May 2015

New sermons


I have added two new sermons to the site. Both are designed to encourage and inspire.

The desires of your heart is based on Psalm 37:3-6 – Trust in the Lord, roll your burdens onto him, and find your satisfaction in a personal relationship with Jesus… and he will give us the desires of our hearts.

Circles of influence is a collection of stories about four biblical characters know by few; men and women with small circles of influence but great impact. Exodus 35:30-35; Ruth 4:13-15; Luke 22:7-13; Romans 16:22

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Founder and Chairman of SATS Retires

Released on social media by the South African Theological Seminary

Last night the Board of SATS bade a sad farewell to its Founder and Chairman of 20 years, Dr Christopher Peppler, who has officially retired. After obeying God’s call to start a distance education seminary, which at the time was not a common way of delivering theological education, Chris pioneered the establishment of what today has become a global, online institution. He faithfully ensured that what God called him to do was carried out at the highest level and that the seminary remained faithful to its three foundational principles, which he introduced, namely Bible-based, Christ-centred and Spirit-led. As the Chairman he has led the Board thoughtfully, prayerfully and perceptively, and under his direction the Board has provided sound advice and direction to the Senior Executive. In recognition of his exceptional contribution, at our recent graduation ceremony, SATS awarded Chris its highest honour, Fellow of the South African Theological Seminary. The seminary, and the wider theological education community, will forever be indebted to him for his incredible contribution. We salute him and pray that he will enjoy his well-deserved retirement.

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A Jesus-centred revelation


In my last post I attempted to give you the ‘big picture’: a panoramic overview of Revelation. Now I am neither an artist nor a photographer but I do know that every good picture needs a focal point… and the centre of attention in the book of Revelation is Jesus. It is the revelation of Jesus, and the testimony of Jesus.

The salutations are given in Chapter One verses four to six as coming from ‘him who is, and who is was, and who is to come.’ The origin of this ascription goes all the way back to the burning bush incident recorded in Exodus. Moses asks who it is who is sending him back into Egypt, and God answers “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). The Prophet Isaiah expanded this to “I am he; I am the first and I am the last” (Isaiah 48:12) and much later Jewish scholars interpreted Exodus 3:14 with: “I am now what I always was and always will be” (Midrash Raggah). So, the greetings in the book of Revelation are from the Eternal Almighty God. In verse eight this Eternal One describes himself with the words: “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, yet Jesus applies this to himself in verse 17 where he is recorded as saying: “I am the first and the last”. I am certain most readers have picked up that Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega; I am the first and the last”

John records in his gospel several instances where Jesus used the words “I am” to describe himself – “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35): “I am the light of the world” (8:12): “I am the gate” (10:9): “I am the true vine” (15:1). Now I guess we could simply understand this as picturesque forms of speech were it not for two other “I am” statements recorded in John’s gospel. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Surely this is claiming divinity? Then comes the clincher in John 8:58: “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am” (HCSB). Surely there can be little doubt that right at the beginning of Revelation the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed as the divine author and central focus.

This divine Jesus speaks to John the revelator in a loud voice and what John sees when he turns around to see who is speaking to him is recorded in Revelation 1:13-16. In a previous post I have already described the key interpretive principle of Revelation as: ‘the book of Revelation is to be understood as an unveiling both of Jesus himself and of principles, events, and characters, both heavenly and earthly, by means of appropriate symbols’. So the description of Jesus must be understood as a SYMBOLIC presentation of his divine attributes. Anyone who attempts to literalise this description will wind up with a cartoon-like parody.

The representation of Jesus that John records is described as ‘someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance’. It is best not to pick apart this description because then the overall meaning and impact tends to be lost. The phrase ‘like a son of man’ gives us the clue that John is drawing on the imagery of Daniel chapters seven and ten. These chapters read in part: ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow: the hair of his head was white like wool’: and ‘a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude’.

He holds the stars in His hands

In Revelation John is using the visions of Daniel to convey to his readers that this Jesus who he portrays is none other than the God of the ancient prophets of Israel. While the context of Daniel ten could indicate an angelic messenger, chapter seven makes it clear that the subject is God, the Ancient of Days.

Please avoid leaping to the wrong conclusion that this Jesus of Revelation is different to the Jesus of the Gospels: Whereas Jesus was meek, mild, loving, and kind while on earth, now he is fierce and wrathful. No, as Hebrews puts it, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (13:8). It is true that Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1 & 1 Peter 4:5) but his judgement is an outworking of his grace and righteousness and tempered by the same compassion and mercy he displayed while on earth. The Jesus we came to know and love through the Gospels has not changed in nature or character and we can safely base our lives on what he said and did. However, it is equally mistaken to think that the Lord Jesus Christ will not judge and ultimately act against all who destroy his creation, persecute his people, and tarnish his glorious image.

In my next post I intend summarising the letters Jesus wrote to seven churches. This will not just be a history lesson because these letters are relevant to us today and we need to take them very seriously. I love Jesus’ letters to the church and I am looking forward to exploring them with you.

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A Panoramic Overview


Imagine if someone blindfolded you, took you to stand one metre away from a mural which covered the whole length and height of a huge wall, and then removed the blindfold. You would be able to see the detail of what was directly in front of you, but little else. Imagine further the absurdity of someone then asking you to explain the meaning of the entire mural. To do that you would at least have to move backwards until you could see the whole work. Even then, you have a problem; you would be able to see the big picture, but you would be too far away to discern the details. You would have to make many journeys up nearer to the mural, but once you had seen the whole picture, your trips to the wall would be planned and specific.

To be able to interpret the book of Revelation, you must first see the big picture. However, the apocalypse is not like a flat two-dimensional mural; it’s more like a 3D movie – no, more than that, it’s like a three-dimensional holographic image. So, using this analogy, you will have to walk around it as well as up to and away from it.

Like a holograph, the book of Revelation has three dimensions to it – a heavenly dimension, a worldly dimension, and an ecclesiastical (church) dimension. In order to present the big picture as best I can, I am going to attempt to describe these three dimensions separately, yet in such a way that they overlay each other.


The Heavenly dimension

The book of Revelation unveils the underlying reality of the heavenly realm, and describes how this reality manifests on Earth. It depicts a throne at the very centre of all things, and this throne is not empty! God rules and reigns over all domains, realms, and times. Everything which exists in space and time is an expression of the reality which exists in the heavenly realm, and that in turn is an expression of God’s creative will. Angels and the spirits of the deceased children of God populate this heavenly dimension. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, He expelled the rebellious spirits from heaven into a spiritual realm associated with the material creation in which we now live. Angels loyal to God traverse between these non-material planes, and also interact with the physical creation, executing the will of God and aiding believers in this life.
This is all set out in Revelation chapters 1, 4, 5, 12:1-12, 15, 19 and 20


The Earthly dimension

On the cross of Calvary Jesus cancelled Satan’s authority on Earth. Since then the devil has fought tooth and nail to remain, illegally, in control of the world system. The book of Revelation records the strategies and tactics he uses to try to achieve this objective in the face of the execution of the righteous purposes and judgments of Almighty God. The devil wants to be a god and to remain in control of a world over which he has no legal title. He is like a squatter given notice of eviction, who uses the residents of the property to protect his illegitimate interests. Satanically energised peoples are primarily concerned with obtaining power and wealth, and they attempt to achieve this through conquest, which inevitably leads to conflict and war. War leaves a legacy of famine and plague. When people reap the devastating harvest of conquest, war, famine, and plague, they blame and persecute the believing church as a scapegoat for the consequences of their greed. When persecution has run its course, only God’s judgment remains, and this, in turn, sets up the conditions for the start of a new cycle. These cycles repeat throughout history, but become more and more intense as the end of the age approaches. They are pictured in Revelation chapter six as seals broken open one after the other and they represent the devil’s attempts to remain in possession of man’s birthright and inheritance.


Seals reveal, but trumpets warn. The results of mankind’s quest for power and wealth, under Satan’s guidance and empowerment, serve well to warn of the ultimate consequences of rebellion. Since the time of Christ, humanity has been systematically destroying and polluting the earthly habitat. Mankind has ravaged the vegetation, animal life, oceans, rivers, and the atmosphere, and their sorry condition is as clear a warning as any cosmic trumpet blast. These conditions affect the physical condition of humankind and are depicted in Revelation by angelically sounded trumpets, but two other woes directly blight both soul and spirit. Humanism, consisting of materialism, hedonism, politics, science, philosophy, economics, and the military, has taken a terrible toll on humanity over the last two thousand years. Humanism is essentially the enthronement of self and the denial of the sovereignty of Almighty God. It serves as a powerful satanic weapon for both enslaving unregenerate people and disempowering believers. The second woe is religion in all its forms. Religion consists of the occult, apostate Christianity, cults, eastern mysticism, and other religious systems. Where humanism attacks the soul, religion attacks the spirit. In essence, religion is the enthronement of Satan and the denial of the Lord Jesus Christ. The devastating effects of these two woes serve as powerful warnings to people of all generations, and none more so than those alive today.
Revelation chapters 8 and 9.

There is a satanic trinity at work in the world today. The Devil, who seeks the place of God the Father, the False Christ who imitates Jesus, and the False Prophet who seeks to take the place of the Holy Spirit. Humanism is satanically energised humanity’s attempt to obtain power and wealth through physical means. It has been elevated in our age to almost divine status, in terms of which many view science and knowledge as saving and redeeming influences. It is a false Christ, and is, in its very nature, opposed to the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation pictures this humanistic false Christ as a monstrous beast rising out of the sea. Humanism is patently aggressive, but religion, disguised as a lamb, is more subtle. The False Prophet, religion’s ‘mouth’, has occult power and displays miracles and signs in order to deceive and enslave. Religion points to humanism and authenticates its status in much the same way as the Holy Spirit points to the Lord Jesus Christ. In its turn, humanism supports and maintains religion’s powerbase. The book of Revelation pictures this false religious prophet as a beast which rises from the land.
Revelation chapter 13.

Seals reveal, trumpets warn, but the bowls in Revelation represent the outpouring of God’s judgment. The consequences of man’s devilish pursuit of power and wealth escalate until they become the means by which God executes punishment. Plague and disease, wholesale destruction of marine life, poisoned rivers and water sources, and calamitous ozone depletion serve as veritable bowls of wrath. Humanism, that false messiah which promises to usher in the dawn of a new age, brings instead humanity’s dark night of the soul. Religion, like a malignant philosophical army marching into civilisation’s corporate mind, brings destruction of the spirit and alienation from God.
Revelation chapter 16

Chapters 17 and 18 of the Revelation paint a horrific picture of the judgmental destruction of religion. Having served her nefarious purpose of deceiving the world, humanism turns on her and brutally destroys her. Chapter 19 depicts the defeat of Satan’s world system with the second coming of Christ in triumphal and powerful procession.
Revelation chapters 17 and 18


The Ecclesiastical dimension

The book of Revelation records the glorious victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the agency of the church, over the devil and his followers. He attains this victory not through force or might, but through the overcoming power of love, faith, and hope. The church is the ordained light-bearer to the world throughout all ages. The Lord Jesus is active through the agency of the Holy Spirit, encouraging, correcting, empowering, and rebuking his earthly representatives. The church will encounter hardships and persecution, but its task is to overcome and, through service and humility, evict the devil from humanity’s inheritance. The greatest assaults on the church through all ages have been the infiltration of religious ritual, liturgies, and laws, together with humanistic values principles, and priorities.
Revelation chapters 2 and 3

Although much of organised Christianity will become increasingly apostate by succumbing to Satan’s infiltration tactics, those who are true to the Lord Jesus will be set apart and ‘sealed’. Chapter 7 presents a picture of the church on Earth complemented by the church in Heaven.

The church of the Lord Jesus has a distinctly prophetic function in the world, pictured in Revelation as the ministry of two great witnesses. God has called the church to shed light through testimony, deed, and the pronouncement of his word and will to a sin-sick world. Throughout the ages, God has called the church to exhibit both an apostolic and a prophetic function. However, as apostasy has taken its toll, this leadership and declarative role has become more and more neglected. But, as the end of the age approaches, the church will rise up once again with miraculous power and vigour. Humankind, ravished by the devastations of its own greed for power and wealth, will seek peace and world unity at almost any cost. People will perceive this unity as a unification of both political and religious power – one world government and one world religion. This is Satan’s master plan and his vehicle for assuming personal control of the nations of the world. The only group which will oppose this plan and denounce the false messiah will be the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, those who have not accepted the twin lies of humanism and religion will pronounce a three-fold prophetic message to the world – (i) worship only God and repent for the time is short; (ii) religion and humanism offer no hope of salvation; (iii) those who are immersed in the world system will receive the terrible judgments of Almighty God. Because of these bold declarations, a devastating persecution will arise, crush the church, and silence its prophetic voice. The world will see this as a great defeat for the church, but it will in fact be its greatest victory. Like its Lord before it, the world will put the church to death, but like Jesus, it shall rise up again, its work completed, and ascend into Heaven. The end will come in two distinct but almost simultaneous phases – the removal of the faithful church from the world, and the awful punishment of all who remain.
Revelation chapters 7, 10, 11, 12:13-17 and 14 followed by chapters 21 and 22.


The last two chapters of the book of Revelation present a wonderful picture of a new heaven and a new earth. The church has always been an expression of this ‘new age’ on Earth, but in the very end, God will again dwell universally with man. He will ‘wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!’



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The Structure of the Book of Revelation


When building a house we first have to clear the ground by knocking down any existing structures that cannot be incorporated into the overall ground plan. I did that, to a certain extent, in the post titled Knocking down faulty foundations. The next construction step is to lay a solid foundation complete with a reliable cornerstone from which all the dimensions of the house can be measured and built. Jesus is the foundation and cornerstone, and I described this in my previous post titled Unlocking Revelation.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV

Before starting to build the actual house we need something more; a floor plan. However, this won’t help us much if we don’t know how to interpret its symbols, perspectives and diagrams. Revelation’s ‘language’ is symbols, colours, sounds and characters. If we don’t realise this then we will, at best, misinterpret this wonderful inspired book.

The book of Revelation is to be understood as an unveiling both of Jesus himself and of principles, events, and characters, both heavenly and earthly, by means of appropriate symbols.

The book is written in seven sections, each of which run parallel to one another. Each part covers the same time period from the first to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, each has a different focus and level of detail. Additionally, they are arranged in an ascending climatic order; William Hendriksen calls this arrangement ‘Progressive Parallelism’. A way of comprehending this is to visualise a seven transparent floor-plans, stacked together.

So, here then is the floor plan of the book of Revelation, its literary structural schematic:


I strongly suggest that you mark Revelation in your Bible with these seven parts and then read through the whole book bearing in mind that each time you start a new part you are returning to the period of Christ’s first coming.

Before concluding this post I need to explain why I and others have come to the seven-part structural plan of the book of Revelation. The logic is as follows:

The first chapter is an obvious introduction and the remaining two chapters of Part One equally obviously consist of seven letters to specific church congregations. The seven churches represent all churches throughout the ages. The start and end points of the second part are also easy to identify. After a depiction of God in the very centre of all things we find Jesus, the lion of Judah, who has become a slain lamb (Rev 4:5-6). This is a clear reference to the start of the great saga of salvation, the life and death of Jesus the Messiah. As we read the rest of this section we become aware of moving along a time line of sorts, culminating with the great judgement of God at the second coming of Christ. Part Three closes with another depiction of the judgement at the second coming of Christ (Rev 11:15-18).

Although Part Four, Chapters 12 to 14, is a strange and fascinating collection of seven scenes, it also starts with a clear reference to the birth of Jesus (Rev 12:5) and ends with an equally clear depiction of the second coming judgement (Rev 14: 14-20). Part Five again ends with the great judgement at the second coming of Christ.

Part Six is just one chapter (Chapter 19) and focuses on a wedding; the engagement (betrothal) occurred when Jesus came the first time and it is consummated at His second coming. The seventh, and final part of the book starts at Chapter 20 with an overview of the entire church age (the so called Millennium) and ends with a wonderful description of the eternal state following the Final Judgement.

You can also deduce the parallel nature of the seven parts by noting the symbolic time periods that reoccur in different sections. For instance, the 42 month period (42×30=1260 days) in Chapter Eleven (Part Three) occurs again in Chapters 12 and 13 (Part Four). Another clue is that the trumpets of Part Three (Chapter Eight) effect the same natural elements described in Part Five (Chapter Sixteen) as devastated by the Bowls of Wrath… and so on.

So this is the structure, the seven part floor plan, of the book of Revelation. In my next post I am going to give you a panoramic overview of the entire book and after that each post will unpack the detail of Revelation. I am looking forward to getting into the substance of the book with you now that the foundations and structural elements have been laid.

See you at the building site!

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.