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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Spring 2017
What This Lesson Is About:
the next six studies we will be discussing the victory that we have
through Christ. This week’s
study will focus on the Victory we have in Jesus Christ; and the future
celebration we will have with Him.
Jesus, Our Victor
Victory Over Sin
Victory Over Fear
He Is Risen
Jesus Christ is the
victorious Lord of all.
Christ’s Glory Reflects His Victory (Rev.
Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees His Victory
Christ’s Victory Guarantees the Church’s
Victory (Rev. 1:19-20)
the first century, the Roman emperor Domitian exiled the apostle John to
the island of Patmos. While there, John received a revelation from the
risen Lord Jesus, who told John to write down the message and send it to
seven churches in Asia Minor. The Lord also gave John visions of the
events at the end of the age, of Christ’s triumphant return, and of the
new heaven and new earth. The
outcome of John’s commission was the Book of Revelation.
It belongs to the genre of apocalyptic literature, which reveals
truths that are hidden. For
that reason, many avoid it because they find the apocalyptic writing style
complex and mysterious. Yet,
this book of marvelous truth ought not be overlooked or neglected.
The Scripture portion for this study is part of the initial vision
John received “while in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” The
message he recorded would be a word of hope and assurance to churches then
and now. In Christ is victory
for He is the eternal Victor!
The Herschel Hobbs Commentary;
Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay
Plaza, Nashville, TN. and Life Ventures-Bible
Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the
Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
win some, you lose some.” We all face many battles in life—some more
important than others. Sometimes we are victorious, yet at other times we
go down in defeat. But no matter what our circumstances are, we can share
in the most important victory of all.
We can experience victory in life because Jesus—the Lord of
all—is the Victor and has already won the victory on our behalf.
His ultimate victory was victory over sin and death!
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
Glory Reflects His Victory (Rev. 1:12-16)
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to
me. When I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among
the lampstands was one like the Son of Man, dressed in a robe and with a
golden sash wrapped around his chest. 14 The hair of his head
was white as wool — white as snow — and his eyes like a fiery flame. 15
His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and his voice
like the sound of cascading waters. 16 He had seven stars in
his right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from his mouth, and his
face was shining like the sun at full strength.
Resurrection Guarantees His Victory (Rev.
17 When I saw him, I fell
at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said,
“Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, 18 and the
Living One. I was dead, but look — I am alive forever and ever, and I
hold the keys of death and Hades.
does the resurrection of Christ guarantees His victory?
do you think John reacted as he did when he saw Christ (v. 17)?
do you think John “fell at his feet like
a dead man.” (v. 17)?
did John’s reaction lead Christ to do and say to John (v. 17)?
do you think Jesus did what He did to John?
does Ezek. 1:28; Dan. 8;17; 10:9; Isa. 6:5 tell us about others who saw the Lord
the same way that John did?
did Jesus mean by saying “I am the First
and the Last, (v. 17)? (see Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12;
also see commentary on v. 17—Expositors and Believers.)
How would you explain the significance of Jesus
saying that He was “the First and the
Last,” (v. 17)?
would you compare the sound of Jesus’ voice in verse 15 with the world He
spoke in verse 17?
does verse 18 tell us about Jesus Christ?
does verse 18 tell you about your salvation?
would you describe the word Hades (v.
18)? (see Digging Deeper &
articles: Sheol, Hades and Hell &
Hades A First Century Understanding.)
What do you find most encouraging in the verses of this passage?
on this passage, how would you explain, not only John’s victory, but every
you think Jesus’ victory over death frees us from the fear of dying?
Why, or why not?
Lessons in Rev. 1:17-18:
inspires deep humility and true worship.
dispels the fears of those who come to Him.
is God, and He has power over death.
Victory Guarantees the Church’s Victory (Rev. 1:19-20)
19 Therefore write what you have
seen, what is, and what will take place after this. 20 The
mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and of the seven
golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven
churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
would you explain Jesus’ instructions to write “what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” (v.
does Jesus explain the mystery of the seven stars John saw in Jesus’ right
hand (v. 20)?
does Jesus explain the mystery of the seven golden lampstands (v. 20)?
do you think is significant about Jesus’ “right
hand” (v. 20)?
is the significance of the “lampstands”
would you explain the meaning of “the
angles of the seven churches” (v.
the “angles” are heavenly beings,
what does it mean that Jesus holds them in His right hand?
the “angles” are earthly beings,
what does it mean that Jesus holds them in His right hand?
does it mean to you that Jesus holds the churches in His hands?
does Christ’s victory guarantees the Church’s victory?
on the entire focal passage, why do you think the church needs this message?
do you think would help “churches”
shine more “light” into the world?
does knowing that the final victory over life and death belongs to Jesus change
your view of difficulties? If so,
do you think we should live each day with knowing about the victory Jesus
elements in John’s vision of Jesus bring you the most comfort?
Lessons in Rev. 1:19-20:
is in control of the past, the present, and the future.
church is of supreme importance in the plan of God.
Jesus, the church will experience suffering before Glory.
continues to stalk like a ravenous lion.
Sin still works its destruction.
And, unless the Lord returns first, death is inevitable.
Such a perspective, while true, could lead us to despair and a
defeatist attitude. But when
we look from the perspective of Christ, we see that Satan, sin, and death
have already been defeated. Jesus
Christ is victorious over each—and anything else that threatens us as a
people of faith. His glory
reflects His victory. His
resurrection guarantees victory. Therefore,
with confidence we can press forward, for no foe can defeat us.
How does knowing that “Jesus
Christ is victorious over all” help you when adversity strikes in
your life? What situations
have you faced but overcome because of the victorious Christ?
When it comes to sharing the victory you have experienced, where do
you stand? On a scale of 1
(sharing very little) to 10 (sharing constantly) rate your sharing
experience? Have you been
victorious in sharing Christ’s victory with others?
If not, ask the Holy Spirit to help you improve your sharing
experience? He will!
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version: Revelation
Revelation 1:12-20 (KJV)
12 And I
turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden
candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one
like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt
about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his
hairs were white like wool, as
white as snow; and his eyes were
as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they
burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And
he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged
sword: and his countenance was
as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at
his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not;
I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for
evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the
things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which
shall be hereafter; 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou
sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are
the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest
are the seven churches.
New King James Version:
Revelation 1:12-20 (NKJV)
12 Then I turned to see the
voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13
and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet
and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were
white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His
feet were like fine brass, as if
refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He
had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged
sword, and His countenance was
like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell
at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do
not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive
forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. 19 Write
the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which
will take place after this. 20 The mystery of the seven stars which
you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are
the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the
Revelation 1:12-20 (MSG)
turned and saw the voice. I saw a gold menorah with seven branches, 13 And
in the center, the Son of Man, in a robe and gold breastplate, 14 hair
a blizzard of white, Eyes pouring fire-blaze, 15 both feet
furnace-fired bronze, His voice a cataract,
16 right hand holding the Seven Stars, His mouth a sharp-biting sword, his face a perigee sun. 17 I saw this and fainted dead at his feet. His right hand pulled me upright, his voice reassured me: "Don't fear: I am First, I am Last, 18 I'm Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death's doors, they open and lock Hell's gates. 19 Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be. 20 The Seven Stars you saw in my right hand and the seven-branched gold menorah—do you want to know what's behind them? The Seven Stars are the Angels of the seven churches; the menorah's seven branches are the seven churches."
Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament,” “Believer's Bible Commentary,” “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Jesus, Our
Victor” — Revelation 1:12-20
Reflects His Victory (Rev. 1:12-16)
Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees His Victory
Christ’s Victory Guarantees the Church’s
Victory (Rev. 1:19-20)
Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament: Revelation
1:12. For the OT tabernacle,
Moses constructed a seven-branched lampstand (Exod 25:31 ff.). Subsequently this
lampstand symbolized Israel. Zechariah had a vision of a seven-branched golden
lampstand fed by seven pipes—explained to him as the “eyes of the Lord,
which range through the earth” (4:10). Thus
the lampstand relates directly to the Lord himself: Since other allusions to
Zechariah’s vision of the lampstand appear in the Revelation—e. g., “seven
eyes, which are the seven spirits of God” (5:6) and the “two witnesses”
that are “the two olive trees” (11:3-4)-it is logical to assume here a
connection with that vision as well.
But there are problems in
any strict identification. In v. 20 Christ tells John that the “seven
lampstands are the seven churches” and in 2:5 that it is possible to lose
one’s place as a lampstand through a failure to repent. Therefore, the imagery
represents the individual churches scattered among the nations—churches that
bear the light of the divine revelation of the gospel of Christ to the world
(Matt 5:14). If Zechariah’s imagery was in John’s mind, it might mean that
the churches, which correspond to the people of God today, are light bearers
only because of their intimate connection with Christ, the source of the light,
through the power of the Holy Spirit (1:4b; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6).
the words “someone ‘like a son of man’” are to be understood in
connection with Daniel 7:13 as a reference to the heavenly Messiah who is
also human. Jesus preferred the title Son of Man for himself throughout his
earthly ministry, though he did not deny, on occasion, the appropriate use of
“Son of God” as well (John 10:36; cf. Mark 14:61). Both titles are
nearly identical terms for the Messiah. The early church, however, refrained
from using “Son of Man” for Jesus except rarely, such as when there was some
special connection between the suffering of believers and Christ’s suffering
“Dressed in a robe”
begins the sevenfold description of the Son of Man. The vision creates an
impression of the whole rather than of particular abstract concepts. John saw
Christ as the divine Son of God in the fullest sense of that term. He also saw
him as fulfilling the OT descriptions of the coming Messiah by using terms drawn
from the OT imagery of divine wisdom, power, steadfastness, and penetrating
vision. The long robe and golden sash were worn by the priests in the OT (Exod
28:4) and may here signify Christ as the great High Priest to the churches in
fulfillment of the OT Aaronic priesthood or, less specifically, may indicate his
dignity and divine authority (Ezek 9:2, 11). In Ecclesiasticus 45:8,
Aaron is mentioned as having the symbols of authority: “the linen breeches,
the long robe, and the ephod.”
1:14. In an apparent allusion to
Daniel, Christ’s head and hair are described as “white like wool, as white
as snow” (Dan 7:9; cf. 10:5). For John, the same functions of ruler and
judge ascribed to the “Ancient of Days” in Daniel’s vision relate to
Jesus. In Eastern countries, white hair commands respect and indicates the
wisdom of years. This part of the vision may have shown John something of the
deity and wisdom of Christ (cf. Col 2:3). Christ’s eyes were like a
“blazing fire,” a detail not found in Daniel s vision of the Son of man (Dan
7) but occurring in Daniel 10:6. This
simile is repeated in the letter to Thyatira (2:18) and in the vision of
Christ’s triumphant return and defeat of his enemies (19:12). It may portray
either his penetrating scrutiny or fierce judgment.
1:15 “His feet were like
bronze glowing in a furnace” (cf. 2:18). The Greek is difficult. His feet
appeared like shining bronze, as if it were fired to white heat in a kiln. A
similar figure of glowing metal is found in Ezekiel 1:13, 27; 8:2; Daniel
10:6. In both Ezekiel and Daniel the brightness of shining metal like fire is
one of the symbols connected with the appearance of the glory of God. Revelation
2:18 ff. might imply that the simile of feet “like burnished bronze”
represents triumphant judgment (i.e., treading or trampling down) of those who
are unbelieving and unfaithful to the truth of Christ.
“His voice was like the
sound of rushing [lit., ‘many’] waters” describes the glory and majesty of
God in a way similar to that in Ezekiel (1:24; 43:2). Anyone who has heard
the awe-inspiring sound of a Niagara or Victoria Falls cannot but appreciate
this image of God’s power and sovereignty (Ps 93:4). The same figure occurs in 14:2
and 19:6 (cf. also the Apocalypse of Ezra, a late Jewish book written about
the same time or slightly earlier than Revelation; it similarly refers to the
voice of God [4 Ezra 6:17]).
1:16. “In his right hand he
held seven stars.” The right hand is the place of power and safety, and the
“seven stars” Christ held in it are identified with the seven angels of the
seven churches in Asia (v. 20). This is the only detail in the vision that
is identified. Why the symbolism of stars? This probably relates to the use of
“angels” as those to whom the letters to the seven churches are addressed (chs. 2-3).
Stars are associated in the OT and in Revelation with angels (Job 38:7, Rev
9:1) or faithful witnesses to God (Dan 12:3). The first letter (that to Ephesus)
includes in its introduction a reference to the seven stars (2:1), and in 3:1
they are associated closely with the “seven spirits of God.”
John sees a “sharp
double-edged sword” going forth from the mouth of Christ. Originally this was
a large broad-bladed sword used by the Thracians. The metaphor of a sword coming
from the mouth is important for three reasons: (1) John refers to this
characteristic of Christ several times (1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21);(2)
he uses a rare word for sword (rhomphaia) that is found only once outside
Revelation (Luke 2:35); and (3) there is no scriptural parallel to the
expression except in Isaiah 11:4, where it is said that the Messiah will
“strike the earth with the rod of his mouth” and “with the breath of his
lips he will slay the wicked.”
The sword is both a weapon
and a symbol of war, oppression, anguish, and political authority. But John
seems to intend a startling difference in the function of this sword, since it
proceeds from the mouth of Christ rather than being wielded in his hand. Christ
will overtake the Nicolaitans at Pergamos and make war with them by the sword of
his mouth (2:12, 16). He strikes down the rebellious at his coming with
such a sword (19:15, 21). The figure points definitely to divine judgment
but not to the type of power wielded by the nations. Christ conquers the world
through his death and resurrection, and the sword is his faithful witness to
God’s saving purposes. The weapons of his followers are loyalty, truthfulness,
and righteousness (19:8, 14).
Finally, the face of Christ
is likened to “the sun shining in all its brilliance.” This is a simile of
Christ’s divine glory, preeminence, and victory (Matt 13:43; 17:2; cf. Rev
10:1; 1 Enoch 14:21).
1:17-18. These verses identify
Christ to John and connect the vision of the glorified Christ (vv. 13-16)
with his existence in history. The vision is seen in the light of the Eternal
One who identifies himself in these verses. “I fell at his feet as though
dead” indicates that in the vision John actually saw a supernatural being and
was stricken with trembling and fear, as had the prophets before him (Ezek 1:28; Dan
8:17, 10:9). Immediately Christ placed his hand on John and assured him
that he would not die: “Do not be afraid” (cf. 2:10; 19:10; 22:8; Matt
17:6-7). The title “the First and the Last,” which belongs to God in Isaiah
44:6 and 48:12 (where it means that he alone is God, the absolute Lord of
history and the Creator), shows that in John’s Christology Christ is
identified with the Deity.
Christ is also “the
Living One” in that he, like God, never changes. Probably this expression is a
further elaboration of what it means to be “the First and the Last,” i.e.,
he alone of all the gods can speak and act in the world (Josh 3:10; 1Sam
17:26; Ps 42:2; Rev 7:2). These divine qualities of his person are now
linked to his earthly existence in first-century Palestine—“I was dead, and
behold I am alive for ever and ever!” This passage is sufficient to counter
the claim that John’s view of Christ does not revolve around atonement
theology. On the contrary, his whole view of Jesus and his kingdom revolves
around the Cross and resurrection—an interpretation that should serve to set
the tone for all the visions that follow.
It was through Jesus’
suffering, death, and resurrection that he won the right to have the “keys of
death and Hades.” Keys grant the holder access to interiors and their
contents, and in ancient times the wearing of large keys was a mark of status in
the community (cf. 3:7; 9:1, 20:1, 21:25). “Hades” translates the
Hebrew term seol (“death,” “grave”) almost everywhere in the
LXX. In the NT the word has a twofold usage: in some cases it denotes the place
of all the departed dead (Acts 2:27, 31); in others, it refers to the place
of the departed wicked (Luke 16:23; Rev 20:13-14). Since Christ alone has
conquered death and has himself come out of Hades, he alone can determine who
will enter death and Hades and who will come out of these. He has the
“keys.” For the Christian, death can only be seen as the servant of Christ.
1:19. John is told to “write,
therefore, what you have seen.” This verse faces us with an important
exegetical problem concerning the sense of the words and the relationship of the
three clauses: “what you have seen, what is now and what will take place
later.” Does Christ give John a chronological outline as a key to the visions
in the book? Many think he does. If so, are there three divisions: “seen,”
“now,” and “later”? Or are there two: “seen,” i.e., “now” and
“later”? In the latter case, where does the chronological break take place
in the book? For others, v. 19 simply gives a general statement of the
contents of all the visions throughout the book as containing a mixture of the
“now” and the “later.”
While no general agreement
prevails, the key to the problem may lie in the middle term “what is now.”
The Greek simply reads “which [things] are” (ha eisin). There are two
possibilities. First, the verb can be taken temporally (“now”) as NIV has
done. This would refer to things that were present in John’s day, e.g.,
matters discussed in the letters to the churches (2-3). Or second, the verb can
be taken in the sense of what they mean” (Alf, 4:559). This later explanation
agrees with John’s usage of the verb eisin throughout the book (cf. 1:20; 4:5; 5:6, 8; 7:14; 17:12, 15).
“What they are [mean]” would immediately be given in the next verse, i.e.,
the explanation of the mystery of the lamps and stars. The change from the
plural verb eisin in the second term to the singular mellei
(“will”) in the third tends to distinguish the last two expressions from
both being time references.
Again, most commentators
understand the phrase “what you have seen” as referring to the first vision
(1:12-16); but it may refer to the whole book as the expression “what you
see” in v. 11 does. In this case the translation could be either “what
you saw, both the things that are and the things that will occur afterwards,”
or “what you saw, both what it means and what will occur afterwards.”
“What will take place later” clearly refers to the future, but to the future
of what? Some have taken the similar but not identical phrase in 4:1 (q.v.)
to mean the same as here and have rendered it “what shall take place after
these present things,” i.e., after the things relating to the seven churches
(2-3). This results in either the historicist view of chapters 4-22 or in
the futurist view of them. But if the future is simply the future visions given
to John after this initial vision, then the statement has little significance in
indicating chronological sequence in the book. While v. 19 may provide a
helpful key to the book’s plan, on careful analysis it by no means gives us a
clear key to it.
John is told to write down
a description of the vision of Christ he has just seen, what it means, and what
he will see afterward, i.e., not the end-time things, but the things revealed
later to him—whether they are wholly future, wholly present, or both future
and present depends on the content of the vision. This leaves the question open
concerning the structure of the book and its chronological progression, as John
may have intended.
first vision is called a “mystery” (mysterion). In the NT a
“mystery” is something formerly secret but now revealed or identified. Thus
John identifies the “mystery” of the harlot in chapter 17 by indicating
that she is the “great city” that rules over the kings of the earth (vv. 7, 18;
cf. 10:7). The seven stars represent the “angels of the seven
churches.” Who are the angels? There is no totally satisfactory answer to this
question. The Greek word for angels (angeloi ) occurs sixty-seven times
in Revelation and in every other instance refers to heavenly messengers, though
occasionally in the NT it can mean a human messenger (Luke 7:24; 9:52; James
A strong objection to the
human messenger sense here is the fact that the word is not used that way
anywhere else in apocalyptic literature. Furthermore, in early noncanonical
Christian literature no historical person connected with the church is ever
called an angelos. Mounce and others (Beckwith, Morris) following Swete, who
claims the idea comes from the Spanish Benedictine Beatus of Liebana (c. 785)
(p. 22), identify the angels as a “way of personifying the prevailing spirit
of the church” (Mounce, Revelation, p. 82). Though this is an attractive
approach to our Western way of thinking, it too lacks any supporting evidence in
the NT use of the word angelos and especially of its use in Revelation.
Therefore, this rare and difficult reference should be understood to refer to
the heavenly messengers who have been entrusted by Christ with responsibility
over the churches and yet who are so closely identified with them that the
letters are addressed at the same time to these “messengers” and to the
congregation (cf. the plural form in 2:10, 13, 23-24).
As stated in v. 16,
the stars are clearly linked in 3:1 with the seven spirits of God. Whatever
may be the correct identification of the angels, the emphasis rests on
Christ’s immediate presence and communication through the Spirit to the
churches. There is no warrant for connecting the seven stars with the seven
planets or with images on Domitian s coins (Stauffer). In some sense, the
reference to angels in the churches shows that the churches are more than a
gathering of mere individuals or a social institution; they have a corporate and
heavenly character (cf. 1Cor 11:10; Eph 3:10; Heb 1:14). That the
“seven lampstands are the seven churches” not only shows that the churches
are the earthly counterpart of the stars but links the vision of Christ with his
authority to rule and judge his churches.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s
Bible Commentary New Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General
Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Bible Commentary: Revelation 1:12-20
Suddenly John heard
behind him a voice with the clarity, volume, and tone of a trumpet.
1:11, 12. It was Jesus, directing him
to write in a book what he was about to see and to send it to
the seven churches. Turning to see the Speaker, John saw seven golden
lampstands, each one having a base, a single vertical stem, and an
oil-burning lamp at the top.
Person in the midst of the seven lampstands was One like the Son of
Man. There was nothing between Him and the individual lampstands, no
agency, hierarchy, or organization. Each church was autonomous. In describing
the Lord, says McConkey:
The Spirit ransacks the
realm of nature for symbols that might convey some faint conception to our dull
and finite minds of the glory, splendor, and majesty of this coming One, who is
the Christ of Revelation.
His outer garment
was the long robe of a judge. The band around His chest symbolizes
the righteousness and faithfulness with which He judges (see Isa. 11:5).
head and hair were white like wool,
picturing His eternity, as the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9), and also the wisdom
and purity of His judgments. Eyes like a flame of fire speak of perfect
knowledge, infallible insight, and inescapable scrutiny.
1:15. The Lord's feet were
like polished brass, as if refined in a furnace. Since brass is a
consistent type of judgment, this supports the view that it is the judicial
office that is primarily in view. His voice sounded like the waves of
the sea, or a mountain cataract, majestic and awesome.
1:16. He held in His right hand
seven stars, indicating possession, power, control, and honor. Out of His
mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, the word of God (Heb. 4:12). Here it
refers to the keen and accurate verdicts concerning His people, as seen in the
letters to the seven churches. His countenance was radiant as the sun
at high noon, the dazzling splendor and transcendent glory of His deity.
Combining all these
thoughts, we see Christ in all His perfections as supremely qualified to judge
the seven churches. Later in the book He will judge His foes, but "judgment
(must) begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4:17). Note, however, that it is
a different kind of judgment in each case. The churches are judged with the
purpose of purification and reward, the world with the purpose of punishment.
sight of the Judge prostrated John at His feet as if dead, but the
Lord revived him by revealing Himself as the First and the Last, a title
of Jehovah (Isa. 44:6; 48:12).
1:18. The Judge is the Living One
who was dead but is now alive forevermore. He has the keys of
Hades and of Death, having control over both and uniquely able to raise the
dead. Hades here stands for the soul and Death for the body. When
a person dies, the soul is in Hades, a name used to describe the
disembodied state. The body goes to the grave. For the believer the disembodied
state is the same as being present with the Lord. At the resurrection, the soul
is reunited with the glorified body and raptured (caught up) to the Father's
must write the things which he had seen (Chap. 1); the things
which are (Chaps. 2, 3); and the things which will take place after this
(Chaps. 4-22). This forms the general outline of the book.
Lord then explained to John the hidden meaning of the seven stars and the
seven golden lampstands. The stars represented the angels or
messengers of the seven churches, whereas the lampstands
represented the seven churches themselves.
Various explanations of the
angels have been offered. Some say that they were angelic beings who
represented the churches, just as angels represent nations (Dan. 10:13, 20, 21).
Others say that they were the bishops (or pastors) of the churches, an
explanation that lacks scriptural support. Still others say that they were human
messengers who picked up the letters from John in Patmos and delivered them to
the individual churches. The same Greek word (angelos) means either angel
or messenger, but in this book the first meaning is very prominent.
Although the letters are
addressed to angels, the contents are clearly intended for all in the
The lampstands were
light-bearers and were a fitting emblem of local churches, which are
supposed to shine for God amid the darkness of this world.
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Revelation
John was not only to hear
but to see and to write what he saw in a book, probably meaning on a roll of
writing material made from the inner bark of the papyrus reed grown in the
marshes of Egypt. Once the book was complete he was to send it to each of the
seven churches of Asia. The order in which they are named is geographical. On
the map they appear in a sort of circular progression. Ephesus, in Lydia, was
the chief city of the Roman province of Asia, and the church there was
established by Paul. Smyrna was a beautiful city on the Mediterranean coast
about 45 miles north of Ephesus. Pergamos, the ancient Pergamum, modern Bergama,
was the most important city of Mysia and was once the ancient capital of a
wealthy kingdom. It was about 70 miles north of Smyrna. Thyatira, founded by
Macedonian Greeks, was about 40 miles southeast of Pergamum on the Lycus River
in Lydia. It was a busy industrial city noted for the dying of purple cloth.
Sardis, the ancient capital city of Lydia, was a very wealthy city because of
trade and the manufacture of textiles, dyes, and jewelry. It was about 30 miles
southwest of Thyatira. Philadelphia (which means
"love of brothers"), in Lydia, was about 30 miles east-southeast of
Sardis and was a center of Greek culture. Laodicea, in Phrygia, had a large
colony of Jews and was about 50 miles southeast of Philadelphia.
John turned to see whose voice it was that was speaking to him, the first things
he saw were seven golden "lampstands" (NIV). These were seven separate
lampstands, not the seven-branched lampstand made by Moses (Exodus 25:31-37).
These lampstands represented the seven churches of Asia which had just been
named. The gold speaks of Christ in all His deity and glory, for the Church is
the body of Christ. The olive oil burning in the lamps typifies the Holy Spirit.
Thus, even though persecuted, the seven churches still had the power of the
Spirit and the light of Christ to give to the world.
seven churches needed to know that Christ was still in their midst as their
compassionate High Priest and conquering King. The attention here is not on the
churches, however, but on Jesus in the midst. The Book of Revelation is first
and foremost a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is described as
"one like unto the Son of man." This is another example of the use of
Old Testament language in the Book of Revelation. The phrase identifies Jesus
with the One prophesied in Daniel 7:13. This Jesus, whom John saw, is the
triumphant One who will come to receive "dominion, and glory, and a
kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him" (Daniel
His clothing indicated both
priestly dignity and royal office. The garment or long tunic was like that worn
by priests and kings. The belt or band of pure gold around His chest (see Daniel
10:5) was a mark of triumphant royalty in contrast to the worker or servant who
wore a belt of cloth or leather about the loins. Christ, the King-Priest
identified as Jesus by the Book of Hebrews, is now at the right hand of the
Father interceding on the believer's behalf (Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 2:1).
language of the descriptions given in verses 14 and 15 apply to God himself,
especially as the mighty Judge and Ruler of the universe. Thus, John made it
clear that all the attributes of the Father which the Old Testament visions
described are also attributes of the Son. To the Son has been given all power
and authority both to reign and to be the world's Judge (Matthew 28:18; John
The whiteness of the hair
(see Daniel 7:9) represents absolute purity and the dazzling splendor of His
holiness. The eyes like a flame of fire (see Daniel 10:6) speak of His
penetrating wisdom and His righteous judgment.
feet of the finest burnished, fire-refined, bronze (such as was used in censers
for incense) speak not only of strength but of the brazen altar and thus of the
sacrifice of Christ. Some believe that this bronze, instead of being the
ordinary alloy of copper and tin, was an alloy of copper and gold (Ford, The
Anchor Bible, 38:383).
The voice John heard was
the voice of God, coming like the sound of many waters, loud and clear (see
Ezekiel 1:24; 43:2). Thus, in this vision Jesus presented himself as the one
Mediator between God and man as well as the One in whom dwells "the fulness
of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
seven stars in Jesus' right hand most probably represented the leaders or
pastors of the seven churches. Being in His hand means protection and much more.
The right hand is the hand of action. Thus, they were ready for Him to use them.
No persecutor, no enemy of the Church, could stop them from leading the churches
to do the will of the Lord and win victories for Him. In His hand—what a good
place to be!
The sharp sword that came
from Christ's mouth was also their sword, the sword of the Spirit, the powerful
Word of God. (See Isaiah 11:4; 49:2; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation
19:15.) It may be that the sword also speaks of reproof and punishment to the
churches, judgment beginning in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). (See also 19:15
where the sword means judgment on the nations.)
Christ's face was like the
sun in its strength, that is, in its full, summertime, noonday brilliance. In
His resurrection appearances, though the body of Jesus was changed and was free
from our limits of time and space, yet its full glory was veiled. It may be that
the full restoration of that glory did not take place until after the Ascension
(see John 17:5). At least, on the Damascus Road the light of His glory was
enough to blind Saul who became the apostle Paul (Acts 9:3, 8). What John saw
here was the fullness of the glory of God in the face of Jesus—a fullness of
glory that even Moses was not permitted to see (Exodus 33:18-23, especially
verse 22; compare Exodus 34:29; Judges 5:31; Matthew 13:43; 17:2).
Believers can worship
Christ now, and the Holy Spirit makes them very conscious of His presence. Yet,
it is not until they are changed at the resurrection and the rapture of the
Church that they will be able to see Him in the fullness of the glory "as
he is" (1 John 3:2; see also 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52).
had already seen a glimpse of Christ's glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.
There the face of Jesus shone like the sun, and His clothes glistened and
glittered like lightning flashes from the outshining of inner glory (Matthew
17:2). But that was only a foretaste. The disciples were awed, but not struck
down. John on Patmos, however, was not able to stand the full impact of the
glory of God in Christ and fell into what must have been an unconscious state, a
Then the same right hand
that had held the seven stars was laid on John. He felt the same gentle touch
and heard the same "Fear not" that had so often encouraged the
disciples while Jesus ministered to them during His life on earth. What peace
John must have felt, the peace that Jesus gives (John 14:27)!
Along with the "Fear
not," Jesus gave John wonderful assurance. He has not changed. He is still
the first and the last; the eternal, unchanging Christ; the same yesterday,
today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He wants to be the most important Person in
believers' lives so they can be prepared for that day when He shall come again.
gave the further assurance that He is the same living Christ who rose from the
dead and inspired new faith in His followers after the terrible ordeal of the
Cross. He lives forever, and the future is in His hands.
"The Living One"
("I am he that liveth") is actually a title of God. (See Joshua 3:10;
1 Samuel 17:26, 36; 2 Kings 19:4, 16; Psalms 42:2; 84:2; Isaiah 37:4, 17;
Jeremiah 10:10; 23:36; Hosea 1:10; John 5:26.) As the Living One He is the
source of life and healing. The armies of Israel were the armies of the Living
God. As the Living God He will bring wrath on the nations that they cannot
endure. But the heart and soul of the believer thirsts for Him.
He also has the keys of
death and Hades. Hades (hadēs) in the New Testament is the Greek
name of the place of punishment where the wicked and the unbelievers suffer in
the time between death and the final Great White Throne Judgment when death and
Hades will be cast into the lake of fire. In the Old Testament it seems that God
had the keys of death and therefore of Hades (in the Hebrew, Sheol). Satan did
not have the keys; for God, not Satan, had control of what Satan could do to job
(Job 2:6). Jesus now has the keys because God has given Him all power and
authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18). God has also "set him at
his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and
power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this
world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his
feet" (Ephesians 1:20-22). This means nothing shall prevail against His
church (Matthew 16:18).
touched John, not just to revive him but to commission him to write the
revelation he had just received and the revelation he was about to receive. This
seems to indicate a threefold division of the Book of Revelation: first, the
preliminary vision in chapter 1; second, the messages to the churches in
chapters 2 and 3; and third, the future events which are described beginning in
chapter 4. God intended this revelation to be a means of blessing and revival
for others, not only for the seven churches of Asia but also for believers
throughout the Church Age.
next explained the mystery, that is, the secret meaning, the inner meaning of
the symbol of the seven stars and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars
are the angels or messengers of the seven churches. The Greek word (angelos)
can mean either "angel" or "messenger." Some Bible students
take these angels to be patron angels of the churches even though they are
identified with the churches (Harrington, pp. 80f.; Morris, p. 45). (Compare
Daniel 10:13; 12:1.) Others take them to be the pastors of the churches since
John was to write the message to them (Barnhouse, p. 32). Still others take the
angels to be visitors or delegates from the churches who would take the Book of
Revelation back with them (Ramsey, p. 98). (See 2 Corinthians 8:23 where the
messengers are delegates.)
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Revelation.
Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch
Moody Bible Commentary: Revelation 1:12-20
John's Vision from Patmos (1:9-20)
comforted the churches by recognizing them as fellow sufferers. Like them, he
had paid a price for speaking the truth about Jesus (v. 9). Writing from the
stark environs of Patmos (see introduction) he was in the Spirit (v. 10),
referring to the divinely induced state of the prophet as he received his vision
from Jesus. The phrase the Lord's day is commonly understood to mean
Sunday. More likely here it refers to John being carried by vision to see
"the day of the Lord" or perhaps, since the word for Lord is an
adjective, it may refer to a "Lordly day" or a day characterized by
being filled with the Lord's presence. Nevertheless, the vision came with
instructions to record it in writing for delivery to the seven churches.
John's vision next focused on supreme majesty. Jesus Christ appeared in His
heavenly splendor. He stood in the midst of the seven golden lampstands
(v. 12), the seven churches who were to be light to their world (v. 20). The
apostle recorded numerous aspects of His appearance. He was dressed in a manner
worthy of royalty and priesthood as He tended the living lamps. As Messiah, He
has now been glorified with the Father (Jn 17:4-5). White hair (v. 14)
signifies His wisdom and commands respect, and blazing eyes suggest purity and
judgment. His bronze feet (v. 15) were ready to trample His enemies
should they not be devoured by the sword in His mouth (Isa 11:4).
The description of the
exalted Jesus here is similar to the description of the Ancient of Days in Dn 7.
Perhaps the Son is described as possessing the Father's glory here because He
has been glorified in answer to His own prayer in Jn 17:4-5: "Glorify Me
together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world
was." His face shone with the glory of His perfections, and He spoke with
overwhelming power. Different parts of this description are reiterated in the
letters to the churches (e.g., for His flaming eyes, cf. 2:18), probably to
encourage them with a different aspect of His authority and power based upon the
church's needs. Most comforting was the picture of the seven stars (v.
16) in His hand. These stars were "angels" as seen in v. 20. Another
permissible translation here could be "messengers." This is preferred
as the word most likely refers to responsible human leaders of these churches as
held in the hand of God during perilous times (Dn 12:3), rather than to spirits.
These messengers appeared to have responsibility for the spiritual oversight of
the church, making it unlikely that these are angels, and it is equally unlikely
that God would use a human agent (John) to communicate with angelic beings. In
addition, the imagery may be a polemic against the seven stars of the Imperial
cult, which appeared on Domitian's coins.
was momentarily paralyzed before the majestic presence. However, Christ assured
him with a touch. Referring to His eternal resurrection life, He asserted His
sovereignty over death and destinies.
gave John the outline of what He was about to reveal, along with a general
interpretation of the symbols of vv. 12 through 16.
SOURCE: The Moody Bible
Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible
Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.
(v. 12)—A stand on which small oil lamps with wicks were placed.
Such lampstands had branches to hold several lamps, much like the Jewish
(v. 16)—At times stars are linked with angels. God forbade the
Hebrews from worshiping the stars, frequently linked to (false) gods and thought
to influence human destiny.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Lamps, Lighting, Lampstand:
The system and articles used to illuminate homes in biblical times. Lamps are
mentioned often in the Bible but seldom described. Archaeological excavations
have provided numerous examples of these lighting implements used in ancient
times, dating from before Abraham to after Christ. Lamps of the Old Testament
period were made exclusively of pottery. These lamps were of the open-bowl
design with a pinched spout to support the wick. Wicks were made generally of
twisted flax (Isa. 42:3). Lamps burned olive oil almost exclusively (Ex. 25:6),
though in later times oil from nuts, fish, and other sources were used. Lamps
from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic times were made on the pottery wheel,
after which molds were made for the enclosed forms of the Greek and Roman
periods (about 500 B.C. onward). For outdoor lighting, the torch (KJV lantern)
was used (Judg. 7:16; John 18:3).
golden lampstand with three branches extending from either side of the central
tier was placed in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:31-40). Each branch may have had a
seven-spouted lamp (Zech. 4:2), as do some individual lamps found in Palestine.
This seven-branched candelabra (menorah), supporting seven lamps, continued in
prominence through the first and second Temple periods, and later became
symbolic of the nation Israel. Surrounding nations also employed multitiered and
multilegged lamps and lampstands.
(lights) were used symbolically in the Old and New Testaments. Light depicted
life in abundance, divine presence or life’s direction versus death in
darkness (compare Ps. 119:105; 1 John 1:5 with Job 18:5; Prov. 13:9). Jesus is
depicted often in John as the light of the world (John 1:4-5,7-9; 3:19; 8:12;
9:5; 11:9-10; 12:35-36,46). Jesus’ disciples are also described as the light
of the world (Matt. 5:14-16).Holman Bible Dictionary.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
Daniel 7:9-14—(Son of Man):
In verse 9, Daniel pictures the fifth and final world empire—the glorious
kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ; He will be given universal dominion. The
description of the Ancient of Days here resembles that of Christ in
Revelation 1. But this identification is somewhat obscured in verse 13 by One
like the Son of Man coming before the Ancient of Days. Then it would
read as if Christ were coming before Himself. Perhaps it is best to think of the
Ancient of Days here as being God the Father. One like the Son of Man
would then be the Lord Jesus, coming before the Father to be invested with the
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
(v. 18)—Used to refer both to the grave and to the abode of
the dead, the underworld. The Bible makes clear Jesus has power over Hades.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
deess) the abode of the dead. In the King James Version of the Bible, the
Greek word is generally translated “hell.” It differs, however, from the
term “Gehenna,” which more precisely refers to hell. Hades is the Greek
equivalent of the Hebrew term “Sheol,” which refers in general to the place
of the dead.Holman Bible Dictionary.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
1. In Old Testament: Sheol
2. In the New Testament: Hades
3. Acts 2:27,31
4. Rev. 20:13; Rev. 6:8; Rev. 1:18
5. Luke 16:23
6. Matthew 11:23
7. Matthew 16:18
8. Not a Final State
(Ἅιδης, Haídēs, ᾅδης, adēs, "not to be seen"):
Hades, Greek originally Haídou, in genitive, "the house of
Hades," then, as nominative, designation of the abode of the dead itself.
The word occurs in the New Testament in Matthew 11:23 (parallel Luke 10:15);
Matthew 16:18; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; Rev. 6:8; Rev. 20:13f. It
is also found in Textus Receptus of the New Testament 1 Cor. 15:55, but here the
correct reading (Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, the
Revised Version (British and American)) is probably Thánate, "O
Death," instead of Háidē, "O Hades." The King James
Version renders "Hades" by "hell" in all instances except 1 Cor.
15:55, where it puts "grave" (margin "hell") in dependence
on Hosea 13:14. The Revised Version (British and American) everywhere has
In Old Testament: Sheol:
the Septuagint Hades is the standing equivalent for Sheol, but also translates
other terms associated with death and the state after it. The Greek conception
of Hades was that of a locality receiving into itself all the dead, but divided
into two regions, one a place of torment, the other of blessedness. This
conception should not be rashly transferred to the New Testament, for the latter
stands not under the influence of Greek pagan belief, but gives a teaching and
reflects a belief which model their idea of Hades upon the Old Testament through
the Septuagint. The Old Testament Sheol, while formally resembling the Greek
Hades in that it is the common receptacle of all the dead, differs from it, on
the one hand, by the absence of a clearly defined division into two parts, and,
on the other hand, by the emphasis placed on its association with death and the
grave as abnormal facts following in the wake of sin. The Old Testament thus
concentrates the partial light it throws on the state after death on the
negative, undesirable side of the prospect apart from redemption. When in the
progress of Old Testament revelation the state after death begins to assume more
definite features, and becomes more sharply differentiated in dependence on the
religious and moral issue of the present life this is not accomplished in the
canonical writings (otherwise in the apocalyptic literature) by dividing Sheol
into two compartments, but by holding forth to the righteous the promise of
deliverance from Sheol, so that the latter becomes more definitely outlined as a
place of evil and punishment.
In the New Testament: Hades:
New Testament passages mark a distinct stage in this process, and there is,
accordingly, a true basis in Scripture for the identification in a certain
aspect of Sheol—Hades—with hell as reflected in the King James Version. The
theory according to which Hades is still in the New Testament the
undifferentiated provisional abode of all the dead until the day of judgment,
with the possibility of ultimate salvation even for those of its inmates who
have not been saved in this life, is neither in harmony with the above
development nor borne out by the facts of New Testament usage. That dead
believers abide in a local Hades cannot be proven from 1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor.
15:23, for these passages refer to the grave and the body, not to a
gathering-place of the dead. On the other hand Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil.
1:23; Rev. 6:9; Rev. 7:9ff; Rev. 15:2ff teach that the abode of believers
immediately after death is with Christ and God.
3. Acts 2:27, 31:
(27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.)
(31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning
the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His
flesh see corruption.)
is, of course, a different matter, when Hades, as not infrequently already the
Old Testament Sheol, designates not the place of the dead but the state of death
or disembodied existence. In this sense even the soul of Jesus was in Hades
according' to Peter's statement (Acts 2:27, 31—on the basis of Psalm 16:10).
Here the abstract sense is determined by the parallel expression, "to see
corruption" None the less from a comparatively early date this passage has
been quoted in support of the doctrine of a local descent of Christ into Hades.
4. Rev. 20:13; Rev. 6:8;
(20:13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and
Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one
according to his works.)
( 6:8 So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of
him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to
them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death,
and by the beasts of the earth.)
( 1:18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am
alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.)
same abstract meaning is indicated for Rev. 20:13. Death and Hades are here
represented as delivering up the dead on the eve of the final judgment. If this
is more than a poetic duplication of terms, Hades will stand for the personified
state of death, Death for the personified cause of this state. The
personification appears plainly from Rev. 20:14: "Death and Hades were cast
into the lake of fire." In the number of these "dead" delivered
up by Hades, believers are included, because, even on the chiliastic
interpretation of Rev. 20:4-6, not all the saints share in the first
resurrection, but only those "beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for
the word of God," i.e. the martyrs. A similar personifying combination of
Death and Hades occurs in Rev. 6:8 ("a pale horse: and he that sat upon him
his name was Death; and Hades followed with him"). In Rev. 1:18, on the
other hand, Death and Hades are represented as prisons from which Christ, in
virtue of His own resurrection, has the power to deliver, a representation which
again implies that in some, not necessarily local, sense believers also are kept
5. Luke 16:23: ( 23
And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar
off, and Lazarus in his bosom.)
distinction from these passages when the abstract meaning prevails and the local
conception is in abeyance, the remaining references are more or less locally
conceived. Of these Luke 16:23 is the only one which might seem to teach that
recipients of salvation enter after death into Hades as a place of abode. It has
been held that Hades is here the comprehensive designation of the locality where
the dead reside, and is divided into two regions, "the bosom of
Abraham" and the place of torment, a representation for which Jewish
parallels can be quoted, aside from its resemblance to the Greek bisection of
Hades. Against this view, however, it may be urged, that if "the bosom of
Abraham" were conceived as one of the two divisions of Hades, the other
division would have been named with equal concreteness in connection with Dives.
In point of fact, the distinction is not between "the bosom of
Abraham" and another place, as both included in Hades, but between
"the bosom of Abraham" and Hades as antithetical and exclusive. The
very form of the description of the experience of Dives: "In Hades he
lifted up his eyes, being in torments," leads us to associate Hades as such
with pain and punishment. The passage, therefore, does not prove that the saved
are after death in Hades. In further estimating its bearing upon the problem of
the local conditions of the disembodied life after death, the parabolic
character of the representation must be taken into account. The parable is
certainly not intended to give us topographical information about the realm of
the dead, although it presupposes that there is a distinct place of abode for
the righteous and wicked respectively.
6. Matthew 11:23: ( 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted
to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were
done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.)
two other passages where Hades occurs in the teaching of our Lord (Matthew 11:23
parallel Luke 10:15; and Matthew 16:18) make a metaphorical use of the
conception, which, however, is based on the local sense. In the former utterance
it is predicted of Capernaum that it shall in punishment for its unbelief
"go down unto Hades." As in the Old Testament Sheol is a figure for
the greatest depths known (Deut. 32:22; Isaiah 7:11; Isaiah 57:9; Job 11:8; Job
26:6), this seems to be a figure for the extreme of humiliation to which that
city was to be reduced in the course of history. It is true, Matthew 11:24, with
its mention of the day of judgment, might seem to favor an eschatological
reference to the ultimate doom of the unbelieving inhabitants, but the usual
restriction of Hades to the punishment of the intermediate state (see below) is
Matthew 16:18: ( 18
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My
church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.)
the other passage, Matthew 16:18, Jesus declares that the gates of Hades shall
not katischuein the church He intends to build. The verb katischuein may be
rendered, "to overpower" or "to surpass." If the former be
adopted, the figure implied is that of Hades as a stronghold of the power of
evil or death from which warriors stream forth to assail the church as the realm
of life. On the other rendering there is no reference to any conflict between
Hades and the church, the point of comparison being merely the strength of the
church, the gates of Hades, i.e. the realm of death, serving in common parlance
as a figure of the greatest conceivable strength, because they never allow to
escape what has once entered through them.
above survey of the passages tends to show that Hades, where it is locally
conceived, is not a provisional receptacle for all the dead, but plainly
associated with the punishment of the wicked. Where it comes under
consideration for the righteous there is nothing to indicate a local sense. On 1 Peter
3:19; 1 Peter 4:6 (where, however, the word "Hades" does not
Not a Final State:
element of truth in theory of the provisional character of Hades lies in this,
that the New Testament never employs it in connection with the final state of
punishment, as subsequent to the last judgment. For this GEHENNA (which see) and
other terms are used. Dives is represented as being in Hades immediately after
his death and while his brethren are still in this present life. Whether the
implied differentiation between stages of punishment, depending obviously on the
difference between the disembodied and reembodied state of the lost, also
carries with itself a distinction between two places of punishment, in other
words whether Hades and Gehenna are locally distinct, the evidence is scarcely
sufficient to determine. The New Testament places the emphasis on the
eschatological developments at the end, and leaves many things connected with
the intermediate state in darkness.
SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D.,
General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Sheol, Hades and Hell
By Hal Lane
Hal Lane is pastor, Westside Baptist Church,
Greenwood, South Carolina.
ELL, ACCORDING TO BIBLICAL REVELATION, is the final destination of fallen angels and
sinful people who suffer the eternal wrath of a holy God (Matt. 25:41).
The purpose of this article is to explain the background of the words
translated and/or transliterated “hell” and “Hades” in the Old
Testament. The background of the Old
Testament Hebrew word transliterated “Sheol” will serve as the basis for
understanding the New Testament’s use of the Greek word “Hades,” as is in
Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
The word “hell” comes from a Germanic root meaning “to hide or
conceal.”1 “Hell” has become familiar to Bible readers because
of its use by early English translations such as Wycliffe (1382), Coverdale
(15:35), and the King James Version
(1611), which translate the Hebrew noun “Sheol” as “hell” in the Old
Testament. Early English
translations also used “hell” to translate the Greek nouns for “Hades,”
“Gehenna,” and the Greek verb tartaroo
(see 2 Pet. 2:4) in the New Testament.
A correct understanding of the use of the Greek
word “Hades” in the New Testament begins with a study of the Hebrew word
“Sheol” in the Old Testament. The
Hebrew noun “Sheol,” which occurs 65 times in the Old Testament,2
was translated “grave” 31 times, “hell”31 times, and “pit” 3 times
in the King James Version.
Complicating the modern English reader’s task of interpretation is the fact
that most people primarily think of “hell” as referring solely to the final
place of torment for lost angels and persons.
The Hebrew word “Sheol” did not uniquely identify the place of
eternal punishment indicated by the current meaning of “hell.”
“Sheol” was a place where the dead descended (Job 11:8;
Ezek31:15-17). It referred to the
realm of all the dead, righteous and unrighteous, as indicated in David’s
statement, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Sheol]; neither wilt thou
suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10, KJV).
Peter quoted this verse in referring to Jesus’ resurrection (see Acts
2:27) as did Luke, in quoting Paul (see 13:35).
These passages clearly indicate that “Sheol” was the equivalent of
“death” or “the grave.” The
Old Testament does use “Sheol” to point toward a place of punishment for the
wicked after death (Job. 24:19; Ps. 9:17). However,
a more complete revelation of a specific place assigned for the wicked awaited
the revelation given through Jesus Christ and the writing of the New Testament
canon. For this reason many newer
translations, such as the New
International Version, do not use “hell” to translate “Sheol” or any
other Hebrew for the Old Testament.
The Old Testament use of “Sheol” provides the proper background for
understanding the New Testament writer’s use of the Greek word for
“Hades.” “Hades” came
directly into English as a transliteration of the Greek word.
Although “Hades” has a rich association with Greek mythology, the New
Testament reflects a different understanding.
Greek thought and literature do not define “Hades” in the New
Testament, but Hebrew thought and the use of “Sheol” in Old Testament
Scriptures do. “Hades”
translates “Sheol” most frequently in the Septuagint (the Greek translation
of the Old Testament in the second century AD).3 The Greek
“Hades” occurs 11 times in the New Testament.
The King James Version translates it “hell” 10 times and “grave”
1 time. As in the Old Testament use
of “Sheol,” it refers most often to the grave or death.
For the same reasons that modern translators have chosen not to translate
“Sheol” with “hell,” many have chosen not to translate “Hades” as
“hell.” The preference of modern
translations, such as the New International Version, is to transliterate the Greek word as
“Hades” or to translate it as “grave” (Acts 2:27, NIV) or “depths”
(Matt. 11:23). Luke 16:23 is the one
exception where NIV translators chose to translate “Hades” as “hell.”
We will examine that exception later in our study.
Before considering Jesus’ use of “Hades” in Luke 16:23, we should
first understand the New Testament use of the Greek word geenna (Gehenna). This
word occurs 12 times (11 by Jesus Himself, with James 3:6 as the one exception).
Each occurrence refers to a place of punishment and torment after death.
The King James and
New International Version translate
the word as “hell.” “Gehenna”
was the Greek designation of the Valley of the sons of Hinnom located south of
Jerusalem (Josh. 15:8). It was a
place associated with evil, idolatrous practices in the Old Testament including
child sacrifice during the reigns of Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:3) and Manasseh (33:6).
Gehenna later became a place where people threw bodies of dead animals
and criminals to be burned.4 In rabbinic literature written during
the intertestamental period (ca. 400 BC to AD 1), Gehenna became a designation
for the place of eternal punishment and
torment of the wicked. The Mishna,
reflecting rabbinic thought in the first century AD, says “How do the
disciples of Abraham our father differ from the disciples of Balaam the wicked?
The disciples of Abraham our father enjoy this world and inherit the
world to come … The disciples of
Balaam the wicked inherit Gehenna and go down to the pit of destruction”
(Mishnah, Aboth 5:19).5 Jesus’ use of the word “Gehenna”
assures us of the reality of a place of unquenchable (Mark 9:43) and eternal
fire (Matt. 18:8). Although many
people currently question the reality of hell, its reality, based on biblical
revelation, is undeniable. We cannot
understand God’s mercy and love without also understand His holiness and wrath
toward sin and sinners.
“Gehenna” and “Hades” account for all of the New Testament
occurrences of “hell” with one exception.
The New International Version
translates the Greek verb tartaroo in
2 Peter 2:4 as “sent them to hell”; the King
James Version, as “cast them down to hell.”
The reference is to fallen angels whom God judged and who are in chains
until a future judgment. The Greek
verb literally means “to be sent to Tartarus.”
“Tartarus” was in Greek mythology a place of punishment loser than
Hades.6 Peter used this vocabulary to warn of a place of punishment
for fallen angels and, by implication, sinful people after death.
In considering the use of “Hades” in the story
of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:23, we see that the earthly fortunes and
the eternal destinies of these two men were complete opposites.
In life the poor man, Lazarus, had few possessions and the rich man
(sometimes mistakenly called “Dives” because of the Latin word for
“wealth”) had great riches. At
death they were transported to two distinct realms.
The poor man went to “the side” (NIV, Greek kolpos,
literally “chest”) of Abraham indicating that he was saved and in the
kingdom of God (Rom. 4:11; Matt. 8:11). The
rich man went to “hell (literally “Hades”), where he was in torment”
As Jesus told this story, His listeners likely would have been familiar
with rabbinic literature from the intertestamental period that spoke of two
compartments in Sheol, one for the righteous and another for the wicked (for
instance, Enoch 22:1-14). The
question is whether Jesus’ use of “Hades” referred to hell (Gehenna) or a
temporary place of confinement for the wicked until the great white throne
judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
Some Bible interpreters believe that “Hades” in Luke 16:23 refers
to an intermediate state of punishment until of final, future judgment.7
According to this interpretation the wicked dead go to Hades and the righteous
to Paradise at death (23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7).
Those who adopt this view stress two important aspects of Hades.
First, the punishment is irreversible and no escape is possible (Luke
16:26). Second, it is a place of
consciousness, regret, and punishment (vv. 23-24).
This interpretation states that Christ will return and rule for 1,000
years on earth. Following that reign
there will be a final judgment of the wicked dead before the great white throne
when they will then be cast into hell (Rev. 20:14, “the lake of fire”).
Other Bible interpreters equate “Hades” in Luke 16:23 with
Regardless of the interpretation though, the
important facts revealed about heaven and hell are clear.
Those who put their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior immediately come
into the presence of the Lord at death (23:43).
Jesus brings the believer at death to a place prepared for them in the
Father’s house (John 14:1-6). The
lost are transported at death to a place of torment that is eternal.
Greek vocabulary words referring to hell in the New Testament are
warnings to all people to be saved before it is eternally too late.
“Hell” in The
Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1971), 1:1285.
Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word
Search for ‘sh@ ‘ owl (Strong’s 07585)’”. Blue Letter Bible.
1996-2002. 5 Apr 2004. Available
D. K. Innes, “Hell” in The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company,
Steven Barabas, “Hinnom, Valley of” in The
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
Herbert Danby, The Mishnah (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1974), 458.
William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A
Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1957), 813.
Harry Buis “Hades” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 3:7-9.
By Timothy Paul Jones
Paul Jones is pastor, First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
WHEN THE APOSTLE JOHN
first encountered Jesus, he saw a man who appeared to be a common carpenter,
meandering along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In the years following his
call, John recognized repeatedly that Jesus was no ordinary man. He saw Jesus
when He taught on a hillside, was transfigured on a mountaintop, was nailed to a
cross, was raised from the dead, and when He ascended into the heavens. Still, I
suspect nothing could have completely prepared the apostle for the vision of
Jesus that he experienced on the island of Patmos.1
been exiled to the island of Patmos “because of God’s word and the testimony
about Jesus” (Rev. 1:9).2 He was “in the Spirit” when he heard
a voice, as loud and clear as a trumpet (v. 10). He turned “to see the
voice” (v. 12)—a peculiar phrase that probably means “to see the source of
the voice.” What John saw first, however, was neither the voice nor its
source. He saw “seven gold lampstands, and among the lampstands was One like
the Son of Man” (vv. 12-13).
not describe the lampstands in detail. The only detail about the lampstands came
from Jesus Himself. According to Jesus, the lampstands stood for “the seven
churches,” the initial recipients of the Book of Revelation (v. 20). Let’s
take a closer look at the Greek word translated “lampstands” to discover
what John’s readers envisioned when they heard this term.
often translated “lampstands” in the first chapter of Revelation is a form
of the Greek word luchnia. A luchnia was neither a candlestick (as
several older versions incorrectly render the word) nor a lamp. A luchnia was
a stand on which lamps—typically oil lamps, molded from metal or clay—were
hung or placed.3 During the Old Testament era, lampstands could be
clay, bronze, or iron, although wooden lampstands were the most common. By the
first century A.D., a luchnia could describe a simple lampstand in a
common laborer’s house, an elegant metal stand in a cultured Jew’s home, or
a golden and ornate lamp in an Egyptian temple.4
understand the precise image that John was describing in the Book of Revelation,
let’s look at the Septuagint. Greek-speaking Jews and Christians used
the Septuagint, which was an ancient Greek translation of the Old
Testament. The Scriptures that many first-century Christians read in their
churches came from the Septuagint; therefore, the functions of luchnia
in the Septuagint probably formed the background for John’s usage
of the word. In the Septuagint the word luchnia frequently
described the seven-branched lampstand that had once illumined the tabernacle
(see Ex. 25:31-40; 37:17-24). The term also described the lampstands that King
Solomon commissioned for the first temple (1 Kings 7:49). In one of
Zechariah’s visions, the prophet beheld a luchnia. This luchnia was
similar to the lampstand that had once stood in the tabernacle. It was “a
lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on
it” (Zech. 4:2).
author of Hebrews, following the usages of luchnia in the Septuagint,
described the lampstand in the Israelite tabernacle as a luchnia (Heb.
9:2). In a description of the spoils that the Roman army took from the temple in
A.D. 70, the Jewish historian Josephus also followed the translators of the Septuagint,
describing the seven-branched lampstand as a luchnia.5 An
image of this luchnia may still be seen today, engraved on the Arch of
Titus in Rome.
to John, when he turned to see the source of the voice, he saw not one luchnia
but seven luchniai, surrounding a figure who looked like “the Son
of Man” (Rev. 1:13). After examining the functions of luchnia in the
Septuagint and in other Jewish and Christian documents, I believe John saw seven
sevenbranched lampstands, each one similar to the one that had once stood in the
the meaning of this image? We can draw at least three implications from John’s
vision of the seven lampstands and of “the Son of Man” among them: (1) The
churches illustrated the perfect and complete fulfillment of the Jewish faith.
(2) God’s purpose for His churches is to function as God’s presence in a
hostile world. And (3) Jesus Christ is uniquely present in the fellowship of His
Fulfillment of the Jewish Faith
the first century A.D., the seven-branched lampstand —later known as the
menorah—was a common symbol of the Jewish faith.6 In Jewish
literature, especially in apocalyptic writings such as the Book of Revelation,
the number seven implied completion or perfection. Identifying the churches not
with one but seven seven-branched lampstands symbolized Judaism—completion
multiplied by completion! Jesus was affirming the Christian faith as the perfect
and complete fulfillment of the Jewish faith.
letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia reiterated this affirmation. In both letters
Jesus referred to Jewish leaders who persecuted Christians as “those who say
they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9). Paul
echoed the same affirmation, referring to the church as “the Israel of God”
(Gal. 6:16; see also Rom. 9:6-8).
Presence of God in the World
seven-branched lampstand functions symbolically two other times in Scripture,
once in Zechariah and once in Revelation. In Zechariah’s prophecies the
seven-branched lampstand symbolized the “eyes of the LORD
which range to and fro throughout the earth” (4:10). The phrase
“the eyes of the LORD” usually referred to God’s protective presence in the world
(see for examples, Gen. 6:8; Deut. 11:12; Judges 18:6; 2 Chron. 16:9). Later in
Revelation, a heavenly voice called John’s attention to “the two
witnesses.” These witnesses were, according to the voice, “two lampstands
that stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev. 11:3-4). Although biblical
scholars do not agree on the identity of these two witnesses, clearly they
functioned as God’s representatives in a hostile world (see vv. 4-13).
texts the lampstand imagery pointed to God’s presence in the world. Jesus’
affirmation that “the seven lampstands” are the churches (1:20) identifies
God’s intention that the churches are to function as His very presence in the
world. When a church no longer functions as God’s presence in the world, the
church has lost its reason for existence. Perhaps that is why Jesus warned the
church in Ephesus, “Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I
will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (2:5). When a
church ceases to function as the presence of Jesus Christ, God no longer
recognizes that church as a church.
Jesus’ Presence Among His People
most striking aspect of this vision, however, was probably not the lampstands.
It was what—or more precisely who—John saw among the lampstands. John saw
“One like the Son of Man” (1:13) moving amid the lampstands. The grammar of
this verse mirrors Daniel 7:13: “I kept looking in the night visions, And
behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming.”7
similarity between these two texts is striking, the difference is even more
striking: The prophet Daniel saw the Son of Man among the clouds; the Apostle
John saw the Son of Man among His people. This Son of Man does not rule His
subjects from a comfortable distance, unaffected by their joys and sorrows.
Through the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in believers, Jesus Christ—God
the Son and the Son of Man—is fully present among His people. He does not
merely expect His people to function as His presence in the world; He also
places His very presence among them.
churches represented by the seven lampstands weren’t perfect churches. They
struggled with doctrinal difficulties, sexual immorality, spiritual weakness,
persecution, and complacency (Rev. 2:5,9,15,21; 3:2,15). In short, they were not
that different from churches today. Yet Jesus Christ was fully present in their
midst, empowering them to function as His presence in the world. The best part
of it all is that 2,000 years later,He has not left—He has promised to remain
in the midst of His people until we see Him face to face (Matt. 28:20).
1. I have written with the assumption that the author of
Revelation is the Apostle John, the “beloved disciple” and author of the
Gospel of John. For a discussion of the apostolic authorship of Revelation, see
Leon Morris, Revelation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987), 27-35.
2. Old Testament quotations are from the New American
Standard Bible. New Testament quotations are from the Holman Christian
3. Walter Bauer, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the
New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3d ed., rev. and ed. by
F.W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000), 606; W. Michaelis, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, vol.
4, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans,
4. Hazel W. Perkin, “Lamp, Lampstand,” Baker
Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988),
5. Josephus, The Jewish Wars, vol. 487 in The
Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1999), 7:424-65.
6. Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker
Academic, 2002), 86.
7. In the Greek text of Revelation 1:13 and Daniel 7:13
(Septuagint), “Son of Man” appears without a definite article, in contrast
to the Gospels wherein “Son of Man” always appears with the definite
article. See Osborne, Revelation, 86-87.
Hardin is pastor, First Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Kentucky.
CHRISTIANS KNOW the
island of Patmos as the place where the Apostle John’s was exiled. Domitian,
the Roman emperor, banished John to Patmos about A.D. 94-95. Revelation 1:9
states the reason for John’s exile to Patmos: “because of the word of God
and the testimony of Jesus” (NIV). While the Romans acknowledged Caesar as
lord, John declared Jesus as Lord; a violation of Roman law that likely resulted
in his exile.1 John’s banishment to Patmos silenced his verbal
testimony but not his witness.
viewed his suffering as part of the common persecution that Christians were
experiencing in the first century A.D. For this reason, John identified himself
as “your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient
endurance that are ours in Jesus” (see Rev. 1:9, NIV).
Patmos, John received the prophecy that became the Book of Revelation. John
explained that on a particular Lord’s Day, Jesus revealed to him what would
ultimately comprise the Book of Revelation (see Rev. 1:10-11). The message of
Revelation assured John and his fellow believers that, though they were being
persecuted, Jesus was still in control, executing the will of God on earth.
banishment to Patmos included the loss of his property and civil rights, and
possibly some hard labor.2 Most likely John had freedom to move
around on the island within certain limits, but received no visitors. John
remained on the island until after the death of Domitian, around A.D. 96.3
small rocky island in the Aegean Sea, stretches 10 miles long and 6 miles wide.
The formation of Patmos resulted from volcanic activity in the Dodecanese
islands, a cluster of islands in the Aegean Sea near Asia Minor. The name Patmos
came from the word “Latmos,” which was a mountain in Caria in Asia Minor
island, about 60 miles southwest of Ephesus, provided the last stop on a voyage
from Rome to Ephesus. Patmos’s crescent shape created a natural harbor for
island, with its rocky soil and an abundance of flowering plants and shrubs,
featured low hills, small plateaus, and a large number of coves. Patmos
experienced a mostly mild climate. Ancient sources suggest a large quantity of
trees originally covered the island. The trees were cut down, leaving Patmos
Cariens were likely the original inhabitants of Patmos. The Doriens and Ionians,
ancient Greek groups, colonized the island in the 11th century B.C. The
island’s early inhabitants adored the goddess Diana, considered the patroness
of the island.At the time of John’s exile, Patmos featured a Greek temple to
Diana, who bore a close resemblance
to Artemis (Apollo’s twin), the goddess whom early Greeks believed protected
all living things.
Romans typically condemned lower-class criminals to work in mines or to die in
combat as gladiators. Rome banished the decent criminals, though, to some lonely
island. The Romans actually used 2 groups of Aegean islands—
the Cyclades and Sporades—as places of banishment. Emperors
Domitian and Diocletian chose Patmos as a place of exile for the better class of
offenders. Patmos was a suitable place for exile because it was desolate,
barren, sparsely settled, seldom visited, and infested with snakes and
had no significant historical role until the Christian era. A 5th-century Jewish
inscription referred to Patmos as “the Jerusalem of the Aegean.”5
During late Roman and Byzantine times, a religious aura rested on Patmos, due
mainly to John’s exile. During the Middle Ages pirates attacked and
depopulated Patmos and plundered
the island for its resources, including the animals.6
1088, a new period began for Patmos, when the Greek monk Christodoulos Latrenos
built St. John’s Monastery on the site of an earlier temple to Artemis. This
monastery resembled a fortress and became Patmos’s most famous landmark. The
years that followed brought more change. Patmos saw the development of numerous
churches and monasteries and became a place of learning for Greek Orthodox
monks, who assembled a notable library on the island. Today the library of St.
John’s Monastery contains one of the most important collections of items from
Greek monastic history. The collection includes embroidered stoles from the 15th
to the 18th centuries, rare icons, illuminated manuscripts, and church furniture
from the 17th century. The monastery chapel features art that dates back to the
Makarios Kalogeras founded the Patmian School, which originally was a Greek
Orthodox seminary and became famous for its emphasis on Greek history.
1400s, Greek Orthodox leaders sought help from the papacy in Rome against
Turkish invasions. From 1537 to 1912, Turkey ruled Patmos. Under the Turkish
Sultan’s guarantee, the people of Patmos enjoyed a long era of
Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 gave Patmos to Italy. After World War II, Patmos was
given back to Greece in 1947. Hora and Skala serve as the 2 main population
centers on Patmos. In the 13th century, Hora began to grow around a Greek
Orthodox monastery. By the 15th century, numerous houses and mansions
dotted the settlement of Hora.
as the 17th century, Skala, the main harbor of Patmos, had no buildings—only
warehouses. Skala began to develop significantly in the 19th century, though, as
new inhabitants arrived on the island. These new residents turned the area into
a business and shipping center. During the Italian occupation from 1912 to 1948,
the offices of the Italian guard, the customs office, and a post office were
built in Skala.9
the people of Patmos celebrated the 1,900th anniversary of the writing of the
Book of Revelation. Thousands flocked to the island, including the Cave of the
Apocalypse. Tradition teaches that this is the cave where John dwelt and
received his revelation. Visitors found the cave encased within a sanctuary,
which is in turn surrounded by a convent.
will always remember John’s first-century banishment and exile to Patmos.
Though the island is small and unassuming, its significance will always be huge
because of Christ, who revealed Himself to John there.
1. See Morris Ashcraft, “Revelation” in The Broadman Bible
Commentary, gen. ed. Clifton J. Allen, vol. 12 (Nashville: Broadman Press,
2. See M. C. Tenney, “Revelation, Book of the” in The
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, gen. ed. Merrill C. Tenney,
vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 92.
3. See Irving A. Sparks, “Patmos” in The
InternationalStandard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley,
vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 690.
4. R. C. Stone, “Patmos” in The Zondervan Pictorial
Encyclopedia of the Bible, gen. ed. Merrill C. Tenney, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 619.
“Patmos, Dodecanese” [cited 8/13/2003]. Available from Internet: www.dilos.com/location/358.
“Patmos” [cited 10/26/2003]. Available from Internet: www.abrock.com/Greece-Turkey/patmos.html.
See R. C. Stone, “Patmos,” 620.
Gematria and Revelation
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED
where all those numbers in the Book of Revelation originated?
They are known as Jewish Gematria (a Kabbalistic method of interpreting the Hebrew scriptures
by computing the numerical value of words, based on those of their constituent
letters). Likely a
corruption of the Greek word gematria (“geometry”) the practice took many
forms. A common characteristic was
that the various forms found something symbolic and significant in particular
numbers. Even this took two
approaches. One approach was to
consider a word, add up its numerical value, and present an interpretation based
on the result. Since Jews of the Old
Testament period used letters of their alphabet in place of numbers, this was
easy to do.1 As an
example of this approach, Jewish exegetes discovered that the numerical value of
the word “ladder” (see Gen. 28:12) in Hebrew was the same as that for
“Sinai.” Hence many of them
concluded that the law revealed to Moses at Sinai was the way for people to
form of gematria was that certain numbers came to have a symbolic significance
of their own. Ancient cultures
throughout the Middle East, which predate the Old Testament period, made
extensive use of numbers in a cultic and symbolic manner.s3
Israel must have picked up the practice from her neighbors, especially
Babylon, and refined it to refer specifically to her religious heritage.
The Old Testament is a background illustrating the more
prominent numbers and their significance. The
number 1 is undoubtedly associated with God’s uniqueness (Deut. 6:4).
The number 3 was associated with God’s being or action (Gen. 18:2) and
sometimes used in a superlative sense (Isa. 6:3).
This number also played an important role in Jewish cultic practice.
Certain sacrificial animals had to be 3 years old (Gen. 15:9); there were
3 fasts pcr year (Ex. 23:14); and there were 3 times daily prayer (Dan. 6:10).
was a number of cosmic totality. The
number usually occurred in relation to the universe such as the rivers of
paradise (Gen. 2:10) and the 4 corners of the earth (Isa. 11:12).
Other examples found in the Old Testament are the 4 living creatures of
Ezekiel 1:5-21, the 4 kingdoms of Daniel 2:37-43, and the 4 colors of horses in
Zechariah 1:8. “Six” was
associated with human endeavor (6 days to work), the best one could do but
lacking the final completeness that only God could supply.
Otherwise the number had little symbolic or sacred significance.
stood for a complete series (3 + 4). The
Babylonians and Sumerians had also given the number 7 this meaning.4
“Ten” was a
round number of totality. Old
Testament examples include the 10 plagues, the Ten Commandments, the 10
patriarchs of Genesis 5, and the 10 times the Israelites put God to the test
during the wilderness wanderings (Num. 14:22).
As a sacred number, 10 may have derived some of its significance from the
fact that it was the sum of the two other especially sacred numbers 3 and 7.
number 12 was a symbol of God’s people. Examples
of this number found in the Old Testament include the twelve tribes, the 12
gates of Ezekiel’s city (48:30-34), the 12 pillars set up by Moses (Ex. 24:4),
the 12 jewels in the high priest’s breastplate (Ex. 28:21), and the 12 cakes
of showbread (Lev. 24:5). Once can
easily see that most of the uses of this number related directly or indirectly
to the twelve tribes.
may have stood for periods of struggle with evil after which God rescued His
people (Gen. 7:12,17; Deut. 8:2, 9:9). The
number 1,000 was the perfect age.5
Christian writers took over the methodology of gematria
and applied it to their specific religious expressions.
The best examples of gematria in the New Testament are found in the book
of Revelation. One should approach
gematria and the Book of Revelation with hesitation and humility.
We should not forget that the basic purpose of numbers was to describe
things literally. At times numbers
can be used symbolically and literally at the same time.
For example, I assume the number 7 refers to 7 literal churches in
Revelation 1l—3. At the same time
John likely chose 7 (not 6 or 8) churches because the number signified
completeness or fullness. We could
read more symbolism into the numbers John used in Revelation than he intended;
hence we must be careful.
number 7 is by far the most frequently used number in Revelation (some 50
times). This number was the most
sacred of all others to the Hebrews.6
In Revelation, we encounter 7
churches, 7 Spirits, 7 golden lamp stands, 7 stars, 7 seals, 7 horns, 7
trumpets, 7 peals of thunder, 7 heads, 7 diadcms,
7 plagues, and 7 bowls. In
places 7 terms are used together to praise and honor God (Rev. 7:12). If
we follow the assumption that gematria is intended in these instances, each of
these uses conveys a completeness of the items designated.
If 7 is the complete number, then 3 ½ or its equivalents represents
incompletness or an indeterminate period of time.
In Revelation 3 ½ occurs 2 times and the equivalent periods of 42 months
and 1,260 days also occur a few times.
The number 4 occurs almost 20 times in Revelation.
This was a cosmic number, most likely originally based on the 4 seasons,
the 4 winds, and the 4 points of the compass.
Hence it was the earthly number. In
Revelation it designates 4 living creatures, 4 angels, 4 corners of the earth, 4
winds. Each of these relate, to some
degree or the other, to the earthly scene.
noted previously, 12 (and its multiples) was a symbol of the people of God.
In the Old Testament there were the twelve tribes; in the New Testament
there were the twelve apostles. In
Revelation we encounter 12 gates, 12 angels, twelve tribes, 12 foundation
stones, the twelve apostles, and 12 kinds of fruits.
“Twenty-four” (a multiple of 12) occurs in connection with 24 thrones
(4:4) and 24 elders (r:4,10; 5:8; 19:4). The
number 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1000) designates those who were sealed for God’s
protection (7:4; 14:1,3).
number 5 and multiples of 10, 70, and 1,000 represent completeness.
The number 5 was chosen to represent completeness because a human being
having 5 fingers of each hand or 5 toes on each foot was “complete.”
In Revelation, 5 occurs once (9:10) but multiples of 5 (10 and 1,000)
occur more frequently.
The most famous (or infamous) number in Revelation is
undoubtedly 666 (Rev. 12:18). As
note previously, the number 6 was associated with human accomplishment.
It signified that something was lacking.
It was similar in some respects to our number 13.
In Revelation 666 seems to symbolize extreme evil.
Efforts to make the number refer to a particular person have proven
that are used infrequently or not at all in Revelation include, 1, 2, and 3.
“One” is not used at all. “Two”
was used to confirm or to give great strength.
In Revelation, John spoke of 2 witnesses (11:3), 2 olive trees and 2 lamp
stands (11:4), 2 prophets (11:10), 2 beasts (13:1-18), and 2 instruments of
warfare (Jesus and the sickle) to combat the beasts.
“Three” is used technically only 9 times in Revelation.
In other places one discovers a three-fold description of God (1:4) or a
repetition of terms in 3 (3 “woes” in Rev. 8:13).
summary, both Jewish and Christian writers used numbers with symbolic meaning.
However, we must not make numbers mean more than the original writer
intended. A fair rule of
interpretation is to consider the numbers as literal unless there is sufficient
reason not to. Should we be
convinced the writer intended a symbolic meaning, then we should apply gematria
to the interpretation.
1.The first 10 letters of
the Hebrew alphabet were given number values of 1-10; combinations of these 10
letters represented the numbers 11-10; the next 8 letters represented 20-90 in
intervals of 10; and the final 4 letters equaled 100, 200, 300, and 400.
the letters of the Greek alphabet were used in a similar manner.
Cecil Roth, ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971), VII:371.
Encyclopedia, William J. McDonald, ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company,
Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, ed. (Grand Rapids: William B
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), IV:2159.
5.The New Catholic
Encyclopedia was the source for much of the material on the Old Testament
6.Ray Summers, Worthy
is the Lamb (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951), 23.
Hades A First Century
Lemke is provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana, and is both director of the
Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry and editor of The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.
TOLD SIMON PETER and his fellow disciples that God would
build His church so securely that the gates of Hades would not prevail against
it (Matt. 16:18), what exactly did He mean by “Hades”?
How did New Testament Christians understand the concept?
Is Hades distinguishable from similar concepts such as Sheol, Gehenna, of
The Abode of the
Over 60 times, the Old Testament refers to
the place of the dead as Sheol.
This was the shadowy dwelling place of the dead in the underworld,
virtually synonymous with the gave or death itself (Gen. 37:35; pw. 16:10; Prov.
5:5; Isa. 14:9). When scholars
translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek in the Septuagint during the
intertestamental period, translators rendered the Old Testament Hebrew word Sheol
with the Greek word Hades.1 Thus
when Peter referenced Psalm 16:10 in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:27), the text
used Hades to translate the Hebrew
When the New Testament uses it this way, Hades
simply refers to the abode of the dead, following the Old Testament pattern.
derivation of the Greek word Hades is
unclear. The most obvious source of
the word combines a (“not”) with eidos
(to see), to mean “unseen.” Death
is the passage from the visible world to the unseen world.
Other Greek scholars believe Hades
may be derived from aianes
(“gloomy”) or hado
(“all-receiving”). Regardless of
the word’s source, the concept of Hades incorporates all of these senses.
Hades is the unseen, gloomy underworld where dead persons go.
Greek mythology, Hades (also called Pluto) was the brother of Zeus and king of
the underworld. Mythology claimed
that Hades abducted Persephone, daughter of Zeus, and forced her to live in his
underworld realm. This domain over
which Hades ruled came to be called by his name, or by Tartarus.
The New Testament uses both terms, but pours new meaning into them.
Matthew 16:18, the primary sense of the word “Hades” probably refers to
death. Death has no power over the
church. Jesus told the disciples He
would be crucified in Jerusalem, and then raised on the third day (Matt. 16:21).
When He was resurrected, He became the “firstfruits” of the
resurrection; His resurrection paved the way for all believers to be raised to
life, for He will abolish death (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
Believers may experience death, but death is not their final destination.
Death and Hades have no more power over believers than they did over
Christ Himself. Jesus spoke of
giving the church the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
But Jesus has another set of keys. Because
of His victory over death, He has the keys to death and Hades (Rev. 1:18).
Jesus has gone to prepare a place for believers—a place in which death,
grief, crying, and pain have been abolished (John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:1-4).
Many interpreters understand the
“gates” or “forces” of Hades in Matthew 16:18 to represent Satan’s
constant opposition to the church. So
Jesus was assuring the disciples that Satan will never overpower the church.
words in Matthew 16 evidently made a deep impression on Simon Peter.
Having professed faith in Christ at Caesarea Philippi, Simon Peter
proclaimed in his Pentecost sermon that unlike David, who remained dead, God
raised Jesus out of Hades on the third day (Acts 2:24-32, quoting Ps. 16:10).
In his first epistle, Peter mentioned Jesus descending to Hades and
speaking to the souls imprisoned there before His resurrection (1 Pet. 3:18-22;
see also Jude 6—7).
Hades as Hell
Even in the Old Testament, however, Sheol
does not always refer to the final resting place for all persons.
Although all people go to Sheol, only ungodly or foolish persons remain
in Sheol. The Old Testament teaches
that God will raise godly and wise persons to a new life with Him (Job 19:23-27;
Ps. 49:1-19; Isa. 16:4-19; Dan. 12:2-3). Dating
to the intertestamental period, non-canonical books such as the Wisdom of
Solomon portray Hades as the place of torment for the wicked, while the
righteous enter paradise.2 These
two senses of the word Sheol led to a theological disagreement between the
Sadducees and Pharisees. Sadducees
believed that all the dead continued in Sheol, whereas Pharisees affirmed that
God would resurrect the just to eternal life.
Some believed Hades was the lower region of Sheol and paradise was the
top level of Sheol.
distinction between Hades as a hellish place of torment rather than the abode of
all the dead emerges more clearly in the New Testament.
Several New Testament texts draw a clear distinction between “death”
and “Hades” (Rev. 1:18; 20:13-14). Jesus’
account of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) draws one of the clearest
distinctions between the two abodes. Jesus
described the righteous man Lazarus as being beside Abraham (a Jewish euphemism
for being with God in paradise), while the unrighteous rich man was in a fiery
torment (vv. 23-25,28). An enormous
chasm or gulf separated these two places (vv. 23,26).
Jesus painted a similar picture in His
depiction of the eternal destiny of the people of Capernaum who were unrepentant
even after seeing miracles performed.
Jesus said they would not “be
exalted to heaven” but would “go down to Hades” (Matt. 11:23-24; Luke
10:15). Again, Hades here is the
abode of the unrighteous dead, while the righteous dead are lifted upward.
In Revelation 20:13, Hades is essentially a holding place for the
unrighteous dead until judgment, after which they would be cast into the lake of
New Testament often uses words such as “Gehenna” or “Tartarus,” or
descriptions such as “the bottomless pit” or “the Abyss” to describe
hell. Gehenna was originally a
valley or ravine just south of the walls of Jerusalem.
Gehenna is a Greek
transliteration of “Valley of Hinnom” in Hebrew.
In the Hinnom Valley, idolaters burned children as an offering to the
heathen god Molech (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6). By
the time of King Josiah’s reign, people regarded the Hinnom Valley as a place
of abomination (2 Kings 23:10-14). The
Jews saw the Valley of Hinnom as being polluted by dead men’s bones and filled
with all of Jerusalem’s trash and filth. In
Gehenna, God imposed judgment on idolaters and those who rejected Him (Jer.
7:31-34; 32:35). The trash
outside Jerusalem’s gates in Hinnom continually burned.
Gehenna thus symbolized hell’s unending fires where the unclean and
ungodly dead are continually tormented.
In the New Testament, “Gehenna” always refers to hell,
a place of fiery torment, not simply death (Matt. 5:22,29-30; Mark 9:43-47; Luke
12:5; Jas. 3:6). Jesus warned that
sinful disobedience could lead to a fiery Gehenna (Matt. 5:22,29-30).
In Gehenna, Jesus warned, both the soul and body are destroyed (10:28).
James described uncontrolled speech as being set on fire by Gehenna (Jas.
Greek word used to describe hell was Tartarus,
a term Greeks used to describe a place of eternal torment.
In his second epistle, Peter described Tartarus as a place where
rebellious angels were imprisoned pending final judgment (2 Pet. 2:4).
Another biblical synonym for Hades is the “abyss.”
Romans 10:6-7 (citing Deut. 30:12-14) contrasts the ascent into heaven
with descending “down into the abyss” of death.
In Luke 8:31 and Revelation 9:1-3; 20:1-3, however, the abyss is the
abode of demons, similar to Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4.
In Revelation 9:1-11, the abyss is opened, releasing a hoard of demons.
The “angel of the abyss” named Apollyon (meaning “Destruction,” Rev.
9:11), also called the beast or antichrist, will be thrown into the lake of fire
(Rev. 19:20). Satan, too, is chained in the
abyss for a thousand years (20:1-3), until he also is thrown into the lake of
fire (v. 10).
need not fear death or the forces of Satan.
Christ has already defeated these threats and has won the victory (Rom.
8:36-39; 1 Cor. 15:55-57; Rev. 1:18)!
Clendenen, “Hades” in Holman
Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Brand, rev. ed. (Nashville: B&H
Publishing Group, 2015). 689.
Psalms of Solomon 14:1-7; Wisdom of
Solomon 2:1; 3:1.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
Vol. 43, No. 3; Spring 2017.
What is the Answer To & Where in The
Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What righteous king fired all
the priests that had been appointed to serve pagan gods?
Answer Next Week:
Last Week’s Question: What priest scolded King
Uzziah for daring to offer incense to God? Answer:
Azariah; 2 Chronicles 26:17-20.