January 2016

Revelation Revisited Constellation Orion

Some things are still a mystery

Revelation Revisited Image

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. But is all of the Bible so simple that even a little child can understand it?

Well, the central message of the Good News of Salvation in and through the Lords Jesus Christ is indeed simple to receive, yet far from simple to fully understand. for instance, just how the alienated and mortally flawed spirit of a human being is regenerated is a profound mystery. And how God can be a triune being existing simultaneously in three personages, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is mysterious beyond words. What is more, how He, in and through the Holy Spirit can indwell a regenerated human being is incomprehensible to even the cleverest person.

In Revelation Chapter Ten we encounter a mystery that may not be unlocked in our life-time, if ever. ‘When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” The Seven Thunders themselves are enigmatic but we can understand something of what John is referencing here. The key issue however, is that we do not know what they said; their message is a mystery to us. And what is more, there is nothing in the rest of Revelation, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter, that reveals what was said.

Jesus, in Himself and by virtue of what He said and did, is the clearest revelation of the Triune Godhead to humanity, yet even He sometimes spoke mysteriously. Matthew chapter thirteen contains seven parables of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first three are given to the masses in an outdoor setting and the last four to his disciples in an indoor setting. After delivering the first of these parables to the crowd the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in such obscure language. His reply is that “The knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (Matthew. 13:11). So, what Jesus was teaching in the form of parables was a mystery to all who were not enlightened by him. In addition to this, He pointed the disciples to things which they were never going to understand in their life-times. For instance, when they asked him when he could return to herald in the end of the world, he replied; “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). Wow! In His humanity even Jesus did not know the exact time of His return to earth. in his humanity Jesus did not know the exact time of his return to earth.

The AdamiStar chart referenced in Revelationc  root of sin is the desire to know everything, but if we did, would we not be gods? God’s ways and thoughts must be higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), for He is God and we are not. Equally, if the Bible is truly the inspired written Word of God then it must contain elements of mystery.

Now, to the particular mystery referenced in Revelation 10. I have already introduced and started to develop the idea that John was using the astronomy of his day as a device for writing what the Holy Spirit was inspiring him to record and the Seven Thunders is another example of this. One of the most well-known constellations is Orion (marked 1 in the image), pictured as holding a scroll in one hand, the head of a lion in the other, and his one foot is planted on the ‘sky river’ Eridanus (2). Just to his right and slightly above him is the constellation Taurus (3), the bull, which symbolises something very dark and sinister that I will explain when we get to Revelation chapter 13. In the shoulder of the constellation of Taurus is a group of seven stars (number 4 in the graphic) known as the Pleiades (Job 9:9). John apparently uses the constellation Orion to represent the mighty angel of Revelation 10 and the Pleiades to represent the message of the Seven Thunders, but this still does not shed any light on the message itself; it is a mystery. In fact, the angel then utters the words, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (Revelation 10:6-7).The Bible does indeed contain mysteries because it is genuinely God-breathed,so

The Bible does indeed contain mysteries because it is genuinely God-breatherd, so our task when we come to the Bible is to diligently seek to understand what we can and to marvel at the mysteries that we cannot yet fathom. I find this both exhilarating and freeing.
I study the written Word of God with an expectation of revelation within the limitations of my understanding, yet with the deep comfort of knowing that it is God alone who reveals and enlightens what He is pleased to make known.

In my next post I plan to write about the ‘end days’ indicated by the angel’s prophetic words in chapter 10:6-7.


Revelation Revisited Feature Image

Message to the world

Revelation Series the Scroll

We all know that the church has a message of salvation for the world, but here is another, less obvious, aspect of it.

Revelation Chapter Ten features a mighty angel descending from heaven holding a little open scroll in his hand. Some commentators teach that this is a portrayal of Jesus Christ but I don’t hold to this for several reasons. In Revelation angels are never symbolic portrayals of something else – they are simply… angels. In any event, Jesus is NOT an angel, He is much, much greater than any angel ever could be (Hebrews 1:4) for He is God incarnate. I think that the confusion comes from the similar descriptions of Jesus and angels in the book of Revelation, but this is because all those who come from the heavenly realm are consistently described with words such as light, radiance, fire, glory, and so on.

In any event, the real focus is not on the angel but on what he is carrying – a small open scroll. We first encountered this scroll rolled up and held in the right hand of God the Father (Revelation 5). It represented the ‘title deeds’ to the earthly realm which humanity had forfeited when they rebelled in the Garden of Eden. It was sealed on the outside and Jesus alone was fit to take it from the Father and break open its seals. As each seal came away a voice boomed out the eviction order to the devil and his minions. Now, in the scene before us, Jesus has handed the scroll to a mighty angel to deliver to John, the representative of the church. Jesus instructs John to take the scroll and to eat it and tells him that although it will taste sweet on his lips it will turn his stomach sour. The Lord also commanded John concerning this message he had internalised, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (Revelation 10:11)

The essence of the prophetic declaration entrusted to John, and indeed the whole church, is;

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
The church has a prophetic duty to declare to the world, all who have not bent the knee to Jesus, that He is Lord of all, and that Satan has no rights and is simply an illegal squatter in the process of eviction. This is indeed a ‘sweet’ message… but it has some very ‘sour’ implications. The devil loathes the truth of this declaration and unsaved humanity both rejects it and reacts violently to it. So, wherever the church faithfully declares this message it suffers criticism, rejection and some form of persecution.

This prophetic mandate does not give us license to act in ways that Jesus neither modeled nor taught. To proclaim the lordship of Jesus does not equate to Bible-bashing or turn-or-burn aggressive ‘evangelism’. Jesus’ words to the world-weary are still: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). And Peter’s instruction regarding personal evangelism is still: ‘But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.’ (1 Peter 3:15-17)

There are two other aspects of Chapter Ten that I want to develop before progressing to the Two Witnesses of Chapter Eleven. The first concerns ‘mystery’ in scripture and the second concerns the immediacy of the ‘end days’ and the urgency this brings to our Christian witness. In preparation, why don’t you give some thought to the enigmatic ‘seven thunders’ of Revelation 10:3-4 and to the bold statement of verses 5 to 7.

  When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
Star constellations

Ghost riders in the sky

My last regular Revelation Revisited post before Christmas concerned the second of the Woes described in Chapter Nine, and I asked you to consider the following graphic:


Ancient star chart

If you have not yet caught up to where we are in the book of Revelation, please have a look at the video overview on the website HERE or YouTube HERE. You can also view the summary as a pdf HERE
Some readers might have recognised the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpio and others may have wondered if I had been smoking my socks. 🙂  I have already mentioned in this series that there is strong evidence that John keyed his inspired writing to the astronomical constellations as seen from his location in the Northern hemisphere. The use of a Sky Map identifying the visible stars in the night sky dates back to at least 2500 BC and there is abundant evidence that the ancient Mesopotamians made use of it to calculate seasonal occurrences. However, they also believed that it portrayed divine purposes and thus contained insights into the progression of the history of nations. For them, the science of astronomy was intertwined with their religious belief system.

The ancients regarded the southernmost constellations, as observed from locations such as Babylon and Jerusalem, as the gateway to a dark spiritual underworld. Scorpio, as its name suggests, is the great scorpion of the heavens. This arachnid appears in the scriptures in a number of places as a symbol of danger (Deuteronomy 8:15, Ezekiel 2:6). The Lord Jesus used it to depict demonic evil when he said to his disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:18-20). In the book of Revelation Chapter Nine, the scorpion features in aspects of the demons that rise up from the pit of Hell – the First Woe.

The constellation to the left of Scorpio is Sagittarius, the Centaur, half man half horse, with a drawn bow in its hands. With the exception of Chiron, the centaurs of Greek mythology were barbarous beasts given to drunkenness, debauchery, and rape and this would be a good description of what demons do. The book of Revelation describes a Second Woe, the horde of demons released by the sixth angel, as horses and riders.

Right at the bottom, the southernmost border of the Star Chart, is the small constellation Ara, pictured as a small upside-down altar of some sort. The Greeks had a goddess named Ara, and she was the personification of destruction and revenge. The Hebrew words Aram and Mara incorporate the same root and mean ‘utter destruction’ and ‘a curse’. I have already noted in my previous post (found HERE) that the second demonic plague of Revelation Chapter Nine, pictured as grotesquely mutated horses, is connected in some way to the Altar of Incense (Revelation 9:13) which we know from Revelation 8:3-4 is a symbol of prayer and worship. Revelation 9:20 strengthens this connection by declaring that the victims of these invading demons are caught up in idolatrous worship.

“But wait, there is more” as the Home Channel gizmo salesmen are famous for saying; Pictured in the Star Chart, just above Scorpio, is a depiction of a man with a huge snake in his hands. They represent the intertwined constellations of Serpens and Ophiuchus, which in Aramaic are called ‘The accursed reptile and the strong one’. The Greek construct for Ophiuchus is Æsculapius and the historian Hislop describes Æsculapius as the Epidaurian snake which the Romans worshipped along with fire as the child of the sun. He records the story that in a time of deadly pestilence this ‘god’ boarded a ship and traveled from Epidaurus to Rome and that when it slithered off the ship the plague stopped. The ancient Aramaic name itself means ‘the instructing snake’, and the inhabitants of Pergamum worshipped it as a healing and enlightening deity (see Revelation 2:12-17).

So here in the depictions of five of the southernmost constellations is a graphical presentation of the Woes of Revelation Chapter Nine. From this point on in our journey through the book of Revelation it is going to become increasingly obvious that John used the constellations of the night sky as a key device.
In my next post I want to deal with Revelation Chapter Ten, The Angel and the Little Scroll’. In preparation for this you might like to answer the question, ‘What is the little scroll in the angel’s hand’? Until then …


Truth Video Feature Image

Revelation Series Summarised

Truth Video with Series Title

Hi folks, as we are going to continue going through our Revelation Revisited Series, I thought it would be a good idea to do a summary of what we have discussed so far. If you have fallen behind, please use this week to catch up so that we are up to date when we re-commence next week. There are a number of ways you can do this, for example, going through the posts on the Truth Is the Word website blog. However, to make things easier I have two additional ways you can get ‘up to speed’ with the rest of us.

First, you can watch this 14 minute video I did explaining the series so far (up to chapter 9 of Revelation) by simply clicking the play button below:


You can also download the notes, with links to the posts by clicking HERE

Do let me know if this has been helpful to you or if you have any questions, theories or thoughts so that I can address them before my next post. Until then, God Bless and surthrive!


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.