Revelation In Context

The book Revelation In Context, by Irene Belyeu, is a literary and historical commentary on the Biblical Book of Revelation with supporting referents and notes.

Although you will find many helpful articles and blog posts regarding this historical and inspirational book on this website, seekers of the truth of the Revelation will want to study and explore more in depth by purchasing the book.  There are two editions of the book available.

  • Volume 1 — This book is for the serious seeker of the truth of the Revelation and would be ideal for a class setting where each student has a copy of Volume 1 also with access to the Complete Edition as a reference work. (397 pages)
  • Complete Edition — This book contains all of Volume 1 and, in addition, all of the Referents and Notes from the Bible, Rabbinic writings, the Apocrypha, and Enoch. (657 pages)

Printed versions of the book may be purchased online at: Xulon Press and the Complete Edition from Amazon; and Volume 1 from Amazon. It is also available at Living Word

Alpha and Omega Part 4 of Series

History of the Alphabet

Some history of the alphabet will help to demonstrate its significance as a symbol of Christ. The alphabet did not originate as the phonetic system we have today which roughly represents speech sounds. It had a long history before it reached the phonetic stage of development. As the handwriting of God upon the heavens, it was universally significant to all mankind. Being able to read the signs of the heavens, to know the global positioning system, to know the seasons, was a matter of life or death as well as a spiritual experience. Having already acquired this basic significance, it was ideally suited to go into the whole world when it developed into a phonetic system.

Alphabet as Immutable Order

The primal idea of the alphabet was that of an immutable order, an order witnessed to by the order of the time-indicating signs of the heavens. Possibly the first use of the graphic symbols of the alphabet was as numerals for counting and naming this ordered series of the progression of time-indicators for time-reckoning, that is, the calendar.

As symbols of order, it consequently became a mnemonic device for memory units of all kinds.[9] In time the mnemonic use of these signs for oral literary and historical units developed into semasiographic writing,[10] which, at some point, produced the idea of correlating the signs with speech sounds. At this point the alphabet became phonetic as we know it today.[11]

The major steps in the history of the development of the alphabet as it progressed through a continual differentiation of usage, meaning, and signs is somewhat parallel to the ever-increasing Light of Christ.

[9] A mnemonic device is a system used to recall the proper order of items in a sequence; i.e. any group of items to be remembered could be arranged according to this fixed numero/alphabetic order and so be more easily recalled, for example, “1, 2, 3,” or “a, b, c.”

[10] Semasiographic writing is defined by Gelb as “… a stage of writing in which meaning– not words or sounds– are suggested by signs,” Ignace J. Gelb, A Study of Writing: The Foundations of Grammatology, Second Edition, (Chicago, Ill., University of Chicago Press, 1962), 15.

[11] The Behaviourist School says that language is the only medium of human communication and all human intercommunication outside of language is nothing but a secondary substitute for language, that thinking and ideas are ‘silent talk.’
Gelb says that the Behaviourist School is wrong in some instances, that there is not a complete identity of speech and writing, that in the earliest writing, the images expressed meaning without a “linguistic garment.” Only after the development of a phonetic system was writing practically identified with speech and lost its independent character (ibid.).

Alpha and Omega Part Three of Series

Revelation 1:8, KJV: I Am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.[7]

From the creation, the “signs,” the aleph ve tau, the alphabet, was intended to be both numerals and letters witnessing to and symbolizing the Logos of the Most High God.[8] The lights of the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars were created for “signs,” ’othoth. This plural represents the grouping, or pluralizing of the alphabetic signs. These signs were for two purposes: to mark time, designating the times and seasons, and to give light, separating the light from the darkness, (Gen. 1:14).

When Christ said: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending”; that is, the ending and the beginning were one and the same point. Christ became the overlapping anchor between the “this age” and “the age to come.” 2Esdras 6:7 shows that the “dividing of times” means “the end of the first age and the beginning of the age that follows.” That is, this particular era shared both the end of the old age and the beginning of the new.

Definition of the Letter tau

The letter tau is defined by Gesinius (Lexicon s.v.) as: “(1) a sign, Eze. 9:4 (Arab….a sign in the form of a cross…whence the name of the letter …, which in Phoenician, and on the coins of the Maccabees has the form of a cross. (From the Phoenicians the Greeks and Romans took both the name and form of the letter.) (2) sign (cruciform), mark subscribed instead of a name to a bill of complaint; hence, subscription, Job 31:35.”

The Constellations Were Originally Named the Letters of the Alphabet

According to Jewish tradition, Moses “invented” the alphabet. However, it would be more accurate to say, “Moses was shown the alphabet upon Sinai.” There God showed him the order of the constellations of the heavens that mark both time and location, the global position. The alphabetic figures then were drawn in a stylized form of the constellations. The Hebrew name for this circle of constellations was not ‘zodiac,’ but rather Mazzaroth, (Strong’s #4216).

Seiss says that, due to the proclivity of the Jews to idolatrous worship of the heavenly bodies, all the figures of the zodiac were erased and the Hebrew alphabet was substituted in their place (p., 177). Seiss’ view is perhaps an anachronism, for the more likely scenario was that the “zodiac” signs were always, and originally designated by the Hebrew alphabet and only when Hebrews fell into idol worship did they use the signs of the “zodiac”.

Alphabet as Time Markers

As time markers, they fulfilled a numeric function, to mark day and night and the seasons of the year. As light givers they were to fulfill a literary and artistic function: to give Light on the earth and to separate Light from darkness physically, and wisdom from ignorance, intellectually. The original alphabet represented these two distinct rays, the numerical, which first found expression in the time-reckoning function and later in other mathematical uses, and the linguistic, expressed in writing. At this first stage it should perhaps be called the “numero/alphabet.” The original idea of the numero/alphabet represented the idea of order.

Alphabet as Witness of the Most High God

As signs, these highest of all symbols, were created as a witness of and to the Most High God, to teach and to inspire worship. We should therefore not wonder that they have been prostituted to idol worship throughout history in many cultures of the world. That is all the more reason we should appropriate them, as symbols, to the worship of Christ, their legitimate and intended use.

[7] The KJV includes the phrase “the beginning and the ending” but this is at the translator’s privilege for it was not in the original Greek. The KJV translators felt it was necessary in order to bring out the sense of the verse.
The RSV leaves out the phrase “the beginning and the ending” here but includes it at Revelation 21:6 and 22:13 where the saying is repeated, see “First and Last” my Commentary on 1:17.
[8] It could well be argued that this heavenly Pattern is the written Name of God. Its incorporation into the Temple meant that God’s Name was there. That is, the Temple was created and designed for the purpose of an observatory of the heavenly Pattern telling the times and seasons and teaching the wisdom of God. See also my Commentary at 1:3 “Christ as Light and Time”.

Next Lesson: Alpha and Omega Part 4

Alpha and Omega Part 2 of Series

 Revelation 1:8: “I am Alpha and Omega.”

This utterance, the first of the utterances of Jesus in the Book of Revelation, seems to be saying, not only the awesome title “I Am,” but also that “I Am the Alphabet,” since alpha and omega are the names of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This is a puzzling statement unless and until we understand the significance of the alphabet as it is used in this context.[1]

Hebrew Aleph and Tau

Based upon the premise that the book was originally written in Hebrew, we should translate the alphabetic terms back to the Hebrew. The equivalent of Greek alpha and omega is Hebrew aleph and tau. The aleph and tau, being the first and last letters, represents the entire alphabet and is no doubt the Hebrew word for “alphabet.’  The word we translate “and” is represented in Hebrew by the letter vau, giving us the three letters aleph, vau, and tau.These three letters so arranged spell the word translated “sign,” or transliterated ’ôwth, or sometimes ‘oth. [2]

We may readily see that as the alphabet Christ is the totality of every word that may be uttered, written, or read. He is The Word. However, there are aspects of the ancient alphabet that are difficult to translate. One of those is the fact that the oldest alphabets were not only letters, but were also numerals. As the numerals, Christ is the entire realm of all that can be measured or quantified, that is, all mathematics and science. But this is not yet all that the term aleph-vau-tau indicates, for in the earliest traceable stages, the alphabet was also the means of designating the time-telling stars and constellations in their time-telling movements as well as their function in navigation and cartography (Seiss, 177).[3]

Even now there is a system for naming stars that uses the Greek alphabet – roughly in order of their brightness within a constellation: alpha, beta, gamma, … etc.

Christ is All and in All

To sum it up, as aleph-vau-tau, Christ is All and in All: The Word, Time, Space, Wisdom, Life.

Origen in his Commentary said that the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible were twenty-two, “like the letters of their alphabet.”[4] This was a fact noted also by Josephus and other writers of that era. It indicates that they considered the alphabet as representing a totality; that is, the complete Scriptures were contained in the twenty-two letters of the alphabet.

[1] See also my Commentary on Revelation 1:7, “Coming”. The Hebrew word ’ôwth, (consisting of the letters aleph-vau-tau,), is used in Dan.7:13 regarding the ‘coming’ of the Son of Man in the clouds.

[2] Targumim = ‘translations’.
The Babli is the Babylonian Talmud and the Yerushalmi is the Jerusalem Talmud.
Midrash is: (1) the haggadic or halakic exposition of the underlying significance of a Bible text. (2) A collection of Midrashim. (3) cap: the Midrashic literature written between the 4th century B.C. and 11th century AD].
Haggadah is: (1) ancient Jewish lore forming esp. the nonlegal part of the Talmud. (2) The Jewish ritual for the Seder, (Passover feast).
Halakah is the body of Jewish law supplementing the Scriptural law and forming especially the legal part of the Talmud.

[3] “In the perspective of early Christians who compiled listings of heretics, Israelites who rejected Jesus as Messiah were quintessential heretics. Among this group, the Pharisees were remembered for their devotedness to astrology: ‘Fate and astrology were quite popular notions with them,’ writes Epiphanius…. Epiphanius further recounts how they possessed a vocabulary of their own in Hebrew for the zodiac and other celestial beings,” (Malina, 74).
Quoting Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 4.46. Anti-Nicene Fathers, 5.42, that “‘Heretics’ read constellations in terms of Israel’s biblical tradition. They assimilate the doctrines of an Aratus, for example, to those declared by the Scriptures, thus ‘exhibiting a strange marvel, as if the assertions made by them were fixed among the stars” (ibid.).
Malina says further: “The heretics opposed by Hippolytus interpret the Scriptures allegorically. The Scriptures do not mean what they say literally, but refer to something else (this is allegory). Furthermore, these heretics likewise interpret the stars allegorically, using the fixity and regularity of the stars to give credence to their interpretations” (ibid.). These heretics thus used the stars to give credence to strange doctrines and suggest hidden meanings.

[4] As stated by Eusebius, History of the Church, 6.25; that the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation (ibid., 6:25.10).

Next Lesson – Alpha and Omega Part 3

Alpha and Omega Part 1 of Series

Prologue to this series:

In Revelation 1:8 Christ identifies Himself as “Alpha and Omega.” He is here identifying Himself with the Holy Alphabet. It is necessary for us to learn the true meaning of this Alphabet in order to bring the highest honor to Jesus Christ and to warn against its misuse so that you will have nothing to do with its evil practices.

The doctrines called “Rabbinic Judaism” are making a tragic misuse of the Hebrew alphabet, making it popular as a medium for witchcraft and satanism. This practice is described in their writings called the Zohar. Be warned that it is even now being used, promoted, and practiced in what is called the Kabbala, (or Cabbala). This practice is also called “Hasidism” which has come to be used as a synonym for Judaism. It is one of Satan’s most wicked lies. Here I will show the true meaning of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Semitic Alphabet A Fit Symbol of Christ

The alphabet is a fit symbol of Christ for it is both human and divine. From its earthly mother it inherits its practical, utilitarian and mathematical nature; from God the Father of it and all other Lights, it inherits its generative powers to reproduce spiritual things: Truth, Beauty, Inspiration, Faith, Hope, and Charity.

The ancient Semitic alphabet has spread throughout the world to many languages and cultures. Consequently, it has been used in multitudes of ways and has followed various lines of development. Much of the original idea of the alphabet has been lost in some of its lines of transmission. Here I will try to show what the original alphabetic idea is in the canonical Scriptures and how it is used as a fit symbol of Christ in that context.

We must receive this revelation of Christ as the alphabet by examining the words in their context. The context must not be sought in the later speculations of Pharisaic Judaism.[5] Nor is the usage in the Book of Revelation related to the later mystical writings of the Gnostics nor the magical writings of the Kabbalists.[6] We must rather look to the canonical Scriptures and to the historical and cultural milieu preceding and during the time of the writing of the Apocalypse of John.

[5] For example among the non-canonical apocalyptic writings are the Alphabets of Rabbi Akiba:
“Apocalyptic Literature, 6. The Alphabets of R. Akiba,”( 680-1). “The chief center of thought of all of them [i.e. the Alphabets,] is the mystical signification, already mentioned in the Talmud, of the letters of the alphabet and of their written forms, and the mysteries of the names of God made up of four, twelve, and forty-two letters. In the Jerusalem Talmud (Hagigah.ii.77c) there is a dissertation on the letters by means of which the world was created, and there, as in these writings, it is stated that the present world was created with He (ה_) and the future with Yod (י_), and eschatological theories are built up out of the forms of these letters.
“In the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbath. 104a), also, all sorts of similar interpretations are given in regard to the names, forms, and combinations of the various letters, and are made to bear upon eschatological questions in the same way as in these apocalypses. In Kiddushin 71a, it is said that the mysteries of the three names of God were treated as esoteric doctrine and that whoever became thoroughly initiated into the mystery of the name consisting of forty-two letters might be sure of inheriting both the present and the future world. Similarly, R. Akiba, the reputed author of the ‘Alphabets,’ is especially commended in the Talmud as interpreter of the strokes, dots, and flourishes of the letters (compare, for example, Men. 29b; see also Akiba Ben Joseph),” (Jewish Encyclopedia, JE, see note 45 above).
Some scholars attempt to show that these “Alphabets” borrow their theosophical speculation from the writings of Islam, (“especially in ‘Monatschrift,’ viii.115 et seq.”), however:

“Later Jewish literature had the widest and deepest influence on the formation and development of the views and teachings of Islam ….From the presence of mystical speculations about the essence and being of God, etc., in the Arabic literature, similar to those in the Neo-Hebrew, it is quite impossible to conclude that they found their way from the former into the latter; rather would the opposite conclusion be justified” (ibid.).

[6] See “Kabbalah (Cabalah)” and “Zohar”, The New Jewish Encyclopedia, Revised edition, eds. David Bridger, Samuel Wolk, (Behrman House, Inc., Publisher. 1976).

Next Lesson: Alpha and Omega Part 2 of Series

Behold He Is Coming – Part 2

Jesus’ Coming As The Holy Spirit

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a “coming.” The Jews believed that Elijah was to “come” preceding the advent of the Messiah, based upon Malachi 4:5. (See Matthew 11:14; 16:14; 17:10-13; Mark 6:15; 9:12-13; Luke 1:17; John 1:21, 25.) In these Scriptures, Jesus clearly stated that John the Baptist was Elijah. Did He mean that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah? No. He meant that the same Spirit that came upon and filled Elijah was that which filled John the Baptist, (Luke 1:17).

In this same sense, the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill all of the believer’s was the same Spirit that had filled Christ when He dwelt upon earth in His fleshly body. So, in the same sense that Elijah had returned in John the Baptist, so Christ returned in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Opposing Views

This view is opposed by many Pentecostal and Evangelical teachers. I will use the article by Ian Macpherson as an example of the standard, traditional teaching of these groups:[4]
Macpherson first argues against the idea of “realized eschatology” which says that Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God had come in His ministry during His lifetime. Macpherson fails to deal with the fact that Jesus did indeed teach this doctrine, (Matt. 12:28; Luke 10:9; 11:20; Mark 1:14-15; Mark 9:1; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 9:27; 17:21; 22:16-18; and many other references  too numerous to mention.

His second argument has it that Jesus’ promise of “another Comforter” could not have meant His own Spirit. Biblically, however, it must be so, for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One. Indeed, He said: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you,” (John 14:18). This is in the context of His promise of the Holy Spirit in verses fifteen to seventeen of the same chapter.

Thirdly, Macpherson argues that after the descent of the Holy Spirit, the New Testament points forward to the “Second Coming.” Indeed, Jesus never did refer to a single “Second coming.” It is therefore more accurate to refer to His “coming” as something that will happen often and repeatedly. There is nothing to prevent the interpretation that the descent of the Holy Spirit was a “coming” which occurred after His bodily ascension. (Macpherson admits that Biblical prophecy may have multiple fulfillments, p. 7).

Macpherson’s fourth argument that the “Second Coming” was not fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, (p. 7), takes no account of Josephus’ record of the appearance in the clouds. He ridicules Thomas Waugh who says: ” Actually… the Rapture occurred on that occasion, and … amid the cataclysmic struggles of the time the fact was not noted!” Macpherson concedes however, that the Christians did indeed escape the overthrow, but ignores the fact that their escape, under the circumstances, had to be miraculous if not an actual bodily translation from one place to another.

His fifth argument that Christ’s indwelling the believer does not qualify as the “Second Coming” is no argument at all. He does not deal with the clear evidence of Scripture (John 14:18, 23). This “coming” was not something that the world would see; nevertheless, He would be “manifest”[5] to everyone who truly loved Him and the Father:

“20 At that day ye shall know that I [am] in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14)

Macpherson’s sixth argument that Christ’s spiritual presence in the Church is not a “Second Coming” in that His physical body was not present on the earth after His ascension, (Acts 3:20, 21; 7:55; 9:3). He does not allow for the fact that Christ’s glorified body was not subject to the laws of physics, that is, it was not “physical.” He makes no notice of the fact that Jesus said it was “expedient” for Him to go away. Christ therefore taught that His presence in the unlimited and unconfined Spirit was more “expedient” than would be a physical presence limited to one particular point in time and space.

Macpherson argues that “it seems much easier to believe such a visible, local reappearance of our Lord than His simultaneous manifestation of Himself to His people in all parts of the world!” It may be easier for Macpherson to believe, but that proves nothing about what Jesus said about it. He indeed makes clear that His salvation is available to “whosoever will” when they seek Him with a whole heart. This must be a “simultaneous manifestation of Himself to His people in all parts of the world.”

In his seventh argument that Christ’s coming at the death of the Christian does not qualify as a “Second Coming,” Macpherson admits that Christian biography is full of examples of this experience. However, he uses the passage in John 21:20-23 to “prove” his point. Indeed, this Scripture could be used to prove the opposite, for Christ said: “If I will that he tarry till I come what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” The disciples clearly misunderstood His saying, (v. 23), as has Macpherson, for Christ indeed “comes” for His Saints at their death.

An appearance or coming of “the Son of Man” was seen by the martyr Stephen, Acts 7:55-56:
“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Macpherson cites Revelation 1:7 as proof that Christ’s “Second Coming” will be “a personal, physical, local, visible reentry into human history.” (p. 8). However, the rest of verse seven shows that it could not be too localized, for “every eye shall see Him”. It could not have been too far distant in the future, for among those who see Him are “those which pierced Him.” This must also be regarded as one fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, (Daniel 7:13), and of Christ’s prophecy, (Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:26; 14:62).

There was a tradition among the Jews that:
“If they are worthy, (i.e. the Israelites), then he shall come with the clouds of heaven; but if they are not worthy, then he will come poor, and riding upon an ass” (CNT, vol. 4, p. 90).
Jesus came to the fleshly Jerusalem “poor and riding upon an ass,” but He came to the spiritual Jerusalem, i.e. to saints such as Stephen, “with the clouds of heaven.”

Notes

( See also my Commentary on Revelation 22:3: “Anathema”; “Greek Words Translated Revelation” on Revelation 1:1; also Commentary at 1:8 “Alpha and Omega”; and 1:1 “Must.”)

[2] See G.K. Beale, The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of Saint John, (Lanham, New York, London, University Press of America, 1984).

[3] Josephus records such an appearance during the destruction of Jerusalem (Wars 6.5.3).

[4] Ian Macpherson, “How Will Jesus Come Back?” in Pentecostal Evangel, February 9, 1975, 6-8.

[5] Strong’s #1718, meaning ‘to exhibit, disclose.’