Faithlife Sermons

Final Teaching

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Second Temple Literature

Now, again, we could go off and talk about the worldwide, encompassing nature of the temple. And there was this inordinately literalistic-defying description of a temple 1,500 miles high and all this kind of stuff. This is known elsewhere in Second Temple Jewish literature, where you get these crazy, enormous dimensions of the temple, because they wanted to compare the dwelling place of God at the end of days as filling the entire cosmos. And this is one of the ways you do it. You do it with something so inordinately large as to be physically impossible to communicate the point that God tabernacles everywhere. Okay? He’s not picking his spots anymore. He fills everything.
So Josephus had one of these kinds of descriptions. And if you were going through either Beale’s commentary or Beale and McDonough in the commentary on the use of the Old Testament in the New, you’d get the references. But Josephus has this sort of description. Josephus writes that the earth was the outer court and the sea was the inner court. He tries to map over parts of the planet to the temple—again, an inordinately large temple just to communicate this idea that the Lord fills everywhere. Philo did it, as well—that the temple was a microcosm of the universe, and all this sort of thing. I mean, this is not unknown. You will get it in books outside of Revelation. Regardless of what the system is, the point is the same: that the Lord’s presence fills everything. There is no place that you could go where he is not there. Now we know that theologically now, but at the end of days with the new earth and the new Jerusalem (if you’ll pardon the expression), it’s going to be more literalistically true. I mean, you’re going to witness it. You’re going to be able to sense it. You’re going to be able to see it with your eyes and sense it with your other senses, that there’s no place you can go where the presence of God is not felt, seen, heard, and otherwise. And that’s what they’re trying to get at here.
Let’s jump into Revelation 22 for a few minutes, as we wrap up the book. In Revelation 22:1, we read the following. I’m just going to pick a few passages here.
Revelation 22:1–2 ESV
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
That was actually the first two verses. But again, you get the idea. When we get into 22, Beale and McDonough write this:
The opening verse of chapter 22 combines the prophetic pictures of a spring or river of “living water” flowing out of latter-day Jerusalem (Zech. 14:8) and its temple (Ezek. 47:1–9) [ so we’re back in Ezekiel 47 again].
The introductory verse of chapter 22 reaches farther back even than the OT prophecies of Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah to the description of the primeval garden in Gen. 2:10: “a river was going forth from Eden.”
Living water going forth; a river was going forth. So he’s saying, the Genesis Eden description is part of the backdrop here.
In association with the first Eden’s river, the “gold… the bdellium and the onyx stone” were features around one of the river’s tributaries, which compares to the precious stones surrounding the river of Rev. 22:1 [ we just read about those gems and others in] (cf. 21:18–21). The point is that God “will make the end like the beginning” (Barn. 6:13), though the consummated garden will exist on an escalated scale in comparison to the first... As in Ezek. 47, the living water flows from the temple, though now God and the Lamb are the temple (21:22). Although the Holy Spirit may be in mind, the water metaphor primarily represents the life of eternal fellowship with God and Christ, which is borne out by the way 22:3–5 develops 22:1–2 [ and then they make the side note that water is used in the Old Testament and in broader Judaism and the New Testament as a symbol of the Holy Spirit] (for water as symbolic of the Spirit in the OT, Judaism, and the NT, see Ezek. 36:25–27; John 3:5; 4:10–24; cf. 1 John 5:7–8; [ and then they cite a Qumran text] 1QS IV, 21.

Living Water

This notion of living water takes us back to the… You know, living water was water that moved, as opposed to something stagnant, or a pond. That’s what “living water” was perceived to be. It had movement, just like living things did elsewhere. They moved. It showed they were alive. So “living water” is the expression. In this instance, we need to think of it more abstractly as “the water that comes from where the source of life is.” And the source of life is where God tabernacles—where he is. Because he is the source of all life. And so it goes back to Eden, gets brought into the new creation in Revelation 21-22. Again, they convey the same ideas. Everything has gone full circle back to Eden, where there will be no more want and no more famine. No more drought. No more disease. No more fill-in-the-blank. It’s all going to be what Eden was meant to be.
In verses 2-3, Aune draws attention to the line about the middle of the street. The phrase “through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life,” that whole jumbled… It’s kind of awkward syntactically. But you get a reference to “the middle of the street,” and then you get a reference to “either side of the river,” and then one Tree of Life. Like what do we do with that? Well, the answer is it’s best interpreted as a collective reference; that is, many trees of life (think of the Garden of Eden)… Okay? There are many trees that are in view because you can’t have one tree of life on bothsides of a river. So Aune grammatically shows other examples of how the word for tree is used as a collective to denote a forest or more than one tree. We’re not going to worry about that level of detail. But just so that you’re aware, this is how these few verses need to be approached so that they make sense. Now Aune writes this. Ultimately…
This is an allusion to Ezek 47:12 [ and here we go back to Ezekiel 47 again] (continued in vv 2b and 2c)…
So Ezekiel 47:12is a source text…
Ezekiel 47:12 ESV
And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
So Ezekiel 47:12is a source text…
…which the author has subtly modified by changing “all kinds of trees” [ that’s what you’d read in the Septuagint] on both sides of the river flowing from the sanctuary mentioned in Ezek 47:7, 12 to the collective term xulov zōēs, [ which is Tree of Life, but could also be translated trees of life] “tree(s) of life.” The term xulov, “tree,” is a collective referring to numerous trees found along both banks of the river.
And again, he has his own grocery list of where this occurs elsewhere. What about the fruit? So we’ve got more than just one tree of life. We’ve got an abundant garden. And think of the Garden of Eden, back at Ezekiel 31—the thing with the trees in the Garden of Eden, as well. That could be part of this whole complex of ideas. The twelve kinds of fruit are considered “an allusion to the trees of Ezek 47:12…” Let me just go back and read 47:12, just so we don’t lose that. So Ezekiel 47:12 says:
12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Which, of course, is a line that’s going to come up in Revelation as well. So this is Ezekiel 47. It’s this eschatological—this end times vision—of the restoration back in the land, so on and so forth. So it’s an Edenic vision. And we get this reference to all these different kinds of trees for food, and they bear fruit every month. Well, that’s where the number 12 comes in. So in Ezekiel 47:12, we don’t have 12 kinds of fruit, but we do have fruit every month. And of course, there’s 12 months. There the trees miraculously bear 12 different kinds of fruit, one each month, while, again, you get the counterpart with Revelation 21. Again, it’s the same idea just expressed in a different way.
Ezekiel 47:12mentions the “healing of the nations.” And Keener notes:
To Ezekiel’s “healing” Revelation adds, “of the nations”…
So Ezekiel 47:12 just mentions “healing.” And John interprets that “of the nations.” Let me go back and just read that to you again. Just look what John does with this.
12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. (Ezekiel 47:12)
Okay? And at the end:
Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
This is Ezekiel. He’s writing to the captives of Judah. Okay? It’s Israel-centered. It’s Jew-centered, if you will. But when John uses it in Revelation 21, guess what? It’s not. John cites it and adds the phrase “the nations”—“the healing of the nations.” Again, he’s just taken another Jewish prophecy and applied it to the whole Church. He’s applied it to believers everywhere. Again, one people of God, one source of life, one place where the Lord’s going to tabernacle. Again, all of these ideas are just coming through once again in this little section.
This is kind of interesting It’s hard not to see Isaiah 66:18-23 in this passage. Remember, in Isaiah, that’s where the nations are judged. We have the Day of the Lord; the nations get judged and, of course, their gods with them. We have the destruction of the gods. The Psalm 82 judgment is finally fulfilled. And the nations are judged. But we also have in Isaiah 66 people from the nations who worship the Lord at Jerusalem. We have Gentiles being grafted in even to the priesthood. You get both views. You get both sides of it. You get the judgment and the blessing, Day of the Lord, and then the grafting in. And it’s real interesting. Aune makes this comment. He says:
The “healing of the nations” is further explained by 22:3. First, “there will no longer be any curse.” The phrase is taken from Zech. 14:11 and applied to the eternal new order in which it finds its final attainment. Although for “curse,” the LXX of Zechariah has anathema and Revelation has katathema, both are legitimate renderings [ in the Septuagint] of the Hebrew ḥerem.

Herem

Okay, this is the big conquest verb of killing, you know, the giant clans and all that—the ḥerem—to put things under the ban. So by virtue of this one word… You go back to Revelation 22:3. Aune picks up on this one word and he says, if you read it, “No longer will there be anything accursed.” See, in this new Eden, in the new city of Jerusalem, in the new Eden, the new earth, there is no longer anything accursed. And the vocabulary that John picks is one of the terms that is often used to translate ḥeremin the Old Testament. The ḥeremis over. Okay? Everything that could be put to the ban has been put to the ban. There is no more defilement. It’s just that one word (“there is no more ḥerem”) is a great way to telegraph the idea of a complete, irreversible ending of chaos. Right there. Just that one term. It’s just… There it is. There it is. And it’s right where you’d expect it to be: with the new Eden. Because before the Fall there was no ḥerem. There was no chaos to be reversed. There was nothing to be put under the ban.
Now in verse 8… One more note here. John attempts to worship the interpreting angel at the end. So if we go down to verse 8 here.
Revelation 22:8–9 ESV
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
So his attempt to worship the interpreting angel gets rejected. And the same thing happens in Revelation 19:10. We didn’t comment on it there, but… I’m going to read you something Beale has here. He has it at Revelation 19:10, but then he refers here to this verse. He writes:
The theme of angels refusing worship to highlight the divine source of visions and to tone down the role of mediating angels is found in other Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature (see esp. Asc. Isa. 7:21; 8:5; Tob. 12:16–22; Apocalypse of Zephaniah 6:11–15; Gospel of pseudo-Matthew 3; Cairo Genizah Hekhlot A/2, 13–
18). The angel commands John not to worship him but to “worship God”; ὅρα μή is best rendered literally as “see not,” and is roughly equivalent with our colloquial “Don’t!”
Just the word: “Don’t!”
Another reason for the prohibition is that the angel is but a mere “fellow servant” of John and “of your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus” (for this phrase see on 6:9; 12:17; 19:7–8). This does not mean that the speaker is a glorified believer but that, though an angel, he is also a servant to God like John and his comrades in proclaiming “the testimony of Jesus” (cf. 22:8–9 for clarification). Angels proclaim from heaven and believers from earth [ there’s the symbiotic relationship again—heaven and earth]... Perhaps John mistook the angel for the divine figure from heaven in 1:13ff. and 10:1ff., who is worthy of worship. Whatever his motive, the prohibition stands as a warning to Christians, not merely against worship of angels in particular, but against idolatry of any form in general, which was a problem among some in John’s readership [ at least according to his comments in] (e.g., see on 2:14–15, 20–21; 9:20). But it is unlikely that this is primarily a polemic against a cult of angel worship existing among some Christian communities in Asia Minor.
Now there are going to be scholars who disagree with Beale there. Because there is good evidence, particularly at Colossae, that this was a problem. But what do we do with this? Well, I think it makes sense that the angel rejects worship because we don’t do that. Only God is worthy of worship. And so I think the idea of a polemic against worshiping angels is likely in view, just generally, because of idolatry. And again, I’m going to say, I think a situation like Colossae could motivate it as well. But the issue for us is a little confusing because we’ve seen a couple of times earlier in the book (in chapter 1 and, more recently, in Revelation 14:14-20 and Revelation 10:1)… We’ve seen that Christ is cast as an angel in a couple of verses. This is what’s known academically… And you can refer to the episodes that we did that cover Revelation 10 and Revelation 14. This is known in academic circles as angelomorphic Christology: the idea that God sometimes takes the form of a man or an angel, like the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. Again, when you put it that way, it’s very familiar. But this is a whole category of how Christ can be portrayed. It doesn’t mean that Christ is an angel. It means that one particular angel in this or that scene just so happens to be God in human form from heaven and so it gets interpreted as an angel. So since that’s true, we have to ask ourselves, “Well, why does he say, ‘Don’t worship me. Worship God’?” Because in the very next verse… Or I should say it’s very closely following. It seems like this is Jesus. You get down to verse 12:
Revelation 22:12–13 ESV
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Now that sounds like Jesus. Alpha and Omega. He says, “Worship God.” And who else could take the label “Alpha and Omega” but Christ? But then he has this refusal of worship. So, like, what’s going on here? Now I would suggest (just my little take here) I think there’s an easy path. But I’ll give you the little more difficult (or clunkier) path first.
So in Revelation 22:13, you could read it to say that the angel identifies himself as the Alpha and Omega. You could read the passage that way. And in that case, then we’re talking about Jesus. And you’d have to ask yourself, “Well, why refuse the worship?” I would say it could be akin to Jesus’ own elevation of the Father in the Gospels. For instance, he gets into a discussion with certain people who call him “good,” and he says, “Well, don’t call me good. Call God good. Only God is good.” Like, he wants to elevate God juxtaposed with himself (only God deserves this kind of language, so on and so forth) to teach the people that he is a servant of the Father. So it could be something like that. Again, the idea wouldn’t be a denial of his deity or some affirmation that he was born sinful or something like that. Rather, the idea would be to keep the focus of worship and adoration on the Father. That was part of Jesus’ mission.
But I think there’s an easier path here. I think the simplest solution is to assume Christ is the referent of verse 13 (the Alpha and Omega) and that there is an accompanying angel also in the scene or in the vision. That is, verse 8points to
an angelic interpreter and Jesus is also present via earlier portions of the book. Because this is actually just one part of a grand scene. These scenes tend to flow over multiple chapters, and so it’s easy to sort of lose the characters. So I think it is quite plausible that we’d have an interpreting angel here and Jesus in the same scene, but that only comes out here in verses 8 and 13. And if that’s the case, then it’s okay for the angel—the angelic interpreter—to say, “Don’t worship me; worship God,” and Jesus is right there and refers to himself as the Alpha and the Omega. There’s no problem. So I think you’d have two figures there instead of just John and one other figure. I think you have John with two. And I think verse 16 supports that. If you read verse 16:
Revelation 22:16 ESV
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
So I think that suggests we’ve got two rather than one. And as far as the morning star (our last note here), This is a messianic title. It’s messianic by its very nature..
The morning star language in Revelation 2:28 is messianic—it refers to a divine being who would come from Judah. We know this by considering two other passages…
In Numbers 24:17, we read the prophecy that “a star will go out from Jacob, and a scepter will rise from Israel.” Numbers 24:17 was considered messianic in Judaism, completely apart from the New Testament writers. In other words, literate readers of John’s writing would have known the morning star reference was not about literal brightness [ or something twinkling in the sky].
By the way, Matthew never quotes Numbers 24:17 about the star of Bethlehem, either. So that wasn’t what the Numbers passage was about. Rather, it’s about royalty. It’s about the messiah. It is about a descendant from Judah who will rise up and be divine. Because this is how stars get thought of. Stars were a metaphor for divine beings—divine personages. And in this case, you have a divine ruler.
The wording of Revelation 2 is especially powerful when read against this backdrop. Not only does Jesus say that he is the messianic morning star in Revelation 22:16, but [ earlier in the book] when he says “I will give him [who overcomes] the morning star” (Rev 2:28), he grants us the authority to rule with him [ as though we had the morning star].
And we do, because he gives it to us. He gives us that role—that status. So it’s really about a status. At the end of the book, we have this wording about “adding to” or “taking away.” This will be the last thing that I mention here. And people often ask about this. And they want to say, “Well, this is why we should only use the King James Version in the book of Revelation. Because those other versions add words or take words out.” That has nothing to do with what’s going on here. It’s not a statement about the transmission of the Greek New Testament, 1600 years before it ever happened. It has nothing to do with text versions and whatnot. Rather, Beale and McDonough note this:
What is the meaning of “adding to” and “taking away from” the revelatory words?
The answer must be sought [ believe it or not] in Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy 4:1–2 ESV
“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
In Deut. 4:1– 2; 12:32 [ and I would also just throw in here Deuteronomy 29:19-20] the language serves as a twofold warning against deceptive teaching that affirmed that idolatry was not inconsistent with faith in the God of Israel…
That was an error. Deuteronomy 4:1-2 reads this [in the Septuagint]:
And now, Israel, hear the ordinances and the judgments that I am teaching you to do today in order that you may live and become numerous and, after entering, take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 Do not add to the word that I am commanding you and do not subtract from it. Keep the commands of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today.
And then later on in Deuteronomy 29, it’s part of that “blessing and cursing” thing that is about the covenant. It talks about your name being wiped from the Lord’s
sight under heaven. But it’s linked to this notion of “don’t add or subtract.” So what Beale and McDonough are going to suggest is we might want to think about this in terms of Deuteronomy. Because Deuteronomy uses this language. If you go back and you read Deuteronomy 4:1-2, like we just did, you would notice in the very next verse (Deuteronomy 4:3), it’s an allusion to the Baal-Peor episode of Numbers 25:1–9, 14–18. 1 Enoch quotes it the same way.
Those who deceive in this way [ in the way of Baal-Peor] are false prophets… Such false teaching amounts to “adding to” God’s law; furthermore, it is tantamount to “taking away from” God’s law, since it violates the positive laws against idolatry…
Now Beale points out the analogy of 1 Enoch. (We just mentioned that Enoch deals with this, too.) And Beale cites 1 Enoch 104:11, where there’s a warning not “to change or take away from my words.” And it means that the reader should not lie, they should not “take account of idols,” they should not “alter and pervert the words of righteousness,” or “practice great deceits.”
So Beale’s point in bringing up the Enoch passage—the Enoch parallel here—is when we get to the end of the book of Revelation, it’s not about textual criticism. It’s not about favoring one Greek manuscript tradition over another. Adding to and taking away from God’s words are to lie. They are to reject and distort what the text says. And you can either do that by putting something in there that shouldn’t be in there or taking something out that should be there. And the effect of doing that generally is false teaching, and specifically in Deuteronomy it’s related to the sin of what happened at Baal-Peor with Balaam and how he got Israel to sin. So it’s actually much clearer. It’s much more specific, having to do with false teaching in general, as opposed to “which New Testament text should we use? Should we use the King James or something else?” That has nothing to do with it. It’s really about obedience to the text as we have it—not inserting anything in there to get out of obedience, and not taking anything away to excuse ourselves from our own sin—our own idolatry.

Old Testament Contexts

So that is Revelation 21-22. These are the Old Testament contexts. As always, we could’ve thrown more in there and done three or four parts of this. But I hope, now that we’re at the end of this series, that you draw the same conclusion that I wanted you to draw at the beginning. And that is, there is really no New Testament book that has as much Old Testament in it as the book of Revelation. And of course, the mystery is (as we said in the very first episode of this series— you can go back and listen to it)… The oddity is that John almost never quotes the Old Testament word for word. What he does is he alludes to things in the Old Testament over and over and over again. He’ll do it in cycles. He’ll take three or four verses and cram them together and amalgamate them—sort of merge them with each other to make some particular point of teaching or to explain part of the vision that he saw. He will use the Old Testament almost in every line. He’ll allude to something in the Old Testament or he’ll combine a couple of things that he gets from the Old Testament. He assumes that you know it so well that you’ll be able to pick up what’s he’s putting down. So he is the antidote really… He is the exact reverse of the impulse we see in churches today about getting away from the Old Testament or minimizing its value.
I would suggest that if you’re not steeped in the Old Testament, you don’t have a prayer of understanding anything in the book of Revelation. Period. So if you’re in that kind of church context, in that church situation, I pity you. If you’re following somebody who teaches that, I pity you as well. Because when it comes to the book of Revelation, it’s inescapable. It’s everywhere. And news flash: Revelation’s not unique. All the New Testament books get into the Old Testament. None of them are quite as heavy or sort of omnipresent. You know, the Old Testament is ubiquitous in Revelation. But a lot of them have a lot to say in regard to the Old Testament. It was the Bible that Jesus had. It was the Bible the early Church had before there were any of these letters and Gospels written. What’s the Word of God to Paul before he pens a letter? It’s the Old Testament! Okay?
So this is how… We need to work this back into our consciousness, that the things we read in the New Testament have precedent. And that precedent is going to largely come from the Hebrew Bible—the Old Testament.
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