Why is the Book of Revelation claimed by every age?

One of the (many) great paradoxes of the Book of Revelation is that, at one and the same time, it is experienced as both very difficult to interpret, yet also very easy. This explains the very different reactions to it as a biblical text; those who instinctively sense that it is difficult to interpret find it quote opaque, and so tend to avoid it. But there are others who seem very confident that it is very easy to understand, and more specifically very easy to see how it is predicting the events of our own day. As I explored recently, it turns out that Christian readers in almost every age have felt the same—that the text is specifically and uniquely about the events of their own day!

How can a text offer both possibilities to different readers? There are lots of reasons for this, connected with both the context in which the book is written, and the way John makes use of language in it. The first is that it is intricately connected with its historical context in ways which fundamentally affect the way we interpret it.

P1140075Perhaps the best-known example of this is the question of what it means to be ‘lukewarm’ in the message to the ekklesia in Laodicea in Rev 3.15–16. It is usually assumed that to be ‘hot’ is to be fervent (a good thing) and to be ‘cold’ is to be indifferent to faith (a bad thing). So how could the risen Christ prefer us to be cold than to be ‘lukewarm’ (usually assumed to mean being neither one nor the other—Anglican in fact!). But in its historical context, hot and cold are both good things to be. Across the valley in Hierapolis (modern day Pammukale), the hot springs bring healing. Further up the valley in Colossae the cold springs bring refreshment. But in Laodicea, the hot water has to travel some distance, so by the time it reaches the city it is lukewarm, and with its dissolved calcium carbonate, if you drink it, it makes you want to—spit it out! Hot and cold are both good for something, but lukewarm water is good for—nothing. It is then that we notice what the verse actually says: not, ‘I know your faith‘ but ‘I know your works—and you are being ineffective’ (Rev 3.15).

A less obvious example is the depiction of worship in chapters 4 and 5. There are elements here we might recognise from the Old Testament—the rainbow from Genesis 9, thunder and lightning from Moses’ encounter with God on Sinai, living creatures from Ezekiel 1, and so on. But there are plenty of other elements (such as the elders in white casting down their crowns) which we don’t recognise. Ironically, popular commentary often treats these elements as a quasi-literal depiction of what is happening ‘in heaven’, but in fact these other elements correspond with what we know from the ‘worship’ of the Roman emperor. The central passage in the book, chapter 12, also offers similar challenges. We recognise the characters from the story (more or less), but the plot baffles us, unless we are familiar with the myth of Leto, who gave birth to Artemis and Apollo. The great temple of Artemis was located in Ephesus, and the emperor was often depicted as a kind of Apollo figure. (For a fuller exploration, see the post ‘Is our God greater?’)

The second reason why we find Revelation difficult is its constant allusion to the Old Testament. In its 405 verses there are something like 676 allusions (I know; I counted them!) so if we do not know our OT very well, we will be baffled by just about every verse in Revelation. The surprising thing here is that the books most alluded to are Isaiah and Psalms, which is probably not what we expected.

But there is something even more fundamental about the way Revelation uses language that not only makes it difficult to read—it also explains why there are so many different, apparently conflicting ways that it has been interpreted. Revelation’s language is thoroughly metaphorical, and that in itself gives us enough problems. But like many other ‘apocalyptic’ texts, it deploys metaphor in a particularly challenging way.

According to Paul Ricoeur, metaphor has three elements to it: the subject (what the metaphor is referring to); the vehicle (the term which is used metaphorically); and the tenor (the sense the metaphor is communicating). So if I say ‘My friend is a pig’, then the subject is my (former) friend, the vehicle is ‘pig’ and the tenor is whatever ‘pig-likeness’ communicates, either greed or unkindness (though in fact pigs are neither greedy nor unkind…but that is another story). Metaphors are easiest to make sense of when we know all three. So when the assembly at Ephesus is told that it is [like] a lover who has grown jaded, or those in Sardis that they are [like] guards who have fallen asleep, then we don’t have too much trouble making sense of this—which is why these chapters are the only ones ever preached on!

But what happens when the subject disappears from view? These seven oracles are to be spoken to the ‘angel’ of each assembly. Is that a person, perhaps the leader? Or is there really an angel attached to each place—either as the ‘spirit’ of the assembly or as some sort of guardian angel?

E.W._BullingerThis kind of metaphor is surprisingly common in everyday speech; you can hear it on football terraces, or in any context where the subject of the metaphor is understood without the need to specify it. Its technical name is ‘hypocatastasis’, from the Greek for ‘arranging’ and ‘under’. The only modern commentary on Revelation I have found it in in Greg Beale’s in the NIGTC, but the term was first popularised by a Victorian clergyman called E W Bullinger. Bullinger was an advocate of hyper-dispensationalism who believed that the ‘church era’ only began at the end of Acts 28, so we should not take any of the teaching of Acts, or the gospels for that matter, as now applying to us. (So Bullinger believed that reciting the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus taught it belonged to a previous dispensation, and was not relevant for Christians…!) For his troubles, he was denounced by regular dispensationalists as purveying an “absolutely Satanic perversion of the truth”! But along the way, in 1898 he wrote Figures of Speech as Used in the Bible, which you can still buy online and which continues to be influential (along with his other teaching) amongst certain groups on the Continent. Here is what Bullinger says:

As a figure, it differs from Metaphor, because in a metaphor the two nouns are both named and given; while, in Hypocatastasis, only one is named and the other is implied, or as it were, is put down underneath out of sight. Hence Hypocatastasis is implied resemblance or representation: i.e., an implied Simile or Metaphor. If Metaphor is more forcible than Simile, then Hypocatastasis is more forcible than Metaphor, and expresses as it were the superlative degree of resemblance.

For example, one may say to another, “You are like a beast.” This would be Simile, tamely stating a fact. If, however, he said, “You are a beast” that would be Metaphor. But, if he said simply, “Beast!” that would be Hypocatastasis, for the other part of the Simile or Metaphor (“you”), would be implied and not stated.

This figure, therefore, is calculated to arouse the mind and attract and excite the attention to the greatest extent.

My favourite example of hypocatastasis comes from the penultimate scene in the film Pretty Woman. Richard Gere is returning a $250,000 necklace to the hotel manager, Mr Thompson, after his relationship with Julia Roberts has apparently come to an end. Thompson asks permission to open the box, and after looking at the necklace, says to Gere:

It must be very difficult to let go of something so beautiful.

This illustrates the power and problem of hypocatastasis perfectly. The subject here is not specified—so we could simply take it as a literal, non-metaphorical reference to the necklace. But precisely because the subject is not specified, it is very easy for the reference to change. Thompson goes on:

Darren [the chauffeur] took Miss Vivian back to her apartment last night.

Now the statement transfers to another subject and becomes metaphorical; it is Vivian who is the beautiful thing that is hard to let go of. And Bullinger is quite right about the power of hypocatastasis; this is the most powerful single moment in the film.

Rev.13.Dragon.Beast.Blake.p.58These three features—of possible literalism, of transferability, and of power—are writ large on the history of the interpretation of Revelation. Some have read it thinking there really will be beasts emerging from the sea, that there are living creatures and rainbows in heaven, that our destiny is to sit on clouds playing harps (chapter 14), and that we will pass through pearly gates. Others have been able to identify people and institutions in their own world quite happily with the beasts and dragons, the woman clothed with the sun and the harlot riding the beast. And every generation has found this to be a text of extraordinary power—for good or otherwise. And it all comes down to hypocatastasis.

You might by now be thinking ‘I wish John had made himself a little clearer, and used less powerful but less ambiguous language.’ Perhaps so, but it is also worth pondering: if you knew that the church was about to enter 200 years of intense testing, what would you write?

With power comes responsibility. The great power of Revelation, and its hypocatastatic metaphors, comes the need for great responsibility in its interpretation. Like a powerful chemical, which could do great things but also cause great damage, we need to handle with care.

(And just for fun, here is the first scene when the necklace makes an appearance. Gere’s snapping of the box on Roberts’ fingers was improvised, and you can see Roberts look around at the camera crew before regaining her composure.)

(Previously published in 2015 and 2018)

Come and join me for a Zoom teaching afternoonon Thursday 3rd February to explore all the issues around the ‘end times’ and end of the world.

We will look at: the background to this language in Jewish thinking; Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 and Mark 13; the Rapture—what is it, and does the Bible really teach it; what the New Testament says about ‘tribulation’; the beast, the antichrist, and the Millennium in Rev 20; the significance of the state of Israel.

The cost is £10 per person, and you can book your tickets at the Eventbrite link here.

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65 thoughts on “Why is the Book of Revelation claimed by every age?”

  1. Every age? I think Revelation points to the fact that we are in one age, the age before His return.
    Each generation is like flotsam on the sea. We get a different perspective of the shore over time and think our new perspective has greater meaning. Revelation, like a headland remains, only our view changes but our state does not. We are still floating, carried along in the culture of jetsam just as our ancestors were.
    I love your example of hypocatastasis. The first hearers probably responded in the same way as we do to the poetic double meaning.

  2. ” And just for fun” —–
    *She Done Him Wrong* Hollywood movie -1933 – starring Mae West and Cary Grant.
    Scene: Mae West enters a posh restaurant; bedecked in diamonds and surrounded by “admiring” men.
    Mae removes her coat and hands it to the check-in girl.
    Check-in girl (looking at bedecked Mae): “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds”!
    Mae West : “Goodness had nothing to do with it dearie”!
    Could “goodness” in this context be an example of * hypocatastasis”? Well, if not, it’s certainly a revelation!

    • Colin – well, although I’ve never seen this movie, your period of movies is much more my style (The Phantom Carriage from 1921 is my favourite movie – I enjoy a good number of movies from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, right up to – say – the mid ’60’s – and I don’t seem to like much that has been produced after that).

      I’d never heard of `Pretty Woman’ before and, based on the clip, I’ll probably skip it – probably a good movie, but not my scene.

      In line with your quote from Mae West, I’m reminded of the quote from Psycho,

      `Well I do declare!’
      `I don’t; that’s why I get to keep it!’

      But I’m wondering if anyone has tried making a movie out of the book of Revelation. Humphrey Bogart would probably be well cast as the Apostle John – and there might be a good part for Boris Karloff somewhere in the movie ….

      • They have made a film of Revelation in the TimeLife Bible series: Apokalypsis. I say it is a film of Revelation, but it is sporadic in how closely it sticks to the text, just like the other 16 films in this series. I find it confused and confusing.

        The climax is when John vows on his deathbed that we will ‘make a better world’. Makes a change from destroying it, I suppose.

    • There was I staring up Wisdom St., thoughts conjoured by Ian of the Wedding Banquet scene (Rev.4 & Ps.45), when you brought me volte-face to view the scene behind me, at the bottom of Wisdom St.

  3. Nice post. The task on interpretation is indeed complicated. For example, in your example, “My friend is a pig,” you suggest that the tenor relates to either greed or unkindness. But here in the US, “my friend is a pig” would probably communicate one who is uncouth or messy.

  4. But Jesus is coming back to this earth at a definite if unknown date in our calendar, and never before have the Jews been back in the Holy Land, while globalisation is proceeding apace (due to technology) and WMDs exist. To those who say “Every generation argued that Jesus was coming to them or their children’s generation”, I reply: the State of Israel, globalisation and WMDs are unique and biblically relevant reasons to suppose we are much closer to the end than before those things.

    Not so much Cry Wolf as Cry Come Lord Jesus!

      • Destroy a world army sent against Jerusalem (Joel 3:2, Zech 12:3, Rev 16:14), where he touches down on the Mount of Olives in response to a call from the believers there (“You will not see me again until you say…”). Then he will reign from Jerusalem as Israel’s king and world emperor, with his resurrected faithful as his empire administrators, presumably in their own lands. That is why he won’t return before the gospel has been preached to all peoples. This is the ‘millennium’, although I am not prepared to say how long it will last in calendar years. Then Satan stirs up a final rebellion among the persons with their original bodies, is dispatched, and the earth and heavens and Jerusalem get the same miraculous makeover that our bodies have. As you see I do not believe that Rev 20 is a recapitulation.

        • Anton – Steve’s question was very clear. I’m afraid I do not see the faithful exegesis here. But there was a discussion about this recently on a previous thread, so I don’t feel like repeating the arguments here.

          In this matter, you are joining in with those who are using Scripture for prognosis – and, what is much worse, as Steve points out, those who follow this line are blinded to the very great moral evils that are involved in giving God a helping hand to make it happen.

          I now consider this to be a very great heresy – and not simply a minor point where Christians can agree to differ.

          If you want to see an alternative exegesis, which is biblical, hangs together and makes sense, then I’d recommend William Hendriksen’s book `More than Conquerors’.

          I’m not sure if Ian Paul is correct about people only giving sermons on the first three chapters of Revelation – I remember that James Philip gave a series of sermons, where he worked through the whole book, taking 22 weeks, giving one sermon on each chapter. The line followed in that series was more-or-less the line taken by Henriksen.

          • I am, of course, capable of being wrong; but I am doing exegesis in good faith, and I do not propose to engage with unnecessarily personal comments.

          • Anton – I don’t see anything personal there – and if you do, then my apologies. After all, I don’t know you from Adam – and I’m simply responding to the views that you have carefully and meticulously expressed.

            I do not share these views – my own are much more aligned to Steve. At the same time, I also consider these views to be dangerous, for the same reasons that Steve gave – they fuel the head bangers, particularly among the so-called `American Prophets’ whom Steve alludes to, who are actively funding the migration of Jews from places like Russia to the State of Israel and who are actively encouraging the evil Anglo-Saxon empire, the USA/UK military alliance, in their horrendous activities in the Middle East.

            Nothing personal towards you – I’m commenting strictly on the views that you have expressed, why I believe them to be in error – and the clear dangerous corollaries to these views that I see.

          • You said that I must be “blinded to the very great moral evils that are involved in giving God a helping hand to make it happen.” I am well aware of the “let’s start World War 3 because the Bible says it will happen” viewpoint and I deplore it. You made an extrapolation about my moral views which, because you did not know me personally, was incorrect.

            As for using scripture for prognosis, some prophecies state that they are specifically meant for that purpose, eg Luke 21:20-21. (Whether that was fulfilled in AD70 is a separate matter.)

          • Anton – yeah – OK – my apologies for that.

            The point stands though – it’s precisely the line of exegesis that you take that is actually pushing things towards an armageddon scenario at an alarming rate. You may deplore the attitude – but it’s precisely the exegesis that you favour which is fuelling it.

            It may not be so much a `…. so let’s start WW3 right now’ – but rather `let’s give God a helping hand with restoring the State of Israel and the City of Jerusalem’ – and there seems to be a total blindness towards the immorality of the actions they are taking – and also destabilising effects. that this has.

            The exegetical line that you take is fuelling this – even though you may throw your hands up in horror at this.

          • I’m happy to engage in exegetical discussion in good faith. For the record I support the existence of the State of Israel, because I believe a renewed State is prophesied – and spoken of in a positive sense – in the Bible, before the Second Coming moreover. I do not support the rebuilding of the Temple, and no Christian should. Nor do I support unconditionally every action of the government of the Israeli State.

          • Anton – so am I.

            Well, I don’t support the State of Israel. Perhaps I used to, but then I became more and more aware of what was going on, how the current State of Israel came to be, the politics of the Anglo-Saxon empire, etc ….

            I don’t see that the Scriptural passages in question necessarily have to refer to a renewed State of Israel in the Palestine, but I’m not going to argue against it too hard. What I am convinced of is that *if* God does have in mind a renewed State of Israel, then it is going to arise in a completely different way. What we see today is a `false start’. What we see in the Middle East is the only truly apartheid state left on the planet.

            While I’m not a great fan of the late Bishop Desmond 2.2., I think he was right on the button with what he said about Israel.

  5. Hi Anton
    But what if we look at the recent American prophets’ success rate? They want a theocratic state to run The USA. They want it because they believe Jesus will not come unless the reins of power are in Christian control. This looks to be the result of a wrong understanding of Revelation and biblical prophecy generally. If recent history is just the tip of an iceberg of wrong assumptions, what else in the last century is also wrong?

    • I don’t understand your question. I am simply trying to do faithful exegesis and compare the results with what I see in the world today.

  6. I remember this article the last time it came around, and appreciate it as much now as then.

    I suspect you are probably right that the peculiar pertinence of the book at different points in history is because it’s rather easy to impose our own narratives onto it. This makes sense to me, and explains a lot of the commentary and art/media that gets based on it.

    The real question is what we do with this observation; should we accept that this (the readers’ projections) are just part of each generation coming to understand the eschatology in their own context, and thus a good thing, or should we resist it, and if so on what grounds? Would ‘John’, want us to do this?

    I’m not sure these are very well articulated questions….

  7. A few points.

    1. Difficulty in interpreting Revelation. For me a big part of the difficulty is deciding what the metaphor represents. Who, for example, are the 144,000 and how do we objectively decide this. The other issue is how thin the wall is between metaphor and reality. Sometimes the reality seems to shine fairly clearly through the metaphor such as in the beast of ch 13. Numbers are a problem. In my view it wont do to say they are all symbolic. Some are but not all. We’re told numbers are not real but in Daniel, a seminal example of the apocalyptic, numbers are often real. If, for example, if Revelation’s 42 months are literal rather than symbolic that greatly affects interpretation.

    2. In one sense I think each generation is to read revelation and look out on their world and say the time is near. Thus to see Hitler as a possible antichrist was not outlandish.

    3. Anton. I’m not opposed to your view on Revelation and probably share a fair bit of it. However, when I see the way the NT sees some OT texts fulfilled I hesitate to be too sure. For example the arrival of the new covenant, the gift of the Spirit, the gentiles conversion things that seem in the OT to belong to the Second Advent are fulfilled in the First Advent. Also OT texts are not always fulfilled literally. Isaiah’s highway that is flattened to prepare for the Lord is applied by John to repentance. How literally we are to take Jerusalem surrounded by armies in for example Zech 14 How literally is the rest of the chapter intended? I’m not saying it is not.

    I hold to a premillennial reign largely for exegetical reasons in ch 20. Yet i feel that a Second Coming where sin, war, rebellion, Satan and death still exist is a problem.

    Films. How legitimate is it for us to watch films like Pretty Woman with both its visuals and its vice? Is it edifying. And should we be impressed by Mae West’s bawdy quotes. I have a real difficulty with where to draw lines in films. Is nudity acceptable? Are the values generally wholesome?

    • John,

      When somebody says something is symbolic or metaphorical I ask what it symbolises or what it is a metaphor for, and what if it is not to be taken materially the fine details mean, because God does not give superfluous or meaningless detail.

      Different believers should draw the line differently in what films they watch. I happen to love a film called Sunshine starring Ralph Fiennes as a grandfather, father and son in a Hungarian Jewish family that wishes to assimilate but is not able to because of the events of history through the 20th century. It’s a moving epic. There is a sex scene in each generation. I consider that these add nothing to the film, and I would prefer it without them. But I’m not going to not watch this film because of them, although there are people I wouldn’t show it to.

    • John As the compiler of “Mae West’s bawdy quote”, you could be justified in your criticism. After all, did not the Apostle Paul say, ” I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people” [1 Cor 5:9 ] ? And yet —— did he not proceeed to declare, ” not at all meaning the sexually immoral *of this world*? And why —-“then you would need to go out of the world” !!! So with whom do we *disassociate*? Now read on from I Corinthians 9f ——-

      The Film “She Done Him Wrong” was a comedic satire on the double standands manifested in the States at that time ( not least within Hollywood) and Mae West was one of the shrewdest operators within the system, exposing those standards in the process .

      Sometimes I think that “we are in the world but not of the world” is nothing more than a cliche.
      Did not Jesus *associate* with “tax collectors and sinners – yes, and even prostitutes in his own time? So how do we *associate* with them if we continue to be cocooned in a pietistic, unworldly enclave while wanting to proclaim the gospel to all and sundry?
      I finish with a statement of intent; quoting the words of one William Booth (paraphrased form) : ” Why should the devil have all the good —— one-liners”?

      • Colin – well, I think it was Spike Milligan who pointed out (somewhere in his novel Pukoon) that if the Holy Bible had been illustrated, they would never have allowed it in the respectable country of Ireland.

      • Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving Eph 5

        • John – well, on the one hand, the Mae West movie probably isn’t one that I would have leapt to as an example of good wholesome family entertainment – but I’m wondering what sort of thing you enjoy …… Decent entertainment seems hard to find these days.

          By the way, I probably am `cocooned in a pietistic unworldly enclave’ – and very happy about it too!

          • Jock

            There was a time I watched a wide variety of films. Some years ago I decided this was unhelpful. Due to a depressive illness I struggle a bit with over-scrupulosity so I need to be cautious in my judgements. I now watch virtually no films or dramas. Visual nudity and unedifying storylines keep me away. I listen to YouTube videos. Unbelievable has good discussions. Jordan Peterson has remarkable insight and often sounds like a man very near the kingdom. I suspect he needs to become like a little child. Douglas Murray. John Lennox. And others are worth listening to.

            I’m in my mid-sixties and have less need for entertainment. I do a little pencil sketching. I play the piano (badly). Sometimes I’ll listen to Christian music. Spotify. I enjoy reading a little theology when have the mental energy. I write blog posts which are a way of studying Scripture. I go for walks a little when forced by my wife. We did cycle a bit on our electric bikes. – great for folks of a certain vintage. And with diminishing frequency we go kayaking. Depressive illness depletes energy and interest.

            I have learned a little about sitting quietly and gently communing with the Lord. Or even just sitting knowing he surrounds us with his love. But I am a slow learner.

            That’s my fairly simple lifestyle. At one time it would have appalled me. Not so much now.

          • John,

            Thanks for sharing this. I’m inclined to agree with you about most movies and much of which passes for entertainment.

            I find that I don’t really have time for films and much of the output seems to have the problems you described. But (as I indicated earlier in the thread) there is one film that I do enjoy – `The Phantom Carriage’ – and I found it here:


            This version seems to have a decent sound track. It’s from 1921 – and there don’t seem to be any bad things in it. The story line is also decent (the salvation of David Holm) and some of the camera work is superb.

            Given the illness you describe, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to you (but you can check it out – it is troubling, but it certainly doesn’t contain the `bad stuff’), but others here might enjoy it – and it gives an example (in my opinion) of how movies ought to be made.

            Anyway, much of what you write resonates and I understand it.

            My best wishes – and keep trusting in Him.

          • Which proves my *major* point Jock. If you are happily cocooned then what real evangelistic concern have you for those who are not ?

          • Colin – a great deal of concern – but I do accept that I’m not `reaching out’, that I *should* be reaching out an awful lot more – I don’t have any good ideas about what to do about it.

            I don’t think that subjecting myself to tripe movies would help.

          • Colin – in fact, my lack of `reaching out’ is a major concern to me. There are several factors here – first of which is that I have a 6 year old son, who takes priority. He doesn’t seem to have left the garden of Eden yet, so if you can give me any guidance on how to introduce the basic concepts of Christianity to someone who is essentially happy and lives in a world where bad things don’t happen, then I’d be grateful. A corollary to this is that, from giving my son priority (and spending probably too much time with him), I’m pushed to find time for everything that I’m supposed to be doing in my job – and hence (unfortunately) the idea of any sort of active outreach on my part goes out of the window.

            This is a great concern to me.

            I have seriously thought about the Ian Paul solution, which is to give up the job and go into full time Christian ministry, but I decided very strongly against this, since I firmly believe that Christians are supposed to be `in the world’ and doing a proper job – and I believe that I am doing this.

            But – yes – lack of `outreach’ on my part is a very major concern to me.

        • I totally agree with your quote John. But how do *you* reach out to those who do not; to those who do *not* live according to the Gospel of Christ?

          • Well, probably not in the cinema where talking is not possible. We reach out as we talk to neighbours… colleagues at work… those in the walking club… the cycling club… the kayaking club… opportunities we may be given to help others etc.

            We need to understand our culture to be sure but this is possible without immersing ourselves in its more seedy side. Jesus mixed with every kind of sinner but I am sure he did not go to watch a prostitute at work.

            I am not saying that all movies are wrong. There is a degree of personal freedom. But it can be abused. At one time I would have watched a Bond movie. But is not Bond the exact antithesis of all that a Christian is?

      • Hi Colin

        I’m not for a moment saying we should stay away from non-Christian even disreputable non christian people. That however is far removed from sitting watching//reading material that is polluted for pleasure.

        Make West’s exposure of double standards doesn’t justify her double entendres etc.

        • John -This will be my final word on this topic:
          (1) You seem to have a totally either/ or attitude to relationships and behaviour patterns in general. For example in relation to non- Christian material or simply non-Christians; I, personally do sit not drooling over “material that is “polluted for pleasure”. I look at films (very few now), I read non-Christian books in an attempt to understand the mindset of those who reject the Christian Gospel. In terms of relationships, many within my family circle have little or no time for the Faith. Do I reject them? Do you really know what this entails?
          Look again at the things you have said: for example “I am not —- saying we should *stay away” from —– non-Christian people. You have missed what I was saying! The real issue is how do we *get alongside them*? Jesus didn’t go to watch a prostitute at work”?
          Of, course he didn’t, but at least on one occasion, a prostitute certainly got alongside him. Read Luke 7:36ff! The was an intimate episode but not in a sexual sense – and from *both* points of view!
          I can see all of those foursquare, born again Evangelicals gaping open- mouthed in deep shock!
          I do not have your perspective on what constitutes *good behaviour” chiefly because I believe there is a danger in grace becoming virtue.Unlike (pre- Christian) Paul , I do not have “reasons for confidence in the flesh” but like (Christian) Paul, through the grace of Almighty God my prayer is that, “I may be found in Christ, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ”.

  8. Anton

    Interestingly, Ian and others interpret Rev 20 premillennially. However, they see the chapter as a symbol with no temporal referent. I notice quite a few commentators take this view. I assume they see the cogency of a premil reading but struggle with the implications of a temporal kingdom for their overall schema’

    • Hi John,
      I read Rev 20 like this:
      Jesus has bound satan, plundered his fortress and set us free.
      We ‘come to life’ in the ‘first resurrection’.
      Even if we die we are alive in Him.
      St. Paul describes his followers as his ‘joy and crown’. This crown is made up of living souls saved by the good news. They in turn pass on the good news and so make new crowns; all the way down the age until we read, ‘on His head are many crowns’. We are the crowns. The Elders are our forbears who cast them before Him.
      This is the Lords Day! This is The Day of The Lord! To God it is but one day. to us it is a thousand.
      Eventually, when all the crowns have been made and presented to ‘Him who sits upon the throne’, The jury will be sworn in, the Judge will take His seat and the satan will be released into the confines of the dock. He will make one more outrageous appeal to the public gallery and then sentence will be swiftly carried out, to him and to those who cheered his appearance in the dock.
      Thus will end the thousand years.
      BTW a thousand in Greek was sometimes written as a X.
      The X years will end and the Judge and Jury will lead us into the New Jerusalem.

      I am a living part of the story, living it now, born again to the first resurrection, awaiting the second resurrection…

        • I wrote it up as a poem a few years ago. I imagined the 1000 years ending in a courtroom scene. The reason we still see evil in the world, even though satan is bound, is because his minions are still in thrall to him. Its like some ganster has been remanded but his followers can’t believe he’s finished. When they see him rise in the dock they are once again empowered to join him in scorning the Judge and jury. And, because satan is bound, humanity will have no excuse or defence on thay day. They wern’t forced to do satans bidding, they did it out of fear.
          I think I’m the only one here who thinks like this.

          • Steve – well, as well as being poetic, I for one think it is also accurate. This is exactly the situation as I understand it – Satan has been conquered – we have the victory! (we have the victory in Him). Nevertheless, even though Satan is finished, he is still lashing out – and yes – his followers are still in thrall – in solidarity with him – and have no excuse.

            Everything you wrote rings true ……

      • Satan is not bound today. St John wrote in the church era, after Pentecost, that “the whole world is in the grip of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Look at Auschwitz! Since the Cross, Satan’s defeat is a matter of the outworking of God’s plan on the earth.

        • My point is that even though satan is bound his legacy lingers on. Like cutting the power of mega container ship, momentum propells it on. In satan’s case his demonic hoard, his legacy of human misery rumbles on. his minions still obey his orders. But thankfully, I believe, when he is released it will only be in the dock. The news may report it differently. They may show him ( I’m being figurative) alive and well from the head up, keeping the chains out of shot. See what I mean.

  9. Hi Steve

    I’m afraid I’m with Anton. I don’t think Satan is bound today. In the chronology of Revelation he’s either still in heaven or has been cast down to earth (Rev 12). This is one reason why Rev 20 must describe a premillennial kingdom where he is cast into the bottomless pit, If Rev 20 is the present age it clashes with rage description of Satan’s activity in Ch 12.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for the response.
      Ch 12. Satan is cast down and sends a flood to destroy the woman. This is like instructions coming from a gangster in prison. His demons still listen to his flood of bile and use it to great effect. He is part of the ‘sea’ and can only come as close to ‘land’ as the shore. The Dragon is confined to the deep/absu/pit. Ch. 13. After this, that is after Jesus has set the church in motion, given it wings if you like, the demonic hoard helps animate the ‘Beast’ This beast is the world system of power, lust, greed, perverted economics etc. It has been growing over 2000 years. It is not satan/dragon, it is though his projection to exert control from the abyss. This ‘beast’ gives the impression it is the satan. The beast from the earth is yet another projection. And the animated image. They are all atempts at deception, to project a free, independent adversary. In actual fact satan is all alone, trapped, awaiting his day in court.

        • True, All I’m saying is Pilgrim fears the lion because he can’t see the chain. Because he cant see the chain evil can exploit his fear and inertia.
          All the world is in thrall and bound by this ignorance. The gospel is the news that the lion is chained and freedom is but a few steps.

  10. This Question posed got me going:
    “These seven oracles are to be spoken to the ‘angel’ of each assembly. Is that a person, perhaps the leader? Or is there really an angel attached to each place—either as the ‘spirit’ of the assembly or as some sort of guardian angel?”

    I think the stars/angels are of the same substance with the lampstands. From Jesus’ perspective His Spirit is in his right hand, ready to do whatever is needed. A Swiss army tool. However from our perspective the Spirit is the Lampstand on which we sit as little clay lamps, needing fresh oil, wicks trimming and lighting.
    A similar duality exists with the horns and eyes. It says ‘He had 7 horns and 7 eyes which are the 7 Spirits…’ Note — not which are the 14 Spirits! Therefore the Spirit of Jesus are ‘eyes of fire’ Blazing like horns of light, all seeing, all perceiving, rays of wisdom; able to prize open the seals on the scroll.

    Back to the Angels for a moment.
    The Angel/s are the Spirit of Jesus. We have the Spirit in us. The word of Jesus is addressed to the spirit/Angel in us. There is no power or intelligence between us and God. To think so is the thin end of the wedge to place us once removed from Christ. If that becomes so then bingo, we need a mediator, some purple bishop to come to us and proclaim he is an angel of the CxE.
    But you say the angel is not God for he forbids worship of himself. Right. The Spirit of God is in us, our help, our comfort, our guide. He points to Jesus and insists we worship Him. The whole of revelation is mediated to us through the Angel who carries John along all through the narrative. The Spirit is the Mighty Angel and He is glad you don’t perceive it. Only be aware, if you miss the first signs you may end up thinking that angels are some sort of spirit beings external to God. Even if they are they perform tasks that are so aligned with God’s purposes they must be so filled with the spirit of God as to be inseparable.

  11. Message to Ian
    Just had a new thought on Revelation.
    Revelation is like a Russian doll.
    The top half joins the bottom half when the pattern is rotated in order to line up.
    The inside doll also lines up .
    The jewel in the middle is of one piece.
    The front of Revelation lines up in some places with the last chapter. so too the middle . In the middle, chapter 14 the Lamb stands on Mt. Zion as the jewel in the crown, the pinacle, the core.

  12. Steve

    I admire your enthusiasm for engaging with Scripture. You naturally enjoy bouncing ideas around in your head and then letting them go to see where they land. You sound as if your synapses are all firing and I feel few of mine are.

    Where I get frustrated is trying to anchor your flights in something solid. What am I to make of thee Russian doll analogy. The connections are vague.

    Or take Satan in ch 12 as a gangster in prison. Is there any sense in the chapter that Satan is bound and sending out others? I don’t think there is. You say he can’t get on to the land but he is cast down to earth. He has access to land and sea. You speak of demons but there are no demons mentioned; it is Satan who is ferociously active.

    You say the beast is the world system of power, lust, greed, perverted economics etc. I agree the beast represents power but again tying you down to the text where do you get lust, greed and perverted economics? These more naturally belong to the whore. You then say Satan exercises control from the abyss. But there is no mention of Satan being in the Abyss. He’s not even in the sea. He stands on the sand of the seashore. Do you see my point? You’re not allowing the facts to get in the way of a good story.

    You enjoy painting a picture and I appreciate that but for it to receive an ‘amen’ I need to see it is rooted in a reasonable interpretation of the text even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. Bear with these comments from a fairly unimaginative plodder who probably doesn’t grasp the more artistic mind.

    I love your enthusiasm and your engaging with others. You are always generous which makes me feel all the worst for taking you to task. Forgive a curmudgeon.

    • Thank you John. to quote anon: “tis better to given a right hook to the jaw than to be ignored.”
      Yep. I’ve said a lot. It would have been better if someone had challenged me sooner. I sort of expect a response from readers who are interested in Revelation. The more I get no takers the more I get frustrated. If this was a blog for Morris Dancing I’m sure there would be more passion. What is it? A fear of being branded a heretic from our latest troublesome young blade? To be sure, I’ve given it long enough. two years +. I started reading Revelation about 5 years ago, got the bug and started drawing diagrams to make sence of it. From there I created some art made of wood. Some of which I posted here. I was hopeing that people with a passion would be a good place to share but I should have known better. After all, at 65, a Christian since I was 14, mixing with Anglicans, Baptists and Charismatics for 50 years, I know the score. I know my weaknesses.
      I think this is my swan song here. Art is my way of thinking, not intelectual analysis. To be grounded I help out at a charity one day a week – you should try it if you havn’t.
      Sorry not to elaborate further on my deep and meaningless ramblings. Perhaps I should pick on one of your questions though…let me reread your comment… yeah… the russian doll. I’m saying Revelation has a chaistic structure, ABCBA. The front joins up with the back etc. The middle , Ch14 stands as the climax…visually. I think any model we employ to describe Revelation fails at some point. The point where this happens reflects our blind spot culturally; and in other ways.
      Yes. I love bouncing ideas about. You hit the nail on the head!
      I feel uneasy about continuing on this site. It’s the first time I’ve bothered with technology. I feel uncomfortable exchanging words with people in a virtual environment. I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t know if God is happy for me to continue or no. I need a break to figure it out.
      Thanks for taking the time John.

  13. Hi Steve

    I had assumed you were younger – the gymnastic energy. Were both the same age. Please don;t let my comments flatten you or stop you contributing. I often get no response. I think that will be fairly common. I would respond to you more if I felt I could catch you and pin you down at least for a few moments. But you don’t easily lend yourself to that. And so I may read what you’ve written and think this is coming from a little left of field and if I analyse a little I may think to engage here I will need to try and tie Steve down on this and this and this… a bit like I did on my previous comment. Only if I do that can we advance our discussion. We need to build on commonalities in our understanding of the text.

    I guess in a sense for you Steve a book like Revelation is ideal. Because it is symbolism it lends itself to synaptic leaps. Like you I’ve been reading it for a few years. I try to read a few representative commentaries to keep me from my own flights of fancy. I can clearly see you are familiar with Revelation. Were we next door neighbours we may be able to discuss and perhaps balance each other out. Blogs don’t really allow the luxury of long comments.

    Again, please don’t be discouraged and go. Actually it was you who first welcomed me to the blog. I am an odd contributor. I’m not an Anglican. I’m a conservative free church man. Probably a bit ‘narrow’. I’m more than a little perturbed by some of the contributors. I take the view I may learn a little, contribute a little, and enjoy a sort of fellowship. I’d bless.

    • John, Thanks for your encouragement but it is obvious to me that I need a break. It has been good for me to take part . I appreciate all the differing views. Especially ones that are original and not just straight off the pages of some book. Bye for now, Back later.

      • Steve – well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I only discovered Ian Paul’s blog recently – and I’d say that when he posts on Revelation, you’re the only person commenting who remotely reflects any understanding of Revelation that I feel any happiness with.

        On the positive side, I usually like your comments – and on the negative side, the pre-millenial comments fill me with some sort of horror – they seem favourable to the State of Israel – in such a way that they overlook basic and well documented atrocities (and come up with any excuse).

        So – I hope you don’t take a break, but if you do then I kind of completely fully understand it.

        • Thanks Jock,
          As Arnie said, “I’ll be back.”
          Every now and then, whatever one does, sometimes it’s good to step back, pause, and take an objective look.

  14. Ian

    Is there any way we can be allowed to paste on a comment box. When I try from time to time to copy and paste a biblical text I can’t do so. Nor is my name etc saved for the next time I comment. I am writing on an ipad.

    • Yes, you can; I do so all the time. I suspect the problem might be with the iPad, not my site.

      Every name is saved if you put the same details in—but it might be that your set has disallowed cookies, which means that you look like a new person every time.


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