universe will have passed away and a new one will have taken its place.

C. S. Lewis made some interesting observations about the new heavens and earth in his final volume of the Chronicles of Narnia—The Last Battle. The clip below is short (2:09) and will help in our conception of the new heavens and earth.

John’s addition of the phrase “and there was no longer any sea” has been interpreted in various ways—

  1. Older commentators look upon this as John’s own personal longing for the sea that surrounded him in exile to be gone.
  2. Biblical theologians look upon this a reference to the biblical image of the sea as a place of uncertainty. Absence of the sea answers a universal need for stability and security.
  3. Critical scholars seek a syncretistic understanding. To them the sea is a symbol of the chaos monster spoken of in various Semitic religions.

It seems best to interpret this image in its context in Revelation. The sea is a symbol of the nations set in opposition to God. Compare the following Scripture references to the Sea in Revelation—

Revelation 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

Revelation 17:1-2 1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

Revelation 17:15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.

Therefore, in light of the above evidence from the book of Revelation itself, it seems best to interpret the sea as a symbol of the nations set against God. Compare the following OT passage which supports this conclusion—

Isaiah 57:20-21 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

The fact that the sea is removed in the new heavens and the new earth means that there will be no more source from which evil can arise.

II. All of created reality will be renewed and blessings will come down from God for His people. vs. 2

vs. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

John reports exactly what he saw. This city is the abode of the redeemed. It is the counterpart of and stands in contrast to Babylon the Great, the abode of the wicked set in opposition to the Lord.

The figure of the city is a metonomy. where an inanimate object stands for an animate one. We speak of the White House as if it were a real person. Instead, we all know that we are referring to the President who resides there. In the same way, the city is spoken of as if it were a real person. In reality, the persons are the inhabitants—the Bride of the Lamb.


Special Note

Some theologians/commentators conclude that the city never makes it all the way to earth. The text says that the city is seen coming down, but it never says that it makes it all the way. These commentators conclude that the redeemed will live in a “satellite city” hovering forever above the earth. This is a terribly misguided conclusion based upon a wrong view of the eternal separation of Israel and the church.

New_Jerusalem_moebius

Those who take this view believe that Israel will dwell on the earth forever, since in their estimation Israel is God’s so-called earthly people. The church will not dwell on the earth since they are God’s so-called heavenly people.

In the next verse it is clear that God’s habitation has come down to man. Thus, it is abundantly clear that John sees the city descend from heaven, where God has prepared it for man, to the earth, which is mankind’s destined abode for all eternity. (image from Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud’s comic art.)


III. God will dwell with His people in the new heavens and earth. vs. 3

vs. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

This verse contradicts the view that the New Jerusalem will remain in another place than earth. 

The word “dwelling” is skenē in Greek. It literally means “tent” or “tabernacle. “The word occurs in the OT to describe the Tabernacle. It was the earthly symbol of God’s presence with Israel. The verb “live” is skenoō. It is the verbal form of the noun skenē. In the descent of the New Jerusalem to earth, God has come to dwell with mankind forever.

Compare John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally, “tabernacled”] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only [“unique” = monogenēs] Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (ESV).

IV. God will banish all of the effects of sin as He implements His new heavens and earth. vs. 4

vs. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

As we have pointed out before, the tense of the verb is past (aorist) used as a simple past tense (constantive aorist). The old order has passed away at this point in John’s vision. George Eldon Ladd says, “In the new order, all the evils that have burdened and cursed human existence will flee from the presence of God.” (See Ladd, pg. 275, below.)

What we have in Revelation 21 is God’s “New World Order” based on God’s agenda. (And not the one politicians talk about through united effort of persons.) God’s new order will occur when the New Heavens and New Earth appear. It will not be ushered in by mankind on their own initiative and from present resources.

Next time we will look at God’s agenda for His new heavens and earth.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely, some without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Ladd, G. E. (1972). A Commentary on the Revelation of John Kindle Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Snoke, D. (2021). Westminster Shorter Catechism in modern English. Accessed 23 June 2021 from https://www.cityreformed.org/uploads/9/8/8/6/98869954/wsc.pdf

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 20 The Great White Throne Judgment

Revelation 20:11-15

Image above is from https://medium.com/


Suspense about outcome causes worry

A boy in the Midwest used to read western thrillers after he went to bed in his room above the kitchen. Time for lights-out was given by his mother by tapping on the kitchen ceiling with her broom handle.

boy reading in bedHe was usually at a crucial point where the hero was involved in a life threatening gun fight. He was so upset over the possibility the hero might be shot he couldn’t go to sleep for a time.

The next night the chapter ended in another cliffhanger. He worked hard on the farm and had to get his rest.

He decided to read the last chapter the next night. This way he already knew how the plot turned out so when the tap came on the ceiling, he put the book down and went to sleep worry free.


In the Revelation, believers are given the last chapter! We already know how the plot ends. We do not have to worry about who wins!

Revelation 20:11-15 teaches believers—

God Himself will execute the verdict at the great white throne judgment upon those guilty of rejecting His Son Jesus Christ and persecuting His people.

I. All that is sinful will be deposed from the cosmos. vs. 11

vs. 11  Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 

“Not the destruction or annihilation but the renovation of the universe is indicated here.” (See Hendriksen, p. 196, below). This throne is white stressing the majesty and purity of God.

“The language of poetic imagery captures the fading character of everything that is of this world.” 1 John 2:17—

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Now the only reality is God seated on the throne of judgment, before whom all must appear.

Note that the cosmos is already in the process of passing away. We are not experiencing progress that will usher in a new utopia.

Heb. 9:27—And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… .

“This cosmic disturbance…alludes to the fact that the earth itself will be renovated before the new heavens and new earth will come into existence.”

II Peter 3:10-13—

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for  and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 

The old order passes away before the new order is established. Everything in the cosmos is renovated in accordance with the holiness of God. But what about those who have rejected God? This question is at the heart of the Great White Throne Judgment.

II. God pronounces the guilty verdict according to the life persons have lived. vs. 12

vs. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 

Books used in JudgmentThis scene records the judgment of the wicked dead. The Greek word for book is biblos meaning scroll. Why does God need books? They record all of the actions and words men and women committed when they lived on earth.

Romans 2 records the principles of judgment—vs. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things… . vs. 6 He will render to each one according to his works… . vs. 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Works are evaluated in order to get a true picture of a person’s life. This does not mean that works save a person. Works merely show whether or not a person is regenerate.

See Matthew 25:41-46

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Moses Interceding for Israel (public domain)

The book of life is the book that contains the names of those who are Christians.  Such a book is alluded to in Exodus 32:30-34  

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Daniel 12:1

1 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.

Luke 10:20

19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

III. All persons will be resurrected at the last day and will be sent to the respective places they chose in life. vs. 13

vs. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 


The Intermediate State

“The intermediate state refers to a person’s existence between his physical death and his future resurrection.” (see Intermediate State, below.)

Hades is the place where the wicked dead are housed after death. The righteous dead have always been housed in heaven. Again, works are said to be the proof of a person’s actual spiritual condition, not the ground of salvation.


IV. The wicked dead are sent into the lake of fire. vs. 14-15

vs. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

Inferno I. 1-3

“Midway along the journey of our life I woke to find myself in a dark wood, wandered from the straight path.”
– DANTE AWAKES IN THE FOREST Divine Comedy, “Inferno” by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

The righteous experience the first resurrection after death. The second resurrection is implied in the mention of the first. The wicked dead are raised, but to experience the second death. Various Greek words are used in the New Testament for hell, but they all indicate the place of the wicked dead. After the final judgment, death itself will be destroyed.

vs. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is a simple conditional statement (assumed true). There were people’s names not written there who will be cast into qehinna. This verse proves that there is no universal salvation as some teach. Gehinna or “land of fire” was the valley that served as the garbage dump of ancient Jerusalem.

Gehinna in Jerusalem

This is a modern picture of Gehinna—Valley of Fire

What will be the worst suffering in hell? Most of our concept of hell in the West comes from Dante’s Inferno instead of being informed by Holy Scripture. II Thessalonians 1:7-10 says this about hell, which I believe is the worst suffering in hell—

7 …The Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Note the two categories of people named:
(1) those who do not know God;
(2) those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Note the nature of the suffering:
(1) away from the presence of the Lord
(2) away from the glory of his might

The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question is pertinent to understanding the punishment of the wicked.

Q. 1. What is the chief purpose for which man is made?
A. 1. The chief purpose for which man is made is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. (see WSC, below.)

C. S. Lewis says this of hell—christ-on-a-cross-vector-art_800

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: “What are you asking God to do?” (1) To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But he has done so, on Calvary. (2) To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what he does. (see Lewis, below.)

What makes hell hell is that persons created for fellowship with and enjoyment of God can never do this. God is present in hell, but his presence manifests itself in wrath. Never will man enjoy the presence of a loving God. Never will he be able to glorify the God who made him. 

Destruction,” as applied to man and his destiny in the N.T., signifies perdition, ruin, the utter loss of blessedness. (see Findlay, below)

Note: Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. People who follow Satan and his agenda in life will share his fate in eternity. However, it was never built for humans. In life, people have the opportunity to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior.

Next time we move to Chapter 21.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Findlay, G. G. (1898). II Thessalonians in the series Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Accessed 14 June 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/2_thessalonians/1.htm

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Intermediate State. (2021). What is the Intermediate State? accessed 14 June 2021 from https://www.compellingtruth.org/intermediate-state.html

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Problem of Pain. Accessed 14 June 2021 from https://www.epm.org/resources/2015/May/20/banished-humanity-cs-lewis-and-doctrine-hell/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

WSC. (1647). The Westminster Shorter Catechism in modern English. Accessed 14 June 2021 from https://matt2819.com/wsc/

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 20 The Last Battle and we Know who Wins!

Revelation 20:7-10

Image above is from https://answersingenesis.org/angels-and-demons/satan/what-about-satan-and-the-origin-of-evil/

We saw in previous posts that John takes a literary approach to writing his visions. From Chapter 12 to 22:5, John relates the appearance of the enemies of Christ’s Church in the order in which he sees them in his vision (along with images of God’s people interspersed throughout). Revelation does not record visions in chronological order that people on earth will experience them, and neither can modern persons plot the events on a timeline. The chart, based upon Vern Poythress’ commentary, I have used several times illustrates the order of events.

Chart on Chiasms in 12-21

This paragraph of Revelation teaches—

God will vindicate His people in the final battle by judging Satan (the Dragon) and his evil cohorts.

I. Satan’s binding occurs during the Church Age, but he will be released at the end to work further evil. vs. 7

Satan plottingvs. 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison…

As we have seen before in chapter 9, the abyss (the Greek word abyssos means “unfathomable depth”) is the place where the demons are incarcerated. They are not fixed to a wall like one would be in a modern prison. They are permitted to roam the earth to promote evil from their dark realm.

The abyss is further described as a “prison” (pylakē in Greek).

II. During the Church Age, Satan is prevented from gathering the nations into one army to destroy the Church. vs. 8

vs. 8 …and [Satan] will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to Satan released. 2gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

This is the same battle that is described in Revelation 19:17-21. The imagery from this verse is drawn from Ezekiel 38 and 39. Gog and Magog are representative of the enemies of God’s people. The literal nations which bore these names were the enemies of God’s ancient people Israel. They are used as a symbol of the enemies of the church, the new Israel. Many have pointed out that there seems to be a discrepancy between the chronology in Ezekiel and the one here in Revelation. Note that the discrepancy depends upon a person’s interpretation of Ezekiel. In both books the sequence of events are as follows: (1) the Millennium; (2) a rebellion; (3) the eternal kingdom.

fire falling at Armegeddon

Image left https://pixabay.com/photos/

William Hendriksen says this—

In other words, we have here in Revelation 20:7–10 a description of the same battle—not “war”—that was described in Revelation 16:12ff. and in Revelation 19:19. In all three cases we read in the original, the battle. Thus 16:14: “to gather them together for the battle of the great day of God, the Almighty.” Again, Revelation 19:19: “gathered together to make the battle against him.” Similarly, here in 20:8: “to gather them together to the battle.” In other words, these are not three different battles. We have here one and the same battle. It is the battle of Har-Magedon in all three cases. It is the final attack of anti-Christian forces upon the Church. The “new” thing that Revelation 20 reveals is what happens to Satan as a result of this battle. (see Hendriksen, p. 195, below; emphasis mine.)

III. When the end of the age occurs, God will permit Satan to threaten the Church. vs. 9

vs. 9 …And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them…

Here we have the ancient symbols used to describe the new Israel, the Church. In the New Testament elsewhere, the word “camp” (paremholē) is used to describe either a military camp or Israel’s encampment. See Acts 21:34. Also see Hebrews 13:11-13.

Saints surrounded

Saints Surrounded from https://www.goodfreephotos.com

The figure of a camp, stresses the “pilgrim character” of God’s people. (see Johnson A. F., below.) The second figure, “the city he loves,” has suggested to many that Jerusalem will be rebuilt in Palestine along with its temple for sacrifices. This is impossible from a theological standpoint. God used type and shadow in the Old Testament, but he has brought fulfillment and completion in the New Testament. He will not go back in the future, but will bring about further fulfillment and completion. It is impossible for God to go back to types and shadows. Therefore, the city must be a symbol for God’s people like the camp.

See Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

Note that the text uses “battle language,” but the saints do not fight. They stand and watch fire fall on their enemies, for God himself does the fighting. 

The_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath_-_Google_Art_Project

John Martin – “The Great Day of His Wrath” – United States public domain

IV. The Church’s enemies and those who followed them share the same fate—eternal separation from God and punishment in hell. vs. 10

vs. 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Hell is described here as “the lake of fire and sulfur (puros kai theiou). This imagery is drawn from the Old Testament—Isaiah 30:33 “For a burning place [or Topheth] has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.”

Topheth was the place place outside Jerusalem where children were burned sacrifice to the god Molech—see Jeremiah
7:30-32. II Kings 23:10 describes what King Josiah did to prevent further sacrifice in Topheth.

Jesus used this same imagery—Matthew 5:22; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 13:49-50; and Matthew 25:41. [clink on the blue links above to read the verses.]

This passage make it clear that the punishment of the wicked will be eternal. The time references by day and by night are in a Greek noun case that stresses the kind of time (hemeras kai nyktos). Added to this is the phrase forever and ever (eis tois aiōnoas ton aiōnōn). It is literally “unto the ages of ages.”

An old preacher was once confronted by a skeptic saying that Scripture does not speak of eternity, but of “the ages of ages.” He replied, “Well, we will live as long as God does. That’s enough for me!”

Next time, we will look at the Great White Throne judgment.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 20: Reigning with Christ

Revelation 20:4-6

“Christ Reigning in Heaven” Image above public domain.

As I pointed out in the last post, there are four major dramatic acts in chapter 20:

1. The 1,000 Year Binding of Satan vs. 1-3
*2. The 1,000 Year Reign of Christ & His Saints vs. 4-6
3. The Gog & Magog Rebellion vs. 7-10
4. The Great White Throne Judgment vs. 12-15

We dealt with the first act in the last post. In this post, we will look at the second act—saints reigning with Christ from heaven.

How would first century believers in Asia Minor have viewed this second act of Revelation 20?

They would be familiar with social ostracism of Christians by Romans and those wishing to appear loyal to Rome. They knew of the threats of death for those who refused to worship the Emperor. Only one person had lost his life so far—Antipas (Rev. 2:13). His death was a harbinger of many to come in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries. People would wonder where the martyrs go and what is their state after death. Revelation 20:4-6 tells them and us where believers go after death. In theology we would say this question concerns the “Intermediate State.”

“Theologians refer to the intermediate state, by which they mean the time between our deaths and the final resurrection. When we die, our bodies will go into the grave, but our souls will go directly to heaven and be immediately in the presence of Jesus Christ. In the intermediate state, each of us will have a soul without a body, but the best of all possible situations will occur later, in the consummation of the kingdom of Christ, when our souls will take on imperishable and glorified bodies.” (see Sproul, below.)


canoe-on-lake

Picture in public domain from publicdomainpictures.net

I’m amazed to hear that many people have the idea that when their life has run its course and they take their final last breath, they will no longer exist. However, so much more lies ahead! Frank W. Boreham (1871-1959) illustrates this in his book Wisps of Wildfire. A few weeks ago, in a small boat, I was making my way up one of the most picturesque of our Australian rivers. The forestry on both banks was magnificent beyond description … a canoe glided ahead of us. Presently, the waters seemed to come to an end and as we watched the canoe, to our astonishment, it just simply vanished.

But when we came to the point at which the canoe had so mysteriously disappeared, we beheld a sudden twist in the river artfully concealed by the tangle of bush. The blind alley was no blind alley after all!” Then, making reference to believers in Christ who had died, Boreham observed, “[They] have gone on—like the canoe. It had turned a bend in the river; they have turned a bend in the road.” Life may seem to end at death. At that “bend in the road,” however, the Christian is introduced into a new world where life at its best is enjoyed throughout the eternal ages. (see Talk Jesus Blog, below).


The message of Revelation 20:4-6 is—

The souls of faithful witnesses for Christ are resurrected in heaven at their death and join in the reign of Christ until he comes a Second.

I. This is a heavenly scene, not an earthly one, so the reign is exercised from heaven.

vs 4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

The same 1,000 years are covered in the second act. While Satan is bound, the faithful witnesses to Christ appear in heaven after death. Thrones in Revelation are always in Heaven.

why-was-jesus-born-to-prepare-us-to-reign-in-heaven-8-638

“Reigning with Christ,” from blog by R. Joseph Owles 

The word for “judge,” in 1:4, is krima, and must be taken in its OT context. Krima means “to vindicate one’s right by taking vengeance or inflicting punishment on another.” The OT judges were rulers, not just trial judges. This is a reference to the fact that the saints will share in Christ’s rule and reign during the 1,000 years (the Church age to Christ’s Second Coming).

Two groups are envisioned by John: (1) the saints, which comprise the largest group; (2) the martyrs, which is a smaller group, but which is specially honored for their faithfulness. John sees the “souls” of those reigning with Christ. The faithful witnesses and martyrs are seen in the intermediate state—as disembodied glorified souls.

Martyrdom

Note the word “beheaded” (pelekizō) means “to cut off with an axe.” The axe was the instrument of capital punishment in the early Republic of Rome. It was later replaced by the sword (machaira). What John sees is those who were martyred by Rome. Note martyrs do not always die at the time of their torture. They often suffer after being released and die later.

Faithful Witnesses

There is another description added to the group—”who did not worship the beast.” “Who” is the indefinite relative pronoun (hointines) used qualitatively—”which very ones.” The last phrase “they lived … with Christ.” The tense of the verb is past (aorist). It is used in a special sense—entering into a state—they “came to life and began to reign.” The martyrs were in the intermediate state and they experienced the first resurrection by Christ before they entered the kingdom. The second resurrection will be the reuniting of the soul and the glorified body at Christ’s return.

II. The first resurrection is the appearance of the soul in heaven after death.  

vs. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.

Verse 5 provides the key to the interpretation of the millennium. “Come to life” is zaō the same word that occurred in verse 4. Here it refers to the the resurrection of the soul. Therefore, in verse 4 it must mean the same thing.

Welcome Home

“Welcome Home” Art Print by Danny Hahlbohm; available at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/welcome-home-danny-hahlbohm.html?product=art-print

The word “until” is achri. This means that the fist resurrection of the just occurs during the 1,000 years and that the resurrection of the lost occurs after the 1,000 years are over. In the gospels the resurrection of both groups are often spoken of in the same verse without any indication of separate resurrections. Compare John 5:25-29—

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Prophetic Telescoping 2

Image of “prophetic telescoping” adapted from Blog from https://deebrestin.com

Compare Isaiah 61:1-5 with Luke 4:17-21. Note where Jesus stopped his Isaiah synagogue reading in Luke 4—after the phrase–”to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He split the Isaiah passage into two parts. The rest of the Isaiah passage—”to proclaim … the day of vengeance of our God”—must await the second coming for fulfillment.

There is no indication in the Isaiah passage that there is to be a two stage fulfillment (see Chart above “telescoping”). It all looks like one event to Isaiah. He saw the mountain range as one vast mountain. Jesus adds further revelation concerning the time of the fulfillment. In Rev. 20, the Holy Spirit adds further revelation about the nature of the resurrection. The resurrection of the just souls will precede that of the lost. Lost souls will appear in hades during this same period. Isaiah must be seen as “prophetic telescoping.” Events far apart appear close when viewed from a distance by the OT saints. The first resurrection refers to the saints. The second death, mentioned later on, stands in contrast to it as the resurrection of the lost.

III. Christians at their death enter into a blessed state.

vs. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism sets before us what life in the intermediate state will be like, and the nature of the resurrection at Christ’s Second Coming.

Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death? The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

Note the Catechism tells what the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming will include—

Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.


The committal at a graveside is always difficult for families. I only used the traditional words once—

Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the ground…

At this point his adult child screamed. Needless to say, this was disturbing.

[I continued]…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ… . (Book of Common Prayer, 1928).

I never went through that again! I always preface all comments at the graveside with the words, “We are not abandoning your loved one here.” I developed my own words of committal from the WSC Questions 37 and 38, quoted above.

Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother/sister departed, and we commit her/his body to the Lord knowing that the souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection. Awaiting that Great Resurrection when believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity. Amen.

I have never had any outbursts of grief at a committal since these words give hope to those assembled around the grave.


Verse 6 forms verse one of seven beatitudes in Revelation. It might not be a bad idea to “count your [eternal] blessings” in times of difficulty.

1. 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. Rev. 1:3
2. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Rev. 14:13
3. “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” Rev. 16:15
4. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Rev. 19:9
*5. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Rev. 20:6
6. “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Rev. 22:7
7. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Rev. 22:14

How wonderful to realize the blessing of Almighty God is better than temporary perks in life from this world!

I John 2:15-17

15 Do not love* the world† or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [ESV]

* The word “do not” is the Greek negation + the present imperative of agapaõ to love. The significance of this construction is important. It should be translated “Stop loving the world!” The action is viewed as in effect in the present time. It is a regular force pulling people away from God.

† Matthew Henry gives the definition of “the world” (kosmos). “The things of the world may be desired and possessed for the uses and purposes which God intended, and they are to be used by his grace, and to his glory; but believers must not seek or value them for those purposes to which sin abuses them. (see Henry below.)

We ought to stop involvement, as much as possible, with the world system under Satan’s control! We ought to remember “the world is passing away along with its lusts, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

The saints and martyrs are said to reign with Christ for 1,000 years. Note that the time of Satan’s binding and the time of the reign are concurrent. The reign occurs because Satan is bound. Jude gives us an idea of the binding of fallen angels—

Jude vs. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day… . [NKJV]

Chains of Jude 6

I include the chart from last post to show the nature of the chains and the darkness.

John Calvin gives us great help in understanding angels in chains kept in darkness—

“They are not only free spirits but celestial powers; they are now held bound by perpetual chains. They not only enjoyed the glorious light of God, but his brightness shone forth in them, so that from them, as by rays, it spread over all parts of the universe; now they are sunk in darkness. But we are not to imagine a certain place in which the devils are shut up, for the Apostle simply intended to teach us how miserable their condition is, since the time they apostatized and lost their dignity. For wherever they go, they drag with them their own chains, and remain involved in darkness. Their extreme punishment is in the meantime, deferred until the great day comes. (see Calvin, below.)


Grassmarket Street

Picture from Penterest. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/182536591117361515/

When I went to Scotland in the summer of 1994, I toured Edinburgh. There is a famous part and an infamous part of the Grassmarket. On one end the sun always shines and it has lovely shops and places of business. In days past the other end of the street, always shrouded in darkness, had other businesses that serve the lusts of people wanting to indulge themselves.


Perhaps the fallen angels prefer to create darkness on earth since they are imprisoned in darkness in their realm. John 3:9 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Next time, the Gog and MaGog battle. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation)

Alford, H. (1851-61). The Greek New Testament, Vol. IV.

Augustine of Hippo. (ca. AD 426). The City of God. Book XX. Chapters 7-9. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120120.htm

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Calvin, J. (2021). Accessed 17 May 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/jude/1.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

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

Henry, M. (1706). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary accessed 27 May 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_john/2-15.htm

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poythress, V. S. (2000). The Coming King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Precept Austin. (2019). Accessed 17 May 2019 from https://www.preceptaustin.org/2_timothy_18-14

Sproul, R.C.. Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Reformation Trust Publishing, a Division of Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Book. Note: I recommend this book for a summary of theology. I have used Louis Berkof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine in the past in classes. However, like one of my professors in Seminary, Dr. Douglas Kelley, I recommend Sproul’s book since it applies theology to issues to our own day. 

Talk Jesus. (2017). “Beyond the Bend” Blog post for 11 April 2017.  Accessed 25 May 2021 from https://www.talkjesus.com/threads/beyond-the-bend-%E2%80%93.58079/

Victorinus of Pettau. (ca. A.D. 270). Commentary on the Apocalypse. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0712.htm

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 20: The 1000 Year Binding of Satan

Revelation 20:1-3

Image above “Michael casts out rebel angels.” Illustration by Gustave Doré for John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Public domain.

There are four major dramatic acts in chapter 20:

1. The 1,000 Year Binding of Satan vs. 1-3
2. The 1,000 Year Reign of Christ & His Saints vs. 4-6
3. The Gog & Magog Rebellion vs. 7-10
4. The Great White Throne Judgment vs. 12-15

We will deal with the first section of the chapter in this post. How would the first century believers understand the binding of Satan? They would apply it to their daily lives in Asia Minor where Rome was present in statues and events overpowering all religion and culture. For anyone deviating from the accepted religion and culture, he would be confronted forcibly and it would impossible for him to find employment or to eke out a living. He would be shunned.

First century Christians could not say two words that would end their isolation—Kaesar Kurios—”Caesar is Lord.” They could affirm only Yēsous Κυrιοs—Jesus is Lord!

I Corinthians 12:3 tells us that under extreme persecution—”…no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

“No one, speaking by the Spirit of God, can revile Christ; so, on the other hand, no one can speak well of Christ, but by the Spirit of Christ. To say that Jesus is accursed is utter blasphemy against him. To say that Jesus is the Lord, is to speak of him in honorable terms and with reverence, and to extol his majesty. …Of this the Scripture, also, frequently reminds us, and the saints everywhere, acknowledge that unless the Lord open their mouths, they are not fit to be the heralds of his praise. Among others, Isaiah says — ‘I am a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5).” (see Calvin, below.)

John’s churches would face severe persecution in the future. Only one had died so far Antipas (Rev. 12:13). 


We should see in Revelation 20:1-3 this truth—

No matter what happens to believers on this earth, Satan is bound and is unable to do anything except Jesus Christ permit it. 


How’s your vision?

Dwight Edwards writes, Paul’s “chains were not clamped on by an oppressive Roman government, but by the hand of a loving, faithful Father Who was working it all to Paul’s ultimate good and His glory. And so Paul was able to avoid bitterness toward the Roman authorities, for he did not see them as acting on their own. Paul had developed 50-20 vision which Joseph describes in Genesis.” (see Precept Austin, below.)

spectacles-clipart-illustration 2

The circumstances may not change immediately, but a change in perspective—the Genesis 50:20 perspective—will help us stand firm for God in difficult times.

My vision was not so good. I have had recent cataract surgery and was awaiting my post-op glasses. Yesterday (5/20/2021), I finally got them! My wife said she had grown tired of my constantly saying, “I can’t see.”

In addition to all medicine can do to correct our faulty earthly vision, we also need a set of spiritual spectacles made according to the Genesis 50:20 prescription. We will face horrific persecution in the future if we remain true to Christ and bear witness to His Lordship in the power of the Spirit.


I. God is in full control over the spiritual realm. vs. 1

vs. 1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.

The angel descends from heaven to earth to bind Satan. He has what is described as the “key to the abyss.” The abyss in Scripture is the abode of demons—compare Rev. 9:1 ff and Luke 8:31. (Also see the blog posts on chapter 9.) He also has a great chain with him in John’s vision.

Note we are not envisioning real chains and cells for Satan and his fallen angels. If we do, we cannot conceive the binding of these evil powers.

One of the arguments used by the “non-supernaturalists theorists” is that a demon, who is a spirit, cannot be bound with a chain. However, compare this passage with the language of II Peter 2:4—”God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment,” (ESV) The Greek word for “hell” is tartarus a place of darkness where fallen angels are consigned. See the chart above where two different uses of chains are shown. The picture on the right is what Peter had in mind. To be held in chains is not chained to a wall, but it is chains that restrict movement such as in a prisoner is led from jail to the courtroom. He is shackled, not chained to a wall in his cell.

and Jude 6—”the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” [ESV]

Chains of Jude 6

Calvin says this of Jude 6—

They are not only free spirits but celestial powers; they are now held bound by perpetual chains. But we are not to imagine a certain place in which the devils are shut up, for the Apostle simply intended to teach us how miserable their condition is, since the time they apostatized and lost their dignity. For wherever they go, they drag with them their own chains, and remain involved in darkness. Their extreme punishment is in the meantime, deferred until the great day comes. (See Calvin on Jude, below.)

In both of these passages, spirits are “held in chains.” God who created these spirits is able to place them in chains. Of course, this does not have to be viewed as physical chains. John is using conventional language to describe a spiritual truth—Satan will be prevented from performing his will on earth for this 1,000 year period.


“Thin Places” where Heaven and Earth seem to draw closer

Unseen hand guiding surgeonI have used this figure before, but I think it helps us realize that different unseen dimensions affect us on earth. I got the idea from the ancient Celtic teaching that “heaven and earth are three feet apart and in some places they are closer.” They called the closer places  “thin places.” I have been in “thin places” where it seemed time stood still and heaven’s presence impinged on the earthly realm. I wished the heavenly “thin place” would have stayed longer. They are there for us when we need them.

Picture left from Pinterest.

“Thin places” where hell and earth seem to draw closertemptation of Christ

Not only is heaven close to earth, so also is hell. I also have been in “thin places” where it seemed hell drew near and impinged on the earthly realm. From the “thin place of evil” I ran from as fast as I could. If I fell, I got myself back up and prayed to God to give me strength to get out. Pictured right is Vasily Ivanovich Surikov – Temptation of Christ. 1872. Public domain.


The figure below illustrates the different dimensions that are in the same area, but cannot be seen by us. I have used it before. Colossians 2:1-4 sums this up well—

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Dimensions of Reality

II. Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. vs. 2

vs. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,

The verbs in this verse are past (aorist) tenses. This is the normal tense for the Greeks. This time frame—1,000 years—is mentioned five times in this chapter. In Greek 1,000 is chilioi. Persons who hold to a physical reign of Christ and His people on the earth for 1,000 years are often referred to as “Chiliasts.” The binding lasts for a duration of 1,000 years, which is the longest time frame in the Revelation. Like the other numbers, 1,000 is symbolic—referring to that period of time beginning with Christ’s Resurrection and ending with the Second Coming of Christ. (see

Two early church fathers take a symbolic view of the Millennial passage: (1) Eusebius, The History of the Church, Book 3:39:11-13; and St. Augustine of Hippo in The City of God, Chapter 22.

III. Jesus Christ doesn’t allow Satan to overpower His church.  vs. 3

vs. 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Albrecht_Dürer_-_Saint_Michael_Fighting_the_DragonThe abyss is locked and sealed until the 1,000 is completed. This is important to the overall interpretation of the chapter. This is a reference to Satan’s curtailment of his activities on the earth. Note that Satan is no longer able to deceive the nations. Matt. 12:28-29 alludes to a binding of Satan in the life and ministry of our Lord—”28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

However, Rev. 20 states specifically what restrictions of Satan’s activities are included. After the 1,000 years, Satan’s restrictions will be removed. He will lead the nations in rebellion against Christ. It is referred to as the Gog and Magog rebellion. The restrained demons controlling nations under Satan’s plans, will be ripe for rebellion at the end of the 1,000 years. Note earlier we saw the destruction of Babylon, the Beast from the Sea, and the Beast from the land. Now we cover the same last battle which records the destruction of Satan, the Dragon.

Next time we move to the 2nd section.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation) 

Augustine of Hippo. (ca. AD 426). The City of God. Book XX. Chapters 7-9. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120120.htm

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Calvin, J. (2021). Commentary on I Corinthians; accessed 17 May 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/1_corinthians/12.htm

Calvin, J. (2021). Commentary on Jude; accessed 17 May 2021 from https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/jude/1.htm

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Keener, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poythress, V. S. (2000). The Coming King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Precept Austin. (2019). Accessed 17 May 2019 from https://www.preceptaustin.org/2_timothy_18-14

Victorinus of Pettau. (ca. A.D. 270). Commentary on the Apocalypse. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0712.htm

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 20: The Context of the “1000 Years”

Revelation 20:1-6

Image above is “Satan bound for 1000 years.” Revelation 20:3. Burney. Phillip Medhurst Collection.

We have now arrived at the one passage of Scripture that some persons use to interpret the entire book—the Millennium—the Latin word for 1,000. Some look to the daily news for fulfillment.

In former days, when we had brick and mortar stores in which to shop for religious books and if one were shopping for a commentary on revelation, one would thumb over to Chapter Twenty to see what the author’s view of the millennium. Then chapter four was perused to see what position the author takes on “the tribulation” and “the rapture of the church.”

If we place Revelation 20 into the context of the whole book, the chapter teaches—

God will judge the dragon, Satan, once for all at the Second Coming; faithful witnesses of Christ are ruling with Him in heaven during the age of the Church.

I. It is important to see the structure of the book as a whole—progressive parallelism—and in light of the meaning to the first century believers.

William Hendriksen gives us Revelation’s seven literary units.

Literary Sections of Revelation

Vern-PoythressFor my reading of Revelation, Vern Poythress (pictured left) is a better guide to the application of Revelation for first century believers, than our news media in the twenty-first century. In order to apply the Revelation to our day, we must “bridge the context” from the first century AD to our own.

Dennis E. Johnson rightly points outrevelation-commentary-johnson—”Revelation gave first-century Christians insight into the purposes of God in their time. We can at least conclude, therefore, that interpretations of the visions that lie completely beyond the original readers’ frame of reference are suspect.” (see Johnson, D. E., below.)

II. There are seven cycles of judgment, each ending with the Second Coming.

Visions that describe the Second Coming mark important transitions. When we go to Revelation with this concern in mind, we find descriptions of the Second Coming no less than seven times! There are seven cycles of judgment, each leading up to the Second Coming. A final, eighth vision shows the new Jerusalem, the consummate state on the other side of the Second Coming. (see Poythress, p. 32, below.)

Porthress Cycles of Judgment

The cycles [of Revelation] parallel one another. All cover the same period leading up to the Second Coming. But each cycle does so from its own distinct vantage point. Moreover, later cycles concentrate more and more on the most intense phases of conflict and on the Second Coming itself. We have parallelism of the sections in Revelation, but it is a progressive parallelism—with later sections focusing more on the final judgment.  (see Poythress, below.)

Recapulation Structure of Judgments revised

It makes more sense to see 20:1-15 as the last cycle of judgments, out of a total of 7, beginning at Christ’s First Coming extending to Christ’s Second Coming. (see Poythress, below.)

III. Earlier Commentators held the recapitulation approach to Revelation. 

Victorinus of Pettau wrote the oldest extant Latin commentary on Revelation. He interprets the book’s cycles as Victorinus of Pettaurecapitulations of the same time described above. (pictured right by Jakob Brollo.)

Those years wherein Satan is bound are in the first advent of Christ, even to the end of the age; and they are called a thousand, according to that mode of speaking, wherein a part is signified by the whole, just as is that passage, “the word which He commanded for a thousand generations,” although they are not a thousand. Moreover that he says, “and he cast him into the abyss,” and he shut him up, says he, and put a seal upon him, that he should not deceive the nations until the thousand years should be finished. (see Victorinus of Pettau, Rev. 20:1-3, below.) 

Carlo_Crivelli_-_St._AugustineSt. Augustine of Hippo says the thousand years began with the formation and mission of the New Testament Church.

“Now the devil was thus bound not only when the Church began to be more and more widely extended among the nations beyond Judea, but is now and shall be bound till the end of the world, when he is to be loosed. But while the devil is bound, the saints reign with Christ during the same thousand years, understood in the same way, that is, of the time of His first coming.” (see Augustine of Hippo, below.) 

IV. We must put Revelation 20 into the context of Chapters 12-20.

The enemies of Christ’s Church are presented in the order in which John sees them in his vision (along with images of God’s people interspersed throughout). Revelation does not give visions in chronological order that people on earth will experience them.

Chart on Chiasms in 12-21

I trust it is obvious that I hold to the  so-called “Amillennial view” of Revelation 20. I prefer “realized Millennium,” as Dr. Jay Adams has called it. We believe in a millennium (in heaven, not on the earth). 

Next time we will move into the exposition of the Twentieth chapter.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation) 

Augustine of Hippo. (ca. AD 426). The City of God. Book XX. Chapters 7-9. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120120.htm

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poythress, V. S. (2000). The Coming King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Victorinus of Pettau. (ca. A.D. 270). Commentary on the Apocalypse. Accessed 13 May 2021 from https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0712.htm

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