“It’s the End of the World”

Today I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of writing about church, which I’ve done a lot of lately, I’m going to offer my thoughts on a sermon series I’ve been listening to about the book of Revelation. You can find the series here, if you’re interested. Just scroll down to the “It’s the End of the World” sermon series. It’s really worth a listen, whether Revelation fascinates you or terrifies you (I’d say both are true for me!).

What I love most about Jonathan Martin’s sermons is that he places Revelation within the context of the cross, and reminds us that this enigmatic book is ultimately about the restoration of the earth and of God’s people, rather than about the spilling of blood and apocalyptic terror, which is what we ordinarily associate Revelation with. For example, he mentions time and again that when Jesus returns as the Lion, he is still comes wearing a robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13), signifying that he has not shed his identity in the Gospels: his identity as the Lamb. Even when he comes as a conqueror, he comes bearing a sign of the cross, reminding us that the true victory happened at Calvary.

I also think it’s absolutely fascinating how Jonathan uses first century Middle Eastern culture/history to exegete Revelation, especially Revelation’s use of numbers. He talked about how it was very common in that time to write Greek letters in numeric codes, and how the numbers “666” can be translated to mean the name “Nero.” Another number that we see constantly throughout the book of Revelation is the number seven. Seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath, seven churches, seven spirits of God. I could go on and on. But what is significant about these references is that the number seven represents fullness, or wholeness. So when Revelation 4:5, for example, talks about the seven spirits of God, it is not a literal figure but rather a way of saying, here, at the throne of God, we see His fullness.

Another sermon of Jonathan’s that I found fascinating had to do with the two witnesses. In Revelation 11, we read about two witnesses who will prophesy, strike the earth with plagues, and spew fire from their mouths. Whenever I think of this passage, I think of the literal interpretation—two witnesses, literally clothed in sackcloth, roaming around the earth burning people up and turning water into blood and testifying about God.

However, Jonathan’s treatment of the passage makes so much more sense. He contends that this passage is metaphorical. For example, in Revelation 11:4, we are told that the two witnesses “are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” Earlier, in Revelation 1-2, John describes an image of seven lamp stands. He explains to us that these lamp stands represent the seven churches to whom the letter of Revelation is addressed. If the lamp stands in Revelation 1-2 represent churches, would it not make sense that the witnesses in Revelation 11, also called lamp stands, are also a metaphor for the Church?

These are only a few examples of many in which Jonathan talks through the book of Revelation in a way that is logically sound and practically applicable—which I think is quite a feat for a book as weird and complicated as Revelation! I never would have imagined that Revelation could have much to do with the current Church, or my current individual walk with God. But in the light of Jonathan’s talks about the book, I’ve discovered that it really does, and I can learn so much about the nature of God, and God’s love for us, from even this book.

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Posted on November 13, 2013, in Bible, Questions. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. His sermon series sounds like it’s got a lot of points in common with Darrell Johnson’s book on Revelation as well. That is one rich book of the Bible, Tiffani!

  2. Thank you for the book suggestion; sooner or later I will have to check it out! 🙂

  3. Where do I start….if the two prophets are a metaphor then how is the church slain for three days and a half then resurrected and taken to heaven as the context of the verses say? Are you suggesting the whole church lies on the street of Jerusalem during the three and a half days? Lots of details there for the two prophets suggest they are in fact two men who work the works of God. are you suggesting the church only prophesies for 1260 days? The whole church also wears sack cloth? Look at the details and the context before concluding some thing like a metaphor is used. BTW the seven lamps stands are defined as a metaphor in Revelation 2 and 3…..nowhere in Rev 11 does it interpret the two lampstands as a metaphor for the church.

    As for Nero being the 666….again…..look at context….Nero never had the number 666 or a symbol or a name written on people to keep them from buying or selling…those same numerologists have suggested popes and even Kennedy as the beast….context also gives insight into the person who demands the number….Nero flat out falls short of this description.

    The seven spirits is the hardest one to discuss since there is so little in Scripture to go on….but when seven spirits are mentioned and again no accompanying interpretation of their meaning is evident then go with the literal. Meaning that in the throne room of G-d there are seven ministering spirits that are special to Him.

    Of course I must agree that Jesus Christ does not shed His identity as Savior when He comes again to judge the earth….I mean how can you shed what you are. He is the Lamb of God who got victory for us at Calvary which culminates in the end times with the restoration Of the Jewish Kingdom and the resurrection and ascension of the Saints.

    Finally the Book of the Revelation fascinates me…..of course you know that and it terrifies me when I think of how He will come as the Lion and the Lamb to those who do not know Him but it does not terrify me in another sense because the judgments written are for unbelieving people.

    To sumise…I believe what Revelation teaches…two prophets will come who are extraordinary in power, they will serve for 1260 days be slain and die in Jerusalem’s streets …..they will be resurrected and ascend to heaven…Nero is not the 666 of Revelation…. the beast of Revelation 11 requires the mark or his name or the number of his name which Nero never required…..the seven spirits are ministering now before the throne and are literal spirits….mostly that Jesus Christ will come back as the roaring Lion/Lamb.

    My encouragement to you is for you to read the context of the passages before concluding an interpretation…rule one in Biblical hermeneutics

  4. Oh my goodness. First off, you’ve got to quit suggesting that anyone who doesn’t read the text the same way you do hasn’t read it at all. I have read it quite carefully, and so has the pastor whose sermons I summarized above.

    Secondly, a hyper-literal interpretation of Revelation is very problematic. I mean really, where do we draw the line? Would you say that in the end times, we should expect to see a leopard-like, bear-like, lion-like beast with seven heads and ten horns, etc., springing out of the sea because Revelation 13:1-2 LITERALLY says so? Certainly not! It’s clearly a metaphor. Why is it so much of a stretch to surmise that the prophets are also a metaphor? You can’t take everything in Revelation literally! In fact, I don’t think you can take very much of it at all literally.

    Regarding the number of the beast…I think there are a lot of different ways that could be approached. I’m reminded of another of Jonathan’s sermons where he talked about the pregnant woman in Revelation 12. He said that scholars have never really agreed about what she represents. Some say the Church, others say Mary, and still others say Eve. Jonathan suggests that the answer to the question is…yes. There are multiple layers of meaning in Revelation that point to the past, present, and future. It’s all very complex. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to suggest that the same is true of the mark of the beast. It refers to the name of Nero in Greek code…but it could also be a sign of evil in the end times. Both seem plausible to me.

    My suggestion is that you listen to the podcast before you write off Pastor Jonathan’s ideas. I’m telling you, the guy is absolutely brilliant! A good place to start is with the sermon titled “Witness.” Unfortunately, there was an audio problem and the sermon cuts off halfway in, but the part you can listen to is just phenomenal. Seriously. I’ll never read Revelation the same way again, and not just because this guy acknowledges the rich metaphorical imagery in the book – also because he has a knack for making it relevant to our modern times and not just some distant future.

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