Category: Educational

5 Helpful Tips to Deepen Your Bible Study

Posted by on 12/14/2017 in:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. — 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

The Bible is not an end in itself, but is a means to the end of knowing God and doing His will. The apostle Paul said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). God has given us the Bible in order that we might know Him and that we might do His will here on earth.

Therefore, devotional Bible study is the most important kind of Bible study. Devotional Bible study means reading and studying the Word of God in order that we may hear God’s voice and that we may know how to do His will and to live a better Christian life.

For your devotional reading and study of the Bible, here are several important, practical suggestions:

1. BEGIN YOUR BIBLE READING WITH PRAYER

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. — Psalm 119:18, KJV

 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:13-15

2. TAKE BRIEF NOTES ON WHAT YOU READ

Keep a small notebook for your Bible study.

3. READ SLOWLY

Read slowly through one chapter, or perhaps two or three chapters, or perhaps just one paragraph at a time. After reading, ask yourself what this passage means. Then reread it.

4. IT IS OFTEN VERY HELPFUL IN FINDING OUT THE TRUE MEANING

of the chapter or passage to ask yourself the following questions, then write the answers in your notebook:

  1. What is the main subject of this passage?
  2. Who are the persons reveals in this passage? Who is speaking? About whom is he speaking? Who is acting?
  3. What is the key verse of this passage?
  4. What does this passage teach me about the Lord Jesus Christ?
  5. Does this passage portray any sin for me to confess and foresake?
  6. Does this passage contain any command for me to obey?
  7. Is there any promise for me to claim?
  8. Is there any instruction for me to follow?

Not all of these questions may be answered in every passage.

5. KEEP A SPIRITUAL DIARY

Either in your Bible study notebook mentioned above, or in a separate notebook. Write down daily what God says to you through the Bible. Write down the sins that you confess or the commands you should obey.

Additional Note: Do not try to adopt all of these methods at once, but start out slowly, selecting those methods and suggestions which appeal to you. You will find, as millions of others have before you, that the more you read and study the Word of God, the more you’ll want to read it.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? Share them in the comments

This content was taken from the KJV Study Bible Notes, Full Color Edition. Learn more about this fantastic resource on our website.

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Reading Proverbs In the Context of the Old and New Testament

Posted by on 12/11/2017 in:

This post is curated from the Zondervan Academic blog.

Reading Proverbs

One of my seminary professors used to cheekily refer to common Christian devotional practices as our “daily bread crumb.” Meaning: we often take a verse or even part of a verse and spin out a comforting crumb of exhortation at the expense of the whole loaf of biblical bread—whether the surrounding pericope or greater.

Perhaps with no other place in Scripture do we do this than with Proverbs. Ryan O’Dowd offers an important reminder in his new commentary on Proverbs (Story of God Bible Commentary) when studying this book:

such casual study of individual proverbs can be shortsighted, both because it is apt to overlook the endless depth of each saying and also because the sayings take on a whole new life in the larger collection of thirty-one chapters….To get wisdom one must wrangle seriously with all of these proverbial sayings as a collection. (17)

Further still, to fully appreciate this collection of wisdom, we need to set it into its proper context by understanding the entire breadbasket, as it were, of wisdom in the Old and New Testament. Below we’ve briefly engaged the five contexts O’Dowd outlines in his sturdy introduction to fully appreciate the wisdom Scripture offers us.

Wisdom and Creation

First, the Old Testament expresses a role of wisdom in God’s creation of the world. “‘Wisdom’ here is not merely an inert adjective. Rather it speaks to the pattern by which God creates three realms in days 1–3 and then fills them with their appropriate form of life in days 4–6” (39). Psalm 104:24 expresses this relationship:

“How many are your works, O Yahweh! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Author translation)

The wisdom-creation dynamic isn’t limited to the original creation, but also informs earthly project, like building the tabernacle. “The craftspeople are specifically skilled with ‘wisdom’” (40) in order that the glory of Yahweh might fill it.

Wisdom and Law

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries scholars struggled to relate wisdom literature to Israel’s covenants and redemptive history. Franz Delitzsch was an exception. He argued Proverbs and Deuteronomy echo one another, and many recent scholars have followed suit, O’Doud included:

I argue throughout this commentary that wisdom provides insight into the created and moral order of God’s world, so it makes perfect sense for it to give way to just laws. If Israel had actually obeyed the law, it would have been clear to the nations that this way of ordering society surpassed their own stories and law codes. Indeed, Deuteronomy has a uniquely humanitarian character to it. (41)

Wisdom in Crisis

Then there is the relationship between Proverbs and the similar wisdom works of Job and Ecclesiastes. “The crises in these latter books do not react to the worldview in Proverbs so much as narrow and enhance the more idealistic message of Proverbs.…Job and Ecclesiastes react more strongly to the challenges of life in a fallen world” (40).

So Proverbs strong correlative view of character and consequences is sharpened in Job, drawing us to argue with God in prayer. Where Ecclesiastes is often styled as a reaction to Proverbs’s optimism, in the end it still brings its despair around to Proverbs same foundation of wisdom.

O’Dowd concludes, “whereas Proverbs looks back at the goodness of creation with a hope that is never fully articulated or justified, Job and Ecclesiastes look forward with desperate hope for relief from the heavenly realms” (43).

Wisdom and Prophets

Wisdom within the prophetic literature carries an interesting dynamic, for they are both critical and expectant of it.

On the one hand, “many of the prophets are critical of a class known as ‘the wise’” (43), and criticize Israel for breaking their covenant with Yahweh. On the other, “The prophets also look forward to the coming of a wise messiah,” the One who would “bring together the wisdom, hope, and justice of the law and the wisdom literature” (43-44).

Wisdom and the New Testament

Finally, O’Dowd observes, “We are also prone to overlook wisdom in the New Testament because Christian theology tends to focus more on Jesus’ kingship than his kingdom” (44). And yet wisdom shows itself in four distinct ways in the New Testament:

  • As a child Jesus is depicted as wise in his words and deeds; he is the model son of Proverbs 1:8 and 6:20
  • Jesus’ wisdom is evident in his teachings and works
  • Jesus is revealed through a “wisdom Christology”
  • Wisdom enables Christians to know God’s mysteries in Christ and to live them accordingly

***

“Wisdom is God’s gift to us, not merely to get by in life, but to bring about the flourishing of the whole creation….It could be argued that wisdom has the broadest applicability of the genres in the Bible. It is concerned with everything.”

Engage O’Doud’s commentary on Proverbs inside the Story of God Commentary Series. Learning to navigate Proverbs will help you live and teach others to live flourishing lives. Visit the Olive Tree website to learn more.

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A God Who is Everywhere: Omnipresence

Posted by on 12/06/2017 in:

Our God is not bound by space and time. This characteristic is called “omnipresence.” Although it is described in the Bible, the word “omnipresence” or “omnipresent” won’t be found in there. So, how do you learn what the Bible has to say about this characteristic of God?

WHAT IS OMNIPRESENCE?

Our God is omnipresent. Systematic theologians use this term frequently when discussing God’s incommunicable attributes—the attributes that we, humans, can never participate in. We can be loving like God to an extent. We can be holy like God to an extent. But we cannot become omnipresent.

That means, it can be difficult for us to comprehend God’s omnipresence. We can try our best to describe it… but in the end, it’s a concept that we cannot fully-communicate: hence, incommunicable.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us lots of great examples! I grabbed all the verses from the Olive Tree Bible Threads resource that refer to omnipresence for you to read.

VERSES ABOUT GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE

But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. — 1 Kings 8:27

May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
— Psalm 20:2

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
—Psalm 139:1

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
—Psalm 139:7

This is what the Lord says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
—Isaiah 66:1

“Am I only a God nearby, ”
declares the Lord,
“and not a God far away?
Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”declares the Lord.
—Jeremiah 23:23-24

This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name…”
—Matthew 6:9

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ — Acts 17:28

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. — Hebrews 1:3

OLIVE TREE BIBLE THREADS

How did I quickly gather these verses? Olive Tree Bible Threads contains large, searchable lists. Just tap to see all the verses in the Bible that reference the topic you’re interested in.

Also, while reading your Bible, you can open up the Olive Tree Bible Threads in the Resource Guide. That way, you can quickly read verses related to the passage you are in. This is a great tool for learning to read the Bible as one, cohesive book. You will be able to make connections across Scripture and grow in your understanding of God.

LEARN MORE

Do your own study on a topic in the Bible by adding the Olive Tree Bible Threads to your library! Check out our website for more information.

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3 Resources for a Starter Library

Posted by on 11/28/2017 in:

We hear this question a lot: “What are some great resources to get me started with the Olive Tree Bible App?” We’ve decided to share our recommendation because there might be others asking the same question. So, here are 3 resources for a starter library!

1) STUDY BIBLE

WHAT MAKES A STUDY BIBLE USEFUL?

If you’ve ever opened-up a paper version of a study Bible, you know it looks a little different than a regular copy. At the bottom of each page there are notes that give deeper insights to the passage you are reading.

These notes aren’t difficult to understand or highly academic, like a commentary would be. Instead, a study Bible provides you with tidbits of information to enhance your Bible reading along the way.

WHY GET A STUDY BIBLE FOR THE OLIVE TREE BIBLE APP?

First, at Olive Tree, we sell you the study Bible notes. What does this mean? If you purchase the ESV Study Bible, you will receive two resources: the ESV (which we offer for free) and the study Bible notes.

If you open the notes in the Resource Guide, they will follow along with your Bible reading in the main window.

COOL TIP! You can open any Bible translation along with your study Bible notes. For example, you could be reading the NKJV but have the NIV Study Bible notes open.

NIV Study Bible

ESV Study Bible

NKJV Study Bible

NASB Study Bible

KJV Study Bible

2) CONCORDANCE

WHAT MAKES A CONCORDANCE USEFUL?

God’s Word is the best interpreter of the Bible. When we use tools like a concordance to gain more insight, we aren’t looking to voices outside of the Bible for clarity. A concordance lists significant words in the Bible, tells you the Greek or Hebrew word, and shows you the other places that word is used in the Bible.

That way, you can make comparisons and double-check the way you are interpreting the Bible.

WHY GET A CONCORDANCE FOR THE OLIVE TREE BIBLE APP?

When you use a paper concordance, you open not only multiple pages inside the concordance, but also have your Bible open next to you! With the app, all you do is select a word and tap “look up.” Choose your concordance and you’ll be given a list of every instance that word is used in the Bible.

Better yet, the list is hyperlinked! All you need to do is tap on the reference in order to see the verse. You can also tap “Dictionary” to read the Strong’s definition.

NIV Concordance

ESV Concordance

NKJV Concordance

NASB Concordance

KJV Concordance

3) STRONG’S TAGGED BIBLE

WHAT MAKES STRONG’S USEFUL?

The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is one, huge book when it’s printed in paper. It lists every single significant word in the Bible! Then, it pairs the English word with the Greek or Hebrew word and provides you with a definition. You can also discover other places the word is used in the Bible.

This tool is perfect for the beginner’s library because it equips you to understand Greek and Hebrew… without needing to learn Greek and Hebrew. You will be able to discern the original language and meaning of the Bible.

The only problem is… with a paper version of Strong’s, you do A LOT of page-flipping and time-wasting. But we have a solution.

WHY GET A STRONG’S TAGGED BIBLE FOR THE OLIVE TREE BIBLE APP?

Instead of leaving Strong’s as a separate concordance that you have to search through, we fused it into the Bible text.

Every blue, hyper-linked word will open a pop-up window, providing you with the Greek or Hebrew word, Strong’s number, and a definition.

If you want to see all the other places this word is used in the Bible, just tap “Search for ###” You can scroll through a list of verses and even tap on them to read in more context.

What makes this different than the concordances we mentioned in point #2? First, this information is fused into the Bible text. Second, a concordance will first show you the list of verses; meanwhile, Strong’s will show you the definition first. Both are useful for studying the Bible and provide you with a different angle for learning more.

NIV Word Study Bible (Strong’s)

ESV Strong’s

NKJV Strong’s

NASB Strong’s

KJV Strong’s

LEARN MORE

Interested in learning more? Visit the product page of any of these resources to read more about what comes with the resource. You can even watch a video to see how it works in our app.

As always, if you have any questions, email support@olivetree.com. We’d be glad to answer any of your questions!

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Which Expositor’s Commentary is Right for Me?

Posted by on 11/23/2017 in: ,

You may have noticed that we have two commentary sets that are nearly identical in title:

The 12-volume set is heavily discounted for our Black Friday sale, which is helpful—if you know what it is and why it will enhance your study of God’s Word. So, this blog post will explain just that: what is the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, what are the differences between the two, and how it will help you study deeper.

AUTHORSHIP

Both commentary sets have a strong evangelical influence while at the same time drawing from a broad diversity of churches, including Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Reformed.

The original Expositor’s Bible Commentary was compiled between the years of 1976-1992 with 50 different authors contributing.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Revised Series is a 2012 update to the original that includes the work of 56 different authors – 30 of whom are new.

CONTENT

The original and the revised editions include the following content:

  • Comprehensive introductions
  • Short and precise bibliographies
  • Detailed outlines
  • Insightful expositions of passages and verses
  • Overviews of sections of Scripture to illuminate the big picture
  • Occasional reflections to give more detail on important issues
  • Notes on textual questions and special problems, placed close to the texts in question
  • Transliterations and translations of Hebrew and Greek words, enabling readers to understand even the more technical notes

Both sets use the NIV for its English text, but also refer freely to other translations and to the original languages. Each book of the Bible has, in addition to its exposition, an introduction, outline, and bibliography. They also include a balanced and respectful approach toward marked differences of opinion.

HOW IT WORKS

In the Olive Tree Bible App all of this content is easily accessed in the Resource Guide found in the split window. No matter which commentary you are using they both follow along with the scripture in your main window to give you easy access to expositional commentary, charts, outlines and more.

How does this affect you? It makes your study of God’s Word a smoother process. You don’t have to flip pages or have your desk full of open books. Instead, our app serves you the material you need, that is relevant to the passage your studying. We want to help you steward your time well!

Here’s a few screenshots of how the resource looks in our app.

Each number indicates relevant entries for the passage

Notes are just a tap away

Charts and outlines are easy to use

LEARN MORE

You can learn more about the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (12 Volumes) by visiting our website.

If you’re looking for a reliable, comprehensive commentary set, the price won’t get much better than this. Don’t forget that this discounted price is only good for our Black Friday sale!

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A Camel Through… What?

Posted by on 11/21/2017 in: ,

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'” —Matthew 19:23

A CAMEL THROUGH… WHAT?

If you’ve read this passage before, you have probably pictured something like this:

But the Archaeological Study Bible notes have information on this passage that you have probably NEVER heard. At least, I hadn’t!

THE LEGEND OF THE NEEDLE’S EYE GATE

“Since the Middle Ages commentators have considered the possibility that Jesus’ statement concerning the ‘eye of a needle’ (Mt 19:24) may have been a reference to certain doors or gates that actually existed in his day. Some homes did in fact have large doors that would allow a fully loaded camel to enter into the courtyard. Since such doors were cumbersome and required great effort to open, there were often smaller doors cut within them, permitting easy passage of people and smaller animals into the house.

Some interpreters have argued that this smaller door was the ‘needle’s eye gate,’ while others have suggested that the needle’s eye referred to smaller doors within larger city gates, such as those at Jaffa and Hebron. Passage through the smaller gate, it was said, would have forced a camel to its knees. Thus, the point of Jesus’ teaching in verse 24 is supposedly that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven only if he falls down to his knees.” — Archaeological Study Bible notes

IS THE LEGEND TRUE?

“As illustrative as these theories are, they in fact diminish the force of Jesus’ words. The point is not that salvation is difficult without God but that it is impossible without him.

Jesus’ contrast of the largest animal known in Palestine with the smallest of holes created a vivid and memorable illustration. The fact that modern-day gates have been so named can most likely be attributed to the influence of this and similar statements within the Talmud and the Koran. In other words, the term “needle’s eye gate” most likely did not precede the teaching; rather, the popularity of the term evidently came about because of the teaching.

But in Jesus’ original setting, it is very likely that a needle’s eye was simply a needle’s eye and not a gate at all.” — Archaeological Study Bible notes

BE CAREFUL!

Lastly, the Archaeological Study Bible warns Bible readers to beware of legendary, pseudo-archaeological interpretations. Why? Because they can be misleading and undermine the true meaning of a Biblical text.

We should always be careful about what we believe! Refer to reliable resources (like this one!), ask lots of questions, and seek input.

LEARN MORE

Interested in more of what the Archaeological Study Bible has to offer? Great! Here are two ways to learn more:

  1. Visit our blog post What’s in the Archaeological Study Bible – simple enough!
  2. Visit our website to read the product description and watch a video on how study Bibles work in the app.

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Unpacking a Verse: Matthew 1:1

Posted by on 11/13/2017 in:

“The book of the story of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” — Matthew 1:1

Within the first verse of Matthew, there are 5 hints to Jesus being the Messiah.

Leon Morris wrote the Pillar New Testament Commentary‘s Matthew Volume, and he did a great job unpacking this verse. Here’s what I discovered from his writing!

1. BOOK

Some scholars have wondered if this word refers to the Gospel as a whole or simply to the nativity stories.

In this case, Morris looks Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature for clarification. It appears that in later writings, this word was especially used for a “sacred, venerable book.”

Evidence leans toward the belief that this one-sentence header for the entire book of Matthew.

2. STORY

The translation of Matthew 1:1 found above was written by Morris himself. Why did he use the word “story” when so many other translations use “history” or genealogy”?

The original term is used of birth or origin or existence… but none of these concepts are easy to see in the passage. But, there’s evidence that the word was already used as the title of the first book of the Old Testament in LXX (the Septuagint, or Greek rendering of the Hebrew Old Testament).

Matthew was beginning to tell a new creation story: the new creation in Jesus Christ.

3. JESUS CHRIST

Matthew doesn’t use the full name Jesus Christ very often. In fact, this is the only location of the term in his book that isn’t disputed.

Typically, Matthew uses the personal name Jesus (̓Ιησοῦς, Yahweh is salvation). In fact, he uses this name 150 times!

Why is there such a contrast? The title Jesus Christ was not popular during Jesus’ lifetime, but grew as people came to know him as their Messiah.

4. SON OF DAVID

This tagline quickly reveals Jesus’ royal lineage and prophetic fulfillment. The expression “son of David” is probably a messianic title. Together, we can further confirm that Matthew’s book is about the one who fulfilled all that is meant in being the descendant of Israel’s greatest king.

5. SON OF ABRAHAM

All Israelites took pride in being descendants of the great patriarch, and the Christians were especially fond of him as the classic example of one who believed. In combining David and Abraham, Matthew is drawing attention to two strands in Jesus’ Hebrew ancestry.

That means, with this one, very short sentence, Matthew has bluntly stated Jesus’ qualifications for being the Messiah.

LEARNING MORE ABOUT MATTHEW

While looking through Morris’ commentary, I was really impressed with the information he shared in the introduction. He gives careful consideration to all the arguments, breaks down concepts into easy-to-understand sections, and gives great references.

This is the level of scholarship in the entire Pillar New Testament Commentary Set, edited by D. A. Carson. If you want to learn more about this series, visit our website.

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The Famous Preacher: H.A. Ironside

Posted by on 11/08/2017 in: ,

ABOUT H.A. IRONSIDE

Henry Allen “Harry” Ironside was a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, and author who pastored Moody Church in Chicago from 1929 to 1948. He also belong to the Plymouth Brethren,

But Ironside didn’t wait until he was a pastor to preach. When he was 11 years old, he started his own Sunday school, averaging 60 listeners per week. Then, after finishing the eighth grade, Ironside began preaching with the Salvation Army. He went on to preach all over the world, sharing the gospel with more than 1.25 million people.

Additionally, Ironside preached under Moody Bible Institute, was offered a position at Dallas Theological Seminary, and was awarded two honorary doctorates from Wheaton College and Bob Jones University. For only having completed the eighth grade, Ironside was an accomplished and well-respected man.

Lastly, Ironside’s teaching left a long-lasting mark on evangelicalism. Along with others such as Cyrus Scofield, he was influential in popularizing dispensationalism among Protestants.

HIS WRITINGS

In his lifetime, Ironside wrote fifty-one expositions on books of the Bible. Here at Olive Tree, we offer a bundled set of Ironside’s commentaries, including 11 volumes.

In his commentaries, Ironside provides some historical observations, giving commentary on the text at hand. Then he moves into application. Hear what he has to say on Psalms 9-12:

Listen to David, for David is the author of these Psalms, and he knew what it was to suffer. With Saul on the throne, he knew what it was to be driven out into the wilderness, persecuted, hated, forsaken, and yet to love in return. Instead of grumbling and complaining, his heart goes out in thanksgiving, “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart” (9:1) – not with half a heart.

And think of the people of God in that coming day in the midst of the greatest tribulation ever known, taking up these words on their lips, “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee” (vv. 1-2). We may not be able to rejoice in circumstances, but we can always rejoice in Him, for God is above all circumstances. It is a bad thing when believers get under them.

A brother said to another whom he knew had not been well, “How are you, brother?”

“I am pretty well under the circumstances,” he answered.

And the other said, “I am sorry to know that you are under the circumstances. I wish you could be above them. The Lord is able to lift you above them.”

“Oh, yes,” said the other, “I was not thinking of that.”

[…]No matter what conditions are like in the world around – the nations may rage, wars and rumors of war may cause the stoutest heart to tremble – faith looks beyond it all and recognizes God as sitting on the throne, and knows that eventually He will bring out everything for His glory.

LEARN MORE

Interested in growing in your understanding of God’s Word and applying it to your life? Read the Bible alongside this famous, influential preacher.

Learn more about Ironside and the volumes included in this bundle by visiting our website.

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The First Martyr

Posted by on 11/06/2017 in:

Jesus tells us that we will be hated as he was hated—but not all of us will actually experience severe persecution. Instead, many of us are blessed to worship God where, when, and how we want. The first Christians did not have this luxury, and they clung to Jesus’ promises as they stood up for the Gospel. In extreme moments, Christians even gave up their lives to promote the Gospel.

You’ve probably heard about martyrs before, but let’s make sure we don’t become desensitized to these acts of self-sacrifice. Instead, let’s take some time to reflect on one of the first Christian martyrs recorded, Stephen from Acts 7.

Below is an excerpt from Barnes’ New Testament Notes:

WHY WAS STEPHEN BEING TRIED?

This chapter contains the defense of Stephen before the sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews. There has been great diversity of opinion about the object which Stephen had in view in this defense, and about the reason why he introduced at such length the history of the Jewish people. But a few remarks may perhaps show his design, He was accused of blasphemy in speaking against the institutions of Moses and the temple, that is, against everything held sacred among the Jews.

HIS DEFENSE

To meet this charge, he gives a statement, at length, of his belief in the Mosaic religion, in the great points of their history, and in the fact that God had interposed in a remarkable manner in defending them from dangers. By this historical statement he avows his full belief in the Divine origin of the Jewish religion, and thus indirectly repels the charge of blasphemy.

It is further to be remembered, that this was the best way of securing the attention of the council. Had he entered on an abstract defense, he might expect to be stopped by their cavils or their clamor. But the history of their own nation was a favorite topic among the Jews. They were always ready to listen to an account of their ancestors; and to secure their attention, nothing more was necessary than to refer to their illustrious lives and deeds.

THE GOAL OF HIS DEFENSE

In this way Stephen secured their attention, and practically repelled the charge of speaking reproachfully of Moses and the temple. He showed them that he had as firm a belief as they in the great historical facts of their nation. It is to be remembered, also, that this speech was broken off in the midst, (Ac 7:53,54) and it is therefore difficult to tell what the design of Stephen was.

It seems clear, however, that he intended to convict them of guilt, by showing that they sustained the same character as their fathers had manifested, (Ac 7:51,52) and there is some probability that he intended to show that the acceptable worship of God was not to be confined to any place particularly, from the fact that the worship of Abraham, and the patriarchs, and Moses, was acceptable before the temple was reared, (Ac 7:2, etc.,) and from the declaration in Ac 7:48, that God dwells not in temples made with hands.

STEPHEN’S TWO MAIN POINTS

All that can be said here is, that Stephen

1. Showed his full belief in the Divine appointment of Moses, and the historical facts of their religion.

2. That he laid the foundation of an argument to show that those things were not perpetually binding, and that acceptable worship might be offered in other places and in another manner than at the temple.

HOW WAS HIS DEFENSE RECORDED?

It has been asked in what way Luke became acquainted with this speech so as to repeat it. The Scripture has not informed us. But we may remark:

1. That Stephen was the first martyr. His death, and the incidents connected with it, could not but be a matter of interest to the first Christians; and the substance of his defense, at least, would be familiar to them. There is no improbability in supposing that imperfect copies might be preserved by writing, and circulated among them.

2. Luke was the companion of Paul. Paul was present when this defense was delivered, and was a man who would be likely to remember what was said on such an occasion. From him Luke might have derived the account of this defense. In regard to this discourse, it may be further remarked, that it is not necessary to suppose that Stephen was inspired. Even if there should be found inaccuracies, as some critics have pretended, in the address, it would not militate against its genuineness.

It is the defense of a man on trial under a serious charge; not a man of whom there is evidence that he was inspired, but a pious, devoted, heavenly-minded man. All that the sacred narrative is responsible for is the correctness of the report. Luke alleges only that such a speech was in fact delivered, without affirming that every particular in it is correct.

TAKEAWAYS

Here are a few ideas of how you can apply what you’ve learned:

  • Pray and thank God for martyrs, the strength He gave them in times of trouble, and for the way He also gives you strength to stand up for what is right
  • Learn more about other martyrs, continuing to reflect on the importance of the Gospel
  • Pray for missionaries that are currently serving in dangerous countries

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The content of this blog was taken from Barnes’ New Testament Notes (11 Vols.), a verse-by-verse commentary set composed by American theologian, Albert Barnes.

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8 Questions and Answers: Book of Revelation

Posted by on 11/04/2017 in:

This article contains answers from
Brian Simmons, lead Translator of The Passion Translation

1. Why so many differing viewpoints on the book of Revelation?

Most people will be surprised to learn that there are numerous interpretations on the book of Revelation, but the book is known as apocalyptic literature, which lends itself to more than one interpretation. Throughout church history until today there is not one recognized interpretation of Revelation that is standard or accepted by all. Perhaps God wants us keep reading it and learning from it.

2. Are there some more common ways to interpret it that you can share with us?

There are four common interpretive models by which one can understand or interpret the book. The four models are known as: 1) the futurist, 2) the historicist, 3) the preterist, and 4) the idealist.

3. Can you summarize them for us?

The futurist model basically states that the majority of the book of Revelation will be fulfilled in the future, when the “Antichrist” arises with his false prophet and requires everyone to receive the mark of the beast. This makes Revelation a pre-viewing of what is to come. The futurist model believes in a “rapture” or snatching away of the church and a 1,000-year literal reign of Christ and His followers known as the “Millenium.” There are many variations to this view, especially as it relates to the timing of the rapture, but the above describes the basic viewpoint of the futurist model.

The historicist approach sees John’s Revelation as identifying the major movements of church history, and then reads them back into the symbols and prophecies of the book. Some also consider how current events fulfill New Testament apocalyptic symbolism. A prime example is identifying the Beast with various dictators through history, like Napoleon or Hitler or Saddam Hussein. The seals, trumpets, bowls, and plagues are identified as being a series of successive events, with the hope of Christ’s return being very near.

The preterist interpretation of the book view most of the “end times” prophecies of the Bible as either partially or already been fulfilled. Preterism is divided into two camps: full (or consistent) preterism and partial preterism. The full preterist viewpoint takes a viewpoint that all prophecy in the Bible has been fulfilled in one way or another. Partial preterists claim the book of Revelation was written before AD 70 and believe that the prophecies in Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation (with the exception of the last two or three chapters) have already been fulfilled and were fulfilled no later than the first century AD.

According to partial preterism, there is no rapture, and passages describing the tribulation and the Antichrist refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 67–70 and the Roman emperor Titus. Partial preterists believe in the return of Christ to earth and a future resurrection and judgment, but they do not teach a millennial kingdom or that Israel as a nation has a place in God’s future plan. According to partial preterists, the Bible’s references to “the last days” are speaking of the last days of the old Jewish covenant, rather than the last days of the earth itself.

And the idealist interpretive model views the book through the lens of a great conflict between good and evil, throughout the church age, rather than a predictive of what is to come or a reviewing of what has taken place. Generally speaking, the idealist viewpoint sees the book of Revelation as an allegory or story of Christ winning every battle. In more recent days this viewpoint has made room for wide ranging contemporary issues such as environmentalism.

Of course there are differing flavors of each of the above, but this is general summary of the four major models of interpreting the book of Revelation.

4. Which of the four is the best and which one do you adopt in your translation and footnotes?

There is validity and truth in all four. I have sought to translate the text of Revelation “straight up,” that is, without inserting any bias on my part or leaning toward any one of the four. However, I do see the most neglected and rejected of the four is the idealist model. I think there is value in seeing the symbols consistently throughout the Bible, and especially in Revelation pointing us to Christ and understanding more of His parabolic and metaphoric teachings (parables, stories, etc., per Matthew 13:34). Most people bounce back and forth from literal to symbolic, but I would think it is more consistent to make the entire book of Revelation one or the other, literal or symbolic.

We have chosen to take a very symbolic viewpoint of the book, for indeed the title says it all. In Greek it is best translated: The Unveiling of Jesus Christ. That is, Christ is unveiled in our hearts as the hope of glory, the triumphant King, the ever Faithful and True beloved of the church. Many of the judgments found in the book are actually the work of Christ “judging” the issues of our lives that must be overcome and yield to the triumph of the cross—the unveiling of Christ within His people.

5. Is there a key verse or a key truth that will help believers understand this book?

Absolutely. I’m convinced it is found in chapter 1 verse 3: “A joyous  blessing  rests upon the one who reads this message and upon those who hear and embrace the words of this prophecy, for the appointed time is in your hands.”

To read this book and not be blessed means you have missed its message. There is embedded in Revelation a divine blessing to those who embrace and “eat” the book (10:19). I can’t imagine a book that is pure judgment being a blessing to the hungry lovers of God. No, Revelation must be unfolded within us, a little at a time, until the “unveiling” of Christ is realized. We look for Christ, not insights into coming events. It is not the Middle East, but the middle of you that is the most important as you read through the book.

6. What do you recommend to a serious student of the book of Revelation? How should one read the book and find that blessing you mention?

I suggest reading it a chapter at a time until you really know what it contains. Even if it takes a year reading chapter 1 every day, it’s worth it to break open the scroll and look inside and understand what it says. I compare reading the book of Revelation to learning a new language. You don’t learn Chinese in a day, a week, a month, not even a year, no matter how intensely you study it. Learning a language takes time, immersion, and patience. So read the book of Revelation many times until you are immersed in it, and be patient. Over time it will yield its beauty and glory to you.

7. What surprised you the most as you translated Revelation?

The biggest surprise to me was what I didn’t find. Some common words and terms that we associate with Revelation are not even found in the book. For example, here are some words not contained in its twenty-two chapters: “Antichrist,” “rapture,” “millenium,” and “second coming.”

8. Is there any last think you’d want to mention about studying the book of Revelation?

Yes, keep your heart open to the truth it contains. Look for Christ, not a map of coming events. Prepare to have your world rocked as the truths of Revelation settle into your heart. Jesus is Lord, Savior, and our soon coming King!

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