May 29, 2012

Ecclesiastic Parallels: Aristotle, The Dumb Ox & A Monkey

Man...I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. You would think someone or Something watching over all of this actually planned this kind of stuff...

So...I’m reading Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica: First Part, Question 75- Man who is composed of a spiritual and a corporeal substance: and in the first place, concerning what belongs to the essence of the soul. It plainly states his position that man, is composed of a spiritual and corporeal [physical] substance. He goes on to state that a theologian (him) deals solely with man in this question in relation to the soul and only deals with the body when it has a direct correlation or connect to the soul (but he does deal with both as both are unmistakably part of reality). Thomas Aquinas then approaches his examination of the essence, power and operation of the soul in what can only be viewed as a scientific method/methodology (more on this later).

Aquinas first ponders the nature of the soul itself. I will attempt to summarize the main points of his conclusions in a succinct manner. Aquinas answered that, it must be allowed that the principle of intellectual operation which we call the soul, is a principle both incorporeal (physical) and subsistent (maintaining life). Therefore the intellectual principle which we call the mind or the intellect has an operation "per se" apart from the body. He concludes, therefore, that the human soul, which is called the intellect or the mind, is something incorporeal and subsistent. Aquinas further asserts after reasoning that "the soul is man," can be taken in two senses. First, that man is a soul; though a particular man. It could also be understood in a sense that there could be actions attributed to the soul itself apart from the corporeal man therefore the soul could operate independent of the corporeal body. That being said, sensation, like emotion is not a product of the soul nor the body alone. Therefore man is not soul only but something composed of body and soul. Aquinas also states that the soul has no matter. He further asserts that the human soul is incorruptible, immortal or imperishable.

Having consulted one of the premier Christian minds outside of Jesus Christ Himself we arrive at the aforementioned conclusions. What strikes me as peculiar is the language Aquinas uses. When reasoning his arguments he uses the Greek byproducts “genus” and “species”.

Aquinas literally states in relation to the differences between man and animal that, Although man is of the same "genus" as other animals, he is of a different "species." Specific difference is derived from the difference of form; nor does every difference of form necessarily imply a diversity of "genus."

He then goes on to show the same type of delineation between the human soul and angels.

Hmmm…this is where it gets real uncanny…

Then I realize why the peculiarities of these terminologies strike me as they do. To my novice formerly agnostic eyes they appeared Darwin-esque. Because of my reading Aquinas I find they were used centuries before Charles Darwin to describe things in the theological realm. If we do our homework we see that these biological classifications, as are many modern biological classifications are firmly based even farther back in time in Aristotelian philosophy. Ironically, this is the same Aristotle that viewed humans as having a vegetative, a sensitive, and a rational soul, capable of thought and reflection (De Anima). The same kind of thought or reflection that Darwin apparently did not do in an unbiased manner.

We also will find if we dig deep enough that the entire taxonomic ranking system actually owes a huge debt of gratitude to Aqunias’ scholasticism of the 13th Century. These terms and ideas were used long before they were pilfered by “modern” science and forced into an evolutionary framework of redefinition and strained sematic use. As a matter of fact, these terms are now nearly inseparable from the modern day biological associations. The irony is that when Aquinas used them he only mentioned the biological aspect or corporeal body of man when it came in relation to the soul which was of supreme importance to the interest of the theologian whereas the corporeal aspect (the biological body) was essentially disposable or a temporary dwelling since it had been made corrupted by the Fall.

In the end, knowing that Darwin was initially raised with a theological background and had even (at one time) entertained the idea of going to Seminary, I suggest that Darwin may have been familiar with Aquinas writing as he was clearly using the same Aristotelian terms coined by Aquinas who borrowed them from Greek philosophy. To me it just shows the Devil will use any means to confuse truth and subvert it. Philosophical terms borrowed to explain theological concepts then borrowed again to apply to theories of science that systematically abandons God as irrelevant. What amazes me is that Darwin in all his intellect never seems to have accounted for the nature of the soul or the incorporeal, the actual vital breath or spark of life or de anime. He only engaged the corporeal...half the picture. He divides up the corporeal reality around him but separates out the life essence itself and the spiritual, the supernatural and super-mundane thereby discards it. He ignored half of reality as do nearly all people of a non-theistic bend. The exact opposite of what Aristotle attempted to do be trying to explain reality in all its nuances. Conversely, Aquinas, the theologian took into account both, therefore grasping and incorporating and comprehending all of reality. So who was the smarter man and the most accepting of all the facts in a scientific manner/method? Which does the world hold up on a pedestal? Which does it frown upon? What does this say about most of the advanced world? Is there nothing new under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11~”What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

May 26, 2012

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament VII: Broken People, Perfect God


When looking to find Jesus in Judges it is a little bit harder than other books because during the time of the Judges…

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

It was an crazy time to be an Israelite and not conducive to Christ-like examples and things that would foreshadow Jesus…except in the judges themselves. Many were disobedient and rogue of the Scriptures. What the time period does illustrate well is that when there is disobedience to God’s word and rebellion is rife…the contrast is like night and day for the need of a righteous king. Please remember that this is just prior to the time of the United Kingdom under David and Solomon and the prelude to both was Saul. Saul was not God’s chosen and it showed but he was a king and it was a step towards unification under a solitary human leader. This in itself is a shadow of the time when all will either be under the King or judged by Him. In the end time when Jesus returns, all will cast their crowns at Jesus' feet, even the kings of the earth. 

In much of Judges we have this record of failure and deliverance seven times repeated. Israel falls into idolatry, and God raises up some one of the surrounding nations to carry out His punishment. Israel repented under the chastening, and cried to the Lord, and the Lord sent a deliverer.  God allowed the very sins His people indulged in to be their punishment (Romans 1). It is a picture of man's continued sin and failure, and God's continued patience and grace. We read of seven distinct departures from God, and of seven distinct sets of deliverance by the hands of Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson. In these deliverers of Israel we can see a foreshadowing of the Great Deliverer who was to come.

 What we see in the Judges as a whole are “deliverers”. People sent for a specific task to exhort God’s people back to faithfulness and obedience. Some were more successful than others. Although God’s people will not yet have a righteous king, they will receive the judges. The Judges are rulers, saviors, spiritual deliverers. They foreshadow Jesus who was not only a Judge but also a Savior but also a King of His people.

For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” John 5:22

“...and [the Father] has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man." John 5:27

“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 5:30

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 1 Peter 4:5

In Gideon we have power of meekness. We know that God delights in using weak vessels to display His strength and faithfulness. This is paralleled in the New Testament where believers have the Spirit dwell within them It is only when we die to self and allow Christ to take the reins of our lives that we truly live and truly gain the victory Jesus won.

2 Cor 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Interestingly, Samson is an interesting study in contrasts. He is a good example of what God was able to do with one man but at the same time, Samson is burdened down with sin that arrests much of the positives he gains in his life.

Judges also tells of the interesting but lesser known visit of the Covenant Angel whose name is “secret," or better interpreted as "Wonderful". He appears to Manoah and his wife…

“And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” Judges 13:18

The word wonderful is not the proper name of the Angel of the Lord, but expresses the character
of his name and as the name simply denotes the nature, it expresses the peculiarity of his nature also. It is to be understood in an absolute sense—"absolutely and supremely wonderful". This is no ordinary as this description belongs to God alone.

Here also we see (as elsewhere) that God maintains His presence in human life as here in this story…even when the humans involved are believers and are not aware it is Him. God has never left man alone and never will leave those that truly seek Him. There were partial and progressive revelations even here in the book of the Judges and each new “wonder” laying down another block in an entire foundation of progressive revelation that eventually culminates in Jesus Christ. In the process of revelation such as in this case which is not well known even inside the circles of the Faith we see a miracle of the highest magnitude in the pre-incarnate revelation of Jesus Himself. Slowly and methodically, God shapes and conditions the hearts of men through unfolding revelation for Jesus’ eventual arrival in Bethlehem a little over 1000 years from the date of this appearance in the time of the Judges.


The luminescent portion of Ruth as it relates to Jesus is the story of the kinsmen redeemer. First we must understand that the book of Ruth involves two related practices. Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25) which meant a man would marry his brother’s widow to give the man an heir. We see it invoked in the broken promises of Judah concerning the widowed Tamar.

Although it was in the Law it did not require Boaz to marry Ruth but we begin to see the hand of the Lord involved in this story from the outset. The only man initially who fully met the criteria was Mahlon’s brother Chilion — but he was already dead by the fifth verse of Ruth. The extended family then had obligations to protect the property and inheritance of its impoverished members. Leviticus 25:25 states:

 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.”

This "kinsman redeemer" kept property and inheritances within the family since it was such a valuable asset to a family. If a man died and left behind wife or children, the extended family assumed responsibility for their care. As in the case of Naomi, this usually included taking possession of the land on behalf of the deceased for the benefit of his survivors. According to the laws of inheritance, this land passed on to the heirs of the dead man. Even if no redeemer could be found, a jubilee year still returned the property to its original family. Surprisingly, Scripture records no remaining heir for Naomi, Ruth, or Orpah. Ruth presented an additional problems by who she was, according to Ruth1:4...a Moabite. The Law forbid marriage between Israelites and Moabites or Ammonites. Moabites in particular were the descendents of the incestuous liaison between Lot and his two daughters.

It is Naomi that convinces Ruth that marriage to a kinsman was not only beneficial but actually possible. While Boaz might have been attracted to her appearance, it is Ruth’s unswerving devotion to Naomi and willingness to work hard to support Naomi that attracted his attention. Additionally, he was moved by the trust she displayed in naming him above any other potential redeemers (Ruth 3:1-13). It is interesting to note though that Boaz seems to have made a really big deal out of marrying Ruth to chase off any potential challengers for Ruth’s hand and that he acted out of love rather than legal obligation to join her in a Levirate marriage.

These passages, together with the inclusion in genealogy or Matthew 1:5, "Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth" reveals the Lord’s hand working in time and in people. We see that it is this kinsmen redeemer that keeps alive the lineage of Christ when it looks as if it will be snuffed out by the world.

Matthew’s inclusion of Tamar and Ruth in Jesus’ genealogy emphasizes God’s reconciling work in Christ even by those that the world perceives as being undesirable or tainted. This is because the world views things incorrectly and does not know the heart of the people, they usually only judge according outside appearances. Conversely, God knows the hearts of people and sees them from the inside through their true motives.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5

“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10

It's as if all the women listed in Jesus’ lineage are purposely present to reveal "questionable" pasts. Rahab (Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5) was a prostitute but she believed in the Lord. The “wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:6) reminded Israel of David’s adultery and murder but she also evokes memory of God’s grace in giving Solomon as David’s heir to the throne.

Boaz, “the father of Obed by Ruth.” is an illustration of mercy and grace. It is a shadow of the Lord to demonstrate how He chose His own means in graciously remaking the entire created but fallen and damaged order through His Son. This remaking or restoration is actually a redemption foreshadowed by Boaz’s actions toward Ruth and Naomi.

May 23, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy LVIII: A Babylonian Car Wreck

The Fall & Lament of Babylon - Revelation 18

The members of the community of faith who do not compromise with the idolatrous world are to rejoice over the judgment of Babylon because it validates the integrity of their faith and God’s love of justice which all eventually leads to God’s consummate reign which realizes that God will be with us (Immanuel).

The angel promised in 17:1 that he would show the seer “the judgment of the great harlot sitting on many waters.” This judgment was portrayed in only one verse in chapter 17 but the angel’s promise is fulfilled in detail throughout chapter 18. The beast and his allies first had to be portrayed in chapter 17, since the woman’s importance and influence could not be fully understood except in her relationship to the beast. Chapter 17 focuses on what precipitates the woman’s fall in ch18.

Therefore Revelation 18:1–19:6 then portrays Babylon’s demise itself, as a continuation of the vision begun in Chapter 17. The judgment of Babylon was narrated briefly in 17:16, and now in ch18 is shown an enlarged picture of the results of that judgment.

The events depicted in ch18 are not in chronological order but may be outlined in the following way:
1.      The fall of Babylon is predicted (verses 1–3).
2.      God’s people are exhorted to separate from Babylon before her judgment, lest they suffer with her (verses 4–8).
3.      Those cooperating with Babylon will lament after her judgment (verses 9–19).
4.      The faithful will rejoice over her judgment once it is accomplished (verses 20–24).

The narrative logic of the segment moves progressively in that the declaration of Babylon’s coming punishment is the basis successively for exhorting saints to escape Babylon or they will be judged with her (18:1–8), for Babylon’s allies to lament because they perceive their own demise (vv 9– 19), for the saints’ rejoicing (vv 20–24), and for the climactic glorifying God as just (19:1–6).

The appearance of the descending angel may be a Christophany comparable to appearances of “the angel of the LORD” in the OT (refer to 10:1), since Ezekiel had spoke of God’s glory. The portrayal is similar to that of the luminous angelic appearance in 10:1, which is likely a Christophany. The fact that this is Christ is confirmed by the fact that every ascription of “glory” to a heavenly figure in the Apocalypse refers to either God or Christ. This angel is more glorious than Babylon (v 1) and is an authority more compelling than Babylon. His glorious appearance and loud voice are meant to get the attention of any who are in danger of falling under the spell of Babylon. The repeated announcement of Babylon’s fall accentuates the certainty of her judgment. The certainty of the judgment is underlined further by the narration of those results in the past tense “fallen”, as if it has already happened (with the sense of the Hebrew prophetic perfect).

The assurance of worldwide Babylon’s fall in the future is rooted in the fact that the fall of old Babylon was predicted in the same way, and the fulfillment came to pass; John believes that God will continue to act in the future as he had acted in the past. Verse 2 explains Babylon’s desolate condition resulting from her judgment. Isaiah 21:9 may be in mind since the full text of that verse is “fallen, fallen is Babylon, and all her images and idols have been crushed.” God’s judgment here in the Apocalypse reveals Babylon’s demonic nature, which she has been able to mask behind idolatry in order to attract and deceive her acolytes throughout the ages. Babylon’s identification with the devil, the beast, and the false prophet is made clear, since both they and she possess “unclean spirits” and “demons”. These judgments are viewed as typological anticipations of universal Babylon’s judgment at the end of history. The final stripping away of Babylon’s luxurious facade (17:4; 18:16) reveals her skeleton, within which sit only demonic birdlike creatures. A Jewish interpretation of the creatures in Isaiah 13:21 and 34:11, 14 understood them to be demonic. This final revelation shows that the demonic realm has been Babylon’s guiding force which was stated before in this series.

The nations’ “drinking the wine of her immoral passion” and the kings’ readiness to “fornicate with her” is not literal immorality but a figurative depiction of acceptance of Babylon’s religious and idolatrous demands. The nations’ and kings’ cooperation with Babylon ensures their material security. Therefore they are implicated in her guilt and will be under the same judgment.

The verb “drank” refers to the willingness of culture and society to commit itself to idolatry in order to maintain economic security. Once one imbibes, the intoxicating influence removes all desire to resist Babylon’s destructive influence, blinds one to Babylon’s own ultimate insecurity and to God as the source of real security, and numbs one against any fear of coming judgment (for these metaphorical meanings of “drink” refer to Revelation 14:8).

The “Kings of the earth” are probably best understood not only as those in political power but also as the ruling classes who benefited from cooperation with the political power. Sexual lust as a metaphor for immoral financial gain together with wine as a picture of influence toward sinful living occurs also within the Old Testament.

The report of Babylon’s coming judgment in the preceding verses is the basis for exhorting wavering believer(s) not to participate in the idolatrous system and to encourage those not compromising in this way to maintain their faithful course…hence earlier exhortations. Besides, the revelation of Babylon’s sin and punishment should cause the genuine Christian not to be seduced by her and to refuse to cooperate with her evil ways. The purpose for the call of separating is not only “not to partake of her sins,” parallels the separation in Isaiah and Jeremiah and that of Abraham and Lot in Genesis involved both physical and moral escape, that in Rev. 18:4 involves only the latter.

Christians are not being called to withdraw from economic life but they may be ostracized from the sphere of economic dealings because of their refusal to compromise. They are to remain in the world to witness, to suffer for their testimony but they are not to be of the world (Romans 12). An absolute physical removal would contradict the essence of the Christian calling to witness to the world.

Babylon will be punished to the same degree that she sinned in obtaining glory and luxury. Her sin is pride and self-sufficiency, which inevitably must lead to her fall (2 Samuel 22:28; Proverbs 16:18). Self-glorification is sinful (idolatry), since glory can be given only to God. The language of 18:6–7 points not merely to punishment that is appropriate for the crime committed), but also to punishment as God’s sovereign response to sin, which is part of the principle imbedded in the Old Testament’s lex talionis. This therefore shows the continuity and perfect nature of God. He has not changed between the Old and New Testament but rather has practiced more patience, grace and mercy towards man of late but when He uncorks His wrath…all bets are off.

Such confidence is self-idolatry must be judged. The church must beware of trusting in economic security or its members be judged along with the world. This is especially the case in Laodicea, whose church said, “I am rich and have become wealthy, and I have need of nothing” Revelation 3:17. Those who have cooperated with the Babylonian system will lament her judgment because it means their own demise. It will solely become a matter of rats scurrying off a sinking ship. It’s not that they really cared about Babylon, it just is a forewarning of their own utter annihilation. The main point of the entire segment is the despair over economic loss expressed in the beginning and concluding sections. The earthly rulers express despair in response to the destruction of Babylon, echoing Jeremiah 51:8: “suddenly Babylon has fallen … wail over her,” because they have lost their lover. The close connection between idolatry and economic prosperity was a fact of life in Asia Minor of John’s time, where allegiance to both Caesar and the patron gods of the trade guilds was essential for people to maintain good standing in their trades. It is not surprising that none of this would change in the end days as humanity is by nature unrighteous and wicked. It may be possible that they mourn only over their own economic demise and do not perceive even at this final point in history that their loss involves much more than loss of material security.

Their eventual fear may arise because the destruction they have witnessed was gruesome even to see. But more likely they are afraid because Babylon’s loss of economic prowess means their own imminent loss and they are afraid of sharing in her suffering. The awe expressed is not merely due to the severity of the judgment itself but to the suddenness with which it has occurred “in one hour”.

Verse 19 speaks of those who separated from Babylon should rejoice over her judgment because it means the vindication of their faith and of God’s just character. Those in “heaven” and “the saints, apostles, and prophets” are exhorted to “rejoice” “because” God will judge Babylon. The speaker of the exhortation presumably is still the angel introduced in 18:1. The addressees of the exhortation are in both heaven and earth, which represents all believers, though angelic beings are probably included. The focus is not on delight in Babylon’s suffering but on the successful outcome of God’s execution of justice, which demonstrates the integrity of Christians’ faith and of God’s just character.

This “eye for eye” judgment is apparent from the fact that those commanded to rejoice over Babylon’s judgment are the very same ones who suffered from her persecution. This principle of justice is a fitting conclusion to a chapter that was introduced by the pronouncement of the same judicial principle based in the Old Testament. Passages from Jeremiah and Ezekiel 26 continue to be pieced together to depict this judicial principle. Babylon’s economic system persecuted Christian communities by ostracizing from the various trade guilds those who did not conform. This usually resulted in loss of economic standing and poverty for those ostracized. In a real sense, this meant the removal of Christian artisans from the marketplace and a removal of the common pleasures of life enjoyed in normal economic times. Babylon, who removed the joys of life from the saints, will have her own pleasures taken away. Passages from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah emphasize the judgment of the luxurious societies of, respectively, Israel, Tyre, and the world system (the last at the end of time are viewed as indirectly foreshadowing the
fall of the world complex, which Isaiah 24 directly prophesies

Behind “the great ones” of Rev. 18:23 are “the glorious princes” of Isaiah 23, which implies that the merchants and the system supporting them are to be judged because they gave glory to themselves and not to God.

In the end possession of wealth is not the reason for God’s judgment of Babylon. The cause of  judgment lies in “the arrogant use of it” and trust in the security that wealth and prosperity brings, which is tantamount to idolatry. Health and wealth prosperity preachers had better take note here. Throughout ch18, as well as in chs16–17, we see hints and descriptions of Old Testament cities and peoples that we utter annihilated: Sodom, Gomorrah, Babylon, Tyre, Nineveh, Edom, and Jerusalem have been applied to the ungodly system that trusts only in itself. So it has been in the past, so it will be in the end. The Old Testament prophet’s oracles, especially those concerning Babylon and Tyre, are now applied again in the end of history. This shows two things, man is incorrigible and God is ever patient and merciful but eventually, His grace and mercy will be exhausted.

May 21, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy LVII: Cannibalizing The Wicked

Babylon's Doom & A Triumphant Lamb-Revelation 17

I was going to put a picture of cannibals up for this post but it was too graphic and the imagery of the words posted here should convey a mental image well enough. 

The world’s economic-religious system of Revelation 17:1–19:10 is a large interpretive review of the sixth and seventh bowls, which have foretold the judgment of Babylon. Chapter 17 shows what leads up to and causes the demise of Babylon, though the fall of the beast and his allies are also mentioned. In the Introduction to the Vision, the angel announces to john that he is to witness a vision about the judgment of  the world’s idolatrous economic-religious system. The angel proclaims to the seer that the main point of  the following vision is “the judgment on the great harlot Babylon who sits on many waters”. The description of end-time Babylon’s judgment is taken from Jeremiah 51:13 where also Jeremiah predicts absolute judgment on historical Babylon, “for God’s wrath is against Babylon, to destroy it utterly”. Part of the basis of Babylon’s judgment is that the kings of the earth “fornicated” with her and the nations likewise came under her immoral influence. The kings’ and the nations’ acquiescence to “fornication” refers not to literal immorality but figuratively to acceptance of the religious and idolatrous demands of the ungodly earthly order.

Their compliance is explained by the statement “all those dwelling on the earth became drunk from the wine causing or “leading to] intercourse with her”. Babylon’s promise of earthly prosperity for its willing subjects is an intoxication that the majority of the world’s inhabitants also want to absorb. Once imbibed, the intoxicating influence removes all desire to resist Babylon’s destructive influence. The nations’ loyalty to Babylon was brought on by her ability to provide economic prosperity for them.

Interestingly, among all the harlot metaphors of the OT, most of which refer to Israel. So the reference to Babylon is the prevailing economic-religious system in alliance with the state and its related authorities and existing throughout the ages.

The angel then “carried” John “into the desert in the Spirit” in order to transport him to another dimension where he could view the vision. The prophet is caught up by the Spirit to emphasize that his message is from God. In like manner, John’s transport into the realm of the Spirit underscores his prophetic commission and authority which alludes in the same manner to the Ezekiel commissions. In both Isaiah and Revelation the desert is central to the vision, though in Isaiah the vision comes from the desert, while in Revelation the prophet is taken to the desert to see the vision. The evil and wicked sinful of “desert” is also suggested by the contrast with the Lamb’s bride in Revelation 21:9–10, where the “great and high mountain” is associated with heaven,  especially because it is from there that John is able to see the divine city descending from heaven itself. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that Las Vegas is positioned where it is.

So what is John’s response? John is frightened and perplexed by the appearance of the hostile Economic-Religious System in its alliance with the State (17:3b–6). John sees “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.” The portrayal of the beast is almost word for word that of Revelation13:1, so the same beast is portrayed here again. The heads and the horns represent the fullness of power held by evil kingdoms who persecute God’s people just as in Daniel’s visions. The color “red” associates the dragon and beast with royal attire equating kingship. But the color especially indicates the warring nature also. Although closely associated with the beast, the woman is not to be equated with the beast. It should be noted that she rides the beast and this connotes an alliance with the state or a “State”. It is probable the woman represents that part of the ungodly world that works together with the state, such as social, cultural, economic, and religious aspects of the world. They work with and agree to persecute Christians. Regardless, they are also mutually involved in deception of ungodly multitudes throughout the earth. The description of the woman confirms that she represents worldly economic forces in collusion with the state in persecuting Christians. She is the symbol of a culture that maintains the prosperity of economic commerce. Perhaps even a place like the United States as it has little in common with the Christian nation it used to be.

In the first century that culture was Rome. Rome fulfilled the role of “Babylon”. It is unknown who the end day’s equivalent will be and speculation is foolishness. The expensive and attractive clothing reflects the outward attractiveness by which whores try to seduce others. The nature of the woman is revealed in greater detail by the name written on her forehead. In the Apocalypse names written on foreheads reveal the true character of people and their ultimate relationship, whether to God (7:3; 14:1; 22:4) or to Satan (13:16; 14:9; 20:4). Likewise, the “name written on the forehead” of the harlot reveals her seductive and idolatrous character, which further identifies her as on the side of the beast. The political side of the evil system will turn against the religious-economic side and destroy it. In the conclusion of 17:5 the woman, “Babylon the Great,” is given an additional description: “the mother of the harlots and of the earth’s abominations.”

The harlot is contrasted with the city of God and represents the ungodly metropolis, whose hub radiates economic and religious institutions. The woman of ch12 gave birth to the church, and the woman of ch17 attempts to exterminate the church-this contrast of the harlot with the woman of ch12 and the bride in chs19 and 21 shows that the religious side of Babylon is as prominent as the economic side. Since the female figures of these chapters all represent purely religious realities, Babylon must also be essentially religious but we cannot underemphasize the economic aspect as our world today revolves around Wall Street and the 1%. Those who do not submit to the idolatrous requirements of economic well-being will be persecuted by the economic system itself, by “Babylon the Great.” John expresses this by portraying the woman “drunk from the blood of the saints and from the blood of the witnesses to Jesus”.

In the introduction to the interpretation in Revelation 17:7, John is somewhat rebuked for his fearful, perplexed, and admiring response to the magnificence of the hostile economic-religious system in alliance with the state. The angel’s question “Why have you marveled?” is not merely about why the seer was amazed at the unusual vision, as he was by earlier visions. In response to the horrific vision of Daniel 4, “Daniel was appalled … and his thoughts troubled him.” Here the idea of being “appalled” should be understood in the sense of shock and fear. John should not fear the nightmarish vision he has just seen concerning the horrible nature of the beast and the woman and their persecution of Christians. That lack of clarity about the vision is a significant basis for John’s amazement is evident from the angel’s assertion here that he will explain the hidden meaning (“the mystery”) of the vision of the beast and woman

“The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.  They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings —and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”  Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
Cross references:
The long story short is this…We need to understand that the defeat from which the beast appears to recover is Christ’s defeat of Satan and his earthly forces at the cross and resurrection. The Satanic state (“the beast”) and culture in the first century appeared to be unaffected by Christ’s victory, since their prosperity continued and their persecution of God’s people continued unabated. This situation will continue until Christ’s second-coming, at which time the beast’s success over God’s people will seem even greater than before; directly preceding Christ’s parousia it will seem as if the beast is finally and decisively triumphant over the church. This apparent success is short lived, as 17:10 reveals: the success will last only “a little while.” Christ will return at this point and show decisively that the devil and his forces were defeated at the cross. He will demonstrate the reality of his spiritual victory at the cross by achieving physical victory over Satan’s forces at the end of time. The “earth-dwellers”, multitudes or peoples will not be able to withstand deception by the beast because their “name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” This security or lack thereof was determined before historical time began, “from the foundation of the world.” Protection for those written in the book comes from the Lamb and where chosen in advance. They were predestined. Those who are written in the book are protected spiritually by the Lamb. Therefore, they are not deceived by the beast and do not worship him. Their protection is shown by their possession of “a mind with wisdom”; such wisdom discerns the falsehood of the beast and prevents them from being deceived into following him.

Furthermore, those with understanding and wisdom will also be able both cognitively and spiritually to perceive the angel’s following explanation of the vision concerning the beast and the woman. The angel now gives the interpretation of the beast’s “seven heads,” which he initially identifies as “seven mountains.” The mountains are sometimes identified as the seven hills of Rome, and, therefore, with the Roman Empire. These could also be “kingdoms” like Rome. As such the “seven mountains” may refer to seven individual kings or kingdoms, and this identification is confirmed by the additional clause “they are seven kings.” As in Daniel 7:17. The number “seven” is probably not a literal number designating the quantity of kings in one epoch but is figurative for the quality of fullness or completeness as is often the case in the OT, particularly Daniel 7, and throughout the Apocalypse, where “seven” or “seventh” occurs about forty-plus times. It seems as though John’s primary intent in 17:10 is to inform his readers  how far they stand from the conclusion of the full sequence of seven oppressive rulers. He is essentially telling them that only one more short reign will elapse until the end of the oppressive dominance of Rome, which represents all ungodly oppressive powers. This is to be understood, as elsewhere, as a near expectation. Thus an idea of imminence is expressed, but there is an indeterminate distance between the present and the future end. Within this we see the idea of the “now but not yet” of God’s Kingdom that will come when all of this is over.

The bottom-line is this...when the final earthly incarnation of evil comes, it will be unable to establish an enduring reign. It will remain only a short time. As such an attempt to identify the seven kings with particular respective world empires may be more successful, since it is more in keeping with the “seven heads” in Daniel 7:3–7, which represent four specific empires. The first five kings, who “have fallen,” are identified with Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece; Rome is the one who “is,” followed by a yet unknown kingdom to come.

The final stage of the beast’s manifestation will not  last long because he will be destroyed before he can carry out his purposes in deceiving and destroying the church. The kings’ future reign with the beast will last “for one hour”. This time period echoes Daniel 4:17, where it refers to the period during which God caused King Nebuchadnezzar to become like a beast. Here as in Daniel 4 “one hour” may merely refer to a brief period, since it was the shortest period of time known to the ancients.” (v.13) The ten kings collectively “have one purpose.” This common purpose is expressed in the clause “they give their power and authority to the beast” They do not reign with the beast but also submit to his authority. The purpose of the strong coalition of v 13 is to “make war on the Lamb.” But “the Lamb will conquer them.” Therefore Revelation 17:14 answers the concluding question of Revelation 13:4, “who is able to make war with the beast?” The “called and elect and faithful” who accompany the Lamb fight alongside him and represent the vindication of the persecuted saints of Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 6:9–11; 12:11 and 13:10, 15–17.

The Wicked Cannibalize Themselves

The angel then interprets “the waters … where the harlot sits” as “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” The coalition of the “ten horns” and the beast form first to destroy the harlot before attempting to destroy the Lamb. The political side of the ungodly world system will turn against the heart of the social-economic-religious side and destroy it. How does this begin to happen? The multitudes over which Babylon rules (v 15) are turned against Babylon by the political forces. “The kings of the earth” (v.16–18) dissuade Babylon’s innumerable economic-religious followers from remaining loyal to her. The disenchantment with Babylon is a prelude to her judgment by the kings (v.16) and the final judgment itself. Likewise, in 16:12 the invasion of kings follows the drying up of the waters. So why do the kings and multitudes who turn against Babylon in ch17 then mourn over her destruction in Revelation18:9? Perhaps it is because the “kings” of Revelation18:9–10 are other rulers not included in the ten kings of ch17, and perhaps the “merchants” of Revelation 18:11 are not included in the multitudes of 17:15. Both groups may have remained loyal to Babylon and then mourned over her demise. On the other hand, those mourning in chapter18 may be the same ones who turned against the harlot in chapter 17. They mourn because they now realize that through their destruction of Babylon they have destroyed their own economic base? The object of this destruction will also include the apostate church, which has “fornicated” by cooperating with the idolatrous economic system(s).

It seems John’s overriding concern is to warn the churches about compromise with this system so that they will not be judged with it. The pagan system in John’s time was not merely Roman society and the emperor cult but also the very culture of Asia Minor and similar places, which was dominated by pagan trade guilds with their patron deities. Therefore, though most past commentators have tended to identify Babylon solely with ungodly Roman culture, or the apostate church, or apostate Israel, it is better to see these identifications as not mutually exclusive. This is not unlike today’s situation where these types of entities are also intertwined with the surrounding world culture.

The beast and his allies will overthrow Babylon “because” (...) God will inspire them to do so. God will “put into their hearts to perform his purpose.” Here we see that God executes his will through the hearts of both the righteous and the unrighteous. This is not divine “permission” but divine causation otherwise these wicked people may not have done they will here. Here the unexpected aspect of the fulfillment is that the  kingdom of evil unknowingly will begin to cannibalize itself by battling against itself and destroying its own economic-religious foundation. Only inspiration from God could cause them to commit such a shortsighted and foolish act. At the end of history  God will cause…

“Satan to rise up against himself and be divided so that he cannot stand but will have an end” Mark 3:26

So too Matthew 12:16: “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?”

Civil war occurs throughout the ages and it seems as if they are all preludes to and in anticipation of the final civil war. The OT also predicts civil war among the forces of evil at the close of the age (Ezekiel 38:21; Haggai 2:22; Zechariah 14:1. The final civil war, according to Revelation 17:16–17, is on an escalated scale, since Babylon represents the universal economic-religious system throughout the earth. (v.18) “The woman” is interpreted to be “the great city, which has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.” She includes the entire evil economic-religious system of the world throughout history. She receives power from the devil himself. Her economic-religious influence formerly even extended over the political realm (“the kings of the earth”). But their loyalty will shift toward the beast and they will become antagonistic toward her in the end time.  That the “woman” has sovereignty over the world demonstrates that she must be identified more broadly than with the apostate church. Likewise, Revelation 18:23 reveals her universal nature by describing her as one who has “deceived all the nations” 

May 18, 2012

A Disfigured Criminals Death: Dead On Arrival

In the Gospels (and foretelling in the Old Testament) the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and the events surrounding it are the core of our living faith. In the New Testament alone there are 200+ direct references to His death. In the Old Testament we see a passage of Scripture in Isaiah 53 of the suffering servant that could literally be mistaken for having been written after the fact but yet is actually telling of the future 500 years before the event. In Psalms 22 we get a detailed account of the internal sufferings of Jesus. So much so…that Psalm 22 is where the “eloi eloi lama sabachthani-My God my God why have you forsaken me” comes from (in Hebrew of course, not Arabic). Interestingly, David knew nothing of the Crucifixion that was to come because crucifixion wouldn’t be perfected by the Romans…until a 1000 years later.

Psalm 22:6-7 ~ “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads…”

Psalm 22:18~ “…they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Psalm 22 we see a picture of our Lord's death and events surrounding it which could be nothing less than a sign that David was writing under the inspiration of God Himself.

The accounts like David and Isaiah’s accentuates the importance of Christ’s death and shows it to be of the upmost importance for the truth that it expresses…and dare I say it…the Truth it personifies. God’s death on the Cross as incarnate man is reality prefigured and actuality portended…it is literally salvation heralded and fulfilled.

The redeeming of humanity that left even His friends bewildered and perplexed. Nothing of the initial events and unfolding of presaged events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion that lead ultimately to salvation gave comfort to those that witnessed His death. It did just the opposite until they saw that Jesus had risen from the grave. Initially, it seemed as if their hopes had been shattered like a mirror against rocks. Another imagine of a broken man consigned to death. His pain and crucifixion caused faithful onlookers pain and disillusionment also. If anything, Jesus having died on the Cross that day didn’t alleviate the fear of death…it compounded it and magnified their doubts, thereby intensifying their grief and inevitably the sense of defeat. They saw their Messiah put down in death unjustly in the ultimate miscarriage of justice.

The derision from mockers must have been unbearable. Jesus, the only sinless One, was dying the most painful, ignominious death known in the Roman world. The perfect One, the sinless One, the God-man…dead…having died a humiliating death in shame…hung on a cross naked until He expired…cursed.

How could God allow such a travesty? Yes, Jesus had spoken of dying…but to die as a criminal. How could God allow this? What kind of ransom was paid by dying the death of a criminal?

Then it must have startled some of them, as it should startle us now. He did everything He did just as He had told John the Baptist the reason for his need of Baptism, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” Matthew 3:15. This is to say that Jesus in every way was to come as a man and fulfill the reality of being man…yet not stumble, transgress or sin. He was to become the very replacement that he would become on our behalf when he took on the wrath of God on the Cross in our place…for our sin.

He was crucified as the worst form of criminal on the worst from of torture for a criminal because that’s whose place He was taking on the Cross! A criminal’s! Us! He was replacing or standing in for a criminal(s) when He took our sins! We've violated God’s Law, His perfect holiness. Is there anything more criminal than violating the mandates of statues of Almighty God? God who is above all men and sees all men as criminals (sinners)…even those who created man’s laws and passes judgment based on man’s law. (Romans 3:9-20).

Jesus fulfilled His role perfectly…right down to becoming a criminal on the cross. Criminals such as we.

The enemies of Jesus (criminals) gleefully mocked Him. The very type of people He would save. They leaders were finally accomplishing in a criminal manner what they had wanted to do. Kill Jesus…a criminal act in and of itself. Jesus, King of the Jews…safely tucked away and nailed to a tree. Instead of cursing them for the injustice (which is what they were doing to Him by nailing him to a cross [Deuteronomy 21:23] ), just as a criminal would’ve done, Jesus asks the Father to forgive them for their criminal behavior. In spite of the fact that He Himself was being treat criminally by criminals. He became offensive to offenders. He became a prisoner to a Cross…to set us free from our prison...our slavery. He was hung between two thieves to show us that all men are criminal but what was in the heart of both was their ticket to their destinations respectively. One mocked Jesus as an unrepentant sinner and the other repented and pleaded for forgiveness. Both were criminal by nature and both died because of that nature…yet one was pardoned by the One who lived the life neither could.

It was a ransom paid as a criminal in equivalency for a criminal’s life. His for ours. The balances of God’s justice are perfectly even and perfectly just. In the end justice is served perfectly for all. Wrath for wickedness and evil, love and eternal life for righteousness.

In the end death did not come to Jesus, but Jesus went to death. He went to death because death would not come to Jesus unless He let it. Jesus was going to trounce death once and for all and death wanted no parts of this face-to-face confrontation because death knew that it didn’t stand a chance against the Sovereign God of this world and beyond. Jesus is Life itself. Without which there would be no death anyway since death is a parasite of life. When Jesus died…death’s days were numbered. When Jesus died, death died too. In three days, death would lose permanently. When Jesus died, He did not tremble in a death rattle, death trembled because God had finally rattled death and conquered it.

Even the hardened pagan Roman centurion knew there was something amiss here. He too was struck by fear and awe. This was an extraordinary death of a unique man. Or perhaps it was a unique death of an extraordinary God-man? Regardless, this battle-hardened military man stands dumbstruck. Certainly this man had seen this type of horrid execution before and slept afterward unfettered by the thought of it. Why the difference this time?

Jesus did not die the death of a martyr but did die as a sacrifice. He willingly submitted his life but acted as a scapegoat for the sin of mankind. He was not the victim of murder but yes, He was murdered. Yes Pilate was to blame. Yes Herod was to blame. Yes the Jews were to blame. Yes, we're to blame. Yes, the death on the Cross was an outrage…and that is the point. Humanity is the perpetrator, but we have no power over Him that He did not give us first. We did not take His life, He surrendered it for us. He sacrificed it to pay the debt we couldn’t. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep so that not one would be lost that had been given to Him by the Father.

Death never recovered after Jesus died. Death had been redefined. Death was no longer the end, it was the beginning…at least for those that understood and believed how Jesus had disfigured death. In Jesus’ disfiguring death on the Cross, Jesus disfigured death (the end of life) forever. Jesus death exposed death as a taker of life and for the criminal it was too. Death was nothing more than a thief that stole life, working alongside its accomplices: disease and decay. So in Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection we see One treated as a criminal, disfigured, and die. Because of Jesus' death we see death itself killed like the criminal it is.  I suppose turnaround is fair play especially considering the One that was Life was not deserving of the criminal death He endured. He endured it so that Death would have no venom. The difference is that Death is done...finished...forever and there will be no resurrection of that bastard child of the Fall. The criminal death as a terminus of life has been swallowed up in the victory of a Criminal's death on the Cross. A supposed criminal that was innocent but stood in the stead of real criminals that deserved to die. When Christ returned from the grave, death was dead on arrival.
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