Categories
Interpreting the Bible

Chapter 3 – Truth Reveals Reality

Biblical Laws and Sublaws Uncover Truth


[5]

Truth uncovers reality; what is really happening. In any area of life (courts, science, theology) finding truth depends on following 5 biblical laws.


How do we discern the truth in Revelation? There are so many views, opinions, conjectures, and assumptions. Do we simply listen to our favorite authority figure, as do Muslims, JWs, Mormons, or the Jews in the days of Jesus to determine what we believe?  Most sermons I have heard on Revelation originate either from a commentary or the doctrines of a favorite seminary. Even great theologians (including Martin Luther) have thrown up their hands in dismay at the book of Revelation. “There are so many different views, I give up,” said one pastor. When we compare the teaching of some who do go to the Bible verses, we might wonder, How did they get that idea out of that passage? No one could find their view by just simply reading the facts presented in the Bible; leaders have to indoctrinate their students to think the way they did, because their interpretations either could not be found in the Bible or broke basic rules of hermeneutics (rules for accurate interpretation) distorting Scripture. The right way begins by going first and foremost to the Bible ourselves; seek out the original source, God’s own words. Yet, even this presents a problem.

            The problem is not the book of Revelation. The problem is how we think.[1] The bottom line for believing any view or doctrine is truth. Is this interpretation the truth? Is this what God really said, really meant, really did, or will do? Truth is the bottom line. Truth is the goal. Is our thinking straight enough, clear enough, right enough, powerful enough to hunt down the truth in this world’s jungle of darkness, deception, delusion, distractions, and simple errors? What drives our thinking?

            What is truth? There are 216 verses on the words “truth” and “true” in the New American Standard Bible. Truth is a primary attribute of God’s character. It permeates every other communicable attribute of God, everything He created, and His image from which the human being is created. Here is a summary of key verses out of the 216 showing the importance of truth:

           Let’s back up from hunting down truth and start with a “simple” (ha!) question. What is truth per se? I once read a Harvard commencement speech by a valedictorian who stated that the one thing every student graduated with from Harvard was (and you will never guess this! but I am not kidding) “confusion.” He said everyone was allowed to believe anything they wanted, except that truth per se existed. This is postmodern philosophy espousing relativism wherein every person’s perception is “true.” Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who died in 1900, was a major proponent of this philosophy: “no truth” led to “no moral law” (since every society made up their own) and therefore “God is dead.” During the last 11 years of his life, Nietzsche went mentally insane with severe psychosis. He once wrote, “All superior men who were irresistibly drawn to throw off the yoke of any kind of morality and to frame new laws, had, if they were not actually mad, no alternative but to make themselves or pretend to be mad.” He believed in the destruction of objective truth, leaving only personal perspectives; a slave revolt against moral law; atheism and nihilism, leaving only one reason to live–“the will to power.” Forty years after his death, one man would take his philosophy to its logical conclusion; Hitler worshipped Nietzsche. We saw how that worked out.

            Postmodern philosophy is the rage today, even in America. The biggest shock came with my own beloved conservative, evangelical seminary when I realized that every professor in the department held to postmodern philosophy over the Bible in the area of truth per se. So I wrote a 50-page paper (no names and very academic) in support of absolute truth against the teaching in every one of my classes, presented it by working my way up the ladder of rejection, and ended distributing it to every professor on three campuses, including the president and the seminary’s board. Charles Colson was on the board. Outside of the president, he was the only one who responded to the paper (with two words: “I understand.”) The president supported and praised whatever the professors were teaching without ever discussing the issue with me. Dr. Walter Kaiser had retired as the former president, but he told me to inform the leaders, not to expect them to reply, but they would deal with it. One of the most powerful men in the seminary (also the department head, my supervisor, and my beloved mentor) dealt with it (but not in a way Kaiser could have imagined). He tried three times to torpedo my doctoral dissertation on A Biblical Theory of the Human Personality (which had already been finished and approved in writing by him (all 800 pages) three months earlier before any other student had even started theirs). He made it clear that my arguments against their teaching would influence negatively what he did with my dissertation. I weighed my doctorate against all the pastors influencing churches across countries that this seminary was infecting with this philosophy and decided I was just a little person, so what if I went down. But if one church went down with Nietzsche’s cancerous thinking, I would be ashamed before Jesus if I said nothing. So I braced myself to lose my doctorate and continued the battle for truth. Then, as the top man, he went to his department and had everyone vote to push through a new ruling on dissertations limiting them to 100 pages (which looked like the crowning blow for mine which had taken two years to write) about six weeks before graduation. (This negated all of his signed approvals for every chapter including the final draft, which he called “excellent.” I had all A’s in my classes, so that was untouchable.) I thought my doctorate was lost, but God stepped in. I quickly edited one chapter (about a 100 pages), turned it in, and requested a meeting with him. (He had stopped talking to me outside of class and refused to meet with me, even though he was required to do so on a weekly basis.) My request to meet was one sentence saying I would like to talk to him about the ethics of what he was doing to my dissertation based on the current conflict over truth. He never responded. However, he stopped the persecution against my dissertation. Why? He was the seminary’s only professor for Christian Ethics. I graduated on time.

            The loss of my doctorate would have meant the loss of a career, loss of jobs, shaming before churches, possible financial problems for my family . . . That was nothing. Truth was everything! How much will we pay for truth? God says, “Buy truth, don’t sell it,” (Prov 23:23). Truth costs. If the churches, much less good seminaries teaching thousands of pastors for countries around the world, are struggling in “confusion,” then the apostasy is closer than we think (2 Thess 2:1-4). In the end times, God will allow deluding forces leading to false beliefs (2 Thess 2:11). Sloppy thinking (neglecting God’s laws and sublaws for discerning truth, righteousness, and justice) is a treacherous path into darkness. .As the darkness descends, the cost of truth is going to skyrocket. With it, will come the ultimate cost for truth–which our Lord Himself paid on the cross. Will we be ready to pay the price? Jesus commanded us saying, “You also must be ready.”

            So if some of the greatest minds academically and best minds theologically are building on a foundation of cracking confusion, then what is the truth? Before we look at the highest and final authority on the subject, let’s go to a child. Did God put an innate understanding of truth per se into the human heart? He says He did. He places His laws in our hearts, that is until over time we sear, scorch, and sin against them to erase them (Rom 2:15; 1 Tim 4:2). So I asked five-year-old Seth this question, “What is truth?” Could a child still recognize truth? The boy put down his toy, thought, and said, “It is something that really happened.” BINGO! Wow, Wow! WOW! The child knew.[2] He was smarter than most Harvard graduates and seminary professors on this issue. He certainly struggled far less than I had in both time, effort, and thinking on the essence of truth per se. Simply put, truth reflected what was real.

            Now consider the highest and final authority on the issue. There are 216 verses on the words “truth” and “true” in the New American Standard Bible. Condensing these verses into one definition: Truth is the clear and accurate mirrored reflection of reality. Truth reveals reality.

            To help us learn to think clearly and sharply, God lays down laws in the Bible for discerning truth to know reality. These are the biblical laws of truth. They are so powerful that every just judicial system in the world throughout history has them imbedded in its foundation; all scientific discovery is based on them; solid economics, journalism, all technology, businesses, counseling, medicine, . . . every discipline that must interface with reality for success must apply these laws of God in their foundational thinking and practice. That includes theology and interpreting the Bible.

            From these laws, every system expands into sublaws (rules, corollaries). Just judges in courts have studied years to train their thinking to discern clearly the difference between solid evidence and illogical irrelevancies. Textbooks are written on rules of evidence. Scientists have rules for accurate experimentation. They “practice the truth.”[3] It takes years to learn clear thinking. Conversely, every system whether judicial, political, religious, educational, business, counseling . . . that neglects or suppresses one or more of God’s laws of truth will infect a fallacious component–a weakness, a cancer, a corner of darkness–into that system. After looking at these laws, consider how systems like Hitler’s Nazi state, cults, false religions, and abusive spouses break one or more of these laws to hold people in the bondage of darkness and pain. “The truth will set you free, . . . the Son of Man makes you free” (John 8:32, 36).God’s laws of truth are the keys to reality in both the physical world and in the spiritual world. Truth reveals reality.

            Here is a summary of the most basic biblical laws for discerning truth in any discipline. They are followed by sublaws emanating from those prime biblical laws that are important for accurate interpretation of the Bible (sound hermeneutical rules):


THE BIBLICAL LAWS OF TRUTH “So that you might know the exact truth,” Luke 1:4

1) THOROUGH INVESTIGATION of issues, facts, evidence, empirical observation, proof, etc.

“You shall inquire thoroughly. And behold if it is true . . . . You “shall investigate thoroughly.” “Having investigated everything carefully . . . so that you might know the exact truth . . . .”  “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled . . . we have seen and bear witness.”                      Deuteronomy 17:4, 19:18; Luke 1:3, 4; 1 John 1:1

2) LISTENING TO BOTH SIDES

“Then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges.” “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.” Deuteronomy 19:17; Proverbs 18:17

3) ONE WITNESS IS NOT ENOUGH, TWO OR THREE WITNESSES, TESTIMONIES ARE TO BE IN AGREEMENT, VERIFIED, SUBSTANTIATED, CORROBORATED. (Empirical observation, primary sources, etc.)

“A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” “If I (Jesus) alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true (i.e. “admissible as legal evidence” NASB).” Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; John 5:31 

“For many were giving false testimony against Him and yet their testimony was not consistent.” “And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.”  Mark 14:56, 59

Collaboration of witnesses who twist or falsify their testimonies into agreement is wrong: “Seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify (falsely) against him.”  1 Kings 21:1

4) WITNESSES SHOULD BE OF GOOD CHARACTER, CREDIBLE AND RELIABLE

“If a malicious witness rises up . . . .” “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a false mouth.” “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.”  “A faithful witness (who “faithfully” follows God’s laws) will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies.” Deuteronomy 19:16; Psalm 35:11; Proverbs 6:12, 12:17, 14:5

5) THE DECISION MAKER (JUDGE) SHOULD BE PURE.

            Hindrances to the discernment and execution of truth include:

Bribery, selfish gain, political advantage, seeking the glory of men, wanting all to speak well of you, peace at any price, fear, partiality toward rich vs. poor or those in authority vs. the powerless or those with whom we have alliances vs. strangers, conflicts of interest, hidden motives etc.   Deuteronomy 16:19, 27:19; Proverbs 24:23; Luke 6:26; John 7:24


THE SUBLAWS FOR FINDING TRUTH IN THE BIBLE SOUND HERMENEUTICS

            Every discipline that must use the laws of truth to interface with reality for success, also develops its own set of sublaws (rules) based on the major laws of truth. Courts have rules of evidence. Science has rules for experimentation. Theology adds hermeneutical rules. Here are a few of the main sublaws (rules) based on the laws of truth that are foundational for accurate interpretation of Scripture. Purity involves independent, objective thinking based on the laws of truth with truth as the highest goal.

Rule #1: Scripture is the highest and final authority.

God is perfect. Scripture is inerrant. Man is errant (thus, humility is indispensable). God’s authority is higher than man’s authority. When considering a doctrine or important concept do not add or take away from God’s word (Deut 12:32; Rev 22:18-19). Any interpretation of man that disagrees with the written word of God is wrong.

Rule #2: Scripture interprets Scripture.

For example, the definitions of words or meanings of phrases found in Revelation are often explained or amplified in other books of the Bible.

Rule #3: Scripture is God’s word. God has integrity, so the Bible has integrity.

There are no real contradictions in Scripture. Scripture follows basic rules of logic. Beware of logical fallacies and irrelevancies. I.e. If the pope/president/pastor says it, it must be true even if it contradicts Scripture. This statement contains two logical fallacies: (1) the assumption that power and position are always true, even when (2) the words of great men contradict the words of God in the Bible.

Rule #4: Research the immediate and greater context.  

Immediate Context: the surrounding words, verses, passage, chapter, and book concentric circles of context–closer context outweighs farther context. I.e.  The “day of the Lord” in Paul’s 1st Thessalonians passage is better defined in 2nd Thessalonians than it is by an OT book (another author, another time). Greater Context: all of the Bible. The part fits into the whole and the whole is made up of all of its parts. The piece fits into the puzzle and the puzzle picture is made up of all its pieces. The verse agrees with the Bible and the Bible is made up of all its verses. The Bible has integrity.

Rule #5: Use a literal interpretation.

“Literal” is what the original author intended as discerned by context for his audience. It is usually a simple, at-face-value, childlike understanding from the reading. Historic passages are interpreted historically as actual facts and events. Poetic verses are interpreted poetically. Physical objects and places are just that (i.e. the church of Ephesus is a real church as indicated by Paul, John, and Jesus–not an allegory or an abstract period of history, an idea found nowhere in Scripture). Interpret the word or verse according to its genre, given meaning, context, and linguistics. This is also called the  grammatical-historical interpretation.

Rule #6: Occam’s Razor

Simple interpretations that fit the facts hold more evidentiary weight than complex interpretations that require many assumptions and complicated  reasoning to overturn the simple, face-value, plain logical reading of the passage. This rule is based on reasoning from Occam’s Razor which states that the conclusion based on the most amount of facts with the least amount of assumptions has the highest probability of accuracy. Just courts do everything they can to stick with the facts and avoid assumptions  and other logical fallacies such as conjecture, speculation, unfounded  opinions, prejudice, bias, exaggeration, coloring opinions with heavy emotions to persuade, etc. Science, technology, medicine do the same. This powerful rule should also  apply to sound interpretation of the Bible.

Rule #7: Direct (clear) verses hold more evidentiary weight than indirect (vague) verses.

Rule #8: Numerous relevant verses hold more evidentiary weight than  few or one relevant verse.

Rule #9: Interpretations made according to hermeneutical rules carry more evidentiary weight than interpretations which include a breach of one or more hermeneutical rules.

Rule #10: Other

Linguistics (Greek, Hebrew meanings); historical setting, cultural setting, time frame etc. may add insight.


            The biblical laws of truth and their sublaws are so wonderfully fantastic that they have uncovered marvelous mysteries in the Bible, not just for the great Reformers who brought the church out of the most profound darkness–such as selling salvation for money (Rom 6:23), bowing down and praying to statues (Lev 26:1), or negating the cross through works (Eph 2:8-9)–but for the average lay person. The Reformers developed the doctrine of perspicuity: Scripture has an innate clarity that the average person can understand. Jesus says we have a higher teacher, “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”[4]

            However, the clarity of Scripture depends on the clarity of mind that practices truth through God’s commands to follow His laws of truth and sound hermeneutics.

            To determine what will happen to this planet in this century (or the early next century) clear thinking according to and applying the laws of truth in the areas of science and the Bible is obligatory.


                [1] Eph 4:23, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Rom 12:1, “Be transformed in the renewing of your mind.”

                [2] Truth reveals reality: “what really happened.” Luke 10:21, God, “You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”

                [3] 1 John 1:6.

                [4] John 16:13.

                [5] Man Against the Wall with His Bible. Image by Pexels from Pixabay. Pixabay: religious, adult, alone, Bible.

Categories
Interpreting Revelation

Chapter 4 – Rules for Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

A literal hermeneutic unlocks biblical mysteries.


Apocalyptic literature is catastrophic in nature associated with the end times; the end of the world as we know it. Is it fiction or fact? To uncover the truth, application of the biblical laws of truth and their ramifying sublaws for the specific discipline under investigation is obligatory. In the discipline of theology, those sublaws are summarized in the literal historical hermeneutic (rules for accurate interpretation). Even in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation, the literal hermeneutic takes every word literally in context unless it would be absurd, break a law or sublaw of truth, or is already defined in the Bible.


Apocalyptic literature is arguably the most difficult literature in Scripture to interpret, especially discerning between literal and symbolic meanings for a word. God knew this and gave the apostle John a crash course in Apocalyptic Interpretation 101. In Revelation, Jesus was holding “stars” in His hands. What are they? real stars (concluding He controls the universe); round brilliant, fiery objects (concluding He can throw missiles); or bright lights (concluding He illuminates the world)? The true interpretation is not based on our own experiences. God tells us what the stars are: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.”[1] Angels have human form.[2] His lesson is this: the symbol (star) does not indicate the shape, size, color, or physical appearance of the literal object it represents (an angel). The Bible will tell us the meaning. Jesus is the Lamb, but He does not have four legs. The Jews knew this because they were saturated with the Bible’s Old Testament (OT) language wherein stars represented angels.[3] Either the immediate context, or a word study from other biblical writers (other “eye-witnesses” such as prophets who heard God’s words directly) reveals the meaning.

            When we follow God’s laws of truth and the sublaws that emanate from them (the rules of hermeneutics), the result is the literal historical hermeneutic. Interpreting Revelation is easy with the literal hermeneutic. The literal hermeneutic takes every word literally in context unless it would be absurd, break a law or sublaw of truth, or is already defined in the Bible.

A Literal Hermeneutic

            There are four simple rules (based on the biblical laws of truth and sublaws; the basic rules of hermeneutics) for interpreting apocalyptic literature such as Revelation.[4] Their foundation is a literal hermeneutic.

            1. Every word or passage that can be taken literally will be taken literally.

                        For example, every fact provided in Scripture indicates that the seven churches of Revelation were seven historical churches during the first century. The first of the seven churches was Ephesus. John was writing to the Ephesians in Revelation. Ephesians is the first church in Revelation. Paul wrote to them in the book of Ephesians. Therefore, the seven churches are literal churches during the first century. Another interpretation holds that each church is an allegorical time period. This view requires multitudinous assumptions with numerous contradictions of certain facts given in all relevant passages. It cannot be true. Therefore, take everything literally, unless a literal interpretation would be absurd, contradicts Scripture, or breaks sound hermeneutical rules.

            2. When a literal interpretation would be absurd, the passage is metaphorical.

                        A literal interpretation is used for Revelation. “Literal” means that the passage is interpreted according to sound laws and rules for hermeneutics: literal objects are interpreted literally, absurd objects are metaphorical. (i.e. Jesus is the lamb. Since He does not have four legs; “lamb” is metaphorical.) “Hide me in the shadow of Your wings,” (Psa 17:8). It would be absurd to think that God has wings and is a bird. Therefore, “the shadow of Your wings” is metaphorical and (in the context) represents the loving protection of God.

            At the beginning of Revelation, God Himself gives instructions for interpreting apocalyptic literal: “As for 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 are the seven churches.”[5] Just as Jesus does not physically look like a lamb, so the true objects (angels and churches) do not look anything like their metaphorical representations (stars and lampstands). Metaphors provide deeper understanding on a level different from of the symbolic objects: “Lamb” represents the character and mission of Jesus, not His appearance.

            3. Any interpretation of apocalyptic literature that breaks the laws of truth or basic rules of hermeneutics is unreliable.

            4. “Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” is important for an accurate interpretation (Matt 4:4).

            5. Occam’s Razor says that the maximum of facts with the minimum of assumptions gives the highest probability of accuracy.

            When an interpretation is based on ignoring facts given by Scripture, contradicting words in Scripture, twisting, redefining, adding excessive assumptions, creating meanings foreign to the Bible, subtracting words . . . , it has a high probability of error. Occam’s Razor maximizes facts and minimizes assumptions. Thus, the simplest interpretation (based on facts) has a higher probability of accuracy than complex interpretations (incorporating complex assumptions).

The 144,000 in Revelation

            For example, in Dr. Oral Collins’ book, The Final Prophecy of Jesus: An Introduction, Analysis, and Commentary on the Book of Revelation, he considers Revelation to be “drama”; primarily symbolic in style.[6] He rejects the literal, face-value reading of many verses. Therefore, many words are fluff (inconsequential to interpretation) used only for dramatic effect. One topic in Revelation that should be simple to interpret to the point of boring (but please stay with me) is who are the 144,000? (If we cannot rightly interpret this simple idea, we will be lost in the complex symbolisms of Revelation.[7])

            There are only two passages in the Bible on the 144,000 (Rev 7:4-8 and 14:1-5) providing a total of 70 facts on the subject. Collins accepts 17 of these facts (25%) and the rest he contradicts, ignores, or twists as fluff (75%). His conclusion was that the 144,000 will be all Christians (men, women, and children) across all nations from all times. He believes this was the church’s traditional interpretation. Sounds good, but contradicting 75% of the biblical facts on a biblical topic is not good: first, because it leads to error and second, because it teaches poor thinking. Those 70 facts fall into over 10 categories. Here is a chart that clarifies the literal words of Scripture compared to Collins’ new view of those words based on a vast complexity of underlying assumptions he uses to reject literal meanings:

          Scripture says:                           Collins says:

            Collins used “a drama method” cherry picking his facts then remolding them to fit his predetermined conclusion. The conclusion was a creation from imagination backed by ecclesiastic authority figures and complex, convoluted, conflicting reasoning to justify a meaning that no average Christian would ever see in this passage by him- or herself. His conclusion is not in the two passages on the subject or anywhere else in Scripture on the 144,000. There is no scriptural support. You have to be taught it from an authority figure, believe that authority, reject numerous facts given on the topic in the Bible, then superimpose his reasoning on top of the simple words of the Bible, in order to choose his conclusion.

            (Wait until you find yourself doing this with a beloved, popular, powerful, prestigious church leader(s), and then one day you read a Bible passage for the umpteenth time and suddenly–for the first time–it dawns on you that Jesus’ words contradict the words of this greatly admired authority figure. I went years believing three (just 3!) words commonly taught (on another secondary issue), believed, and followed from the greatest to the least in church, until one day I read Jesus’ simple words as they were written; words which clearly and directly contradicted those three words of human authorities that could not be found anywhere in Scripture. It took me about a year—a year!—of reading over and over and over the words of Jesus to try to twist, ignore, supplant, redefine, avalanche the literal words in the Bible with the complex church-created doctrines so that I could keep peace . . . until in time, I started reading the three words of Jesus in context, according to sound hermeneutical rules in an in depth topical study across Scripture, . . . and finally I gave in: Jesus was right. People who contradicted Jesus were wrong. “Buy truth, do not sell it,” (Proverbs 23:23) Boy, was I going to pay a high price for that truth! It took me a year to change, so I understood when no one else wanted to change; the wrong interpretation was a lot happier and the right interpretation was a lot more painful. But those three words, when we get them wrong are dangerous, deceptive, and deadly; eventually, many people (deceived in pseudo-happiness) will suffer and die needlessly when they get these three words wrong. Any time we contradict Jesus, we weaken in soul and flounder in harm’s way. Today, I look back in amazement–why did the church and I make it so complicated? If I had just believed Jesus’ literal, explicit, clear words from a face-value reading from the beginning–like a child–it would have been a simple stroll in the light.)

            The “puzzle method” for interpreting Scripture carefully pulls out each fact then like pieces to a puzzle fits each and every one into the big picture–the final interpretation. You don’t create the final interpretation, you discover it. When we do this with the 70 facts given to us by Scripture, the 144,000 are exactly who Scripture says they are: 144,000 Jewish Christian men (Christians because they follow Jesus wherever He goes and have been purchased by His blood, Rev 14:4) who return from heaven with Jesus to rule with Him on Mount Zion. Out of the facts emanates the conclusion: They are His central government for global rule with headquarters in Jerusalem. The rest of the believers from every nation coming from heaven and raptured from earth will spread out across the earth as His eventual network government (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:26; 20:6). That is the simple, logical, and reasonable interpretation following sound hermeneutics using ALL 70 facts with integrity (no contradictions, leaving words out, changing meanings, etc.) given in Scripture on the topic leading logically to the resulting conclusion.

Drying the Euphrates River and Armageddon

            Let’s take one more example; again, nothing too emotional. Consider one verse in Revelation: “the drying up of the Euphrates River to prepare the way for the kings of the east” (Rev 16:12) for “Har-Magedon” (aka Armageddon, Rev 16:16). Collins says that this river does not refer to a river, nor to the drying up of water, but is a “symbol for the country associated with that river.” So he links the river to “the ‘drying up’ of the Turkish Empire” by 1917 or 1918.[9] A thin thread of conjecture connects the Bible to this historical event without any contextual evidence. Again, the simple, face-value reading of the Bible is rejected for an exotic interpretation that only brilliant men can come up with. The reformers’ doctrine of perspicuity (clarity) is lost. No Christian reading this for her- or himself could ever come up with this interpretation on their own.

            On Har-Magedon (Armageddon), the literal, grammatical-historical hermeneutic incorporates the facts as presented in the Bible. So the Euphrates River is the Euphrates River (Rev 16:12). God says He dries it up to allow great armies from the east to invade Jerusalem against Jesus Christ initiating the war of Har-Magedon (Rev 16:16). This is in context. The Euphrates and Har-Magedon are only four verses apart in the same passage.

            Since the Bible says that the river will dry up, then the literal waters desiccate. Science (the study of God’s creation) can reveal if the biblical prophecy is beginning to occur. Sure enough, today the Euphrates is in the process of drying up for a number of geo-political–as well as meteorological–reasons causing much stress between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq all of whom need the water.[10]  (We will go into more details on the Euphrates River in Chapter 11–Terrestrial Waters in Revelation and Science.)

           All truth is God’s truth. Commence with the Bible (God’s word), and if the topic literally speaks–in context–about the land, the sea, the waters, or the sky–anything on this planet–then take a look at science (God’s creation) to investigate the possibility of supporting evidence to determine if that prophecy is in the process of being fulfilled today. It is.

            Revelation is not that hard to interpret when “the magic, mysticism, and drama” from imagination is taken out, and the simple reading by the average Christian using a literal hermeneutic is left in. Jesus said that these truths “have been hidden . . . from the wise and intelligent and have been revealed to infants,” (Luke 10:21). Everything that can be taken literally is taken literally. Anything that would be absurd, contradict Scripture, or break other hermeneutical rules (if taken literally) is symbolic/metaphorical/figurative. Even children can get this.



                [1] Rev 1:20.

                [2] Ezek 1:5; 10:20.

                [3] Isa 14:13

                [4] Ezek 1; 10; 37:1-14; Jdgs 9.

                [5] Rev 1:20.

                [6] Oral Collins, The Final Prophecy of Jesus: An Introduction, Analysis, and Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007) 17.  

                [7] Luke 16:10.

                [8] Collins, 160.  Rev 7:9, 14, “A great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes.” Collins states, “The setting of the vision here is ‘Mount Zion,’ the earthly Jerusalem” (329). Given the small size of the city of Jerusalem, placing countless multi-millions in this setting is absurd. The 144,000 in Jerusalem is reasonable. The 144,000 do not stay in Jerusalem for just an hour, they are permanently assigned to close proximity to the Lord Jesus (Rev 14:4); since He will rule the world from Jerusalem; they will rule under Him in Jerusalem.

                [9] Ibid., 376.

                [10] The intervention of God including miracles can either be instantaneous (turning water into wine) or progressive (the three-year drought during the days of Elijah). Progressive miracles are God’s mercy giving time for believers to prepare and unbelievers to repent. 

                [11] “The Four Apocalyptic Horses” by Jeronym Pelikovsky on Pixabay.com. “Desolate Road” by Matt Heinrichs on Pixabay.com. “End of the World Soldier” by Comfreak on Pixabay.com. “City Explosion Building on Lake” Icheinfach on Pixabay.com; Apocalypse. (C.f. Rafido Digital Art (www.diviantart.com) February 15, 2012. Image “Child’s Hand Pointing to Words in the Bible as She or He Reads” by ambermb from Pixabay. (Pixabay: Bible study, Bible, hand, child, open Bible)

Categories
Dynamics of Global Collapse

Chapter 8 – The First Four Trumpets, Bowls, and Seals in Revelation

This vicious cycle will cause the fall of earth’s civilization.

Revelation 8:7-12; 16:1-10; 61-8


Forest fires destroy trees (a carbon sink) and emit smoke (a carbon source) which increase global warming (heat) which increases the strength, length, and breadth of forest fires, which increases global warming (heat) . . . . See the feedback cycle getting stronger and stronger? [9]
Global warming (like hitting into the 90’s to 100’s degree F above the Arctic Circle in 2020) causes Arctic ice (which is white and reflects heat) to melt leaving more ocean water (which is dark and absorbs heat) thus warming the Arctic Pole 2xs faster than anywhere else on earth (except the South Pole which is 3xs faster) causing more global warming which melts more ice . . . . See the feedback cycle getting stronger and stronger? [9]
Global warming causes Arctic ice to melt on land with permafrost (containing methane) and sea (containing methane hydrates) releasing the methane into gas which is 23xs stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. More methane in the atmosphere increases global warming which melts more ice . . . . See the feedback cycle getting stronger and stronger? [9]

Understanding context and patterns in the trumpets, bowls, and seals reveals Revelation’s dynamics for the global collapse of civilization.


Context

Revelation is global (all tribes, peoples, tongues, nations).[1] The theme of Revelation is the second coming of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:7) and how that affects everyone on the planet. The context is what happens directly before, during, and after Jesus’ return to earth. Therefore, the first four (4) seals, trumpets, and bowls all refer to global situations or events surrounding His second coming. Once the biblical linguistics is understood, the biblical dynamics of global collapse can be illuminated.

            In the global context of Revelation’s trumpets and bowls, the word “sea” refers to all the “oceans.”[2] The word “springs” (underground water) refers to all the aquifers and water tables. The word “rivers” (above-ground water) includes lakes and streams. “Trees” refers to all the forests and orchards on earth. “Grass” refers to all the prairies, meadows, savannah, grazing lands, and tundra. “Sea creatures” refers to all the fish, crustaceans, and mammals in the oceans. “Sun scorching men” refers to global warming affecting everyone under the sun.

Syntax

            Syntax–the study of patterns of formation in sentences and phrases–in the first four (4) of the trumpets, the bowls, and the seals is extremely consistent and thus, critical for understanding and indispensable for accurate interpretation. Understanding the context and patterns reveals Revelation’s dynamics for the global collapse of civilization surrounding the second coming of Jesus. [3]

            The simplified pattern is this: Each of the seven trumpets or bowls or seals ALWAYS starts with symbolic (metaphorical) language representing the literal power of the spiritual world of heaven above “throwing down” judgment to earth below and ALWAYS ends with mostly literal language representing the consequences of God’s judgment coming upon the physical earth. The beginning (Part A) is spiritual (invisible)—coming from the heavenly realm. It is metaphorical of God’s power. The ending (Part B) is physical (visible)—what happens on earth. It is literal portraying what will happen on earth. That pattern does not change across the first four trumpets, first four bowls, and first four seals.

            Here is the nutshell of how to determine which words are figurative (symbolic, metaphorical) and which words are literal (concrete, tangible reality) in apocalyptic literature such as Revelation. Take everything literally, except: Anything that breaks major hermeneutical rules (sublaws of truth); anything that contradicts Scripture (i.e. God is a bird—Scripture says He is literally spirit, omnipresent, creator of the universe, . . . birds don’t qualify etc.), and anything that would be absurd–if taken literally—(like God has wings, thus, He is a bird). “Wings” is metaphorical. Reference to hiding under His “wings” is metaphorical for His protection just as a mother bird protects her chicks.

“Hide me in the shadow of Your wings,” Psalm 17:8. Jesus “saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit descending like a dove upon Him, ” Mark 1:10.

[6]

            Blood was thrown down from heaven to earth (1st  trumpet) and the sun was struck (4th trumpet) both occur in the first half of each trumpet’s passage; they are absurd images. Clouds do not drip literal blood all over the earth (Revelation is global). Striking (defined by OT meanings as a mortal attack, Exod 12:12) the sun would lead to a solar-system annihilation. If taken literally, blood-from-heaven and striking-the-sun would be absurd. OT studies show these two phrases symbolically represent the wrath/judgment/power of God coming down on sinful humankind. Jesus’ says, “Fear God    . . . because the hour of His judgment has come” on the earth (Rev 14:7). The symbolic interpretation of the blood and sun passages in these two trumpets fit OT meanings for symbolic words and the context of the book of Revelation. The literal-absurdity hermeneutic rule proves that the first half of each trumpet is metaphorical.

            We can reasonably assume that the pattern for Part A is consistent across the trumpets. However, let’s take one more example. The great flaming mountain thrown to earth (2nd trumpet, Rev 8:8) is either metaphorical or a global-killer asteroid. Since Revelation does not wipe all advanced life off the planet or talk of a global winter, a literal interpretation is absurd. In Revelation 8:8-9, Part A of the passage is symbolic and Part B is literal as in all of the first 4 trumpets.

“The second angel sounded [his trumpet], and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9).

[7]

            How do we know an asteroid the size of a mountain would be a global killer? The Chicxulub Crater on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico was caused by such a flaming mountain.

Image from NASA’s Shuttle Radar revealing a ring of cenotes (sinkholes usually filled with water) showing outline of the Chicxulub Crater. [8]

           Here is what scientists discovered (does this sound anything like Revelation?): The asteroid had a 6 to 50 mile diameter (about the size of Mt. Everest). It hit Mexico at 45,000 m.p.h. with the force of 100 trillion tons of TNT (more than a billion times the energy of the atomic bombs that hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Ground zero superheated to 16,000°F; melted rock; sent out 2,000 m.p.h. shockwaves; created 300’ megatsunamis, megaquakes, and volcanic eruptions around the globe; catapulted 70 billion tons of soot into the atmosphere around the world (found by scientists in layers of mountains on the other side of the world); hurled 500 billion tons of debris into the air; caused a global firestorm from superheating the atmosphere; ignited the after-splash of debris exploding back into the sky after the impact and then–falling back down to earth–set fields and forests aflame around the planet. When global fires stopped, then came years of volcanic winters because of all the soot and high concentrations of SO2 in the atmosphere. (Revelation does not talk about a rapid-cooling earth or global winters). Within a few years, the volcanic gas of SO2 dropped out of the sky as acid rain (killing plants and poisoning terrestrial waters, fish, etc. with sulfuric acid). However, the gaseous volcanic CO2  (a greenhouse gas) remained in the atmosphere for centuries and as soon as SO2 was out of earth’s skies (SO2 shields and cools earth), the CO2 shot the global temperature up by 10˚F. That’s global warming by 10˚F!!!  The global food chain was shattered (first by global winter then by a global furnace). There was a 70% extinction rate of plants and larger animals that included the death of larger animals such as all the dinosaurs.  (Paleologists found no more dinosaur bones in layers of earth above the layer displaying the Chicxulub impact causing a global cataclysm.)  Remember, this paper is talking about Revelation’s collapse of civilization accompanied by global heat—men “scorched” but still alive and complaining about it (Rev 16:8-9)—not a global furnace incinerating or starving everyone. Larger animals (including Homosapiens) would not survive a global winter followed by a 10˚F rise of global warming.

            Metaphorical is reasonable. The fiery mountain thrown down from heaven is God’s judgment in many ways (Rev 4:7). Global extinction is not.

            A great star from heaven (not an anachronistic missile from one place on earth to another, but “from heaven”) in the 3rd trumpet, is also not literal; stars do not literally fall to earth.

            The first phrase (Part A) in the four trumpets always starts from the spiritual realm of heaven metaphorically declaring the great power of God being thrown down to earth to execute His judgment on (Part B) the literal physical earth (Rev 18:10).

More Consistent Patterns across the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls

            Linguistic patterns are important for accurate interpretation.

            In the chart below, note the consistent structure of the trumpets and bowls: The first in both the trumpet and the bowl is land. The second in both is sea. The third in both is waters. The fourth in both is skies. This structure is important: the first trumpet progresses to the first bowl; the second trumpet to the second bowl; the third to the third; and the fourth to the fourth. Land (1st trumpet) is tied to land (1st bowl); seas (2nd trumpet) to sea (2nd bowl); waters to waters; skies to skies. Each trumpet is connected to its respective bowl. This pattern manifests progressive interaction and growth between a trumpet and its respective bowl (second trumpet to second bowl).

            However, science also reveals that land, oceans, waters, and skies are a complex interactive system. So there is direct interaction between the 2nd trumpet and the 2nd bowl, but there is also interaction between the 2nd trumpet and the other trumpets and the other bowls.

            The bowls are not separated from the trumpets. The bowls, to a limited extent, follow the trumpets but also interact with the trumpets in a feedback system. One third death in the seas (2nd trumpet) is followed by everything dead in the seas (2nd bowl). However, mankind scorched with heat and with fire (4th bowl) influences the burning of a third of the earth (1st trumpet). The numbering of first through fourth does not signify sequential order in the chronology of events; it is there to link the trumpet and bowls together.

            Here is what the structure shows that the trumpets and bowls do. For clarity, start with the second trumpet and the second bowl. In the second trumpet, 1/3 of the fish in the oceans die. In the second bowl, all of the fish in the oceans die. This shows progress–from bad to worse. This shows an interrelationship between the 2nd trumpet and the 2nd  bowl.

The Dynamics of Global Collapse

            Earth’s lands, oceans, waters, and skies along with population growth and limited resources, are in a complex web of interaction, some of which are in states of destructive disintegration worsening the ecosystem of the planet heading into global collapse. In other words, everything affects everything for either good or ill, and right now, the planet is getting sicker (more aversive to life).

            In reality elucidated by science and the Bible; the land, seas, waters, and skies are in a complex system that has over a dozen feedback cycles that–occurring today–gradually worsen the condition of the planet, decrease life-sustaining resources, and eventually lead to global collapse. Forty billion tons of the greenhouse gas CO2 are pumped into our atmosphere every year from human emissions (changing the state of our atmosphere as found in the 4th trumpet and 4th bowl). (1)The warmer the skies, the more ice at the poles melts, the less reflection of heat by ice (white) from the sun, the more the dark (ice-free) waters of the ocean absorbs the heat, the warmer it gets. (2) The warmer it gets the more frequent, intense, and extended are forest fires. The more trees that burn (increasing a carbon source and decreasing a carbon sink) the more carbon dioxide (CO2) goes into the atmosphere, thus, the warmer it gets, causing more forest fires. They are linked, interactive, and feedback.

[10]

            These feedback cycles are not the worst. (3) The real bad boy is methane (CH4). There are 1.4 trillion tons of CH4–a greenhouse gas at least 23 times stronger than CO2–located in the Arctic permafrost, which is melting across Alaska, Siberia, and the rest of the Arctic Circle today releasing CH4! Areas in the Arctic that used to have permafrost year around are hitting temperatures over 100°F in the summer of 2020—temperatures not expected until 2100. So, the warmer the atmosphere, the more permafrost that melts, the more CH4 is released into the atmosphere, the warmer it gets.. Today, that cycle stops in winter. But sometimes, mid-winter temperatures soar above freezing in the Arctic and CH4 is released! As it gets warmer, more days in winter (much less summer) will soar. The day will come when a critical threshold is passed that will release CH4 year around speeding up atmospheric warming until nothing can stop it. Scientists call this “runaway global warming.” It is this critical threshold (tipping point, hockey stick change from linear to nonlinear rapid rising) that pushes global warming off the charts.

            It may be that this change of state from gradual to catastrophic warming (crossing the tipping point or critical threshold) all over the planet occurs when the first four trumpets transition into the first four bowls (when 33% of the sea life dying over decades suddenly transitions to kill 100% of the sea life in a few years: the second trumpet leading into the second bowl). Or more likely, interactive systems between land, oceans, waters, and skies spiral together in a vicious feedback with ever worsening conditions. When God’s wrath is poured out in the bowls, earth’s geo- and ecosystems will go over the cliff in catastrophic disaster–the Euphrates dies up, armies march to Armageddon (Har-Magedon)–and everything spiraling and synergizing together causes the collapse of civilization (and eventually, the end of the Antichrist’s global rule and the beginning of Christ’s global reign).[3]

            This is what God has done in the past–the removal of life resources until sin-filled men are on their knees turning back to Him. Except this time, all the nations of earth will rage against the Son of God who has returned and is back in Jerusalem.[4] This rejection of His Son calls out the wrath of the Father, which will remove or diminish multiple life resources through the first four trumpets, bowls, and seals (crops, herds, fish, orchards, forests, waters, leading to climate migrations, diseases and plagues, conquests, wars, famines) causing extreme suffering and massive death, until every leader is hiding in caves, every government has disintegrated, and every person on the planet is on their knees before the Son of God.[5]

            Consider the destructive cycle involving the first four seals, trumpets, and bowls:

First 4 Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls Comparing Part A (Metaphorical) and Part B (Literal)

            Having considered how earth’s land, oceans, terrestrial waters, and skies are an interactive system with feedback loops causing a vicious cycle that warms the planet and decreases life-sustaining resources, let us now look to science in the next four chapters to determine how scientific discoveries and predictions are showing the terrifying fulfillment of these biblical prophecies in Revelation in these four areas as God’s judgment emerges on this planet.

            As you peruse the scientific evidence supporting biblical prophecies in the next chapters, consider the sources. Are they following the biblical laws of truth? In other words, are these sources credible according to God’s standards? These chapters cite studies from experts like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association), investigative reports in nationally known reputable newspapers, major scientific journals, and an international association of top scientists from major countries (IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change). Assessing the credibility of witnesses is part of the laws of truth. Are these true scientists: impartial, basing their conclusions on empirical evidence, scientific investigations, highly educated in a relevant field, with peer-reviews (“2 or more eyewitnesses of credible (expert) backgrounds”–biblical laws), objectively seeking the truth of what is happening in reality no matter where it leads or whatever the cost? Or are they a former employee of big oil company fighting off carbon tax by denying global warming? Some oil companies deny global warning while buying/leasing Arctic lands and ocean fronts as they anticipate the melting ice sheets and huge oil or gas reserves buried below! Are the sources prejudice, bias, holding hidden agendas, politically motivated, accepting bribes or jobs from fossil fuel companies paying millions to discredit tens of thousands of top scientists and influence politicians? Are the sources cited? Could you find and verify these sources?

            If you are around climate-change deniers, consider their sources and levels of expertise, their motives, their numbers in comparison to every major scientific association across all major nations on the planet warning that global warming is happening and, if it continues, will cause global catastrophe. I have lost count of how many good friends have argued against me citing, “A friend of mine said that an (unnamed) scientist from an (unknown) place said that. . .” or “I know scientists that contradict your scientists” (but they can’t cite one name or institution or association these scientists come from). Some follow conclusions from politicians or “scientists” strongly associated with political institutions, not good science.

              NASA wrote an article entitled “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate is Warming (https:climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consenus/) which includes a graph using data across countries on global temperature rise between 1880 and 2020 is displayed. Among them were the American Medical Association (AMA), American Meteorological Society, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Global Change Research Program (a federal agency), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA, a federal agency), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with top scientists across major countries), and a lot more.

SIDE BAR: There are two types of thinkers. First type studies all the relevant facts then discovers the conclusion from those facts. This is logic. Second type starts with their conclusion, then picks out facts to support it. The conclusion is usually based on personal gain, power, popularity, price, politics, some other hidden agenda or logical irrelevancy. We either start with the facts and let these facts portray the conclusion, or we start with a conclusion and then pick out facts to create the desired conclusion. The first type of thinking sets truth as the highest priority. The second type of thinking sets something other than truth as the highest priority.

            When scientists start with a thorough investigation of the facts and evidence (a biblical law for discerning truth, Deut 13:14; 19:18) through scientific experimentation, they are clear thinkers seeking truth in the physical realm (even if they are unbelievers in the spiritual realm, Rom 2:14-15). When people start with heavy bias or prejudice, opinions, hearsay, speculation, grapevine, conjecture, unsubstantiated sources, irrelevant authorities (like a politician giving medical advice), their thinking is muddied with logical irrelevancies (not associated with actual truth). Logical irrelevancies darken, dampen, damage, or even destroy truth.

IRRELEVANCY: If you wonder what my politics are (am I biased or prejudiced one way or the other), may I be transparent? To the best of my ability, I make decisions issue by issue based on the Bible, not based on a political party. In the preceding presidential elections, I could not vote for anyone who strongly supported positions in opposition to one or more of God’s major commands (laws so heavy that breaking them demanded the death penalty in the OT). Therefore, for my presidential choice, I wrote on my ballot “Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” I know He is coming back one day and will be the King of all kings over all nations. He already has my vote.

            Whatever scientists (or politicians) we follow, compare what they say to what God says in the Bible. The top scientists cited in the following chapters are—unbeknownst to them—finding evidence and making predictions in total accord with Jesus’ prophecies in the areas under consideration. When scientists studying creation agree with the Creator’s words about His creation, we have the truth from two valid sources.

            Lastly, in the following chapters, only the literal second half (Part B) of each trumpet, bowl, or seal describing what happens on earth will be considered. The first half, Part A, usually describing metaphorically the great power that is thrown down by God from the spiritual heaven, will be omitted. Science only deals with the physical world, as does the second part (Part B) of the first four trumpets, bowls, and seals in Revelation.



                [1] Rev 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 17:15.

                [2] Rev 10:11, “peoples, nations, tongues, kings.” 11:9, “peoples, tribes, tongues, nations.” 11:18, “nations.” 12:5, “rule all the nations.” 14:8, “all the nations.” 15:3-4, “all the nations.”16:19, “cities of the nations.” 17:15, “peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues.” 18:3, 23, “all the nations.” 19:15; 20:3, 8; 21:24, 26; 22:2, “the nations.”

                [3] The collapse of global civilization is found in Rev 6:15-17 when kings desert their thrones, governments fall, and all the powerful hide from “the wrath of the Lamb.” Then, every knee will bow to the Son of God on earth ruling from Jerusalem (Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10; Rev 14:1. “For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,” Isa 24:23; Psa 48:2; Joel 3:16-21).

                [4] Rev 11:17-18; 17:14; Psa 2.

                [5] Rev 11:17-18, “You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign [Jesus starting His reign on earth in Jerusalem over Israel]. And the nations were enraged [the Antichrist ignited the nations against Him and launched the world into Har-Magedon], and Your wrath came [God poured out the bowls of wrath in response to Har-Magedon against His Son, and determined] to destroy those who destroy the earth.” The parallel passage is in Rev 17:14, “These will wage war against the Lamb” and “They gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon,” (Rev 16:16).

                [6]  “Flying Dove” Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

                [7] “Impact Event” image by Fredrik (for NASA) who released it into the public domain. Found on Wikimedia Commons. C.f. Article. The “Chicxulub Impact Event” took place in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and land on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. By Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) supported by NASA and part of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for prominent U.S. scientists (2019).

                [8] “The Chicxulub Crater” Diagrams on Yucatan Peninsula taken from imaging from NASA’s Shuttle Radar.

                [9]“Forest Fire and Smoke” Image by skeeze from Pixabay. “Polar Bear on Melting Ice in Arctic” by Coco Parisienne from Pixabay (License on https://pixabay.com/service/license). “Melting Ice in Arctic and Releasing Methane” by tps from Pixabay.

                [10] “Pollution in Malaysia” free on Pexels.com.