“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Understanding Apocalyptic Literature (Mark Mayberry)
2) Is Ezekiel 28:14 Referring to Satan? (Kyle Pope)
3) Bible “Math” (Part 4: More “Division”) (video sermon, Tom Edwards)
4) News & Notes
Understanding Apocalyptic Literature
The Book of Revelation is one of the most neglected and one of the most abused books in Holy Scripture. Many consider it baffling, and lay it aside, unread and unappreciated. Others, spellbound by its symbolic nature, twist and pervert its message to fit their preconceptions. Neither approach is acceptable. Christians believe that all inspired Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). To comprehend the Patmos message, we must recognize its distinctive characteristics.
The Book of Revelation is written in an apocalyptic style. Like poetry, fictional novels, or historic narratives, apocalyptic literature has its own distinct forms. Several examples are found in the Old Testament: Ezekiel (chapters 37-41), Daniel (chapters 7-12), and Zechariah (chapters 9-12). The New Testament makes limited use of this technique. John’s Revelation is apocalyptic, along with those sections in the synoptic gospels that describe the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).
Various extra-Biblical writings also employed this style: The Secrets of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses, Baruch, Fourth Ezra, etc. Although the Book of Revelation is similar to these noncanonical books, it is distinctive in several respects. The Revelation of John is divinely inspired; these other documents are the product of human wisdom. The Apocalypse identifies its author, while many apocryphal books are pseudonymous. There are also differences in content, form, and message. Moreover, John’s message harmonizes with the rest of divine revelation, while the aforementioned apocryphal books often contradict Holy Scripture.
Apocalyptic literature reflects an hour of desperate need. Trials, suffering, sorrow, and near-despair furnish the soil in which this style flourished. Daniel and Ezekiel wrote during the Babylonian exile, providing comfort and strength to God’s people. Many non-canonical apocalyptic books were written between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100 when the Jewish nation was struggling for its very life. Early in this period, Antiochus Epiphanes attempted to obliterate the customs and religion of the Hebrews. Later threats also arose. In like manner, Revelation was written in a time of persecution. First Century Christians suffered under an autocratic, contemptuous, and corrupt political system. John sought to encourage believers to remain faithful. Looking beyond the perilous present, Revelation portrays God’s ultimate triumph over sin and Satan.
Apocalyptic literature was relevant to the historical situation of the day; its imagery reflecting the realities of a specific time. This is not to say that it has no meaning for succeeding generations, including our own. In writing to Christians at Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus, Paul dealt with particular problems and concerns. Nevertheless, New Testament epistles continue to instruct and exhort successive generations. So also with the Book of Revelation. It was written to First Century Christians who were suffering persecution. Yet, its message remains relevant today.
Through signs and symbols, the Apocalypse of John presents a message of hope, illustrating the maxim that man’s adversity is God’s opportunity. The Omnipotent-Omnipresent-Omniscient One is still in control. We may not know what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future. No matter the obstacles or opposition, despite the fury of the evil one or the flames of persecution, God’s plan, purpose, and people will finally triumph. Victory is assured, if we remain faithful to the end.
Like all apocalyptic literature, the Book of Revelation is symbolic, setting forth its message through signs, symbols, and visions. John wrote in dangerous times when it was safer to hide one’s message in images than to speak plainly. Drawing heavily upon symbols found in the Old Testament, his writing could be clearly understood by those who were familiar with the Sacred Writings, but it was opaque and incomprehensible to outsiders. Nonetheless, the primary purpose of such symbolism was not to confound and confuse, but rather to enlighten and inform, to stabilize and strengthen, to exhort and encourage. Early Christians had no difficulty understanding the Patmos visions because they were familiar with this style of writing. We can also understand John’s message if we interpret it as those First Century disciples would have.
A unique characteristic of Revelation is its symbolic use of numbers. Apart from numeric sequences, one symbolizes singularity, two symbolizes strength, three symbolizes the godhead, four symbolizes the earth with its four corners, six symbolizes brokenness, i.e., that which falls short of perfection. Seven and ten symbolize completeness, fullness, and perfection. Twelve carries religious connotations, such as the twelve tribes of Israel, or the twelve apostles of Christ. Combinations of these numbers, such as 24, 1,000, or 144,000, expand upon these ideas.
Visual imagery dominates apocalyptic literature. In the book of Daniel, successive world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome are depicted as a great image of diverse metals; later they are characterized as savage beasts: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a nameless and dreadful horned beast that devoured, crushed and trampled down all that had gone before. In the Book of Revelation, evil forces are portrayed as fearful and foreboding beasts, arising from the sea and the land. Satan himself appears as a great red dragon. These symbols appeal to the senses as well as to reason – creating impressions, stirring emotions, and not merely communicating propositions. As a divine unveiling, it commands, “Come and See,” as well as “Hear and Understand.”
John’s Apocalypse depicts an epic struggle between good and evil, revealing the power and majesty of Christ, setting forth the foreknowledge and sovereignty of God, foreshadowing the downfall of those forces arrayed against God’s people, and foretelling the defeat of Satan. The Book of Revelation is a message of victory and triumph. Although the present distress may seem great, the Almighty is upon His throne. No persecuting power can frustrate the righteous purpose of God.
Revelation pictures the conflict between two warring powers: God and Satan. However, it would be a mistake to consider these two as equal in might. God is infinitely stronger than Satan. The great deceiver continues his scheming plots only because God permits him to do so. In the end, Satan and his followers will be utterly destroyed by fire from heaven. His doom is portrayed as a “fait accompli” (Rev. 20:7-10). Forces of good will ultimately triumph over the forces of evil.
The central figure in this story is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is variously depicted in the book: John’s first vision is of Christ standing in the midst of His churches with eyes like fire, feet like fine brass, hair like wool, white as snow, and with a sharp two-edged sword coming out of His mouth. Later He appears as a lion, representing regal and royal power (Rev. 5:5). When pictured as a root, He represents Davidic lineage (Rev. 5:5; 22:16). As the rider on a white horse, He symbolizes victory over evil (Rev. 19:11). Most important is the symbol of Christ as the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:6). Redemption and salvation are made possible by His sacrifice on the cross (Rev. 1:5). Because of His humble obedience to the will of the Father, He alone is worthy to open the sealed book that discloses events to come (Rev. 5:6-10).
In its own way, each metaphor tells an important truth about Christ. He is before all things; all things were created in Him, and for Him (Col. 1:16-18). This is the abiding message of Revelation: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of our hope, no matter how grim circumstances may appear. Christ, the Lamb and Lion, will triumph over Satan. His victory is certain. The only uncertainty is, “What will disciples do?” Will they/we cower in fear? Will they/we compromise their/our faith? Will they/we courageously stand for the truth, even in the face of death? “If anyone has an ear, let him hear!”
— Via Truth Magazine, October 2011, Volume LV – Number 10, Pages 26-27
Is Ezekiel 28:14 Referring to Satan?
Ezekiel chapter twenty-eight begins with the prophet being instructed to speak to the “prince of Tyre” (vs 2). In the middle of the chapter the prophet is told to “take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre” (vs. 12). What follows, in this lamentation is wording that has led some commentators to conclude that this is speaking of Satan. The lamentation says to the king of Tyre, “you were in Eden, the garden of God” (vs. 13), “you were the anointed cherub” (vs. 14) and “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you” (vs. 15). In my judgement there is nothing in the text that indicates that this is referring to Satan, but rather it is using references to Eden and heaven to illustrate the change in the relationship which Tyre enjoyed with the Israelites and God, as a result of the sins of the current king of Tyre.
Centuries before the time of Ezekiel, the Davidic monarchy had established a special relationship with the kingdom of Tyre and its head, Hiram. When David took the throne, Hiram sent cedars to David, from which his palace was built (2 Samuel 5:11;1 Chronicles 14:1). There was a friendship and affection which these two kings shared for one another. After David’s death, Scripture says that “Hiram had always loved David” (1 Kings 5:1). Upon learning of Solomon’s rise to the throne, Hiram declares to Solomon:
“…Because the LORD loves His people, He has made you king over them” Hiram also said: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, for He has given King David a wise son, endowed with prudence and understanding, who will build a temple for the LORD and a royal house for himself!” (2 Chronicles 2:11, 12, NKJV).
Hiram is very instrumental in the construction of the temple, to which he refers. Solomon made a treaty with Hiram (1 Kings 5:12), Hiram supplied Solomon with many of the supplies necessary for the building of the temple (1 Kings 5:8-10) as well as a master craftsman named Huram (or Hiram) who was half Israelite (2 Chronicles 2:13-16) who made many of the articles in the temple. Solomon gave Hiram wheat, pressed oil (1 Kings 5:11) and twenty cities in Galilee (1 Kings 9:11). Even after the building of the temple, ships from Hiram brought gold, silver, and ivory to Solomon every three years (2 Chronicles 9:21). This bond of friendship and cooperation was remembered long after Solomon. In the time of Amos, when Tyre had not given assistance to Israel in conflict with Edom, Tyre is rebuked because it “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood” (Amos 1:9).
As time went on, Tyre further betrayed this “covenant of brotherhood.” The Lord through Joel, rebuked Tyre for carrying off gold from the Israelites and selling some of them into slavery to the Greeks (Joel 3:4-6). By the time of Ezekiel, this covenant had been even further betrayed. Ezekiel was a priest who had been carried off with some of the early captives taken with Jehoiachin, king of Judah (Ezekiel 1:1-3). While Babylon exercised control over Judah, God had instructed the people through Jeremiah not to resist Babylon, but to submit to their yoke (Jeremiah 27-29). God gave a similar instruction to the king of Tyre (Jeremiah 27:3) a man history records was named Ithobal or Ethbaal III (Josephus’ Against Apion, I.21). Unfortunately, Zedekiah, the king who reigned in place of Jehoiachin, did not follow this instruction, leading Nebuchadnezzar to besiege Jerusalem and eventually destroy the temple and kill him (2 Kings 25). During this time Ithobal, the king of Tyre, looked on the fall of Jerusalem with joy, saying of Jerusalem, “Aha! She is broken who was the gateway of the peoples; now she is turned over to me; I shall be filled; she is laid waste” (Ezekiel 26:2). In response to this arrogance, and failure to heed the Lord’s instructions regarding Babylon, the Lord begins a three chapter rebuke of Tyre in Ezekiel 26-28, declaring, “Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people” (Ezekiel 26:7). Josephus records that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for 13 years, after which its rule was reduced from a monarchy to simply judges (Against Apion, I.21).
Some conclude that chapter twenty-eight refers to Satan because of its similarity to Isaiah’s proverb against the king of Babylon which refers to “Lucifer” (Isaiah 14). This text, like Ezekiel, starts off talking about the king of Babylon and then speaks of “Lucifer” (a name meaning “Day Star”) lifting himself up only to be brought down (Isaiah 14:12,13). While modern man associates the name Lucifer with Satan no such association is ever made in the Bible. It is not until the Middle Ages that commentators begin to interpret Isaiah as a reference to Satan, applying the name Lucifer to him, rather than to the king of Babylon.
Ezekiel 28 is a similar text. Many of the references refer directly to the kinship between Israel and Tyre, particularly as it relates to the temple. Tyre was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (28:12) as the supplier and craftsman that fashioned the temple. The precious stones (28:13) were those found on the priests’ breastplate (Exodus 39:10-13), an image which Ezekiel, as a priest would clearly associate with the temple. Tyre was the “anointed* cherub that covers” (28:14a) in the sense that Huram, the craftsman which king Hiram sent appears to have constructed the large extended cherubim that covered the ark in the center of the temple (2 Chronicles 2-4). She was “upon the holy mountain” (28:14b) as a neighboring ally assisting Israel in the construction of the very house of God. Yet, because so much had changed from the time of Hiram to the time of Ithobal, God declares “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you” (Ezekiel 28:17). The “covenant of brotherhood” was gone. These are sad words, to the king of Tyre —but they refer to the king of Tyre and not to Satan.
* Gesenius translates this “extended cherub.”
— Via Faithful Sayings, November 8, 2009, Issue 11.45
Bible “Math” (Part 4: More “Division”)
To hear and see this video sermon that was preached February 21, 2021, just click on the following link:
News & Notes
Folks to be praying for:
Rick Cuthbertson‘s recent scan showed that part of his cancer has increased, but also that another part has decreased. So the plan is to continue with these new treatments. But they will first wait to see how things go after his second covid-19 vaccine that he will receive this Wednesday.
Ginger Ann Montero has been having some shortness of breath, which she will be seeing a doctor for.
Sawyer James Sweat, who was born prematurely and spent a few weeks in the hospital, is now home for the first time and doing well.
It was good to have Bennie & Deborah Medlock back with us, after their having recovered from covid-19 and completing their quarantine!
We are also glad that Jan Bartlett’s recent follow-up continues to show that all is well.
I was also given for the “News & Notes” a prayer request for our nation and our leaders.
And also for continual prayer: the family and friends of Frankie Olivia Hadley who recently passed away, the staff and residents at the Baptist Village Nursing Home, Nell Teague, Malachi Dowling, Vivian Foster, Larry & Janice Hood, Donald & Michelle Sears, Jim Lively, Rex Hadley, A.J. & Pat Joyner, Ronnie & Melotine Davis, Shirley Davis, Chris Williams, and Cameron Haney.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel — for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30-31).
2) Believe in the deity of Jesus Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins. For every accountable person has sinned (Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10), which causes one to be spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). Therefore, repentance of sin is necessary (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30). For whether the sin seems great or small, there will still be the same penalty for either (Matt. 12:36-37; 2 Cor. 5:10) — and even for a lie (Rev. 21:8).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). This is the final step that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). For from that baptism, one is then raised as a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), having all sins forgiven and beginning a new life as a Christian (Rom. 6:3-4). For the one being baptized does so “through faith in the working of God” (Col. 2:12). In other words, believing that God will keep His word and forgive after one submits to these necessary steps. And now as a Christian, we then need to…
6) Continue in the faith by living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Matt. 24:13; Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
We are currently meeting for only our Sunday 10 a.m. worship service each week, due to the coronavirus situation.
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
https://thomastedwards.com/go/all.htm/ (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)