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 [Appointed] Time Is At Hand – Part 1

Revelation 1:3: “The [appointed] time is at hand.”

The message is specifically addressed to “His servants” and speaks of an imminent earthly event, albeit with cosmic significance. “The time,” as mentioned in Revelation 1:3, is an appointed time, a time previously set and agreed upon by a signal, (testimony or witness), not an indefinite time. An appointed time was not arbitrarily determined, nor could it be changed by man’s decree. Time was determined by the heavens.

       That appointed time had been long foreseen and was well-known at the writing of the Book of Revelation. It was not for a remote, distant, indistinct future, but was “soon,”at hand,” “no longer delayed.”  Revelation 1:3 announces the arrival of a time previously set and foretold, an appointed time, that was set with reference to the heavens and to the then existent, earthly Temple as a time-piece.

Daniel’s Appointed Times

The time spoken of by Daniel was an “appointed time” (Dan. 8:19; 11:27, 29, 35, etc.) This “appointed time” was set to mark the end of the nation, city, and people of Israel, a specific date was set for this event to happen. Here, too, it is the Hebrew word mow’ed, meaning “an appointed time, place, meeting or congregation.”

Revelation 1:3 announces that the “appointed time” spoken of by Daniel had come.

Words for ‘Time’

       The word time in Revelation 1:3 is a translation of the Greek kairos, meaning “a set or proper time.”  A form of this Greek word is also used in Revelation 11:18; 12:12, 14 (twice); and 22:10. It is to be distinguished from chronos, (used in Revelation 10:6), meaning “a space of time,” and from aeon, meaning “an age or interval of time.” The word horae, used in 14:15, means “an hour, or a season.”

       The corresponding Hebrew word môw‘êd is used not only for an “appointed time”, (as above), but also for an “appointed place,” as in Psalm 74:4, “thy holy place,” also translated by the Greek kairos. (See below “The Temple As A Time-piece.”)

God Created Time

In fact, Genesis 1:14 teaches that the lights of heaven were created for time-telling signs:
To separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,” (RSV).
     The Psalmist refers to this:
Thou hast made the moon to mark the seasons [môwedim, plural of môw‘ed, Greek kairos]; the sun knows its time for setting. Thou makest darkness, and it is night, (Psalm 104:19 RSV).

Indeed God dwells in Light:

Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, who coverest thyself with light as with a garment, who hast stretched out the heavens like a tent, (Psalm 104: lb-2).
       The Psalmist reviews God’s work in creation and so is inspired to hope, for times are in God’s hand:
Thine is the day, thine also the night; thou hast established the luminaries [mâ‘ôr] and the sun. Thou hast fixed all the bounds [gebûlôth, perhaps meaning the orbits of the earth]; thou hast made summer and winter, (Psalm 74:16-17 RSV).

What Is Prophecy?-Part 3

Tests Of A True Prophet

The accepted proofs of prophetic anointing in those days were four:

  • (l) According to Deuteronomy 18:18-22 and Jeremiah 28:9, the true prophet would be known when his words came to pass.
  • (2) According to Jeremiah 23:22, the true prophet would turn the people from their evil ways and, conversely,
  • (3) Deuteronomy 13 shows that the true prophet will not turn the people to other gods.

These proofs of a prophet served the nation well and distinguished true prophets from false for many years. Old Testament prophets submitted to these tests. (See Ezekiel. 2:5; Jeremiah. 26:8-24, and others.) However, the time came when false prophecies were said to be for an indefinite distant time and therefore was not to be judged by the present generation.*

Degenerate Prophecy

This brought about the sad state of degenerate prophecy witnessed in the Book of Amos. Amos was ashamed to be called a prophet and said he was only a herdsman and gatherer of sycamore fruit, but even so, when the Lord said: “Go, prophesy,” he went, for “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).

  • (4) In Ezekiel’s day, false prophecy was such a problem that the Lord made another rule: The prophet should be proven in his own generation:
    “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, ‘the Days are prolonged, and every vision faileth?’  Tell them therefore, ‘Thus saith the Lord God; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel: but say unto them, “The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God.” Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, “The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.” Therefore say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God,'” (Ezekiel 12:21-28).

Christ Submitted To These Tests

Christ was willing to submit to these tests of a true prophet for He declared that all these prophecies should be fulfilled “in this generation,” (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30). “These things” of which He spoke were the destruction and judgments of the wrath of God upon Jerusalem and Judea. If “these things” had not happened in that generation, Christ would have been proven a false prophet. But they did happen. Therefore Christ was revealed as a true prophet, and therefore the Son of God, and the promised Messiah.

Must Shortly Come To Pass

We find in Revelation 1:1 that the prophecy is given “to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Are we to believe that after almost two thousand years this “shortly” has never yet happened? If these things had not transpired “shortly,” the writing would never have been preserved and passed on as a true prophecy because of the rule that a prophet must be proven in his generation.

Is Fulfilled Prophecy Still Relevant?

Does this mean that, if the prophecy was fulfilled in that generation that it has no further relevance? Not at all; rather, the fact that it was fulfilled as predicted upon the Jewish nation of the flesh gives more proof that it shall be fulfilled also upon the whole world as predicted. The pattern was set by Jesus and carried through by Paul that the gospel was “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,” (Matthew 10:6; 15:24; 28:18-20; Romans 1:16), and that God’s righteous judgments were also “to the Jew first, and also the Gentile.” (Matthew 23; John 9:39-41; Acts 28: 23-28; Romans 2:6-11.)

God is not partial in judgment but made the sovereign choice to reveal Himself to the fleshly seed of Abraham first in order to set the pattern and example of His dealing with mankind. When the gospel has gone forth to the whole world as a witness, then the predicted end will also come upon the whole world according to the pattern and example set in the judgment and destruction of the Jewish nation; the righteous were saved in Christ and the wicked and unbelieving were destroyed and dispersed.**

We should realize therefore that true prophecy is eternally relevant for it witnesses to the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises both for blessing and for judgment. It is the faithfulness of God that lies behind the true prophets’ confidence that the things he foretells are certain to come to pass. This removes prophecy from the realm of soothsaying as far as east is from west.

Principles Of Prophecy Apply To Every Age

Predictive prophecy foretold a then-future historical fulfillment of an event based upon an eternally relevant principle. Therefore, although a prophecy has been literally fulfilled, it remains relevant to every age, for the same principle still applies and the same essential judgment will transpire again and again – blessing and deliverance for the righteous, cursing and destruction for the wicked – to the Jew first, because they had the full revelation of God first, then to the Gentile when they, too, will have had the full Gospel.[4] But, the principle may apply again and again, both to nations and to individuals, or even the whole world when the conditions apply.

Prophecy is the immutable truth of eternity applied to the fleeting moment of history. It is the common denominator between time and eternity. It is the voice of God that spoke in times past by the prophets now mediated through Christ.

Prophecy Is A Kind Of Seeing

Prophecy is a kind of seeing, capable of greater distance and depth than natural vision. The Biblical prophets were called “seers.” It is seeing another dimension, the spiritual. The faculty necessary for this kind of seeing is faith. Prophecy sees the unseen by faith. It might be compared to the fact that one can see his natural surroundings in the daylight, but can see the much more distant stars only at night. We do not doubt that the stars are still there even though the light of day hides them from our vision. Likewise, we do not doubt that the sun is there even in the nighttime, although we cannot then see it. Even so, by faith we know that the realities of the Spirit are there.

*Daniel’s prophecy was sealed up and reserved for a time in the future, (8: 17, 26; 12:4, 9, 13) but it was not an indefinite time. Daniel gave an exact time that could be calculated precisely, (9:24-27; 12:11-12.) Also, Daniel had already been proven a true prophet by his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Belshazzar’s ‘handwriting on the wall,’ (4:19-33).

** The Gospel was fully preached to every ‘nation’ of the Jews before AD 70, (Rom. 10:18-21; Colossians 1:6, 23; 1 Thess. 1:8). The pattern was followed upon the Jews: the Gospel must first be preached, and then the end will come. This is proof that the same pattern will come upon the entire world: the Gospel will first be preached, and then the end will come.

This lesson is an edited excerpt from my book Revelation in Context. My book is available locally at the Living Word Bookstore in Shawnee, Oklahoma. It is also available online at www.Amazon.com and www.xulonpress.com . Free downloads are available at www.revelationincontext.sermon.net

What Is Prophecy?-Part 2

True Prophecy Presents A Choice

True prophecy does not announce a future fate but rather offers a choice. True prophecy is a declaration based upon the spiritual forces and conditions at work. Just as there is cause and effect in the physical world, so also is there in the spiritual dimension. Therefore, true prophecy predicts the future consequences of present spiritual choices, according to the Word of God, Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15.

Prophecy is God’s means of forewarning people of the dangers of wrong decisions so that they might turn from their sins. The prophet’s message is always: “Turn ye! Turn ye! Why will ye die?” and “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Thus in true prophecy, the choice of good and evil is set before the people, rather than a fatal decree. Typically, there is one predicted fate for sinners and another for the righteous. The individual chooses into which category he shall fall. The choice must answer the question: “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”

Faith Is The Determining Factor

The determining factor is faith in the Word of God and His holiness. For example, the Jews of the time of Christ failed to recognize this principle and so depended upon a fleshly lineage instead of repentance and righteousness by faith. Christianity, in the true prophetic tradition, declared that according to God’s Word sinners were destined to receive the cursings while the righteous were destined to receive the blessings, regardless of fleshly lineage. The individual was not predestined; he had the power of choice. The categories of sin and righteousness, however, were predestined for evil or for good. To trust in the flesh was to be lost; to trust in Christ was to be saved.

Not An Immutable Decree, But A Personal Choice

Martin Buber in The Prophetic Faith* says: “The true prophet does not announce an immutable decree. He speaks into the power of decision lying in the moment, and in such a way that his message of disaster just touches this power. The unformulated primal theological principle of the Garden of Eden story about the divine-human relationship, namely that created man has been provided by the Creator’s breath with real power of decision and so is able actually to oppose YHVH’s commanding will– this mysterious article of faith rises now to awfully practical force.

“The divine demand for human decision is shown here at the height of its seriousness. The power and ability are given to every man at any definite moment really to take his choice, and by this he shares in deciding about the fate of the moment after this, and this sharing of his occurs in a sphere of possibility which cannot be figured either in manner or scale; it is to this personal decision of man with its part in the power of fate-deciding that the prophetic announcement of disaster calls. The alternative standing behind it is now taken up into it; only so can the prophet’s speech touch the innermost soul and also be able to evoke the extreme act: the turning to God.”

* (New York, N.Y, Macmillan, 1949, p. 103-4)

What Is Prophecy?-Part 1

Revelation 1:3. “The words of this prophecy.”

This phrase establishes that the Book of Revelation is a prophecy. What is true Biblical Prophecy? A true prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Christ according to Revelation 19:10.

In order to understand the Book as a prophecy, we must know the characteristics of true prophecy. Some of the relevant questions are:

  • How is prophecy related to prediction?
  • What is the purpose of prophecy?
  • How was a true prophet recognized?
  • Does fulfilled Biblical prophecy still have relevance to our times?

Is Prophecy Merely Prediction?

Many commentators understand Biblical prophecy as merely prediction of the future. Therefore, they mistakenly assume that the entire Book of Revelation was a “prediction of the future” when it is actually a testimony of Jesus that, as the Word of God, has eternal relevance.

Since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, there is an element of prediction in the testimony of Jesus Christ, but the primary purpose and meaning of ‘prophecy’ is not prediction, but rather”testimony.” The predictive element of Biblical prophecy was not to foretell events just for the sake of demonstrating a supernatural power, as a fortune-teller would do, but rather to demonstrate that the word of God is eternally relevant and Jesus Christ is Lord.

Prediction is a forecast of future events based upon observations of trends, movement of various forces and judgment of how these forces will interact with each other. When the observer has good access to all of the relevant information and is well trained to interpret these facts, his predictions may be highly reliable and accurate, as for example, a good weatherman. Good predictions are based upon knowledge as well as understanding of how to interpret that knowledge.

Biblical Prophecy Is Based Upon Spiritual Insight

Biblical prophecy, however, is based upon spiritual wisdom which requires an understanding of the basic spiritual laws that pertain. While weather may be predicted based upon knowledge of the physical forces that are interacting, human events can only be predicted based upon the spiritual forces at work. Discernment of these spiritual forces comes only through divine revelation.

The Biblical events that were foretold were significant in demonstrating God’s eternal power and purposes. For example, when the prophets foretold the birth of Christ, the prophecies were based upon the Word of God, even as far back as to Eve in the garden promising a deliverer. The event foretold was eternally significant.

Prophecy Is Foretelling

Although Biblical prophecy is not merely foretelling, there can be no doubt that prophecy, in the Biblical sense, does include the element of foretelling.  Unbelieving critics say that Biblical history was written only after the event; however, the Bible text makes it clear that true prophets did foretell.

In the beginning God Himself foretold future events. He told Adam, “In the day that ye eat thereof, ye shall surely die.” He foretold to Cain that if he did well, he should be acceptable, but if not then the beast (sin) lying at his door should devour him. He foretold to Noah that the flood would come. He foretold to Abraham that Israel would go down into Egypt for four hundred years and that afterward He would give them the land of Canaan. He foretold also to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they should possess the land of Israel. He foretold to Moses that He would deliver the people from Egyptian bondage. Indeed, the ability to foretell events is one thing that distinguishes the true God from idols according to Isaiah 41:21-29.

Sinai A New Era In Prophecy

However, with Moses at Sinai, a new era began in prophecy. Here God spoke to the whole congregation of Israel. The event inspired such fear that the people requested of Moses that he receive the oracles of God and transmit them indirectly to them rather than endure again the awesome direct presence and voice of God: “Let not God speak with us lest we die.” From that time forward to the time of Christ, God spoke to the people through prophets, (Exodus 19:9; 20:19; 24:2; 33:11; 34:3, 29-35).

Prophecy’s Purpose:  Declaring The Word of God

But prophecy is not merely foretelling. Moses, as a prophet, foretold future events. He foretold that they should inherit the Promised Land but that they should in time go after other gods and be taken into captivity, (Deuteronomy 27-30 and 32). Every prophet from that time forward foretold events which were yet future in his time. But the aspect of foretelling is a mere adjunct of the essence of prophecy. Biblical prophecy is primarily forth-telling – declaring or speaking forth the Word of God.

Its purpose is to be God’s voice, and to make God’s will and nature known to the congregation. The prophet foretells on the basis of cause and effect: God has spoken, therefore it must be. God’s Word is the creative cause and is certain to produce an effect. God cannot speak in vain. Foretelling is merely a means of forth-telling.

Soothsayers, diviners, astrologers and other idolaters saw man as fated by the gods and their future as pre-determined, but true prophecy is based upon the creative force of God’s Word, His authority, infallibility, holiness and power to perform. False prophets attempt to know the future in order to work out their own salvation; God’s people wish to know His will in order to conform to His eternal plan.

The Great Falling Away

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4:

“Let no man deceive you in any way for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god, or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God,” (RSV)

The passage in  2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, (written about 51 AD), concerning “the great falling away,” (KJV), “the rebellion,” (RSV), is speaking of that pending rebellion of the Jews against Rome which resulted in their final war. The “man of lawlessness” is the wicked High Priest who actually fomented the rebellion.

Just as righteous Lot was called out of Sodom before the city could be destroyed, and just as Israel was called out of Egypt and did not suffer the plagues upon it, so now the Christians are being called out of Jerusalem, (Revelation 11:12). Clearly it is the wicked city Jerusalem that is intended in Revelation 11:8 where it is “allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” The literal city of Jerusalem had become Sodom and Egypt.

The Jewish War Against Christians

The war for the Christians, however, was not only the Jewish rebellion against Rome, but also the war of the “Jews” against the Christians. That war, as recorded in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, had been waged throughout the New Testament era and was especially vicious in the days immediately following Pentecost. After the martyrdom of Stephen, the Christians were dispersed, (Acts 8:1), and were persecuted throughout the empire wherever they went to preach in the synagogues.

The Jewish war against the Christians flared up again in Jerusalem in the year 62 AD when James, brother of Jesus, was executed by official action of the High Priest. This opened a new era of Jewish persecution of Christians which intensified until its climax in the destruction of the city in 70 AD, a period of approximately seven years. This fulfilled the “time of trouble” foretold by Daniel, (12:1), and Jesus, (Matt. 24:21). In Daniel 7:25 the saints “shall be given into his hand for a time, two times, and half a time,” the 3 ½ years before their deliverance.

Roman Persecution

Roman persecution of Christians was actually the result of the Jewish war against the Christians. The image of the Church throughout the empire had been greatly damaged by the false accusations from the Jewish synagogues. Also, Nero’s wife, Poppaea, had become indoctrinated by Jewish priests and would, therefore, have adopted their hatred of Christianity. Nero, perhaps at Poppaea’s instigation, began his persecution of Christians, as distinct from “Jews,” after the great fire in Rome in 64 AD.

When the Romans knew that the Christians were a group distinct from the Pharisaical Jews, then they became subject to the enforcement of worship of the emperor. Since the Jews had been granted the status of a privileged cult, they were exempt from emperor worship. Christians were allowed this status also so long as they were considered “Jews.” But, when the Christians began to deny that they were “Jews” it left them without the covering of the privileged status from Rome.

At about this time, however, the Jews revolted against Rome and declared their independence, forcing Rome to move militarily against them. This left the Christians in the position of disobedience to Rome because of their refusal to worship the emperor and enmity to Judaism because of their refusal to deny Christ. They were faced with two powerful enemies who were also at war with each other, – a time of trouble such as the nation had never seen!