Category: Bible survey


“Was the Book of Isaiah written by multiple Isaiah’s?”

Most Bible scholars are in agreement that Isaiah was the sole author of the book that bears his name. However, there are those “liberal” scholars who are skeptical about anything that points to supernatural inspiration of the Bible. In fact, they go so far as to explain the fulfilled prophecies in these books by re-dating them to after the events occurred! The theory of multiple Isaiahs is just another example of skepticism from those who want to call into question the Bible as God’s inspired Word.

This theory of “Deutero-Isaiah” (or second Isaiah) came about near the end of the eighteenth century. Supposedly, Isaiah himself wrote only the first 39 chapters, leaving one of his students to write the second part (chapters 40—66). This was done allegedly sometime after the Babylonian captivity started (after 586 BC). As such, this later date would explain explicit predictions of “Cyrus, King of Persia” in Isaiah 44:28—45:1.

The “Deutero-Isaiah” theory claims Isaiah chapters 40—55 contain no personal details of the prophet Isaiah as compared to Isaiah 1—39. The first section tells of numerous stories of Isaiah, especially his dealings with kings and others in Jerusalem. The theory goes on to say that the style and language of Isaiah 40—55 seem to be quite different from the earlier chapters. What is so interesting about this argument is that it is also promulgated by the authors who support one author for the book! One contention is that specific references to Cyrus began with the experiences of the exiles in Babylon. This last argument is supposedly the strongest. It claims the second part of the second part of Isaiah was written later because only a later date can explain the accuracy of the prophecy.

Again, most reputable Bible scholars reject the “Deutero-Isaiah” theory. Their conclusions include the similarity of writing styles in both sections, the consistent use of the same words throughout, and the familiarity of the author with Palestine, but not Babylon. Furthermore, Jewish tradition uniformly ascribes the entire book to Isaiah.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a complete scroll of Isaiah dated from the second century BC. The book is one unit with the end of chapter 39 and the beginning of chapter 40 in one continuous column of text. This demonstrates that the scribes who copied this scroll never doubted the singular unity of the book. Neither did the New Testament authors, nor the early church, as quotations from both sections are attributed only to Isaiah.

The book of Isaiah contains extensive and precise prophecies about the coming of the Messiah as well as the life and crucifixion of Christ. Briefly these include:

• The reign of Christ in the kingdom (Isaiah 2:3–5)
• The virgin birth of Christ (Isaiah 7:14)
• The reign of Christ (Isaiah 9:2, 7)
• Jesus’ rule over the world (Isaiah 9:4)
• Christ as a descendant of David (Isaiah 11:1, 10)
• Christ to be filled with the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1)
• Christ to judge with righteousness (Isaiah 11:3–5; 42:1, 4)
• Christ to rule over the nations (Isaiah 11:10)
• Christ to be gentle to the weak (Isaiah 42:3)
• Christ to make possible the New Covenant (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8)
• Christ to be a light to the Gentiles and to be worshiped by them (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6–7; 52:15)
• Christ to be rejected by Israel (Isaiah 49:7; 53:1–3)
• Christ to be obedient to God and subject to suffering (Isaiah 50:6; 53:7–8)
• Christ to be exalted (Isaiah 52:13; 53:12)
• Christ to restore Israel and judge the wicked (61:1-3).

Messianic prophecy is strong and important evidence for Jesus’ claims to be God. Isaiah’s writings were completed many centuries before Jesus Christ was born and yet are completely accurate. Remember, the Dead Sea Scrolls contained more than one complete scroll of this book composed well before the birth of Christ. And the book of Isaiah was included in the Septuagint (LXX), the earliest version of the Old Testament Scriptures, translated at least 300 years earlier.

But by far the strongest evidence that proves the unity of the book of Isaiah is that Jesus Himself quoted from both the beginning and the end of the book, attributing all of it to Isaiah.

1. Jesus quoting from Isaiah 29:13: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Mark 7:6–7).

2. Jesus also referenced Isaiah 42:1–4 in Matthew 12:17: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah.”

3. Isaiah is also referenced in Matthew 8:16–17 by quoting Isaiah 53:4: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’”

Aside from the passages quoted by Jesus above, several other New Testament verses refer to the prophet Isaiah as been the sole author: Matthew 3:3 and Luke 3:4 (Isaiah 40:3); Romans 10:16, 20 (Isaiah 53:1; 65:1); John 12:38-41 (Isaiah 53:1; 6:10). But the fact that our Lord Jesus affirmed Isaiah’s authorship by quoting from both sections of the book and attributing them to Isaiah is proof enough of the entire book’s authorship. Those who reject the words of the Lord Himself will never be convinced by any other means.

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The book of Esther is unique in several ways. One distinguishing characteristic is that it’s the only biblical book that does not mention God by name. This fact has caused some to question its place in the biblical canon, but, in reality, the absence of God’s name fits perfectly with the theme of the book.

Here are some reasons why God’s name may not have been referenced in Esther: first, one emphasis of Esther appears to be how God works behind the scenes. The book of Esther records no miracles and no direct intervention of God at all. In Esther’s story, the Lord redeems His people through the faith and courage of one strategically placed woman and her cousin. All the while, things are happening behind the scenes to bring about the final result.

Also, it is possible God is not mentioned directly in Esther because of the circumstances of its writing. Jewish tradition claims authorship by Mordecai. If Mordecai is the author, he wrote the book in Persia while serving under King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes). Instead of directly crediting God for the victory of the Jewish people, Mordecai may have written the book to better fit the polytheistic context of Susa. This would have kept him protected from harm by the king or other enemies while still communicating the account of God’s work through Queen Esther.

Another emphasis in Esther is the theme of fasting. There are six separate feasts throughout the book, and these stand in stark contrast to Esther’s choice to fast for three days before confronting the king with the matter of saving the Jewish people. She likewise asked other Jews to join her: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do” (Esther 4:16). It is understood that fasting is done before God and to request God’s help. So, even though God’s name is not directly mentioned, Esther is involved in a religious observance meant to supplicate God’s mercy.

Finally, the book of Esther may not mention God because the emphasis is on God’s providence. Mordecai states in Esther 4:14, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” In his rhetorical question, Mordecai alludes to divine sovereignty without calling it such. The principle is that God places people in particular places at particular times to accomplish His particular plans.

The book of Esther may not directly mention God, yet it clearly reveals God at work. His name is not written in the book, but His fingerprints, as we say, are all over it. The coincidences, the amazing reversals, and the poetic justice that led to the deliverance of the Jews in Persia all proclaim the presence of God.

2 Thessalonians 1:1 indicates that the Book of 2 Thessalonians was written by the apostle Paul, probably along with Silas and Timothy.

Date of Writing: The Book of 2 Thessalonians was likely written in AD 51-52.

Purpose of Writing: The church in Thessalonica still had some misconceptions about the Day of the Lord. They thought it had come already so they stopped with their work. They were being persecuted badly. Paul wrote to clear up misconceptions and to comfort them.

Key Verses: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with powerful angels.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we ought always thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

Brief Summary: Paul greets the church at Thessalonica and encourages and exhorts them. He commends them for what he hears they are doing in the Lord, and he prays for them (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). In chapter 2, Paul explains what will happen in the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). Paul then encourages them to stand firm and instructs them to keep away from idle men who don’t live by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Connections: Paul refers to several Old Testament passages in his discourse on the end times, thereby confirming and reconciling the OT prophets. Much of his teaching on the end times in this letter is based on the prophet Daniel and his visions. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9, he refers to Daniel’s prophecy regarding the “man of sin” (Daniel 7–8).

Practical Application: The Book of 2 Thessalonians is filled with information that explains the end times. It also exhorts us not to be idle and to work for what we have. There are also some great prayers in 2 Thessalonians that can be an example for us on how to pray for other believers today.

Undying Love— The Story of Hosea and Gomer

The calendar on the wall indicated that it was about 760 years before Jesus was born. Jeroboam II was on the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel, and his military exploits had extended Israel’s borders farther than they had been since the days of Solomon’s glorious kingdom. Tribute money from subject nations was pouring into the treasury at the capital city of Samaria, and the people of Israel were enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity.
As is often the case, with prosperity came moral and spiritual degeneration. Secularism and materialism captured the hearts of the people and sin ran rampant. The list reads like twentieth-century America: swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery, drunkenness, perversion, perjury, deceit, and oppression, to name but a few. But the thing that grieved the heart of God more than anything else was the sin of idolatry (Hos. 4:12, 13; 13:2). The golden calves set up by Jeroboam I about 150 years earlier had opened the floodgates to every evil expression of Canaanite idolatry, including drunkenness, religious prostitution and human sacrifice.Since the Lord viewed Israel as His wife, He viewed her worship of other gods as spiritual adultery.
The Old Testament speaks frequently of Israel whoring after or playing the harlot with other gods (e.g., Deut. 31:16; Judg. 2:17). Jehovah had told Israel from the beginning that he would not share her with others. “You shall have no other gods before Me” was the first of his ten great commandments (Ex. 20:3). But she had persistently ignored His command, and by the days of Jeroboam II the situation was intolerable. God was about to speak decisively and He chose first a prophet named Amos. The former herdsman of Tekoa thundered God’s warning of imminent judgment, but the nation paid little attention. So God spoke again, this time through the prophet Hosea whose name meant “Jehovah is salvation.”
The very first thing God ever said to Hosea tells us about his unlikely marriage: “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord” (Hos. 1:2). These instructions have been variously understood by different students of Scripture through the years. Some believe that God was commanding Hosea to marry a woman who had formerly been a prostitute. Others contend that taking a wife of harlotry would merely refer to marrying a woman from the northern kingdom of Israel, a land which was guilty of spiritual adultery. In either case, it is obvious that she was a woman who had been deeply affected by the moral laxity of her society, and God intended to use the prophet’s personal relationship with her as a penetrating object lesson of His own relationship with His unfaithful people, Israel.
Whatever her past, there may have been some evidence of genuine repentance and faith in Jehovah. Maybe she had responded to the Spirit-filled ministry of Hosea himself, and he found his heart drawn to her in deep and unselfish love. God directed him to take her as his wife, and so it was that Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, became the unlikely wife of the budding young preacher.The early days of their marriage were beautiful as their love began to blossom. And God blessed their union with a son. How Hosea’s heart must have swelled with joy. He was convinced that his marriage would be better than ever with this little one to brighten their home. God named the baby, for his name was to have prophetic significance to the nation. He called him Jezreel, because it was at Jezreel that King Jeroboam’s great grandfather Jehu had first come to the throne by ambitious crimes of bloodshed and violence.
While his dynasty was prospering at the moment, its destruction was on the horizon and it would happen in the valley of Jezreel (Hos. 1:4, 5).It was after the birth of Jezreel that Hosea seems to have noticed a change in Gomer. She became restless and unhappy, like a bird trapped in a cage. He went on preaching, encouraging the wayward nation to turn from its sin and trust God for deliverance from the threat of surrounding nations. “Return unto the Lord!” was the theme of his message, and he preached it repeatedly with power (Hos. 6:1; 14:1). But Gomer seemed less and less interested in his ministry. In fact, she may have grown to resent it. She probably even accused Hosea of thinking more about his preaching than he did of her.
She began to find other interests to occupy herself, and spent more and more time away from home.The dangers are great when a husband and wife have few interests in common. Sometimes he goes his way and she goes hers. They each have their own set of friends, and there is little communication to bring their two worlds together. A husband’s preoccupation with his work may be the major contributing factor to the cleavage. Or it may be a wife’s growing involvement in outside activities and subsequent neglect of the home. It may simply be a disinterest in the things of the Lord on the part of either husband or wife. But it sets the scene for great calamity. Husbands and wives need to do things together and take an interest in each other’s activities. In this inspired story, the responsibility is clearly laid upon Gomer rather than Hosea. She did not share her husband’s love for God.That brings us, secondly, to his unrelieved agony.
Scripture does not give us the details of what happened, but what it does say would permit us some speculation concerning the progressive trend that led to the tragic situation we eventually discover. Gomer’s absences from home probably grew more frequent and prolonged and soon Hosea was feeling pangs of suspicion about her faithfulness to him. He lay awake at night and wrestled with his fears. He preached with a heavy heart during the day. And his suspicions were confirmed when Gomer got pregnant again. It was a girl this time, and Hosea was convinced that the child was not his. At God’s direction, he called her Loruhamah, which means “unpitied” or “unloved,” implying that she would not enjoy her true father’s love. Again the name was symbolic of Israel’s wandering from God’s love and the discipline she would soon experience. But even that spiritual message could not soothe the prophet’s troubled soul.No sooner had little Loruhamah been weaned than Gomer conceived again. It was another boy. God told Hosea to call him Lo-ammi, which meant “not my people,” or “no kin of mine.”
It symbolized Israel’s alienation from Jehovah, but it also exposed Gomer’s sinful escapades. That child born in Hosea’s house was not his. It was all out in the open now. Everyone knew about Gomer’s affairs. While the entire second chapter of Hosea’s prophecy describes Jehovah’s relationship with his unfaithful wife Israel, it is difficult to escape the feeling that it grows out of Hosea’s relationship with Gomer, sandwiched as it is between two chapters that clearly describe that sad and sordid story. He pleaded with her (2:2). He threatened to disinherit her (2:3). But still she ran off with her lovers because they promised to lavish material things on her (2:5). He tried to stop her on occasion (2:6), but she continued to seek her companions in sin (2:7). Hosea would take her back in loving forgiveness and they would try again. But her repentance would be short-lived and soon she would be off again with another new lover.Then the final blow fell. Maybe it was a note, maybe word sent by a friend, but the essence of it seems to have been, “I’m leaving for good this time. I’ve found my true love. I’ll never come back again.” How Hosea must have suffered! He loved her deeply and grieved for her as though she had been taken in death. His heart ached that she should choose a life that would surely bring her to ruin. His friends were probably saying, “Good riddance to her, Hosea.
Now you’ll be through with her adulterous ways once and for all.” But Hosea did not feel that way. He longed for her to come home.We cannot escape the message of his undying love. Hosea wanted to see Gomer restored to his side as his faithful wife. And he believed that God was great enough to do it. One day word came by way of the grapevine gossips that Gomer had been deserted by her lover. She had sold herself into slavery and had hit bottom. This was the last straw. Certainly now Hosea would forget her. But his heart said “No.” He could not give her up. And then God spoke to him: “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1).

Gomer was still beloved of Hosea even though she was an adulteress, and God wanted him to seek her out and prove his love to her. How could anyone love that deeply? The answer was right there in God’s instructions to Hosea, “even as the Lord loves.” Only one who knows the love and forgiveness of God can ever love this perfectly. And one who has experienced His loving forgiveness cannot help but love and forgive others. Christian husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25), and Hosea is an outstanding biblical example of that kind of love.

So he began his search, driven by that indestructible divine love, love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love that never ends. And he found her, ragged, torn, sick, dirty, disheveled, destitute, chained to an auction block in a filthy slave market, a repulsive shadow of the woman she once was. We wonder how anyone could love her now. But Hosea bought her from her slavery for fifteen shekels of silver and thirteen bushels of barley (Hos. 3:2). Then he said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you” (Hos. 3:3). He actually paid for her, brought her home, and eventually restored her to her position as his wife. While we do not find anything else in Scripture about their relationship with each other, we assume that God used Hosea’s supreme act of forgiving love to melt her heart and change her life.

How many times should a husband or wife forgive? Some contend, “If I keep forgiving I simply affirm him in his pattern of sin.” Or “If I keep forgiving, she’ll think she can get away with anything she wants.” Others say, “If I keep forgiving, it’s like putting my seal of approval on his behavior.” Or “I can’t take another hurt like that. If he does that one more time, I’m leaving.” Those are human responses. Listen to the response of the Lord Jesus. You see, Peter had asked the Lord this same question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” The Lord’s answer was, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21, 22). That is a great deal of forgiveness. In fact, Christ was simply saying in a captivating way that there is no end to forgiveness.

Sometimes it’s just the little slights and daily agitations that need forgiveness, the occasional sharp word or angry accusation. But we harbor it, let it eat at us, and build up bitterness and resentment which erodes our relationship. Maybe it’s a major offense, like Gomer’s, and we can never forget it. We stew on it and fret over it, and we keep bringing it up in a subconscious attempt to punish our mates for the hurts we have suffered. We try to forgive, but a few days later it’s right there again, preying on our consciousness. Big wounds sometimes take longer to heal. They will come back to our minds. There is no way to avoid it. But every time they do, we must first remind ourselves that we really did forgive, then rehearse how much God has forgiven us, then ask Him to take the destructive, unforgiving thoughts out of our minds.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we must suffer in silence. The need for open and honest communication would demand that we share what we think and how we feel, what the wrong has done to us, and how our mates can help us get over it. God tells us how much our sin grieves Him. Gomer certainly knew how her affairs were tearing at Hosea’s heart. What we say must be said lovingly and kindly, but we have both the need and the obligation to share what is on our hearts.

Neither does forgiveness necessarily mean we cannot take positive steps to guard against the sin recurring. That might require some extended counseling; it might demand an honest reappraisal of our personalities or habit patterns; it might mean a change in our life-style or a relocation. God takes positive steps to help us want to please Him. That is what divine discipline is all about. We do not discipline each other, but we can discuss steps that will help us avoid these same pitfalls in the future.

Forgiveness does mean, however, that we will pay for the other person’s offenses. We will refuse to retaliate in any way to make the guilty person pay. We will absolve him of all guilt. God can use that forgiving love to melt hardened hearts and change callused lives quicker than anything else in this whole wide world. That is the lesson of Hosea and Gomer, the lesson of forgiveness. God’s love and forgiveness pervade Hosea’s entire prophecy. Please do not misunderstand it. God hates sin; it grieves His heart; He cannot condone it; His perfect righteousness and justice demand that He deal with it. But He still loves sinners and diligently seeks them out and offers them His loving forgiveness.

God’s ancient people Israel kept going back to their sins. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early” (Hos. 6:4). But God never stopped loving them. “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (Hos. 11:1). “I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love” (Hos. 11:4). “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel?” (Hos. 11:8). And because He never stopped loving them, He never stopped pleading with them: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hos. 14:1).

We need to love like that. We need to forgive like that. We need to drag the festering hurts we have been harboring in our hearts to the cross of Christ—where we laid our own burden of guilt one day and where we found God’s loving forgiveness—and we must leave them all there. When we fully forgive, our minds will be released from the bondage of resentment that has been building a wall between us, and we shall be free to grow in our relationship with each other.

Let’s talk it over

1. What do you think are the major causes for husbands and wives drifting apart?

2. What interests do you both share in common? What else could you do together to strengthen your bond of oneness?

3. Husbands and wives are not always aware of each other’s love. It might be helpful for each of you to finish the following statements: “I feel loved when you …” or “I am saying that I love you when …”

4. Can you think of wrongs you have suffered from your mate that may be keeping you from freely expressing your love? Admit them to your mate and verbalize your full forgiveness.

5. How can you keep the wrongs for which you have forgiven others from creeping back into your mind and destroying your peace?

6. What positive steps can you and your mate take to keep certain sins from repeating themselves in your lives?

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Proverbs 3:5-6 is a familiar passage to many: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Verse 5 is a complementary pair of commands. We are told, positively, to trust the Lord and, negatively, not to trust our own understanding. Those two things are mutually exclusive. In other words, if we trust in the Lord, we cannot also depend upon our own ability to understand everything God is doing.

First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” We only see part of the picture God is painting. If we are to truly trust Him, we have to let go of our pride, our programs, and our plans. Even the best-laid human plans cannot begin to approach the magnificent sagacity of God’s plan. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Most of us have a desperate desire to understand, but in so many areas we must acknowledge that we cannot understand. We must approve of God’s ways, even when we can’t comprehend them. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us why we often don’t understand what God is doing: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” God sees the whole picture, while we only see our tiny corner of it. To trust in the Lord with all our heart means we can’t place our own right to understand above His right to direct our lives the way He sees fit. When we insist on God always making sense to our finite minds, we are setting ourselves up for spiritual trouble.

Our limited understanding can easily lead us astray. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” When we choose to direct our lives according to what seems right to us, we often reap disaster (Judges 21:25). Every culture has tried to get God to approve of its definition of right and wrong, but God never changes and His standards never change (Numbers 23:19; James 1:17; Romans 11:29). Every person must make a decision whether to live his or her life according to personal preference or according to the unchanging Word of God. We often will not understand how God is causing “all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28), but when we trust Him with all our hearts, we know that He is. He will never fail us (Psalm 119:142; Philippians 2:13).

The key to Bible interpretation, especially for the book of Revelation, is to have a consistent hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation. In other words, it is the way you interpret Scripture. A normal hermeneutic or normal interpretation of Scripture means that unless the verse or passage clearly indicates the author was using figurative language, it should be understood it in its normal sense. We are not to look for other meanings if the natural meaning of the sentence makes sense. Also, we are not to spiritualize Scripture by assigning meanings to words or phrases when it is clear the author, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, meant it to be understood as it is written.

One example is Revelation 20. Many will assign various meanings to references to a thousand-year period. Yet, the language does not imply in any way that the references to the thousand years should be taken to mean anything other than a literal period of one thousand years.

A simple outline for the book of Revelation is found in Revelation 1:19. In the first chapter, the risen and exalted Christ is speaking to John. Christ tells John to “write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” The things John had already seen are recorded in chapter 1. The “things which are” (that were present in John’s day) are recorded in chapters 2–3 (the letters to the churches). The “things that will take place” (future things) are recorded in chapters 4–22.

Generally speaking, chapters 4–18 of Revelation deal with God’s judgments on the people of the earth. These judgments are not for the church (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 9). Before the judgments begin, the church will have been removed from the earth in an event called the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Chapters 4–18 describe a time of “Jacob’s trouble”—trouble for Israel (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 9:12, 12:1). It is also a time when God will judge unbelievers for their rebellion against Him.

Chapter 19 describes Christ’s return with the church, the bride of Christ. He defeats the beast and the false prophet and casts them into the lake of fire. In Chapter 20, Christ has Satan bound and cast in the Abyss. Then Christ sets up His kingdom on earth that will last 1000 years. At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released and he leads a rebellion against God. He is quickly defeated and also cast into the lake of fire. Then the final judgment occurs, the judgment for all unbelievers, when they too are cast into the lake of fire.

Chapters 21 and 22 describe what is referred to as the eternal state. In these chapters God tells us what eternity with Him will be like. The book of Revelation is understandable. God would not have given it to us if its meaning were entirely a mystery. The key to understanding the book of Revelation is to interpret it as literally as possible—it says what it means and means what it says.

Book of Jude

Jude 1 identifies the author of the Book of Jude as Jude, a brother of James. This likely refers to Jesus’ half-brother Jude, as Jesus also had a half-brother named James (Matthew 13:55). Jude likely does not identify himself as a brother of Jesus out of humility and reverence for Christ.

Date of Writing: The Book of Jude is closely related to the book of 2 Peter. The date of authorship for Jude depends on whether Jude used content from 2 Peter, or Peter used content from Jude when writing 2 Peter. The Book of Jude was written somewhere between A.D. 60 and 80.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Jude is an important book for us today because it is written for the end times, for the end of the church age. The church age began at the Day of Pentecost. Jude is the only book given entirely to the great apostasy. Jude writes that evil works are the evidence of apostasy. He admonishes us to contend for the faith, for there are tares among the wheat. False prophets are in the church and the saints are in danger. Jude is a small but important book worthy of study, written for the Christian of today.

Key Verses: Jude 3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Jude 17-19: “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

Jude 24-25: “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Brief Summary: According to verse 3, Jude was anxious to write about our salvation; however, he changed topics to address contending for the faith. This faith embodies the complete body of Christian doctrine taught by Christ, later passed on to the apostles. After Jude warns of false teachers (verses 4-16), he advises us on how we can succeed in spiritual warfare (verses 20-21). Here is wisdom we would do well to accept and adhere to as we go through these days of the end times.

Connections: The Book of Jude is filled with references to the Old Testament, including the Exodus (v. 5); Satan’s rebellion (v. 6); Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7); Moses’ death (v. 9); Cain (v. 11); Balaam (v. 11); Korah (v. 11); Enoch (vv. 14,15); and Adam (v. 14). Jude’s use of the well-known historical illustrations of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, and Korah reminded the Jewish Christians of the necessity of true faith and obedience.

Practical Application: We live in a unique time in history and this little book can help equip us for the untold challenges of living in the end times. Today’s Christian must be on guard for false doctrines which can so easily deceive us if we are not well versed in the Word. We need to know the Gospel—to protect and defend it—and accept the Lordship of Christ, which is evidenced by a life-change. Authentic faith always reflects Christ-like behavior. Our life in Christ should reflect our very own heart-knowledge that rests on the authority of the Almighty Creator and Father who puts faith into practice. We need that personal relationship with Him; only then will we know His voice so well that we will follow no other.

Author: Malachi 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Malachi as the Prophet Malachi.

Date of Writing: The Book of Malachi was written between 440 and 400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Malachi is an oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi (1:1). This was God’s warning through Malachi to tell the people to turn back to God. As the final book of the Old Testament closes, the pronouncement of God’s justice and the promise of His restoration through the coming Messiah is ringing in the ears of the Israelites. Four hundred years of silence ensues, ending with a similar message from God’s next prophet, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

Key Verses: Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty. It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.”

Malachi 3:6-7, “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.”

Brief Summary: Malachi wrote the words of the Lord to God’s chosen people who had gone astray, especially the priests who had turned from the Lord. Priests were not treating the sacrifices they were to make to God seriously. Animals with blemishes were being sacrificed even though the law demanded animals without defect (Deuteronomy 15:21). The men of Judah were dealing with the wives of their youth treacherously and wondering why God would not accept their sacrifices. Also, people were not tithing as they should have been (Leviticus 27:30, 32). But in spite of the people’s sin and turning away from God, Malachi reiterates God’s love for His people (Malachi 1:1-5) and His promises of a coming Messenger (Malachi 2:17–3:5).

Foreshadowings: Malachi 3:1-6 is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of the Lord sent to prepare the way (Matthew 11:10) for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John preached repentance and baptized in the name of the Lord, thus preparing the way for Jesus’ first advent. But the Messenger who comes “suddenly to the Temple” is Christ Himself in His second advent when He comes in power and might (Matthew 24). At that time, He will “purify the sons of Levi” (v. 3), meaning that those who exemplified the Mosaic Law would themselves need purification from sin through the blood of the Savior. Only then will they be able to offer “an offering in righteousness” because it will be the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: God is not pleased when we do not obey His commands. He will repay those who disregard Him. As for God hating divorce (2:16), God takes the covenant of marriage seriously and He does not want it broken. We are to stay true to the spouse of our youth for a lifetime. God sees our hearts, so He knows what our intentions are; nothing can be hidden from Him. He will return and He will be the judge. But if we return to Him, He will return to us (Malachi 3:6).

Micah 5:2 predicts, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” The verse clearly speaks of a coming king in Israel, but does it predict the coming of the Messiah?

Micah 5:2 makes a couple of predictions. First, the birthplace of this future “ruler of Israel” would be Bethlehem Ephrathah. Since there were two locations known as Bethlehem at the time of Micah’s writing, the addition of Ephrathah is significant. It specifies the Bethlehem in Judah, the portion of Israel in which the capital, Jerusalem, was located. Bethlehem was considered “little,” or insignificant, among the cities of Judah, yet would serve as the birthplace of this future ruler.

Second, the coming ruler of Jewish background was one “whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.” What else could this refer to other than the Messiah? Only the Messiah fits the description of a ruler in Israel whose origin was from times past. In fact, “from ancient days” is sometimes synonymous with “eternal” (as in Habakkuk 1:12). Only the Jewish Messiah could be a ruler in Israel from eternity past.

This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that the Jewish religious leaders in the first century identified Micah 5:2 as a Messianic prophecy. In Matthew 2, wise men from the East visited King Herod in Jerusalem and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod assembled all the chief priests and scribes, and “he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea,’” basing their answer on Micah 5:2.

Only Jesus Christ fits the Messianic claims of Micah 5:2. He was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Matthew 2; Luke 2:1-20). Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the ruler of Israel (John 4:25-26). He also fits the description as being “from ancient times” or eternal (John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17). No other ruler in Israel fits these requirements. Dozens of other direct prophecies in the Old Testament (some scholars cite hundreds) fit Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death.

Jesus told the Jews that the Law and the Prophets provided a clear witness that He was who He claimed to be. “These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” He said (John 5:39). Still today, those who investigate the prophecy of Micah 5:2 and other Messianic passages find compelling evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Perhaps the greatest of all Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures / the Old Testament) concerning the advent of the Jewish Messiah is found in the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah. This section of the Prophets, also known as the “Suffering Servant,” has been long understood by the historical Rabbis of Judaism to speak of the Redeemer who will one day come to Zion. Here is a sampling of what Judaism has traditionally believed about the identity of the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53:

The Babylonian Talmud says: “The Messiah, what is his name? The Rabbis say, The Leper Scholar, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God and afflicted…'” (Sanhedrin 98b).

Midrash Ruth Rabbah says: “Another explanation (of Ruth 2:14): He is speaking of king Messiah; ‘Come hither,’ draw near to the throne; ‘and eat of the bread,’ that is, the bread of the kingdom; ‘and dip thy morsel in the vinegar,’ this refers to his chastisements, as it is said, `But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.'”

The Targum Jonathan says: “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high and increase and be exceedingly strong.”

The Zohar says: “’He was wounded for our transgressions,’ etc….There is in the Garden of Eden a palace called the Palace of the Sons of Sickness; this palace the Messiah then enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel; they all come and rest upon him. And were it not that he had thus lightened them off Israel and taken them upon himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisements for the transgression of the law: and this is that which is written, `Surely our sicknesses he hath carried.'”

The great (Rambam) Rabbi Moses Maimonides says: “What is the manner of Messiah’s advent….there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place’ (Zechariah 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc….in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will harken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.”

Unfortunately, modern Rabbis of Judaism believe that the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 refers perhaps to Israel, or to Isaiah himself, or even Moses or another of the Jewish prophets. But Isaiah is clear – he speaks of the Messiah, as many ancient rabbis concluded.

The second verse of Isaiah 53 confirms this clarity. The figure grows up as “a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.” The shoot springing up is beyond reasonable doubt a reference to the Messiah, and, in fact, it is a common Messianic reference in Isaiah and elsewhere. The Davidic dynasty was to be cut down in judgment like a felled tree, but it was promised to Israel that a new sprout would shoot up from the stump. King Messiah was to be that sprout.

Beyond doubt, the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 refers to Messiah. He is the one highly exalted before whom kings shut their mouths. Messiah is the shoot who sprung up from the fallen Davidic dynasty. He became the King of Kings. He provided the ultimate atonement.

Isaiah 53 must be understood as referring to the coming Davidic King, the Messiah. King Messiah was prophesied to suffer and die to pay for our sins and then rise again. He would serve as a priest to the nations of the world and apply the blood of atonement to cleanse those who believe. There is One alone to whom this can refer, Jesus Christ!

Those who confess him are his children, his promised offspring, and the spoils of his victory. According to the testimony of the Jewish Apostles, Jesus died for our sins, rose again, ascended to the right hand of God, and he now serves as our great High Priest who cleanses us of sin (Hebrew 2:17; 8:1). Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is the one Isaiah foresaw.

Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin said, “This rabbi described those who interpret Isaiah 53 as referring to Israel as those “having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, and inclined after the `stubbornness of their own hearts,’ and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah. This prophecy was delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to us something about the nature of the future Messiah, who is to come and deliver Israel, and his life from the day when he arrives at discretion until his advent as a redeemer, in order that if anyone should arise claiming to be himself the Messiah, we may reflect, and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance to the traits described here; if there is any such resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness; but if not, we cannot do so.”