Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Revelation, Couplets, & the Matchless Blessing

Yesterday morning I read through the Revelation looking for couplets that described our purpose, perseverance, and victory over the opposition of those who hate the Lamb of God. John, writing with an obvious Jewish style, uses these couplets, or parallelisms, to build for us a multi-faceted picture of the glorious Word of God.

In 1:2 we get our first couplet: "...the word of God and...the testimony of Jesus Christ." This is the content of John's testimony, and we see that this testimony doesn't guarantee that a person will "win friends and influence people." In 1:9 the same couplet appears again along with the consequences for holding to such a testimony: "I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." John finds himself imprisoned because of "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." The couplet is used again in 6:9, where we see that imprisonment was just the beginning of the consequences. "When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained..." Twice we see that imprisonment and death are the world's answers to "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." However, this is not the last word. "Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years...blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years" (20:4,6). Imprisonment and death to blessed resurrection and reigning with Jesus. This is the way of "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."

The next couplet in the Revelation is gives us another view of God's blessed voice in our lives here in this world. In this group, the "commandments of God" is paralleled with "the testimony of Jesus." Again, this voice in our life brings opposition from the world: "So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (12:17). The same Word that brings the tribulation and persecution also gives the believer endurance: "Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus" (14:12). It seems that the Old Testament Scriptures ("the commandments of God") and New Testament Scriptures ("the testimony of Jesus") are united in this view of the Word that brings both opposition and endurance.

The third parallelism involves the work of God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. The two witnesses "will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth" (11:3). In 11:7 it is said that this "prophecy" is also a "testimony." This couplet reminds us that when we share God's Word it is not our voice that is heard, but God the Holy Spirit's.  The Scripture tells us that prophecy is the work of the Spirit through us (Matthew 10:17-20; Mark 13:11; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 2 Peter 1:20,21).  This parallelism is clearer in 19:10, where an angel tells John that "the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy."

We have seen the link between "the word of God" and "the testimony of Jesus." We have seen "the commandments of God" and the "testimony of Jesus" put in parallel with each other. "The testimony of Jesus" is then in couplet with the Spirit's work in "prophecy." As I continued exploring these threads through the Revelation, I came to the final couplet:

  • "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death" (12:10,11).
  • "He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God" (19:13).
In this final group, the "Word" is paralleled with "blood." At first, this did not seem to "fit" in my mind (children of Aristotle we are, putting things in neat categories in our heads). I ruminated on this throughout the day without illumination until I went on a run through nearby State land. Then, on a cow trail among the cholla, the link revealed itself. "Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU’” (Hebrews 9:18-20). The old covenant contained two elements: the Word and the blood. The new covenant is the same: the blood-sprinkled Word unites us, separated from God by sin, in relationship with Him eternally. It is the inaugurating of the relationship, the power that maintains the relationship through adversity, and the promise of victory. Not only does "blood" fit with "the Word of God," "the testimony of Jesus," "the commandments of God," and "the Spirit of prophecy," it is indispensable.

So we see this matchless blessing given to us by God that we may walk with Him through a world that hates Him and be with Him in a world that will never die: the blood-sprinkled, relationship-sealing, powerful Word of God. Hold unceasingly to this blessing, dear Church, proclaiming it, living it, and lifting it up so that its light may send every shadow fleeing.

No comments: