Monday, December 21, 2009

The Apostle John, - His Epistles & Revelation

John was the last surviving apostle at a time when 'The Great Apostasy' had already gained a foothold within the Christian congregations. The visions he received must have given him an enormous amount of strength and encouragement while he was in exile, and also supplied him with the spiritual insight needed to counsel and assist faithful Christians during such a difficult time period...which was only going to get worse after his death.
(unless otherwise noted, all the following illustrations and info are found in the 'Revelation -It's Grand Climax at Hand!' book)

(illustration on pg 7, showing the apostle John while imprisoned on the island of Patmos, where he received the visions which are recorded in the book of Revelation)

(following info on pg 798 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2)
The last book of the Bible as arranged in most translations, though not the last written. It is also called the Apocalypse of John the Apostle.

Writer, and When and Where Written
The apostle John names himself as the writer of the book and designates the place of writing as the island of Patmos, where John was in exile at the time for being a preacher of God’s Word and a witness of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1, 9) The time of writing was possibly about 96 C.E.

Style and Appropriateness
The book is in letter form, detailing a series of visions set forth in a proper order in regular progression, finally coming to the climactic vision. It supplies a fitting conclusion to the entire Bible. The book seems to proceed on the basis of series of sevens. Seven seals open into the blowing of seven trumpets, then into seven plagues. There are seven lampstands, seven stars, seven thunders, and many other things by sevens, evidently because the number seven here represents completeness, and the book deals with the completion of the sacred secret of God.—Revelation 10:7; (see SACRED SECRET - Insight Vol. 2)

Author and Channel
Jehovah God the Almighty is the book’s author, and the channel of information is Jesus Christ, who sent it to John and presented it to him by means of his angel. (Revelation 1:1) The spirit of God is represented as being sevenfold, hence acting in its fullest capacity to convey this disclosure. John was given divine command to write.—1:4, 11.

While some of the things seen by John in the vision may seem terrifying—the beasts, the woes, the plagues—the book was written, not to terrify, but to comfort and encourage those who read it with faith. It can lead the reader to blessings. In fact, the writer of the book states at the outset: “Happy [“blessed,” KJ] is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it.” (Revelation 1:3) John also says that the book is for the purpose of showing God’s slaves the things that “must shortly take place.”—1:1, 2.

(illustration and following info on pgs 16 & 17)

Channel of Communication
Revelation 1:1b, 2 continues: “And he [Jesus] sent forth his angel and presented it [Revelation] in signs through him to his slave John, who bore witness to the word God gave and to the witness Jesus Christ gave, even to all the things he saw.” Thus, John received the inspired record through an angelic messenger. He wrote it in a scroll, transmitting it to the congregations of his time . . . God had a channel for communicating Revelation in John’s day, and John was the earthly part of that channel. Likewise, God has a channel for giving spiritual nourishment to his ‘slaves’ today. In his great prophecy concerning the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus identified the earthly part of this channel as “the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:3, 45-47) He uses this John class in unlocking the meaning of the prophecy.

The apostle John writes that Jesus presented Revelation “in signs,” or symbols . . . These visions in Revelation are not presented in chronological order. Each has its own time period of fulfillment. Many of the visions echo words of earlier prophecies that provide clues as to their interpretation. For example, Daniel’s prophecy described four fearsome beasts, explaining that these portrayed ruling powers on earth. Hence, we are helped to understand that the beasts of Revelation represent political entities, including those now existing.—Daniel 7:1-8, 17; Revelation 13:2, 11-13; 17:3.

The Stars and the Lampstands (pgs 28 & 29)
John has seen Jesus in the midst of seven golden lampstands with seven stars in his right hand. (Revelation 1:12, 13, 16) Now Jesus explains this: “As for the sacred secret of the seven stars that you saw upon my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars mean the angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.”—Revelation 1:20.

The seven lampstands are the seven congregations to whom John directs the book of Revelation: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Why are congregations symbolized by lampstands? Because Christians, whether individually or collectively as congregations, have to ‘let their light shine before men’ in this bedarkened world. (Matthew 5:14-16) Additionally, lampstands were among the furnishings of Solomon’s temple. Calling the congregations lampstands would likely remind John that, in an illustrative sense, each local congregation of anointed ones is “God’s temple,” a dwelling place for God’s spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16) Moreover, in the antitype of the Jewish temple arrangement, members of the congregation of anointed ones serve as “a royal priesthood” in Jehovah’s great spiritual temple arrangement, of which Jesus is the High Priest and where Jehovah dwells personally in the heavenly Most Holy.—1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9; Hebrews 3:1; 6:20; 9:9-14, 24.

(photos on pg 23 showing the remains of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea)

"Archaeological remains of the cities where the seven congregations were located confirm Bible record. It was here that first-century Christians received Jesus' encouraging messages that stimulate the worldwide congregation."

Revelation 1:1-3:22 -(box on pg 800 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2) The glorified Christ gives loving counsel to fellow Kingdom heirs...
The Ephesus congregation has endured but has left its first love.
The spiritually rich Smyrna congregation is encouraged to remain faithful in the face of tribulation.
The Pergamum congregation has held fast to Christ’s name under persecution but has tolerated sectarianism.
The Thyatira congregation has a record of increased activity, but it has tolerated a Jezebel influence.
The Sardis congregation is dead spiritually; it must wake up.
The Philadelphia congregation, which has kept Christ’s word, is urged to keep holding fast what it has.
The Laodicea congregation is lukewarm; let it obtain from Christ what is needed for spiritual healing.

The Great Apostasy (pgs 29-31)
When John wrote Revelation, Christianity was upwards of 60 years old. At the outset, it had survived 40 years of constant opposition from Judaism. Then the Jewish system received a mortal blow in 70 C.E. when the unrepentant Jews lost their national identity and what was to them virtually an idol—the temple in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, the apostle Paul had foretold that there would be an apostasy among the anointed Christians, and Jesus’ messages show that in John’s old age this apostasy was already developing. John was the last of those who acted as a restraint on this all-out attempt by Satan to corrupt the seed of the woman. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 John 7-11) So it was the appropriate time for Jehovah’s Chief Shepherd to write to the elders in the congregations, warning of developing trends and encouraging righthearted ones to stand firm for righteousness.

How the congregations in 96 C.E. responded to Jesus’ messages we do not know. But we do know that the apostasy developed rapidly after John’s death. “Christians” ceased to use Jehovah’s name and substituted “Lord” or “God” for it in Bible manuscripts. By the fourth century, the false doctrine of the Trinity had infiltrated the congregations. During this same period, the idea of an immortal soul was being adopted. Finally, Roman Emperor Constantine gave state approval to the “Christian” religion, and this led to the development of Christendom, where Church and State joined forces in ruling for a thousand years. It was easy to become a new-style “Christian.” Whole tribes adjusted their earlier pagan beliefs to versions of this religion. Many of the leaders in Christendom became oppressive political tyrants, enforcing their apostate views by the sword. Jesus’ words to the seven congregations were completely ignored by the apostatizing Christians.

The Seed Endures
In his parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus foretold the time of darkness that would exist while Christendom reigned supreme. Nevertheless, through all the centuries of apostasy, there would exist individual wheatlike Christians, genuine anointed ones. (Matthew 13:24-29, 36-43)

(boxes on pgs 98 & 99, showing a summary of each of the 16 visions which are recorded in the book of Revelation ... click to see close up)

The Letters of John
(info & boxes on pgs 94-97 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2)
These letters were among the last portions of the inspired Scriptures to be put in writing. Very likely John wrote the letters from Ephesus about 98 C.E., near the time when he wrote his Gospel account.