Think Paper 12: Rev 21-22
Aftermath of the Great War: How to Prepare to Live Forever
Scriptures to Read: Dan 12; Rev 21-22
This lesson I will spend remembering what this seminar has been. I will tell you what a gift you are to me, then I will revisit the goals of this seminar and conclude it with you.
When you listen to me as you have in this seminar for twelve sessions, you give me a gift that is immeasurable. I cherish that gift. Let me try to explain in what way your listening is such a gift.
Your Gift in this Seminar
When I learn something for me in my reading of Scripture, I feel glad and excited. I want to share it. In fact, I find myself practically compelled to find a way to share. You have provided the forum for me to do what I must do. That is a marvelous gift.
There is more. I find that not until I actually share the spiritual blessing do I really have it. Not until I tell it, do I really know that I know it. You have provided the forum for me to know what I know. That is a marvelous gift.
Further, whenever you give me some indication that you not only hear but also understand, that something of my experience touches a resounding chord in yours, then your understanding shared back to me acts as a mirror into which I can look and usually find even deeper spiritual truth for myself. Your understanding of me increases and deepens my own understanding of myself and God's leading in my life. That is a marvelous gift. I receive it gratefully.
Revelation begins and closes with a blessing for those who do what you and I have done in this seminar, a blessing for those who read, hear, and keep this prophecy (1:3; 22:7). The only way to keep spiritual growth is to give it away. The only way to keep this prophecy is to share what I have read and heard. Today I will review the Christian witness, the privilege of sharing the hope that is within us.
Daniel's last chapter promises that those who "turn many to righteousness" will shine "as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan 12:3). John in his last chapter gives a similar implication, that those who hear and invite others to "Come" will "reign for ever and ever" (Rev 22:17,5). Even in paradise, I believe there will be created beings who want to hear our stories. Sharing, otherwise known as witnessing, will go on and on throughout eternity to the praise of God the Father and of Christ Jesus His Son.
Then perhaps I do well to practice that witness here before we get to paradise. The Twelfth Law of Recovery states that "By telling our story in words and in manner of living, we practice loving our neighbors as ourselves."
I invite you into a special examination of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, for enlightenment on this sharing and all other communication principles. These small churches had problems, the sames problems I face in coming to honest relationship and sharing. Furthermore, the words given these churches are claimed to have come from Jesus Christ himself. I believe they were dictated and recorded from the very mouth of our Lord as described, and I expect to find there models of impeccable communication methods. Click here for access to my communication course from the seven churches.
Quickly, I list here four rules for this kind of sharing: listen, take turns, no put-downs, and no advice or gossip. Actually, these four rules grew out of my study of a special passage written by Peter. He said, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Pet 3:15).
In order to know the question being asked, I will listen; I will listen to the end of the question, refusing to interrupt. If the person is really asking a question, my turn will come; if I am ready, I will recognize the opportunity and take my turn. The meekness for which Peter calls certainly excludes any slams or put-downs or ridicule. Finally, since my job is merely to give a reason of the hope that is in me, and not to comment on the hope in others, I will confine myself to "I" language; I will avoid "you" and all other advice-giving language as well as the "he," "she," and "they" of gossip.
Blessed are those who read, hear, and keep this prophecy. The only way to keep spiritual growth is to share it, and in the end those who turn many to righteousness will shine as God's stars for ever and ever.
Today I want to spend most of the time reviewing and summarizing just what it is that you and I have learned in this seminar so as to be well equipped with a ready reason for the hope that is in us. Then you and I will shine as God's stars forever.
Three Goals in this Seminar: How to Prepare
I can tell you now that there are three goals toward which I intended to direct you and me together in this seminar. I will review those goals tonight: surrender, healing, and understanding the future.
When I use the word "surrender" in this seminar, I mean to admit what I cannot do apart from God, which is practically everything; to believe what He can do through me, which is everything He desires, and to decide to turn my choices and my life over to His care, which involves everything that has to do with me.
Take Surrender as a Way of Life
We discussed surrender as found in Daniel and Revelation. I will review here only a few of the prophetic motifs that teach this surrender. I will review nakedness, Babylon, and overcoming.
First I will consider nakedness in Revelation. At the beginning of Revelation, in order to buy the divine remedies, the Laodiceans must first admit their poverty, blindness, nakedness, and even shame (Rev 3:17-18).
Much later, even immediately before Jesus' second coming as mentioned in the sixth plague, God's people need to remember that without the divinely provided garments, they would still be ashamed and naked (Rev 16:15).
Because Babylon denies her poverty by claiming to be a Queen and no widow, and because she denies her nakedness by use of purple and scarlet fine linen purchased from her merchant men, she will finally be made desolate, naked, and burned (Rev 17:16; 18:7,15-16).
The background for Babylon teaches a similar lesson of admitting powerlessness before God. The Tower of Babel, built on the same plain as Nebuchadnezzar's golden image, was an effort by humans to reach heaven and save themselves. The effort failed in confusion (Gen 10).
Lucifer, who is described as the king of Babylon, announced his aspirations to set his throne above the Most High. He became Satan, the Dragon, and will go to the lake of fire (Isa 14).
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, built himself a kingdom and abused those who had no kingdom. He learned that he could be king only when he admitted that he was not king—because God was (Dan 4).
Finally, in Rev 18, Babylon is fallen. The "I"-way does not work. Any system built on the refusal to admit what I cannot do apart from God will, in the end, come to its fall.
The lessons of overcoming in Daniel and Revelation are also related to this surrender. Near the beginning of the book, in Rev 2-3, God gives a promise to the overcomers in each of the churches. At the end of the book, in Rev 21:7, God states the final promise to the overcomer. In the center of the book, Rev 12:11, is the key, how to overcome.
How to overcome involves three things: depending on the blood of the Lamb, sharing the word of my testimony, and refusing to love my life even unto death.
When I think of depending on the blood of the Lamb, I remember that the Lamb did not save Himself from the cross (Rev 5).
When I think of sharing the word of my testimony, I remember that Nebuchadnezzar gave his testimony in the first person, in "I" language (Dan 4), and that Daniel's final testimony was that he did not understand (Dan 8:27; 12:8-9).
When I think of refusing to love my life even to death, I remember many stories in Daniel and Revelation of those who refused to participate in violence, even if to save their lives.
Daniel took no glory to himself for interpreting the dream and turning aside the anger of the king (Dan 2). The three Hebrews took no care to save themselves from the fiery furnace (Dan 3). Daniel took no care to save himself from the lions' den (Dan 6). The saints do not take the kingdom; it is given to them (Dan 7). Daniel took no care to exclude himself from the sin and rightful punishment of his people (Dan 9). Further, the armies of the Lamb kill no enemies in the final battle (Rev 19). Nowhere in Daniel and Revelation do God's people take up the sword to save their own lives.
In the new earth, it is those who are thirsty who are invited to drink (Rev 21:6; 22:17). This leads me to believe that even in paradise, after all the evil is over, in the land of plenty, God's people will still know themselves to be thirsty, empty, powerless without Him. It will have become a way of life.
Surrender as a way of life would approach every event, decision, and relationship here from the position of the statements which I shared with you at the beginning of this seminar: I can't, God can, and I decide to let Him.
Therefore, even in sharing what I have learned here, I will come with the attitude of surrender. I will use "I" language, telling what is meaningful to me and why, and I will invite others to do the same. Surrender in teaching Daniel and Revelation is the opposite of the arrogance of thinking I have all the answers for others or of trying to tell others how to live.
Find Healing for Relationships and for the Universe
I spoke of recovery and healing as found in Daniel and Revelation. I will review here some of the themes wherein we found this healing or recovery. I will review the parallels between Daniel and Revelation, the theological themes, the Ten Commandments, and the Twelve Steps of this decade's recovery movement.
Parallel View. I found verbal and scene parallels between Daniel and Revelation. These parallels are actually the first cause in my teaching this seminar. I find great benefit in studying the two books side by side in parallel fashion.
Theological Themes. Further exploring the possible parallel nature of the two books, I found similar theological themes also proceeding through the material. I shared my conviction that Daniel and Revelation simply teach the same principles which I find in the Ten Commandments and in the Twelve Steps of today's recovery movement.
Ten Commandments and Twelve Steps. First, both Daniel and Revelation tell of the prophet's exile, and teach the theological theme that God is supreme. The first commandment excludes any other gods, and the first step excludes even the possibility of self being God, calling for the admission of powerlessness. I can't.
Second, Daniel and Revelation both give a preview of the future from the prophet's time down to the end of time, teaching the theological theme that God knows and shows the future. The second commandment forbids the making of any image in place of the true view, and the second step invites hope in God. God can.
Third, by a fiery furnace and a fiery throne Daniel and Revelation teach the theological theme that God is with us. The third step invites a decision to be with God, and the third commandment insists on not taking that name or that decision lightly. I can't, God can, and I decide to let Him.
Here, I will not take the time to continue on through the themes and principles of all twelve of these sessions together, nor to review the way I combined the Ten Commandments and Twelve Steps to focus on basic Laws of Human Recovery. I would simply suggest that Daniel and John were both called upon to attempt to show the intention of God toward the healing of this universe. That divine intention of healing seems to correlate with the guidelines He had previously given for the healing of relationships as well as with what has been found to work today in the recovery movement. I believe God intends to heal the universe by the same principles that work for the healing of persons and relationships. I find surrender as a way of life to be foundational to this healing, because all the rest of the themes and principles I studied grow out of and return again to these three: I can't, God can, and I decide to let Him.
Gain Understanding of the Future
In remembering what I have explained regarding the future in Daniel and Revelation, I would first remind you of the controls, or rules, by which I have operated in my study of Daniel and Revelation. Then I will review with you the repetition of history which impacts the future: repetition in chiasm, repetition in sevens, and repetition in plot.
Controls for This Study. The first control for this study is—you guessed it—surrender, a surrender that says, "I admit I do not have all the answers."
The second control for this study is context. First, I need history as context, the historical setting of the original writing and reading of the material, the history of its interpretation through the centuries, and the historicist system of interpretation which allows prophecy to deal with the full scope of the history of this world rather than merely Hebrew and Jewish times or a distant future end. Then I need Daniel as context for Revelation. I need the plot of each book as context for any part of that book. There is more to Daniel and Revelation than beasts; there is more to understanding Daniel and Revelation than merely translating symbols.
The third control for this study is the belief that history will be repeated. For that reason I must study history as selected and organized by prophecy. I will look for repetition of history, not for duplicated fulfillments of prophecy. I will look for history to be repeated in principle, not necessarily in detail. I will study for recognition and trust in God, not for prediction or paranoia (John 14:29). I will expect only one grand repetition, since there is only one Revelation condensing and concluding the entire Bible.
Repetition in Chiasm. Now I will review the idea of chiasm in Daniel and Revelation, the way the last half of each book repeats in reverse order some of the words and themes of the first half of the book.
There are several possible meanings to this phenomenon of chiasm in Daniel and Revelation. Primary meaning would lie in the fact that chiasm was a well-used mnemonic device. Hebrew children were taught the alphabet both forward and backward; they thought in both directions. So repeating backwards the first half was a good way to remember how to get to the end, if the piece was created with chiasm. But what if God had a reason for the creation of prophecy in chiasm, a meaning for us? I think He did.
Perhaps the simplest meaning for me in chiasm is that events, scenes, and principles in history will be repeated. In Daniel, the issues and threats faced by the Hebrews in exile (Dan 1-7) are similar to those faced by God's people in their sojourn in a hostile world throughout the centuries (Dan 7-12). In Revelation, the progress and warnings of the gospel through the centuries, which were predicted but are now history (Rev 1-14), will be repeated in the final showdown at the end of time (Rev 12-22). This provides a convenient way to summarize the historicist interpretation of prophecy. History will be repeated.
Two other possible meanings for the phenomenon of chiasm in Daniel and Revelation present themselves: closure and reversal.
Daniel and Revelation are about closure. I do not know how old I was when I found myself enchanted by a set of nesting dolls. They were not mine. I had never seen such a thing. I loved the way I could open them one at a time and finally have paired halves lying in order on the floor; then I could close each one around the next smaller one and finally have only one piece in my hands, a piece in which all the others nested.
I think God intends for that sense of finish, closure, and completeness to be mine as I study Daniel and Revelation. I think He delights when I begin to feel in my very fibers the excitement of the finish. I think He made me to sense and be thrilled when closure happens. I think He designed the form of the writing to assure me that God finishes what He starts, that He will not leave any pieces lying out on the floor. I feel the momentum toward climax and finale as each issue which was opened in the beginning is closed in the end. Daniel and Revelation are about the end, and about the faithfulness of God in that end.
Daniel and Revelation are also about reversal. I studied with you the story of Esther for an illustration of this reversal and saw how the fortunes of each character were exactly reversed by the end of the story from what they were at the beginning. Reversal is the "hangman hanged" kind of story. Chiasm provides an excellent literary form for reversal kinds of stories because of its last-half repetition in reverse order of what was presented in the first half of the story.
I think God intends for me to be assured that He will right the wrongs of this world. I think He created the prophecies in such a way that perceptive readers will not only reason but will also feel the impact of His giant reversal. I think He wants His judgment to be perceived with the same excitement as I sense when I read a well-written reversal story. I think He made me to perceive and even feel in my being the wonder and miracle of His judgment. Daniel and Revelation are about the judgment, not just at the center of each book, but throughout every strain of their construction. Daniel and Revelation are about the judgment, and about the love of God in that judgment.
Daniel and Revelation are written in chiasm so the original hearers could remember, so I could know that history will be repeated, so I can feel the closure, and so I can wonder in the reversal.
Repetition in Sevens. History will be repeated. I showed some repetition of history in comparison of the sevens.
I showed Rev 13 citing the same animals as Dan 7, but as a conglomerate beast coming on the scene of history later than those of Dan 7. The characteristics and motives of the beasts are repeated. I also noted with you the plagues as very similar to the trumpets but beginning much later than the trumpets, so that the principles and progressions of God's judgment are repeated.
Thus some of the sevens start after the first three or four stages of other sevens are already completed. Other new sevens begin after the sixth stage of the other sevens. Some of this could well be expected merely by the presence of those interludes which often extend the sixth stage. The interlude provides a nesting place for another set of sevens. History will be repeated, but all sevens will come to together to final climax in the seventh stage.
History will be repeated. I have explained repetition in the chiasm and in the sevens of Daniel and Revelation. I will now review repetition in the plot of Daniel and Revelation.
Repetition in Plot. Building on the parallel scenes of the two books, I discovered a plot which is actually the same story line in two different renditions.
First there is the introduction of the plot and characters. Then the opening action, a decree, propels the progress of the gospel and the fall of the opposition. Another decree begins uncovering the breadth of the scheme while a worldwide manmade decree (re: the mark of the beast) and a world-encompassing divine announcement (re: the judgment) get to the heart of the action. Finally, deliverance begins, overcoming demonic hindrances and ending in the final war. An epilogue closes the plot.
We also looked at Ellen White's rendition of the end of time scenario. I searched out statements including "when . . . then . . ." or other sequence indicators to discover that Ellen White follows the same plot as do Daniel and Revelation.
First there is the shaking of the church and the nations. Then the opening action, a national Sunday law, opens the way for the latter rain, loud cry, national ruin, and demonic marvels. The breadth of the scheme comes to light as other nations enact Sunday laws, the manmade decree becomes universal, God makes His last appeal, and humans finalize their decisions. Finally, deliverance begins with the plagues while the saints pray, and Satanic delusions meet judgment, strife, the coming of Christ, and the millennium. The new earth and new Jerusalem close the plot.
I believe Ellen White may have sensed the similar plot in Daniel and Revelation, but rather than trying to exegete the Bible books, she simply wrote what she had seen in vision along the same line. At any rate, I believe God plans to heal this universe and when He reveals His plan to one prophet and then to another, it is only likely that they will report the plan along a similar plot. And when a third prophet reports the plan again along that same similar plot, I am strongly confirmed in my belief in that third prophet's credibility as well as in the content of her or his work. History will be repeated.
There is one other question to deal with here. Someone asks, how dare I think the plot of history will be repeated when the original plot has not yet met completion. What reason have I to go back and start over at the beginning of the plot before coming to the end? There is precedent for this repetition by nesting in order to build to a grand climax all together.
One set of seven, in repetition, often do fit and nest between the six and the seven in another earlier set of seven to climax all together. Or one set of seven, in repetition, may begin and nest near the middle of another earlier set of seven to finish out and climax all together. So perhaps the plot of Daniel and Revelation, in repetition, can begin and nest near the middle of the plot of history to finish out and climax all together.
Perhaps you have enough now to keep you studying for awhile in the books of Daniel and Revelation. I know I want to follow these lines of repetition further. There is enough suggestion of the repetition of history in prophecy's chiasm, in its sevens, and in its plot to keep me interested in research for years. Will you study, too? And remember to share what you learn.
Conclusion of This Seminar
Yes, I have now looked at the future as pictured in Daniel and Revelation.
I would reaffirm here that all three goals of this seminar were necessary to get to an understanding of the future. In order to come to a helpful understanding of the future, I must choose surrender as a way of life, experience the healing in my own life, and then study keeping in mind context and history.
I believe that Ellen White's warning that "none but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict" (The Great Controversy, 593-594) has been misunderstood. I used to fear greatly lest I fail of knowing by heart well enough the chart of coming events, or the tests of a prophet, or the manner of His coming. Recently I read the page before that warning and learned that what Ellen White said I must understand is God's character, government, and purposes.
I think the goals of this seminar focus on God's character, government, and purposes. Surrender as a way of life reflects His character. Healing in relationships and in the universe reflects the beneficence of His government. His purposes may be sounded by exploring the way He has revealed Himself and the future in biblical context and in history.
Blessed, then, are those who read, hear, and keep the sayings of this prophecy, for they that turn many to righteousness will shine as God's stars for ever and ever. Amen.
How to Prepare to Live Forever
1. Take Surrender as a Way of Life
2. Find Healing for Relationships and for the Universe
3. Gain Understanding of the Future