Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Pot Pie

Well, the turkey's almost all gone. The tradition in our house is to use the last scraps of turkey for a turkey pot pie. Yummy. The kids don't enjoy it as much as I do -- but then they moved onto peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese over the weekend while there was still turkey left.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No "buying or selling without the mark" in Rev 13

The mark on the forehead or the hand is a counterfeit of the godly, spiritual marks (Ex 13.9, 16, Is 44.5, etc.). We know that these are not physical marks because you cannot wear the passover on your hand or on your forehead.

While the "buying and the selling" need not be literalized either, I think the reference is a little more pointed than merely the idea that those not marked cannot receive what the beast offers. (In the positive examples, "buying" means receiving what Christ gives us, Is 55.1-3, Rev 3.18, cf., Prov 23.23.)

As with modern communities, ancient communities regulated who could buy and who could sell. It was one indication of who was in the community and who was not. So the returning exiles commit to regulate among themselves when they would buy and sell (Neh 10.31) and turn away foreign buyers and sellers, those who do not belong to the community (Neh 13.15-22). So I take the "no buying or selling" without the mark of the beast to be the exclusion of early Christians (who were Jewish) from the ordinary life of the community and synagogue (Heb 13.11-14, Jn 9.22, 12.42, 16.2).

666 Cannot be Nero

A number of historicist commentators hold that the number of the beast in Rev 13.18 refers to Caesar Nero -- letters in the ancient world were also used for numerals, and the transliteration of the Greek into Hebrew yields 666.

The big problem with that theory, however, is that Rev 13 speaks of two beasts -- the sea beast and the land beast. It seems clear to me that the sea beast, i.e., the Gentile beast, is Rome. After all, the seven heads would be the seven hills. And since the Gentiles are the water people, Rev 17.1, Is 8.7-8, 17.12-13, Jer 47.2, the beast coming out of the sea would be a Gentile power. The beast who's number is 666, however, is the land beast, not the sea beast. And the land beast is pretty clearly the beast of apostate Judaism of Jesus' time -- i.e., the Israel of Herod and the high priests. (Related to the imagery -- for example, when Jesus plants one foot on the land and one foot on the sea in Rev 10.2, that means he is Lord of both Jew and Gentile; the land people and the sea people.)

I would take 666 to refer to apostate Judaism -- the number arises most prominently in the pivot in Solomon's reign as Israel's king in 1 Kings 10.14 (2 Chr 9.12-13). The Queen of Sheba has just left and the author reports that "The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents . . ."

At that point, Solomon begins breaking God's law with a vengeance; he accumulates gold, horses and chariots, and multiplies wives (actually, foreign wives), all actions prohibited in the law (1 Kings 10.14-11.13, Dt 17.14-17). Solomon has become an idolator (1 Kings 11.3-6).

Also, the number "six" is the number of humanity; so the triple six is the superlative, fallen humanity. As Jesus argues repeatedly in the Gospels, so here in Revelation: Israel was not the solution to Adam's sin problem; Israel had become Adam in his sin -- a front for Satan (Mt 12.39-45, 23.13-15, 27, Lk 20.9-19 & etc.).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Cow Bell

The classic SNL skit highlighting the use of cow bells in the Blue Oyster Cult song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is here.

I just noticed here another really famous use of cow bells in popular music, although it predates "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by several decades. In the Mood was Glenn Miller's signature song. You need to listen to the end of the song to hear the cow bells (around 3:05). Cow bells are also featured in this version of the song, but come in a bit differently (around 2:22).

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Implication that Michael's Angels are Human "Messengers" in Rev 12?

Hmm. So Rev 12.11 says that "they over came him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

So who's the "they" who overcame Satan in v. 11? In immediate context I might think that they are the "brothers" who are accused by Satan in v. 10. But those who are accused do not seem to be the actors here. They are no longer accused because Satan has been hurled down, but the "they" who overcame Satan would seem to be those who fought and overcame Satan.

But the only other candidate for "they" who overcame Satan in the passage are Michael's "angels" in v. 7. There's no other "they" around there. But then "they" can't be supernatural angels, since angels cannot die. So are these human messengers? I.e., the war is the spread of the Gospel, with the Gospel's messengers being attacked and persecuted.

That makes some sense -- and links the war immediately to the Gospel -- in contrast to an actual war between good and bad angels in heaven. Plus, those who "overcome" in Revelation are always Christians, not angels (Rev 2.7, 11, 17, 26, 3.5, 12, 21, 21.7).

Don't know that much hinges on it, but it's a possibility I haven't considered before and haven't seen in any commentary. (Not that I have a comprehensive library of commentaries on the Revelation.)

Rev 12 & "Your redemption is drawing near" in Lk 21.28

One of the implications of Rev 12 is that increased persecution of the church at this time results from Jesus' victory over Satan in heaven, and casting him down to where the church is, in land and sea.

But that's critical -- the church's persecution at this time, i.e., the great tribultion -- is a sign of Jesus' victory over Satan.

And so Jesus teaches. In teaching about the persecution of the church and the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 21, Jesus concludes by telling his disciples that "When these things begin to take plce, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Lk 21.28). The terror that comes on the earth is the sign that the ascended Jesus is enthroned in heaven (seeing Jesus "coming on the clouds" is seeing Jesus as the ascended Lord, Dan 7.13) -- and that Satan the usurper has been cast down to the earth and is furious over the short time he has before being bound.

The tribulation of that time indeed tells the Christian that "your redemption is drawing near," i.e., Jesus reigns and Satan is bound.

Rev 12.12 and Preterist versus Idealist Amillenialism

It seems to me that Rev 12.12 is difficult to reconcile with idealist approaches to Revelation. Satan is cast out of heaven to the land, and "Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! but woe to the land and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

G.K. Beale identifies the short time in Rev 12.12 with the short time in Rev 20.3. But that doesn't fit at all. In Rev 12, Satan has a short time on the land when cast out of heaven by Michael. The implication is clear that Satan was somehow in heaven. (Recall Jesus also noting that he saw Satan fall from heaven as a result of the disciple's work, Lk 10.18.) Being in heaven and then being cast out of heaven is a far cry from being released from the abyss where you've been locked for 1,000 years (Rev 20.3).

But I think that Rev 20 does provide us a key to understanding Satan's "short time" in Rev 12.12. Namely, the millennium is the period in which Satan is bound and thrown into the abyss. Amillennialists understand the millennium to be the entire church age.

If amillennialism is correct (as I believe it is), then the binding of Satan must occur at the very beginning of the millennium.

That then provides a natural way to understand the "short time" that Satan knows he has in Rev 12.12: With his casting out of heaven by Jesus, Satan knows that he has only a short time before being bound by Jesus and cast into the Abyss. Therefore he is filled with fury, which he takes out on the church by persecuting her.

The upshot is that the short time that Satan is on the land and sea is a time that Satan is unbound, and therefore Rev 12.12 cannot occur during the church age itself. Rev 12, therefore, needs to occur prior to the start of the millennium.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Election Stuff -- I told you so, last year

Far be it from me to boast (by which I mean I'm going to boast), but a whole year ago I wrote about the surprising weakness in the size of President Obama's presidential victory here. And I even mentioned Virginia. To quote:

"The Democratic nominee won just 52% of the popular vote (the first Democrat to receive over 50% of the popular vote since 1976) with an incredibly charismatic candidate who massively outspent his GOP rival, in the face of an incredibly unpopular GOP president, an unpopular war (supported enthusiastically by his GOP rival), a financial meltdown weeks before the election, and with a stagnating economy.

. . .

"[W]ith all of these strong advantages, Obama still only won 52% of the popular vote. If it takes all of these things for a Democratic candidate to turn Virginia and Ohio blue, then woe to the Democrats, because it most likely ain't going to happen again."