Beyond Sunday

Understanding the Imagery of the Book of Revelation with Dr. Mark Brighton

December 04, 2023 King of Kings Church
Beyond Sunday
Understanding the Imagery of the Book of Revelation with Dr. Mark Brighton
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Listen as Pastor Greg discusses the symbolism and imagery in Revelation with Dr. Mark Brighton, Professor of Biblical Languages/Theology at Concordia University Irvine. 

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Thanks for listening!

Speaker 1:

Hey, king of Kings, welcome to week four of our Beyond Sunday podcast on the book of Revelation. Once again, we are so thankful and honored to have Reverend Dr Mark Brighton from Concordia University in Irvine, where I'm an alumni and had the honor and privilege of sitting in on his classes a few times, and it's been a great, great past three weeks and this week is going to be awesome. So, once again, if you have not listened to sessions one, two or three, please do, and then also like and share this, and we got a lot to do here, so let's just dive right in. We're going to be talking about the things of Revelation that I think we all kind of say tell me more what is happening. And we're going to start with some of the imagery and Revelation. And let's just start with the seals. Right, like so we got all these seals, seven seals what's going on?

Speaker 2:

here with these seals. Yeah, yeah, there are three cycles of seven as we see the end times from Christ's perspective. There are seven seals, there are seven trumpets and there are seven bowls. And most experts now think that what's going on here is a repeated view of the end times, with a different perspective for each cycle of seven. So the first cycle of seven, we see how human beings are evil to each other and how they persecute God's people. In the second cycle of seven, we see how creation itself is subject to a curse and dying and we see how that's a result of evil torment coming out of the abyss, kind of like an unearthly locus plague. And in the third cycle of seven we take a close view on how Christ himself would bring people to repentance by the last plagues, very much like the plagues in Egypt. So the third cycle of seven is almost like a cosmic exodus. Each of these cycles of seven ends with a vision of the end of the world. So you see the world end at the end of the first cycle and the second cycle and at the end of the third cycle. So we are taking repeated views of the end. Now here's an important point. Let's just talk about the seals. The first four seals are broken, and then you have the horsemen the white horse and the red horse and the horse with a pair of scales and a pale horse. The last one's called death, and so it's not a person, it's a concept, and so maybe that's how the other three should be taken, and commentators suggest maybe the white horse is tyranny, the red horse is warfare, the horse with a pair of scales, the ancient checkout scanner, is saying you just can't hardly afford to live anymore. And it's all followed by death. So tyranny, warfare, famine and death. These are the end times. This is what Jesus talked about in Matthew. These are recurring things of the end times and it takes no expert of history to see these things going on all the time Tyranny, warfare, economic upheaval, starvation and death. When the fifth seal is open, you see those who have been martyred for their faith and they are asking how long, oh Lord, are you going to put up with all this wickedness? And he says until the full number of the people of God have given their testimony. That is when the Gospel is gone everywhere Matthew 24-14. And then, when the sixth seal, you see almost a foreview of the end. So, but here's the point Right in the midst, between the sixth and the seventh seal, you see two visions which appear not because a seal is broken, they just appear. And so the 144,000 and the heavenly multitude break the numeric cycle. Why is that so important Things that break the numeric cycle in this structure receive the emphasis, and so the whole point of the first cycle of seven is to not see the horseman and it's not to see the persecution of the saints and it's not to see how everything's going to come to a chlotychismic end. The point is that God preserves his own people on earth 144,000, and God has a home for them in heaven where they rest from their labors. This is how the Lamb of chapter 5 exercises his authority. In the end times, when you see warfare, tyranny, famine, things are now out of control. The Lamb knows who his people are on earth, and the Lamb reserves for them a home in heaven, and that should be a comfort for us. This is why it's the revelation of Jesus Christ, not of the horseman, not of warfare, not of starvation. It's what is God doing for me in the midst of all, that he's preserving me.

Speaker 1:

So, before we move on to looking at further things, I think a question that may be happening in some of our listeners' minds when so the 144,000,? That's not a literal number, it is a complete number, figurative, complete number yeah, 12,000, 12,000, yeah. Right, all completion of all 12 tribes, so all the people of God. When do we for a reader? A question may be asking when do I take something literal, when do I take something as? But how do I know the difference?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, most things in the book of Revelation just have to be taken in a figurative way. Now that doesn't mean it's pretend. When we describe things by metaphor, we are describing reality. We are just doing it by metaphor. And so when we say Jesus is a lamb, we are using a metaphor, because he's not really a furry animal with hooves. But there's something about a lamb in the Old Testament which helps us understand Jesus and we all understand what that means. And so that's true for most of what you see in the Revelation. So we have 144,000. Normally, counting some, a census of God's people, is always a bad thing. It only happened twice in the Old Testament at God's direction, and it was in the book of Numbers, and it happened at the beginning of that book and the end of that book. And the reason why they counted everybody else up they counted up all the God's people was to find out how big an army we had. And so when John's readers hear a census, they're going to be thinking of God's army. That's what they're going to be thinking of. It just feels like that. It's as if I told you, without naming 4th of July, I said, yeah, we had a picnic and we had hot dogs and caught on the cob and we had fireworks. And without even mentioning the name, I'm describing 4th of July. When John says we have 144,000 of all the tribes in perfect marching order, they're thinking these are the people who carry the fight on earth. That also explains they're not defiling themselves with women. If you track in the Old Testament, before you went to fight you were to abstain from sexual relations with your wife. So that supports the military metaphor. What about the seal on their foreheads? The seal on their foreheads is actually partially explained by chapter 14, and there we read it's the name of the lamb, and so these are people who have God's mark of ownership upon their heads. And it also would remind the readers of Ezekiel, where we read that before God's avenging angels went to bring judgment upon all the idolatry, there another angel went to mark God's faithful people with a seal on their forehead. So you put it all together who are the 144,000 God's people, the people of Christ who still carry the fight on earth, and who are those people today?

Speaker 1:

Christians.

Speaker 2:

That would be you and me.

Speaker 1:

You Me Yep.

Speaker 2:

So, all of you listeners who count yourself a follower of the Lamb, you are part of the 144,000. You are in perfect marching order. You follow the Lamb where he goes. Now, this is an idealized picture, but that's what Christ sees in you. And the other part of the vision is the heavenly multitude. When you and I die and give our lives in the fight, as Christ said we would, as Revelation pictures for us, we win. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, for they can rest from their labors. And that's what we read in the other part of this two part interlude, if you will. There before the throne of God, they serve Him day and night. He who sits on the throne shelters them with His presence. They don't hunger anymore, they don't thirst anymore. They are glorified at the sight of Christ. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ In this interlude. That's the emphasis. In the midst of the warfare and the suffering, the Lamb of chapter five carries on His work of salvation in the people on earth and bringing them to His home in heaven. And this is how all the other images of Revelation would unfold if you and I had time to look at them.

Speaker 1:

And they unfold in this kind of same thing that you're saying, that there's kind of the system, the events right, Like the women child presumed to dragon, but then there's always going to be a break in where there's these two things.

Speaker 2:

The woman and the child and the dragon. That's almost like a book interlude, because between the second cycle of seven, the trumpets, and the last cycle of seven, the bowls, there is this book interlude the woman, the child and the dragon. And the dragon cannot defeat the woman, who's protected in the wilderness, and it's an age old fight. So the dragon goes to make warfare against her offspring that's Genesis three. And so he summons two beasts these are Daniel's beasts One from the ocean to persecute God's people on earth, one that leads everyone to idolatry, which, incidentally, looks like the Lamb but speaks like the dragon, perhaps a false Christ, if you will. And this is how the adversary carries on his fight during the latter days. Who answers him in the fight on the other side? Guess who appears again, the conquering Lamb and the 144,000. So this ongoing battle on earth is the adversary warring against the offspring of the woman, that is God's people. But Christ leads his people in the fight and guess who wins? There is a wheat harvest and a grape harvest, and the wheat harvest, god bringing in his own, the grape harvest, the grapes of wrath, treading out the wine press of God's wrath. And so that's a book interlude, and so that's the big picture, if you will, because we've seen two cycles of seven at that point, and so we're wondering well, what's going on here? Why all this fighting? This book interlude connects us to that fight of Genesis 3, where God says I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her offspring and your offspring. They're going to crush your head while you will bruise their heel. And that is the imagery which starts out the book interlude. We see the woman being pursued by the dragon, the serpent fighting against the woman's offering, and we see the resolution of that battle in the book interlude the conquering lamb is victorious in these latter days. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, oh so, Dr Brighton, to wrap us up after this month-long journey together way too short of time, but been so, so rich. For me, I will never forget this time. What's one of the most misunderstood themes that you've just. You've just heard that you just kind of say this is something over and over again. It's just missing. This is not what John was meaning.

Speaker 2:

Well, I could talk about the millennium, but we did that in prior lessons Because a lot of our brothers and sisters in the faith unfortunately think that there's going to be some age of 1,000 year, age of heaven on earth, and the apostles just didn't look forward to that and for clarity, real quick, dr Brighton, what we, as Lutherans, would identify as a millennial yeah, there's no literal thousand years that is, and as I said last time, the binding of Satan literally means he just can't bring Armageddon on until God has accomplished his half works of salvation. Yeah, so he receives a lot of inordinate attention. I could talk about that, but let me talk about another one, that 666 number. Yeah, yeah, it's a confusing one, because we would like to think OK, you can take letters and turn them into numbers, and so if I take the Greek letter alpha, that can serve as the number 1 and beta and number 2. And we could theoretically turn a name into a number. And it sounds like maybe that's what John wants us to do, because John says let him calculate, let the one who is discerning calculate the number. It's a number of a man and it's 666. Unfortunately, all attempts have been unsatisfactory and unconvincing. And in fact Irenaeus, who was two generations removed from John, who wrote this, so John had a disciple called Polycarp, polycarp had a disciple called Irenaeus, so Irenaeus is pretty close to the author. You know what Irenaeus said. We have his comments about 666. He said we don't know. You can make this number equal anybody and in fact if I worked the numbers right, I could make Mark Brighton equal 666. Don't be worried, I'm not the only one. So it receives a lot of inordinate attention and we just don't know. Finally, we just don't know, but it receives too much attention in the book of Revelation, because this is not the revelation of the guy whose number is 666. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Yeah and so yeah, we just don't know what that means, even though John says calculated out, maybe eventually we'll understand, but we surely don't know. So that's a confusing part. What fills me with hope?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, what's one of the most beautiful themes that you see in all your study and all your depth of this? What's just one of the most beautiful themes that you find as you've seen this reading through this in the original language.

Speaker 2:

Revelation 22,. After we have heard it all, after we have read it all, after we have heard the messenger read it to all of us. Verse 16, I, jesus, have set my messenger, that is John, to testify to you about these things. For the churches, I am the root, I am the descendant of David. The bright and morning star, the Spirit and the bride say Come. Let all who hear say Come. Let the one who is thirsty come and let the one who desires take the water of life without price. It ends with an invitation A son of man can rewrite your story. It doesn't have to end in death or suffering. It doesn't have to end. Your worst offense, your worst sin need not define you. Christ rewrites your story. And so it ends with an invitation let anybody who is thirsty come. It's an open invitation, and that's how it ends. Verse 20, come, lord Jesus. This is my prayer. So I just find that's a beautiful ending to this book. We want to be reunited with the Son of man, we want to be with Jesus, we want to know His comfort, we want to be with Him, we want to know His peace, we want to be recreated in His presence, and that's just a beautiful way to end it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that is a beautiful way to end it and a beautiful way for us to end this series, a reminder to everyone who's listening, and even those as you're listening think of those who need to hear too that Jesus invites them to come to receive His love, that he can, I like and I love. He will rewrite your story that will be filled with victory, because it's all about His victory for everyone, and so just let us come. So, dr Brighton thank you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for the opportunity you have.

Speaker 1:

originally blessed us. So thank you for the blessing you are to the church at large, the blessing you are everyone who hears this and please know you have personally also just blessed me so much years past and over this past month.

Speaker 2:

And God bless you, you as well, and the people of God in your location too, as you proclaim the victory of Christ and invite others to be part of that. God bless you.

Speaker 1:

All right everybody. Thanks so much for listening. Have a great day.

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