• Service times

    Services times are:

    Saturday night 7:30 pm for our Chinese/English service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

    Sunday 10 am for our English language service (Senior Pastor Jeff Whittaker).

    Sunday 11:30 am for our Chinese (Mandarin) language service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

  • Contact details…

    Physical and postal address:
    4 Inverary Avenue,
    Epsom,
    Auckland 1023,
    NEW ZEALAND.

    Email:
    epsombaptist@gmail.com

    Telephone:
    (0064 9) 6306010

    Contacts:
    Rev. Jeff Whittaker
    Pastor Daniel Choi

  • Church Officers…

    Church Treasurers: Christina King and Li Ying

    Church Secretary: Margaret Whittaker

    Church Deacons: Anne Bartley, Ian de Stigter, Kristy Choi, Willa Hui, Donglan Zhang and Alfred Zhou.

The seven seals of Revelation chapter 6

When I was a new believer in the mid-1970s, Hal Lindsey’s book ‘The Late, Great, Planet Earth’ made a huge impact on my friends and me. Many were the discussions, debates and arguments about unfolding world events and how they fitted in with prophetic fulfilment schemas. Forty years on, and supposedly rock-solid fulfilments have fallen by the wayside, to be replaced by others. Over this time, many have been the predictions of the end of things. And so, when some of the good folk at my church asked me about Harold Camping’s prediction some time before the actual date, I answered that we would be gathering for worship as usual the day after Camping’s supposed end of the world. But I was annoyed by the ridicule that Camping’s false prediction attracted. I decided to investigate the ‘predictions’ of Revelation in particular. I had a specific question in mind: Are the various disaster scenarios sketched out in the book of Revelation one-off events that find just one fulfilment in history? Another way of asking this is: Is the book of Revelation describing a linear progress from the writer John’s time through to the end of the world?

Even a cursory reading of the book of Revelation reveals that it is a carefully crafted example of the apocalyptic genre. Like many others, I have been intrigued by the chapters dealing with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. These chapters are like a skeleton supporting the surrounding material. Here, though, I want to concentrate on the seals which are introduced in chapter 6.

albrecht-durer-woodcut-the-four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse-the-sroha7hg6rxblujq.jpg

Preceding the introduction of the scroll with its seven seals, are two chapters with messages to churches located in first-century Western Turkey (chapters 2 and 3), and two chapters describing heavenly worship and introducing Jesus as the Lamb that was slain (chapters 4 and 5). These four chapters would seem to be contemporaneous with John the Revelator. Are the disasters associated with the seals to be taken, then, as predictions of future events? Exploring the imagery used suggests an answer.

First, seals are mentioned in the Bible over a time period from the kings of Israel through to the Exile and the exilic prophets. This is probably too diffuse a period to be helpful. However, looking at the four horsemen is another matter. Many commentators note that the four horses resonate with those described by Zechariah. Prophesying early in the post-exilic period, Zechariah’s vision (Zechariah chapter 1) is suggestive of the mounted patrols which ‘policed’ the Persian Empire (from ‘The Lion Handbook of the Bible). Laurie Guy – I strongly recommend Guy’s ‘Making Sense of the Book of Revelation’ (Regent’s Study Guides 15) – notes that the mounted archer of Rev 6:2 is probably an allusion to the much-feared Parthian cavalry who defeated the Romans in 53BC, 35BC, and 62AD. (And so, this horseman is not an image of Christ.) Guy also suggests that Rev 6: 3, 4 describe a civil war scenario. Generally, Rev 6: 8 echoes Ezekiel 14: 21, recorded from Exile in Babylon shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587BC.

All of this says to me that the disasters associated with the four horsemen released by opening the seals describe the experience of people living in the Middle East around the time the book of Revelation was written. Are the events described then predictive of some future (to John the Revelator) catastrophe? I would say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I believe that for John these disasters associated with the seals are not future events awaiting a some-time one-off fulfilment. Rather, when people – especially the people of God – find themselves at any time in history subjugated under the boot of foreign Empire, then they will know these conditions only too well.

What, then, is the future of God’s people? The answer comes from the scenes of the heavenly throne room, with its powerful depictions of those who have gained the crown of life despite suffering and persecution. If you, dear reader, are suffering under the draconian boot of Empire, may you know the strength of the Lamb as you persevere in righteousness unto victory.

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Trust us: We’re responsible!

Impassioned pleas for trust in exchange for reduced regulatory control have been and are heard from many industries. And all sorts of regulatory bodies have heard the pleas, and reduced watch-dog duties. If this has been done not with gladness but with misgivings, never-the-less a trust that industries can and will self-regulate has come to pass. How foolish such misplaced trust has proved to be. In the oil exploration industry, the huge spill from BP’s drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is partly due to relaxed regulatory controls. Six or seven years ago, some apartment buildings in Tokyo were found to have been constructed in sub-standard ways that left them vulnerable to earthquake damage after supervision of the building industry there was relaxed. In New Zealand’s building industry, a similar relaxation of regulations has led to a debacle labeled ‘leaky buildings.’ The bill is expected to exceed that from the recent spate of earthquakes in Christchurch, itself one of the most costly insurance events on the planet. In Europe, doctors under-report the number of patients they have euthanized in systems in which they are trusted to report accurately. Turning back to New Zealand, the fishing industry has the gall to ask for more de-regulation after the exposure of illegal fish-dumping and labour practices that are tantamount to modern-day slavery. And perhaps the most scandalous of all is the trust requested by the global financial industry, a trust that has been repaid by such levels of greed and self-interested mismanagement that the world’s financial system has been plunged into chaos.

Illegal fish dumping may be common practice.

Seehttp://www.3news.co.nz/Illegal-fish-dumping-may-be-common-practice/tabid/1160/articleID/254091/Default.aspx

When will we learn that human beings are not to be trusted, especially if there is money to be made from taking short-cuts or even blatant cheating. Regulation and supervision is not the responsibility of the ones requiring the regulation, control, or supervision. It is a legitimate role of government. Neo-liberal demands for less government are naïve at best, and catastrophically destructive at the worst. When such agendas are supposedly supported by conservative Christian voices, something is very wrong. A constant refrain in the Bible is that the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, those who in fact bear the brunt of the greed and cynical practices described above…all these are to be protected and cared for. This too is a responsibility of government. Further, we Christians believe that God does see and hold accountable all of us, and that there will be a day of reckoning. God is a God of love, and this is freely given to all (if they could but see it). But trust, no. Trust is always earned. And, as the Bible states from beginning to end, human beings are simply not be trusted. Governments must ignore impassioned cries for trust, for the common good.

Lament, or get on with it?

Last week I was back down in Christchurch for a couple of days, attending the 2011 AGM of the Friends of Madagascar Trust (New Zealand) of which I am a trustee. While in Christchurch, I caught up with several old friends. One of these friends has lost her home to the recent spate of earthquakes. With resilient if dark humour, she was organising a gumboot party for her neighbours to farewell their red-stickered houses. (A system of colour coding has been introduced to designate the condition of buildings. A green sticker means that the building has suffered no damage, or minor damage, and can still be used. An orange sticker means damage is more substantial, but the building in question will be able to be used after repair works have been carried out. A red sticker on a building means that it is damaged beyond repair, and that entry is denied because of the risk posed should another quake occur.) This friend said to me that her church had missed the opportunity to facilitate lament for the losses some of the members had experienced.

Lament by Sya. Copyright © Stacy Reed

Meanwhile, another friend told me that his church spent too much time talking about the earthquakes, and that this focus was preventing people from moving on. Casting back to his childhood during WWII, he said that the current disasters (including an unusual massive dump of snow) should be kept in perspective. Such things happen, he said, and we should now move on.

I suspect that the pastors of the churches in Christchurch will frequently annoy their parishioners as they attempt to both acknowledge tragedy but also look to the future. The feelings expressed above may well exist within every church in Christchurch. Further, with this range of opinion, people can do funny things. In his book ‘Conflict and Connection: Baptist Identity in New Zealand,’ Martin Sutherland describes the strange case of Pastor Machattie, pastor of Napier Baptist Church in 1931 when that city was devastated  by a major earthquake. This colouful, controversial character created mayhem as the church wrestled with relocating and rebuilding, all while a substantial financial legacy lay invitingly in the background.

Perhaps all these things remind us that stressful situations give rise to many different responses. It may be that the only thing that may help us negotiate such troubled times is a commitment to forebear with one another, no matter what.