October 2015

The Seven-sealed Scroll

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-28

There are some very valuable documents housed in museums and vaults around the world, but none of them compare in importance to the heavenly reality of the one pictured in Revelation.

In my last post I covered the disclosure of the throne of God, which John saw in heaven, as the central point of all of creation. Chapter Five of the book of Revelation starts by describing a significant detail: ‘Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.’

The obvious question is, “What is this scroll?” I give a detailed explanation in Chapter Eight of my book ‘Revelation in The Stars’, but here is the short version:

The scroll in the hand of God the Father represents the title deeds to Earth. God created humankind, Adam and Eve, and gave them the right and responsibility to rule over the natural world (Genesis 1:28). Then they rebelled, and by doing so forfeited the title deeds to the earth. In my book I write that ‘Man turned away from God in rebellion and put his trust in Satan instead. In doing this, he became indebted to Satan, who enslaved him and took his inheritance as collateral for the debt’. To understand what is really happening here we need to realise that the creation has always been God’s possession. He did not give it to humankind, but merely placed it in their care and delegated authority over it to them. Satan never did get to own the earth, but because humankind submitted to him instead of to God he did obtain temporary rights to it.

In Roman times, when the book of Revelation was written, title deeds consisted of a scroll detailing the description of the property. If the property was pledged or given as collateral, then the conditions of redemption were inscribed on the outside of the scroll which was then attested to by seven witnesses each of whom placed their personal wax seal onto the outside of the scroll. So, the title deeds contained the property description on the inside and the redemption conditions of the outside.

John continues the drama of the scene of God on the throne holding the title deeds to earth in His right hand: ‘And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside’. The idea conveyed here is that John wept aloud, copiously and in great anguish, because he realised that humanity was doomed unless someone could be found who met the redemption conditions on the scroll. Condition One: The redeemer must be a man, not an angel, because mankind had forfeited the title deeds. Condition Two: The penalty of death, incurred in the great rebellion, must be paid for on behalf of humankind. Condition Three: The redeemer must be without the sin. No wonder John wept! What man was without sin?! And who but God could pay the penalty of death? It was just impossible! …and so John wept in bitter anguish.

But the drama continues to unfold with: ‘Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Who was born to the tribe of Judah? Who is the descendant of King David? Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the lion of Judah, the Root of David is the ONLY one qualified to redeem humankind. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is God made man! He alone is the incarnation of the divine! In him alone God the Son became a man! Only the life of God the Son could compensate for the forfeited life of all humanity. And only the life of the Son of God could substitute for the lives of his fellow men and women.

The throne room drama reaches a climax with the words: ‘Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne’. Jesus, the Lamb of God, standing in the heavenly Holy of Holies, presenting his credentials as a redeemer, the evidence of his sacrificial crucifixion!

The scene concludes with successive of praise that start in the throne room, extend to the entire angelic realm, and then to creation itself!

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-28BodyPic2

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

But wait, there is more!… but it will have to wait till my next post.

 

 

The Seven-sealed Scroll Read More »

Revelations in the stars

27 banner

 

How did the ancient Israelites preserve and pass down God’s revelation to them before they had writing?

Writing seems to have appeared in the time line of history around 3,200 BC, but the Jewish calendar starts with the year 3761 BC, so for at least 500 years the Israelites had no reliable way of communicating God’s ‘words’ to later generations. Word of mouth, father to son story telling is the most likely way that knowledge was passed down, but this is susceptible to corruption and personal interpretation. Something more reliable was needed and that ‘something’ was the starry night sky. I explain this concept fully in my book “Revelation in the Stars”, but in short the idea is that the ancients linked their ‘knowledge stories’ to the fixed constellations in the night sky. They did this by identifying the pictures these star configurations suggest and then weaving their stories around these images. The wise men and women of one generation could point to these star pictures and tell the knowledge story associated with it. In this way the divine revelation could be passed down through the generations with little distortion or loss of content.

27 picThis star-linked verbal record preceded the biblical revelation and so we should expect to find traces of it in the books of the Old Testament… and we do. Consider the following:

Job 38:32-33 “Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens?”

Amos 5:8 “he who made the Pleiades and Orion...”

Job 9:9 “He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south’”.

Job is most likely the oldest book of the Bible and the references to an astrological connection continue right through to the last book of the Bible. Revelation Chapter Four contains some tantalizing pointers to what later chapters develop more fully.

From our vantage point on earth, the stars appear to wheel around the dome of the night sky, and the fulcrum (pivot point) of this rotation is the North Star, also known as the Polar Star. This star marks the apparent ‘center’ of the heavens. Its name is Cynosura, and it lies in the constellation of Ursa Minor, directly under the foot of the constellation Cepheus, the king. Most sky charts show Cepheus as a bearded man seated as if on a throne. He wears a crown and has a royal robe drawn about him. Ursa Minor is shown in modern star charts as a bear with an extraordinarily long tail, but in ancient charts this constellation is pictured as a mountain range. In ancient times God was thought to rule from his throne on The Sacred Mountain (See Isaiah 14:13). Revelation 4 starts with a vision of “a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it”. (Revelation 4:2).

Four ‘living creatures’ feature in the vision of the heavenly tabernacle/throne room and they are covered with eyes which in ancient times would signify many stars. These ‘creatures’ could well indicate or be based on the four ‘royal’ stars of ancient times, which were said to rule the four ‘corners’ of the heavens (N, S, E and W). According to most sources, they are Regulus in the constellation of Leo; Antarus in the constellation of Scorpio; Al Debaran in Taurus; and Markab in Pegasus.

The coincidence between these stars within their constellations and the description of the four Living Creatures is not perfect, but it is extremely close. The first Living Creature was like a lion, and Regulus is in the constellation of Leo, the lion. The second creature was like an ox, and Al Debaran is in the constellation of Taurus, the bull. The third creature had a face like a man. Antarus is in the constellation of Scorpio, but the ancient Babylonians referred to this constellation as the man-scorpion, and pictured it with the head of a man. The fourth creature was like a flying eagle, and here the coincidence is not as strong because Markab is in Pegasus, commonly pictured as a flying horse; not an eagle but a winged creature nevertheless.

So, the first ‘level’ of revelation in Chapter Four is the disclosure of the centrality and supremacy of God. The second reveal is that the Tabernacle of Moses is a simple physical model of spiritual reality and that this model is lifted into another dimension in Revelation Four. The Tabernacle is a model and the description in Revelation is an expanded portrayal, yet reality is so much greater and more mysterious. The third unveiling in Chapter Four is that the book of Revelation is keyed to the ancient verbal truth stories hung on the starry ‘pegs’ of the constellations of the night sky.

It is very easy to get lost in the details of this marvelous book, so I strongly recommend that you take a moment to re-read the overview I gave you a while ago.

In my next post I am going to open up the wonderful Gospel message of Chapter Five – you will be amazed, once again, at how Jesus shines through the chapters of Revelation with such clarity and glory.

Revelations in the stars Read More »

Model and Reality

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-26

 

 

Who needs a Time Machine when we have the book of Revelation?!

The fascinating yet frustrating idea of traveling back in time was popularised by H. G. Wells in his story The Time Machine, published in 1895. Since then many books have been written and movies produced around this idea. So, in this spirit, let me ask you a question: If you were able to travel back to Moses’ time (1250 BC), how would you describe the solar system to him? Planets orbiting in three-dimensional space at different trajectories around the Sun! In all probability you would have to construct some sort of physical model and walk him through it. This would give the venerable Moses some idea, but how could he be expected to really grasp the fact that the sun is a star, and that Jupiter is 300 times larger than the earth and 588 million kilometres away? Just by thinking of this we get some idea of the difficulty the people of biblical times must have had in comprehending a revelation of spiritual realities – to this day we still struggle with this. In Moses’ case God helped him understand something of the heavenly dimension by giving him the plans to construct a Tabernacle, a 3D model of a multidimensional realm.

The High Priests were the people in charge of the Tabernacle, and the author of the book of Hebrews wrote about their duties: ’They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain”.’ (Hebrews 8:5) Here is a plan of the Tabernacle:

Post 26 Earthly Tabernacle3The thing I want you to note first is that the Tabernacle was laid out in three areas: (1) The Outer Court, (2) The Holy Place, and (3) The Holy of Holies.

The outer court was where the public ministry of the priests took place and contained a huge basin for ritual washing along with an even bigger alter for making the vast number of sacrifices required by the ceremonial law. The first of the two ‘inner’ areas was called the Holy Place and entrance was restricted to priests. This area contained a table on which stood twelve loaves of bread, a seven-branched candelabra known as a Menorah, and a small golden incense altar. A thick curtain separated this area from the most sacred space of all, the Holy of Holies. This cubic area contained only one item, the Ark of the Covenant and only the High Priest could enter on just one day of the year, the Day of Atonement.

Here is what the seven items I have mentioned symbolise for us today:
1. The Outer Court represents the public aspect of the church where all, saved and unsaved alike, have access.
Item 1: The great Brazen Alter of sacrifice = The cross of Calvary where Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God shed His blood for our sin.
Item 2: The Bronze Laver/basin also known as the Bronze Sea = The ritual washing away of sin – water baptism.
2. The Inner court, the Holy Place, represents the membership of the church to which only born again disciples of Jesus have access.
Item 3: The Table and the twelve loaves of bread = the fellowship of the church epitomised in the Lords Supper/Holy Communion.
Item 4: The Golden Menorah = The light of revelation through the Scriptures/Bible.
Item 5: The Golden Incense Alter = The prayers and worship of the believers/church.
Item 6: The curtain through which the Holy of Holies is accessed = The separation between God and man open for us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
3. The Holy of Holies represents the place of communion between God and believers.
Item 7: The Ark of the Covenant – a golden throne = The presence of God.

Now, if you read through Revelation 4 carefully you can pick up much of the layout and contents of the Tabernacle. Here is a picture to make this clearer:

Post 26 Heavenly Tabernacle3

 

The angels form the wall of the outer court, the elders constitute the wall of the Holy Place/Inner Court, and the Living Creatures form the wall to the Holy of Holies. In this inner sanctum is a representation of the Ark of the Covenant/Throne and the presence of God. The seven-lamped Menorah (vs 3) is in the Holy Place and you can pick up a reference to the Incense Alter in Revelation 8:3-4: ‘Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand’. The Bronze Sea is referenced in Revelation 4:6.

What’s missing in this depiction of Heaven? Firstly, the Altar of Sacrifice is not there because the cross of Christ applies only to our earthly realm – it was here on earth that Jesus gave up His life as an atoning sacrifice on the Cross. The Table of Bread is also missing because this is embodied in the fellowship and communion of the church on earth. Heaven comes to earth, to a degree, in the church!

The Tabernacle was the physical model of the heavenly realm and the portrayal in Revelation takes that model into a higher dimension… but it is still not reality. The heavenly realm is multidimensional and timeless, as we understand dimensions and time, and is far beyond our ability to fully comprehend. The depiction in Revelation does however help us to understand a little of the glory that awaits us.

In my next post I am going to describe another layer of meaning built into Revelation which was better understood by the people of John’s time than by us. So, it’s time to revisit this ‘revelation’… next week.

Model and Reality Read More »

The Throne in Heaven

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-25

‘At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it’. So starts the second part of the book of Revelation.

Chapter Two is complex and multidimensional, but it is a WONDERFUL disclosure of what and who occupies the center of everything. I need three posts to do even reasonable justice to this layered revelation. In this post I will disclose some important truths that emerge from the chapter; in my second post I will write about the model and the reality imbedded in the text; and in my third post I will reveal something that few of you will have heard of before – unless you have read my book ‘Revelation in the Stars’ 🙂

How are we supposed to comprehend multidimensional space and time when we have only experienced the four dimensions of length, breadth, depth, and time? In truth we can’t, we have no frames of reference or words to describe what is beyond both our experience and our intellectual capability. This is why Revelation is presented to us in picture-language that draws on known imagery and established modes of thought.

God dwells in multidimensional timelessness and we are creatures of only three dimensions of space, locked into a one way progression of time. For this reason we cannot ‘ascend’ to higher dimensions by our own choice or ability; God must summons and enable us. This is where all forms of religion and humanistic spirituality fail miserably because humans cannot build a ‘ladder’ of any sort that reaches heaven. John records this process: ‘After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”’ (Revelation 4:1)

John is shown that at the centre of the creation is a reality presented to him as a throne… with someone sitting on it!

John then continues with the words, ‘At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.’ (Revelation 4:2) The universe, in all its dimensions, is not a sea of chaos or a mindless cosmic machine. It is an ordered creation, centred on the one who created it. This is a key truth that forms a pivotal reference for all of Revelation. No matter how many strange, bizarre, and even frightening pictures emerge as we read through the book, we must always remember who is at the centre of it all, calm, unassailable and supreme… Almighty God.

Now, look at how John describes what he is given to see of God himself: ‘And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne’. (Revelation 4:3) There is much debate in the commentaries about what these ancient gemstones were and what they represent. Jasper is usually opaque but a rare ancient form of it (iapis)  was a transparent purple-blue much like the modern Sapphire. Carnelians range from opaque orange to transparent red (ancient Sardine). Emeralds of course are green. Pure white light refracts into red, blue, and green, colours known as Additive Primaries and white light shining through these gemstones would produce these three brilliant colours. 1 John 1:5 records that ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’. So, what we have here in Revelation 4 is a graphic depiction of an aspect of the glorious luminary who occupies the centre of all things.

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-25-body-pic2Things get even more fascinating when we consider the nature of light. Scientists have long been baffled by what they refer to as the wave-particle duality of light – Light is simultaneously a stream of particles and a wave. This is incomprehensible to us but it does shed some ‘light’ on an aspect of the nature of God. Incidentally light is usually categorised as visible, infrared, and ultra violet – just as we have traditionally categorised God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The response to the citizens of heaven to the presence of God in their midst is recorded in Revelation 4:8, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Three sets of three: ‘Holy, holy, holy… Lord, God, Almighty…. Who was, who is, who is to come’). And when we contemplate this extraordinary depiction of God in further on in Revelation we too must surely echo the worship expressed in these wonderful tri-form words!

It is hard to conceive that there are even further levels of revelation in this complex chapter… but there are, and in my next post I will write about the second of three dimensions of meaning.

The Throne in Heaven Read More »

Let whoever has an ear, hear

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-24---letters-summary

 

Our love for Jesus must be first in priority, just as it was when we first came to know Him.

At last we have come to the end of the letters to the seven churches of Revelation. In an earlier post in this series I gave a summary preview of the contents of these letters, so, Instead of simply representing a similar summary here, I would truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-24---body-picrather highlight what I believe are my major ‘take outs’. Each letter ends with the words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”, and this implies that more than just receiving the message is required. We need to understand what Jesus is saying to the church of our day through these letters, and we need insight into what He is wanting us to take hold of personally.

I use a yellow highlight pen to illuminate any portion of scripture I believe the Holy Spirit especially impresses on me. In the letter to the church in Ephesus I have highlighted the words: “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Every time I read those worlds I remember that when I committed my life it was not to a theology, tradition, or church, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. As a disciple I am defined by my relationship with a divine person and not by my biblical knowledge, ministry, or life-style: These things are products of who I am in Christ Jesus. But, sadly, I need reminding that my love for Jesus must be first in priority, just as it was when I first came to know Him.

You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first

In the letter to Smyrna my yellow pen sets the words, “Do not be afraid” before my eyes. The wine of life is often laced with fret. The devil will sometimes assault me, or I will be foolish and have to reap the harvest of poor decisions, but I need not be afraid of life, for whatever I face the Lord’s words ring in my ears:

To the church of Pergamum, to us today, and to me, the Lord Jesus says, “I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name.” It doesn’t take much perception to see that the devil effectively rules over much of humanity, despite the fact that he has no right to do so. Temptations abound, and life is often hard… yet we always have the ability to remain true to Jesus and never deny Him. His words to us are:

Jesus wrote to the believers in Thyatira; “I will not impose any other burden on you only hold on to what you have until I come”. I have highlighted these words in my Bible but I have never seen them as an encouragement to do nothing more in this life than huddle with the holy until Jesus comes again. Rather, I understand that the call is to focus on what Jesus has taught and modeled and not be led astray by the complex teachings of any so-called prophets. Jesus expects me to simply stay true to Him and His Way.

Hold on to what you have

To the faithful in Sardis Jesus wrote: “I will never erase his name from the book of life” and I too take comfort from this. The Jews of that time believed that on the Day of Atonement each year God would remove from His book of life the name of anyone whose deeds He judged unworthy. But my name is written in blood in the record of eternal life, not by virtue of my worthiness, but by virtue of what Jesus has done.

I will never erase his name from the book of life

The words I have highlighted in the letter to the Philadelphian church are, “I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” This does not mean that I will succeed at everything I feel is biblical or worthwhile, but it does mean that if I am convinced that what I am doing is initiated and commissioned by Jesus then nothing can prevent it’s completion. It might be hard, and it may take a long time to accomplish, but it will happen.

I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut

Lastly, Jesus said to the Laodiceans: “those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent”. You may have noticed that I have mentioned only good and pleasant parts of the letters. It’s not that I do not take the warnings and rebukes to heart, because I do, yet I see them as the admonishments of a loving God who cares for me deeply. I would be a fool if I did not repent when confronted with my wrongs, yet I have to confess that sometimes I am a fool… for a while.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline

May I invite you to do what I have done? Read through Revelation chapters Two and Three again and highlight in your Bible what you believe the Spirit is saying to YOU through these letters.

My next post in this series will be on something VERY DIFFERENT and I am eager to share it with you.

 

 

Let whoever has an ear, hear Read More »

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.