Revelation, chapters 10-12

“…When [the angel] cried out, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. Now when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write, but I heard a voice out of heaven say: ‘Seal up the things the seven thunders spoke, and do not write them down.'”
~Revelation 10:3,4


Who is represented by “the seven thunders”?
In other Bible passages, the sound of a thunderous voice is often times attributed to Jehovah. (Job 37:4,5; 40:9; Ps. 29:3; John 12:28,29)
The number seven is used figuratively to convey completeness. (Insight, “Numbers”)
So in this case, the “seven thunders” seem to allude to Jehovah speaking about the completion of his purpose.
This theory is encouraged by what the angel then declares to John: “There will be no delay any longer. But in the days when the seventh angel is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret that God declared as good news to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.” (Rev. 10:6,7)
But because John was not allowed to write down the announcement from “the seven thunders,” and then he was instructed to seal the blank scroll, one can only guess what Jehovah’s message was about.
In any case, it was not meant to be understood in our times.

Revelation, chapters 7-9

“[…] A great star burning like a lamp fell from heaven, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. The name of the star is Wormwood.”
~Revelation 8:10,11

“And I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to the earth, and the key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him.”
~Revelation 9:1

Is the star representing the same thing or spirit in both passages?
There are so many “star” references in Revelation that it comes in handy to have a list of how the word is used in other Bible passages.

Revelation continues the sequence of events by calling Jesus “Apollyon,” which means Destroyer. (Rev. 9:11)
Wormwood represents bitterness, and a message of destruction would be bitter to those about to be destroyed.
So at the risk of being completely wrong, it seems logical to me to infer that the stars in both passages refer to Jesus.
We can also take into account a parallel passage which explains that the rivers and springs became the blood of the holy ones and prophets being poured out in God’s anger. (Rev. 15:7; 16:1,4)
It is common to equate bitterness with anger.
It does not seem that God would use a demon to execute an act of justice, but rather, he would use Jesus, as he usually does.
Additionally, the passage goes on to say a third of the sun, moon and stars were darkened, that neither the day nor night might have any light in them. (Rev. 8:12)
This is obviously symbolic because a literal application would wipe out life as we know it.
But this symbolism is in stark contrast to the star that burns like a lamp in its descent.
The passage seems to compare Christ’s enlightened message denouncing those who have persecuted God’s people with the spiritual darkness that they now find themselves in.

2 John, 3 John & Jude

“The older man to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I truly love, and not only I but also all those who have come to know the truth.”
~2 John vs. 1

Why do some believe that the Apostle John was using the phrase “the chosen lady” as a metaphor to address a specific congregation?
John had spent two years exiled on Patmos for being an active Christian, but was liberated by Emperor Nerva in the year 98 C.E. (Rev. 1:9; Insight)
Emperor Nerva had ruled for less than two years and died shortly thereafter. (Nerva Rises to Power, Legacy)
He was succeeded by his adopted son, Trajan around the time John wrote his epistles.
It is possible that John used the phrase “chosen lady” as a metaphor to protect that congregation from persecutors.
John was in Ephesus at the time and the new Emperor’s stance toward Christians was unknown for the first few years of his reign.
At least thirteen years later, the governor of the nearby Bithynia wrote to the emperor about his execution of Christians who refused to bow before Ceasar and requested more instructions on the matter. (Letters between Pliny and Trajan; ancient map of Turkey).
It can be deduced, then, that even under the reign of Trajan, Christians had to remain anonymous to feel any measure of security.
It is also interesting to note that all of John’s references to love in his letter are in the Greek form “agape,” which is a love based on ethical responsibility, as opposed to the Greek words used for brotherly or romantic affection.


A couple other passages I enjoyed from last week’s reading:

“No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.”
~3 John vs. 4

“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith […].”
~Jude vs. 3

While I personally do not have children, it is an incomparable joy when I see some of my Bible students develop their love for God and benefit from applying Bible principles in their lives. Even though they may make mistakes down the line, it strengthens me to hear they are humble and continue to “put up a hard fight for the faith.”

1 Timothy, chapters 4-6

“[…] I desire the younger widows to marry, to bear children, to manage a household, to give no opportunity to the opposer to criticize.”
~1 Timothy 5:14

I have mixed feelings every time I read this passage.
Why did Paul’s advice differ from that given to the women in Corinth ten years earlier? (1 Cor. 7:8,9)
Why did Paul assume that a younger woman was incapable of controlling her sexual desires to the point of remaining single? (1 Tim. 5:11)
Christian women in the first century did not have less help from God’s holy spirit to exercise self-control, so it seems to me he made a rather sexist assumption. (Gal. 5:22-24)
While I can understand that some women who had originally felt hopeless and asked for the congregation’s material assistance might eventually backtrack on their choice and decide to remarry, it is a bit irritating that Paul would state that choice as a matter of fact. (1 Tim. 5:12)
It does seem that he was more concerned with protecting the congregation’s reputation than he was with advocating women’s rights.
While I struggle to see beyond my scope of modern millennial culture, the 2011 Watchtower, July Study edition, points out: “Paul’s words are directed to certain ‘younger widows,’ but the principles he mentions apply to all of us.”
The article goes on to explain that when we keep ourselves busy with good works, we are less likely to do harm to others, for example through gossip. (1 Tim. 5:13)
Paul also stressed the need for extended family members to care for each other first. (1 Tim. 5:16)
So whatever Paul’s reasons were for wording his instructions the way he did, the principles underlying his advice are timeless.

Colossians, chapters 1-4

“Although those things have an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and a false humility, a harsh treatment of the body, they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”
~Colossians 2:23

Is it wrong to fast?
Paul asked the Christian congregation at Colossae why they continued subjecting themselves to the man-made decrees: “Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch.” (Col. 2:20-22)
Although it is true that Paul himself fasted on occasion while praying, Jehovah expects his servants to serve him cheerfully and enjoy food.
(Eccl. 3:12,13; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 1:11)
Furthermore, fasting itself does not help us combat other carnal desires.
And the Bible makes it clear that we cannot make up for our shortcomings through fasting. (Is. 58:3-7)
Whether a Christian chooses to fast or not is an entirely personal, private matter. (Matt. 6:16-18)

Acts, chapters 1-3

“All those who became believers were together and had everything in common, and they were selling their possessions and properties and distributing the proceeds to all, according to what each one needed.”
~Acts 2:44,45

Were the first Christians practicing an early form of Communism?
The story of the first Christian congregation relates that they went from 120 members to over 3,000 people in a single day. (Acts 2:41,47)
Many of those people were from far away and had not originally planned to extend their stay in Jerusalem, but that is what they ended up doing in order to learn more about Christ. (Acts 2:5-11,42)
The generous Christians knew that very soon, they would be persecuted and eventually, Jerusalem would be destroyed, so their possessions would be lost. (Acts 8:1)
Their material things were put to better use because they had a sense of urgency, not because of a philosophical ideology.
While donations were administered by the congregation, property owners could choose how to manage their own assets. (Acts 2:46; 5:1-4)
Later on, a formal distribution was arranged for the benefit of widows only. (Acts 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:16)
Christians were always encouraged to share, even after the congregation had been well established. (Acts 20:35; Jas. 2:15-17)
But the fact that there were still class distinctions indicates that the congregation did not redistribute wealth as a rule. (Rom. 12:13; 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:7)

John, chapters 9 & 10

“At that time the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was wintertime, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon.”
~John 10:22,23

Should Christians celebrate Hanukkah?
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus after it had been desecrated and dedicated to Zeus three years earlier.
Unlike the previous two temple dedications, (Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s), the Jews established a law which required everyone to celebrate the anniversary of this event.
They were not required to travel to Jerusalem, but in this particular case, Jesus did go to the temple for the celebration.
The temple had to be fully functional in Jehovah’s service in order for Bible prophecies to be fulfilled in Jesus. (Da. 9:27; Ps. 69:9; John 2:16,17)
But the Bible does not clarify whether those who had fought to reclaim the temple for Jehovah had accomplished this through divine intervention.
Either way, the temple sacrifices carried out in Jesus’ day served their purpose of being archetypes of Jesus’ sacrifice. (Gal. 3:23-25; Col. 2:13,14,17)
While early Christians were not to judge their brothers and sisters in matters of Jewish tradition, the Greek Scriptures far from encourage the continued observance of traditions relating to Jewish worship. (Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10,11; Heb. 8:6)
Jesus had foretold the temple’s destruction and the end of traditional Jewish religion as they practiced it.
His prophecy was fulfilled 37 years after his death. (Luke 21:20-24; John 4:21-24; Awake. December 8, 1990. “Hanukkah—Is It a ‘Jewish Christmas'”?)