Monday, November 16, 2009

Revelations: The Other Purpose To All Ages

Traditionally, the book of Revelations has been held as the one book in The Holy Bible that presents the vivid picture of the Second Coming of Christ and other end time events that will one day take place; and in every manner, that is undoubtedly one message the book gives us. However, through various widely held traditional views and no thanks to Hollywood movies and prophetic book writers, many of us have been ingrained with the mindset that Revelations is only a book that relates to the end of times; and in part, has generated many other prophetic and symbolic beliefs that find no Biblical backing. Needless to say, if this is all we see Revelations as, then we will miss a crucial underlining message that speaks to all ages, not just to those in the end times.

Revelations is perhaps the most unique and most incredible book to read in The Bible; but at the same time, truly the hardest to understand. To even grasp some understanding -- in my opinion -- requires an in-depth study of how it relates to the Old Testament, historical events, and to much surprise, Greek mythology (the quite “colorful-not of this world,” symbolism does relate to the authors knowledge of ancient Greek mythology). Furthermore, Revelations should not be taken, as so many have pursued, as a collection of puzzles to connect to discover the symbolic mysteries that lie within -- Revelations was never meant for that and there is little, if any, spiritual profit in doing such things.

Throughout the centuries, there have been many ways some have attempted to interpret Revelation; some relate it to only future events while some relate it to only the first century, and some see it as a continuation through history until the end of time. These are the most popular noted interpretations held, which I might say are maybe considerable; however, my purpose in this blog is not to draw out the best interpretation or bring out a new one, but rather exemplify a message in Revelation that relates to all Christians in every era.

As the name indicates, the book of Revelations reveals things that would otherwise be unknown. Traditionally, the view has been held that the apostle John (one of the original disciples) was that writer of this book mainly due to certain geographic reasons and other writing style reasons. However, throughout the book nothing is made certain to indicate this view, as the writer only introduces himself as “John, a bond servant…” (Revelations 1:1). Nevertheless, the pros seem to out weight the cons in presenting the apostle John as the most likely of authors.

This revelation was originated in God and came from Jesus Christ then given to John sometime around the end of the first century (90s AD). John then passed this revelation on to a group of seven churches in the western part of Asia Minor with the purpose to shed light on things that would soon happen (Revelations 1:11).

By the late part of the first century, the churches in Asia Minor were already well established, presumably, based on the first missionary journeys recorded in Acts chapters 16-19. In Revelations chapters 2 & 3, we see the specific letters to these seven actual churches (personally speaking, there is nothing Biblically that I find that imply these churches are symbolic of seven church ages), which clues us in to what the conditions where during this time surrounding the region as a whole. These were, indeed, troubling times for the church, as persecution was strong towards the Christians.

From the very beginning of the first century church, persecution was a real and present danger to the Christians, but mainly, from the Jews. However, as time went on the Roman government officials added to the persecution where thousands upon thousands of Christians were either imprisoned, thrown into slavery, tortured, and killed because of their faith in Christ (John’s exile to a prison on the Island of Patmos is one example of this Roman persecution). The peek of all this persecution came around the 60s (AD) under the Roman Emperor Nero, and continued through the 90s (AD) during the time of Emperor Domitian.

These were, of course, testing times for all Christians -- persecution was at its height and oppression towards the Christians increased. More and more people were turning against the Christians, as the government enforced Emperor Worship. To make matters worse, false teachers started to stir up trouble within the churches by suggesting Christians to go along with pagan religions that practiced idol worship and other immoral sins. (Revelations 2:10, 13-14, 20; 6:9-11). Needless to say, the battles Christians were facing then were coming from every angle.

Many Christians, as a result, were becoming very discouraged and confused, and even some were renouncing their faith, as it seemed that the return of their King Jesus Christ was not coming as they expected to save them from such persecution. It seemed the real power was in the hands of the Emperor, and not Almighty God.

However, through John, Jesus reassured His persecuted followers that He was still very much in control, for He never left them with any false hope of a quick return; but rather, He prepared them for a greater endurance to come. Jesus revealed to them the extent of more troubles to come and the eternal reward that awaited for those who stay firm for Him. Jesus’ message to them, and all of us who follow, was that in God’s time, He will certainly return to judge the evil doers, save His people, and bring all His people into His rest of eternal peace and joy (Revelations 1:5; 12:10-11; 19:15-16; 21:1-4; 22:7).

There is no doubt that Revelations had a meaning to the Christians in the late first century, as it has meaning to all Christians since, and will have meaning to those in the end of all age to come. The symbolic pictures in the book are taken mainly from life under Roman rule, as John knew it; but the principles are for every Christian anywhere and anytime. Throughout the ages, Christians have been faced with persecution, anti-Christs, and false prophets; and we must be careful not to limit this book to our own favorite interpretation or try to strum up connections of modern-day events to these prophesies.

The book of Revelation does give us the accounts to what is going to happen at the end of ages; however, is not just a book of symbolic prophesies for end times nor should we bother or debate over it. Was it not our Lord Jesus who told us to be concerned for today and not tomorrow? If all we see is “end times” we will overlook that Revelations was also given to strengthen, guide, encourage, and give hope to all Christians (past, present, and future) who will be going into the mist of oppression, persecution, and even, death for the name of Christ Jesus; so that they may see the relevance of John’s revelation to their own experiences.

The other purpose of Revelations is the blessed message of HOPE OF SALVATION during times of hardship and persecution from the first century Christian to the present century Christians, and to the future century Christians. In every age, Christians have triumphed over the forces of the anti-Christ through Christ’s victory on the cross (Revelations 12:11); and the final victory over the final anti-Christ will be when Jesus Christ returns to banish all evil and save His people for all eternity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No Need To "Burn" Your Non-KJV Bible

I wrote this in response to a recent blog that condemns any other versions of The Bible besides the King James Version. I have nothing against the KJV, I grew up with that version; and although, my preference today is the NASB, I still refer to the KJV often and uphold it as one of the best translations for a Christian to use.

There are indeed many bad translations out there that have modified The Bible in horrible ways that have reduced The Bible to mockery. However, to say that the only proper translation is the KJV and everything else is Gnostic-philosophy junk is a fallacy; and in no way, can be proven. Furthermore, it undermines the changing power to Christ that many have experienced through these other great and equally accurate translations.

Casting doubt on what God actually says has been a huge strategy of Satan from the beginning; Genesis chapter 3, first of many examples. And casting doubt towards the validity of the words of The Bible would not be a far cry in this strategy of his--he loves to divide and conquer. Division is no stranger within the Christian body, and not only has division been caused over the proper version of the Bible, but in other such issues as commuinion and baptism. Sadly, though, all this division has steered us away into fighting amongst ourselves instead of fighting the real enemy.

My intention in this post is not to stir up more division, as I would be contridicting my beginning message; but rather give an explaination to why a person cannot conclusively state that one version of the Bible is the more accurate while all others are heresy trash that need to be “burned.”

Anyone translating between languages will understand one thing, it is quite an impossible feet to accurately translate between languages. The delimma for any translator is how to properly convey the original idea when wording and language identification can be different from one culture to the next; and more often than some, it is impossible to express the idea of one language in another.

Therefore, the original always supercedes the copy in accuracy; and in a sense, compromise is forced on the translation, as expression of idea is all in accordance to the personal ideas and understanding of the translator.

Many claim that the KJV (King James Version, 1611 AD) as the only true accurate Bible, asserting that the translators of the KJV were divinely inspired just as the original New Testament writers. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence to support this claim (not personally claiming it wasn’t, sake of agruement). They also claim that the KJV was the only “perfect” Bible translated into English; but asserting this, does not take into account that word modification or word meaning has its cultural ties depending on the time: example below

I Thessalonians 4:15 (KJV), “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.”

I Thessalonians 4:15 (NASB), “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.”

The main difference, as I highlighted, are the words “prevent” used by the KJV translators and “precede” used by the NASB (New American Standard Version) translators. The word “prevent” changed meaning between 1611 and now; and if you did not know that, this verse in today’s English would cause some confussion.

The issue here are the words you think you know, but through time, have changed meaning; unless you are aware of such wording changes, you will definitely have problems reading the KJV. Furthermore, no hasitation from the KJV translators was given in applying their very culturally based thou’s and shalt’s words. These words do not take from the original idea; however, these words did not exist in the original Greek text. However, the issue of the best translation does not stop at translation word identification, it goes even deeper.

Two main lines of Greek texts exist, which most agree that both date back to the same time, first century AD. The text that was mostly used up until the 1800s was Textus Receptus (a.k.a: Majority or Bynzintine text) related to the Syria region. However, other Biblical manuscripts were discovered in Alexandria (Egypt-North Africa region), which many newer translations stem from; nevertheless, the question of its reliablity has been questioned for centuries.

Erasmus, Catholic Theologian, in 1525, compiled the first Greek text using manuscripts from the Textus Receptus. The Alexandrian manuscripts were available at the time, but for unknown reasons, the Alexandrian text was not used. However, in 1853, Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort, were the first to compile a Greek New Testament, which took 28 years to complete. They, unlike Erasmus, relied heavily on the Alexandrian text; and what influenced them to go this route was that Alexandian text was written in a more polished Greek writing style, where as, the Textus Receptus seemed more paraphrased in style, which led them to question its’ reliablity.

So, which one is more reliable? Actually no one really knows; however, many studies of the two show that the texts are very must alike in both quality and quanity, agreeing 98% of the time, and that the 2% differences are so minor that they neither show up in translation nor affect understanding.

In conclusion, to assert that Alexandria text is a product of heresy, a rather interesting question can be posed, “Was the Alexandrian texts the only resource the Egyptian Christians had during the first three or four centuries?” If not, no problem; but if so (no evidence to say either way), then the conclusion would be that the Egyptian Christians only had access to this heresy version of God’s Word. But to take such a conclusion would essentially place the doctrine of preservation into a serious dilemma; and if you define preservation in terms of the Syrian Textus Receptus; you would be speaking poorly of God's sovereign care of the Christians in old Egypt.

My advice is this, we must have balance and no translation is 100% perfect, they all have their problems. This does not mean errors or inconsistencies exist in The Bible, but it is important to understand how your translation came to be, what methods were used in its creation, and what crediable Christian scholars and theologians have to say.

Nevertheless, the most important thing to consider in all of this, always seek the Holy Spirit of Christ on all questions; taking the pursuit on your own without the Spirit’s quidance can lead into crucial errors.