• Service times

    Services times are:

    Saturday night 7:30 pm for our Chinese/English service [except for the second Saturday of every month when the service starts at 6:30 pm and is followed by a shared meal]. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

    Sunday 10 am for our English language service (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@clear.net.nz

    Telephone:
    (0064 9) 6306010

    Contacts:
    Rev. Jeff Whittaker
    Pastor Daniel Choi

  • Church Officers…

    Church Treasurer: Ann Guan

    Church Secretary: Margaret Whittaker

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

Sequential links: Revelation and Genesis

Many writers and commentators have noted that the disaster sequences in the book of Revelation associated with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls have structural parallels. I have previously written that I believe the seals to relate to events contemporaneous with John the Revelator, in particular the pressures of living under occupation. Let me broaden that to include the pressures experienced by ordinary citizens living in a situation dominated by powerful elites (as suggested by Laurie Guy in his ‘Making Sense of Revelation’). And I wrote that the trumpets relate to events around the entry into the Promised Land at the end of the Exodus, events that were described as judging the sinful behaviour of the existing occupants of the Land but which would also have been experienced as challenging by the invading tribes of Israel. And finally, I wrote that the bowls relate to the plagues of Egypt, a judgment on Egypt as an enslaving power but that caught up the slave populace in its embrace as well. In light of this, I suggested that the book of Revelation is a revisiting of Israel’s history, and has as its end-point a re-entry into Eden (now envisioned as a heavenly city). But I don’t want to suggest that there is a linear timeline that unfolds on this journey. Rather, as we await the revealing of the kingdom of God – the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven – then the people of the Lamb should anticipate encountering any of these catastrophes. But, as the people of the Lamb, these difficulties that so often caught up Israel in their embrace will not destroy us. Instead, we will conquer through the word of our testimony, and by the blood of the Lamb, and by not clinging to life in the face of death (Rev. 12: 11). And the final result is the kingdom established in the new Jerusalem to the point that it comes down out of heaven for the healing of the rest of creation.

One of the structural parallels that links the seals and trumpets is the pattern of four plus two, with an interlude and then another one. That is, an interlude occurs after the first six. Then the seventh is enacted. In the case of the seals, the seventh seal is followed by silence in heaven for half an hour. Similarly, six trumpets are sounded, and then an interlude takes place before the seventh trumpet is sounded. I believe that this pattern of four plus two (six), and then a final one is not just a stylistic feature of Revelation. I believe that the creation story in Genesis 1 and the first few verses of Genesis 2 also exhibits a four (inanimate creation as well as plant life) plus two (animate creation, with a suggestion of sentience?) aspect in the first six days of creation, followed by God resting on the seventh day. If John the Revelator has indeed drawn on the creation story as a model with which to structure his judgment sequences, then perhaps the judgments associated with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls should be interpreted as re-creative events that have as a goal the restoration and healing of God’s good creation through purgation of evil.

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This pattern of six plus one has, of course, been noted and used by others. In particular, Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote his famous Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus with seven chapters, the seventh stating – in clear resonance with the creation story – Whereof one cannot speak one must be silent. I question whether Wittgenstein, a Jewish philosopher, was influenced by the silence in heaven of Revelation 8:1. I do believe he was influenced by Genesis 2: 1 – 4. Interestingly, C.S. Lewis inserts an half hour silence into ‘The Horse and His Boy,’ a major theme of which is a return from exile. I believe that the Narnia books are strongly influenced by the book of Revelation. In this instance, I reckon that ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is Lewis’ fantasy treatment of the seals of Revelation, even if seals are only mentioned once in the book itself.

Discerning a timeline in the book of Revelation

In my previous blog on the book of Revelation, I spoke about the way my friends and I used to try and fit contemporary events into what we discerned to be the timeline implicit in the book of Revelation. We were convinced that prognosticators like Hal Lindsey or Barry Smith (a New Zealand speaker) had pierced the mysteries and that we were truly living in the last days as they described. The problem has been, of course, that the predicted associations have been superseded. This shouldn’t have surprised us, because behind us lay centuries of superseded prophetic associations with the book of Revelation.

Again referring to my last blog; there I made the case that the events associated with the seals of Revelation chapters 5 through to 8: 5 relate to circumstances contemporaneous with John the Revelator, in particular to living under the aegis of a foreign power. Revelation chapter 8 then moves immediately on to look at a series of disasters associated with seven angels blowing seven trumpets. Talking with my friend and Revelation scholar Graeme Carley some time ago, he stated that we should view the trumpets as associated with the entry into the Promised Land by God’s People at the end of the Exodus. I agree with him. But I want to take this train of thought further. I reckon that the disasters associated with the seven bowls of God’s wrath (Revelation 16) resonate strongly with the plagues of Egypt.

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Taking all this into consideration, then, I think that the timeline running through the book of Revelation is a journey back through Jewish history from the time of John the Revelator. At the end of this journey, what do we find but a reversal of the eviction from Eden now seen as permission to enter the new Jerusalem. (Incidentally, in a previous blog I shared that I believe Paul has used Jewish history as a template for the book of Romans, but starting with Genesis and ending with life under Roman occupation.)

Viewed in this way, Revelation ceases to be a blueprint for the future of humanity. Instead, and in fitting with the apocalyptic genre, the prophetic aspect of the book is more as defined by Walter Brueggemann as being a fleshing out for humanity of the consequences of failing to live out God’s covenant stipulations.

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.

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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.