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

The Great “I Am”

Revelation 1:4-“Him which is and which was and which is to come.”

Parallels:

1:8-“The Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
4:8-“The Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come.”

11:17-“Lord God Almighty, which art and wast and art to come, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power and hast reigned,” (KJV)

16:5-“Thou who art and wast, O Holy One.”

This phrase is Christ’s identification of Himself as “The Great I Am” of Exodus 3:13-15.[1]

The Divine Name

The divine Name is a verb of existence: Yahweh – “I am He who creates,” or “I am that I am,” or “Being, I cause to be.”[2]

The name YAHWEH is called ‘the quadriliteral Name’ for in Hebrew it contains four letters and was considered by the Rabbis as being too holy to pronounce. Another Hebrew word which was used to represent this most holy Name was ‘oth.[3] [More on this later.]

In the RSV passages in 11:17 and 16:5 the future tense is conspicuously absent; there is no “is to come.” This more accurately reflects the Greek text than does the KJV. Perhaps this indicates that in the events seen in these visions He has already come. In 11:17 He has begun to reign; in 16:5 He has begun to judge.

“Jesus”

The Hebrew word standing behind this phrase might also be the word yesh. As a noun it means “being, existence, that which is present, ready.” It is most commonly used as a verb substantive, without distinction of number or tense, ‘”is, was, will be.” With a predicate, yesh gives an emphatic force, (BDB). If the subject of the verb form, however, is a pronoun, it is expressed by a suffix as if it were a noun form instead of a verb form. The form that would produce the translation “I Am” would then be almost or entirely the equivalent of “Jesus.”

The force of the name Yahweh is that of infinity brought into the present moment. The eternally existent God, eternity past and eternity future, is brought into the present finite moment.[4] Davies, in his book Rabbinic Judaism says:

“The community of Israel is a unity of past, present and future…. The Israelites to whom Amos spoke had come up from Egypt (3.2); this can be said because every Israelite shared in this experience….  Another excellent example of this method of thought occurs in the book of Joshua. {Note 2: “Joshua 24. See also Deut.26.5f.”} …. it follows that the experience of Christ can be re-enacted in the [individual Christian]: the Christian man can die and rise with his Lord (108-9).

Notes:

[1] Summers says: “Grace and peace are here pronounced as coming from ‘the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming.’ This was a typical Jewish conception of God. It is a good reproduction of the Hebrew word for Jehovah– ‘the eternally existing one'” (Worthy Is the Lamb, p. 101). [Jehovah is the English equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh.]

[2] See also John Bright, A History of Israel, Second Edition, (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press. 1972), p. 151-2.
In this and in the identification as “Aleph and Tau”, Christ is identifying with the Name Elohim, God in the plural, which Bright sees to be a name constituting a claim that He is the totality (plurality) of the manifestation of the deity, (p. 153). That is, not plural gods, but a plurality of manifestations of the One God.

[3] See M. Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature. (Brooklyn: Shalom. 1967 reprint).

[4] See also my Commentary on 1:8, “Alpha and Omega” and 1:17, “First and Last”.

Grace And Peace

Revelation 1:4: “Grace be unto you, and peace.”

The message of the Book of Revelation is not to frighten, discourage, or confuse, but rather to dispense grace and peace. This is according to the nature of the Spirit of God, the gifts He bestows, and the fruits of the Spirit.

Eusebius shares this same purpose in his Histories:

“Other historians have confined themselves to the recording of victories in war and triumphs over enemies, of the exploits of commanders and the heroism of their men, stained with the blood of the thousands they have slaughtered for the sake of children and country and possessions; it is peaceful wars, fought for the very peace of the soul, and men who in such wars have fought manfully for truth rather than for country, for true religion rather than for their dear ones, that my account of God’s commonwealth will inscribe on imperishable monuments; it is the unshakable determination of the champions of true religion, their courage and endurance, their triumphs over demons and victories over invisible opponents, and the crowns which all this won for them at the last, that it will make famous for all time,” (Book 5 Intro.). (Emphasis mine).

Asia – The Earthly Copy – Part 2

Asia Minor and the Seven Literal Churches

Geographically, Asia Minor, the location of the seven literal churches, appears on a map to be shaped like a horse’s head, its nose extended to the Bosporus, its mouth at Ephesus, (eph-sus in Hebrew, means “mouth of horse”), and its front hoof in a running position at the Sinai.[iv] This is an example of how the Revelator used Greek words and played on them with Hebrew meanings.

The seven literal churches may have been situated within Asia Minor in a pattern resembling the prominent stars of the constellation we now commonly call the Big Dipper, but known variously in ancient times as the Great Bear, or the Sheepfold, or Biblically, ‘Âsh, [v] from whence perhaps we can trace the etymology of the word Asia.

In the Greek text of Revelation 1:4 the term is :  έν tή Άsίa, “in the Asia.” This is a dative phrase. The word Asia here could be the Hebrew word ‘âsh, (Strong’s #5906), transliterated into the Greek and given a dative case ending. It might, therefore, be used symbolically as “the former (or lesser) sheepfold,” meaning the Churches in Jerusalem. In this symbolism, the other Churches would represent the greater sheepfold.

Mount Zion, On The Sides of the North

This symbolism is also borne out by Psalm 48:2 where Mount Zion, symbolizing Jerusalem, is said to be “on the sides of the north,” the location of the seven-starred constellation called ‘âsh. [vi] Whether or not this etymology is true, the apocalyptic writer could well have used the similarity of sounds as a means of play upon words, a known literary device in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially apocalyptic writings.

The term ‘ayish is also used in Job 38:32 but Job 9:9 spells the same word ‘âsh. In both cases the RSV translates “the Bear,” but the KJV as “Arcturus,” meaning ‘a Bear’, a star of the first magnitude, (BDB, p.747, 736). [vii] However, the idea of “the Bear,” as the name of the constellation, is a Hellenistic idea and not the view held by Old Testament Israel.[viii] There it was used symbolically variously as the Menorah, the Seed Sower, the Threshing Wain, or the Greater Sheepfold.[ix] These names make it imminently appropriate as a symbol of the universal Church.

 A Symbol of Christ?

Some scholars believe the vowel pointing should be iyûsh, meaning “to lend aid, come to help.” By metathesis this word in verb form then would become yeshua`, “he comes to help, or save,” (BDB 747 and 736), the Hebrew form from which we have the English Jesus. Perhaps the writer used this also as a means for a play upon words. If so, the phrase would read: “…the churches that are in Jesus.”

The Covenant Church

The term seven churches should be understood to mean “the Covenant Church,” for the Church is One Body, the Body of Christ, and therefore one Church, (Ephesians 1:23; Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-20). In the same manner, the seven Spirits before the throne should be understood to mean “the Covenant Spirit,” for there is One Spirit, (Ephesians 4:4).

The message of the Book of Revelation is to the Churches. Since Jerusalem and the nation of the Jews, had rejected the warnings, it is the Churches that now must be warned, lest they fall into a similar error and reap a similar judgment. Just as the earthly city and nation had been images of heavenly realities, so the Church is now to be the Body of Christ in the earth. And just as Jerusalem and the nation fell, so, too, does the Church suffer destruction when she falls away from her Living God.

Eusebius describes the fall of the true Church in terms reminiscent of the Fall of Jerusalem:

“But all marvels pale before the archetypes, the metaphysical prototypes and heavenly patterns of material things – I mean the re-establishment of the divine spiritual edifice in our souls.

“But when, through the envy and jealousy of the demon that loves evil, she, [the Church], became by her own free choice a lover of sensuality and evil, the Deity withdrew from her, and bereft of a protector, she was soon captured, proving an easy prey to the inveiglements of those so long bitter against her. Overthrown by the battering-rams and engines of her unseen and spiritual foes, she came crashing to the ground, so that not even one stone of her virtue remained standing on another in her; she lay full length on the ground dead, her natural thoughts about God gone without trace. As she lay prostrate, made as she was in the image of God, she was ravaged not by that boar out of the wood visible to us, but by some destroying demon and spiritual beasts of the field, who inflamed her with sensual passions.[x]

The Roman Catholic Church fell. It did not hold fast to the warning.[xi]

Footnotes

[iv] See Strong’s #5906. D. S. Russell mentions that the apocalyptic writers sometimes used their own versions of the alphabet for their writings so that their enemies or the uninitiated could not read them, (Russell, 109).

The Bosporus is the strait that connects Asia Minor to Europe between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. Western Asia Minor is thus often referred to as the Bosporus. The name Bosporus in Greek may be the words bous, and phoros, meaning a beast of burden. The Greek name Ephesus might have been used to play upon its Hebrew meaning “horse’s mouth.”

[v] See also Joseph A. Seiss, The Gospel in the Stars, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kregel Publications), 178. Hereafter cited in text.

[vi] The Qumran community apparently believed that Paradise was situated in the north, for the alignment of their graves shows that their heads were placed to the south, contrary to Jewish and Christian practice of placing the head to the west, so that at the resurrection they would rise facing the north. See Joseph T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea, English ed., RB volume 65, (London, SCM Press, 1959), p. 104 and RB, vol.65, 1958, p. 77.

[vii] The term arctic is from the Greek arktos, “a bear.” From this has come also the name of the star Arcturus and the north polar regions of the earth.
Ges. Lexicon defines ‘âsh as “The constellation of the Bear… Ursa Major… Gk. and Roman, the wain … a bier… perhaps nightly watcher … to go about by night; … because of its never setting,” (Lexicon pp. 625, 659).

The word Arcturus is composed of artos + ourous, a ward, guard, (watcher). The star now commonly known as Arcturus is located by following the curve of the handle of the “Big Dipper.” It is easily located because of its brilliance, a star of the first magnitude. It may at times have been considered as part of the constellation of Ursa Major.

[viii] “Epiphanius further recounts how they possessed a vocabulary of their own in Hebrew for the zodiac and other celestial beings” (Malina, 74).

[ix] See my Commentary at 1:12 “Seven Golden Lampstands”.

[x] Eusebius, History of the Church, 10.4.58.

[xi] See Santillana, and von Dechend, Hamlet’s Mill. See also Thor Heyerdahl, Early Man and the Ocean, A Search for the Beginnings of Navigation and Seaborne Civilizations, (Garden City, New York, Doubleday and Co, Inc.), 1979.

Asia – The Heavenly Pattern and the Earthly Copy – Part One

Read: Revelation 1:4 through 1:11.

Revelation 1:4: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia.”
In Revelation 1:11 we also read: “What thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches…
The words “in Asia” are in the Greek text of verse four but are not in the Greek text of verse eleven. The KJV in verse eleven inserts “which are in Asia” at the translator’s privilege. This is an example of a translator assuming that the “in Asia” of verse four represented the same literal seven churches named in verse eleven. It is my belief that it did not.
The passage in 1:4 seems to describe the geographical setting of the addressees of the book, “in Asia.” Are these churches to be understood as merely seven literal churches, located in Asia Minor at that period of time? Much time, effort, and expense have been exerted to find the location of these churches. While some of their locations are quite well attested, others are vague. Some of these churches and their locations were so small and insignificant at the time that there is no certainty as to their location, if they existed at all in the natural sense.[i]This suggests that the Revelator used these seven churches symbolically.

Cosmic Geography

The ancients used the stars for telling time and for navigation and the intimate knowledge of the stars was extremely valuable for these purposes. While this use of the stars was not astrology neither was it the equivalent of our modern astronomy. Perhaps other writers have named it more appropriately Cosmic Geography. Today’s Global Positioning System uses this same concept.

Scholars now recognize that in ancient times there was a sense of Cosmic Geography or, as some call it Astrological Geography,[ii] or Zodiacal Geography, (Malina, pp. 103, 190).  This system likens certain geographical areas on earth to certain constellations or configurations of stars in the heavens.[iii]

The constellations are pictured as having been written, or engraved, by God upon the broad expanse of the heavens: “Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9). The word Rahab means “proud” as does its kindred word Rachab, meaning “proud” in the sense of pride in its broad expanse. The phrase cut in pieces means also “engraved.” In other words, God engraved the broad expanse of the heavens with the constellations. He “wounded, (pierced, or transfixed), the dragon,” a constellation sometimes called Draco or The Serpent. Compare Isaiah 27:1:

In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that [is] in the sea.

The great constellation called Draco, “the Serpent,” appears to be impaled by the pole star, so that point cannot move, although both ends of the Serpent move about the pole; he apparently is pierced, or transfixed, wounded.

So in the Book of Revelation we have two maps in view, one earthly, and one heavenly. These seven churches in their proper perspective are the earthly image of a heavenly reality, just as the Temple was intended to be an image of the heavens when rightly constructed and used.

John, a mortal man, speaks to the literal, earthly churches with a message that is intended to bring them into conformity to the spiritual heavenly Pattern which he is allowed to view and describe in the vision of Revelation 1:12-20. It is God’s will for the Churches to be like the seven candlesticks in the right hand of Christ in the heavens.


[i]Bruce J. Malina. On the Genre and Message of Revelation.  Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, p. 73: “… socially insignificant communities.”  Hereafter cited in text.
[ii] Bruce M. Metzger, “Astrological Geography”, Chapter VII, Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays presented to F. F. Bruce on his 60th Birthday, eds. W. Ward Gasque, and Ralpha P. Martin, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1970. 123-133.
[iii] See Metzger, Apostolic History, 123-133.  Although Metzger discounts the connection between the list of nations given in Acts 2:9-11 with a certain astrological treatise by Paulus Alexandrinus who lived in the fourth century AD, he does not disprove the connection. He seems unaware that the ancient view of the cosmos and the Biblical use of the stars is not “astrology” but rather a unifying view of the universe.
   Metzger, however, cannot deny a connection between geography and astrology:  “It cannot be denied that in antiquity there may well have been some remote connexion between geography and astrology, revealed perhaps in the custom of beginning to enumerate a list of lands and countries starting in the East (at the rising of the sun). At the same time, however, it is doubtful whether the average cultured Greek and Roman writers were any more conscious of such a connexion than the modern Englishman is aware of the astrological matrix from which the word ‘disaster’ arose,” (Note 2, p. 132).
   Metzger seems to be unaware of the fact that the whole earth was mapped in relation to the heavens, that cartography and chronology depend upon a knowledge of the heavens, that in ancient times navigation by land or sea depended upon a knowledge of the heavens.
   Another fact of which many are unaware is that the Jews in the first century were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, and that there was a very strong, powerful and rich colony in Babylon. He says of the phrase “Judean Mesopotamian” that “Why Mesopotamia should deserve to be called ‘Judean’ is not easily explained.” This shows his total unawareness of the strength of the Babylonian community of Jews. As international merchants a working knowledge of the stars was indispensable to their trades.

The Number Seven in the Bible

Revelation 1:4: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia… from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.”

The most important aspect of the number seven in the Bible is its relationship to the oath of the Covenant. In English the two words seven and swear, “take an oath”, look nothing alike; however, in Biblical Hebrew they can hardly be distinguished for they consist of the same consonants. [1]  In the Hebrew, to swear could be translated “to seven oneself,” (Strong’s #7650).

The word for week is also from the same root as seven, merely distinguished by inner vowel differences. The noun form of this word is used of Jehovah’s oath of the Covenant promises in Deuteronomy 7:8:

“But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

And Psalm 105:8-9:

“He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.  Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac.”

One sign of this oath, or Covenant between Mankind and God, is to be the Sabbath, a word also closely related to seven, meaning the cessation of labor on the seventh day.

“And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.’ Exodus 31:12-13 RSV.

The Sabbaths were a sign of the oath. These Sabbaths, or sevens, were not only of days of the week, but also a system of weeks and years. The seven-week period was to be climaxed with a Pentecost Sabbath and the seven-year period was to be climaxed by a sabbatical year, and the seven-sabbatical-year period was to be climaxed by a jubilee year. These are the Sabbaths that God ordained for a sign of His Covenant, his oath.

The Value Pi

The number seven also functions mathematically with the number three to form the value of pi (i.e. 3 1/7), which is necessary to reconcile the line with the circle.  Pi times the radius squared gives the area of a circle; pi times diameter gives the circumference of a circle.  Seven times 3 1/7, or 3 times 7 1/3, give the number 22, which was the number of the Hebrew alphabet letters. Since the alphabet was also used as numerals, it was possible to designate any number by use of some combination of the 22 letters. Therefore, some combination of sevens and threes could describe any number as well as reconcile the rectangular with the circular. It is in this combination that we see the truth of the idea so often expressed that “seven is the number of completion, or fullness.”

In the idea of the reconciliation of the circle and the line, we see how the system was used for time-telling. The passing overhead of the time-telling sun, moon and stars described an apparent circular pattern; the earth represented the linear distance. (This was, of course, the observed, or apparent pattern, not the concept of the space age.) By use of the value pi, the priestly function of time-telling could be more exact.

How This Value Was Important in Calculating Time By The Heavens

In the Book of Revelation, the copious use of the number seven is the sign, the reminder, of the Covenant, the oath.  It would be correct, therefore, for an expanded translation to add to “the seven churches” the phrase “the seven-fold Church in the Covenant,” and to the phrase, “the seven spirits,” the phrase “the seven-fold Spirit of Covenant.”  That is how a Hebrew speaker would have understood it. The seven plagues are those promised in the Covenant to the rebellious and unbelieving, they are therefore Covenant plagues, they were sworn to.

There are spurious attempts to imitate the Covenant number; however, they turn out not to be that number, really, for the seven heads of the beast become eight or ten or so.  In contrast, God’s Covenant seven is never changing.  The number 666 also falls short of the Covenant of God.

The copious use of the number seven in the Book of Revelation is a prominent reminder that the events depicted there are those promised by oath in the Covenant of God. As we shall see, the Seven Stars of the constellation Ash are symbolic of the Covenant Church.


[1]The words are only distinguished by the context. In the original Hebrew, the text had no vowels, so words consisting of the same radicals were interpreted by tradition. In about the tenth century AD the Masoretes added vowels to the Hebrew text.
This lesson is an edited excerpt from my book, Revelation In Context, available at the Living Word Bookstore in Shawnee, Oklahoma and also at www.Amazon.com and www.xulonpress.com.  Free downloads are available at www.revelationincontext.sermon.net.