Many Christians have turned this verse into a generic blessing on all who read this book. But the same may be said of reading any book of the Bible. Or, they see it as a unique blessing which specifically refers to those who read this Book of Revelation. For some, it seems to almost become a magical formulation. [Strange that we need to say this, but when John wrote that verse, Christians did not have a Bible they could open up, and then read the last book to obtain this blessing.] But what we have here, in context, is the standard means by which the assembly heard the message written to them—that is, someone stood before the congregation and read it to them. We see this in these New Testament instructions: I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the brethren.--1 Thess. 5:27 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.--Col. 4:1 John writes to seven churches, and in each church, someone would stand and read this to them. Read the letters to each of these churches, and imagine yourself reading these words before your fellow Christians. This blessing would give you much needed comfort and courage. The climax of this blessing is given to those who “hear”--That is, to those who heed this command to obey. New Living Translation God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.
29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?
Paul begins (Ch. 15, read it) by reminding those in Corinth of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and of the testimony of many witnesses to the Resurrection. The primary context of verse 29 (above) begins at 15:12.
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
The Apostle proceeds to expose the fallacy of such a belief and the consequences of it:
“If Christ is not raised your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” v. 17
[Apparently some in Greek Corinth held unto a Greek dualistic conception of immortality that negated resurrection. Remember, in Acts 17, the men of Athens laughed at the idea of Christ’s resurrection.]
Paul concludes his appeal to their reason, and then abruptly asks the question above, in verse 29.
The theological problem with this puzzling verse has prompted a myriad of solutions. No where else in Scripture or in the Church is such a practice noted. Bromiley’s solution (ISBE) suggests, “What is the value of baptism unto death, or of the death signified in baptism, if there is no resurrection?”
Gordon Fee (NICNT) notes that were not this verse such a problem, no one would have come up with such alternative meanings. The plain sense of the text is that “they” (who?) are being baptized for those who are “dead.”
Note that Paul does not address his readers, as in verse 17, “you.” He points his Corinthian readers to, what for us is an unknown, “they.”
But in shifting gears, Paul abruptly switches from an appeal to their reason to an ad hominem argument, a la Fee.
An ad hominem can be a “strategy of using [someone’s] own beliefs…against them, while not agreeing with the validity of those beliefs…”
As for this practice of baptism for the dead, we do not know who or whom; why or how. Fee concludes, “finally we must admit that we do not know.”
What we do know is that this obscure practice “lies totally outside the NT understanding both of salvation and of baptism.”
ISBE–The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
NICNT–The New International Commentary on the New Testament
In the beginning, God…
Augustine, Genesis, I.19.39
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, . . . and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.
Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.
If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience and the light of reason?
Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertions” [1 Timothy 1:7]. (All emphases, mine)
John Calvin, in the 16th Century, made many wise comments on Genesis:
“He who would learn astronomy…let him go elsewhere….”
”Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.”
See, also, In The Beginning
The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
Chapter 16: Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”
Revelation in Context
The ‘Battle of Armageddon’ is one of the most misrepresented verses in the Bible by memory verse Christians who harden their hearts against reading God’s word in context.
Seven is the number of completeness. This completes God’s wrath at the end of time, just as seven days completed God’s creation.
- It follows Christ’s Return. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war….And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations” Rev. 19
- ‘It is clearly the eschatological “battle of on the great day of
God Almighty” (vs. 14). –Geo. Eldon Ladd, Revelation
- An eschatological battle, not a human battle. The armies are destroyed by “the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth” 19:21
- “The ultimate reality is the Lord’s return. This is the event which is the focus of the expectation of the saints.” –Ladd
Contrast with Off-The-Wall Interpretation of Ray Comfort
“While no respected biblical scholars have named the nations [in Rev. 16:16] they do agree that certain nations will come together against Israel in one climatic end-time battle called Armageddon.”
If any scholar has made such an interpretation, it is not Bible scholarship, but eisegesis—reading his own preconceived notions into the text (think Left Behind).
What We Don’t Know of Jesus’ Times Deflates the Impact
The Pharisee and Publican Praying in the Temple
The Publican, a Jewish tax collector, was a traitor, being hated as one who worked for the occupation force of a pagan power, Rome. In rabbinic literature “hatred was to be extended even to the family of the tax collector” (ISBE).
Just pointing to a tax collector praying in the Temple would have been a shock!
The Scandal of the Samaritan
Jews despised Samaritans and viewed them as unclean foreigners. This went back in history to Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom….
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
“What?! The master praised this servant???”
A Mustard Seed
“…smaller than all seeds…”
For the technical mind, “all” must mean “all.” But for a parable, it is a literary device to convey the point
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Ten Thousand Talents–Have you ever heard a tall tale, or an outlandish story to which you exclaimed, “WHAT???”
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Part Two
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. Exodus 20
Remembering in a Forgetful World
Chick-fil-A keeps its doors closed on Sundays so that its employees have a day of rest and are able, if they wish, to go to church. Years ago, a lonely voice in Christianity Today, noted the complaint of a friend of hers who had to work on Sunday: ‘I have to work to serve all these Christians who are busy buying after church.’
The ubiquitous Sabbath-breaking of our own day is nothing new. During the revival that swept England, John Wesley noted a rare exception: “I suppose three such towns are scarce to be found again…There is no cursing, no Sabbath-breaking…”
He exhorted Christians, “Spend this day as thou hopest to spend that day which shall never end.”
On the Ten Commandments, Martin Luther told parents, “Exhort your household to learn them word for word, that they should obey God…For if you teach and urge your families things will go forward.”
The president of a denomination began his sermon at our local church with an offer of a ten dollar bill to any child who could cite the Ten Commandments in any order or form. As he put it back in his billfold he lamented that he had never been able to give it away in any church where he had preached.
Most Christians not only cannot cite the Ten Commandments in any order or form, we seem to be left with only eight or less these days. [Original essay on Teaching Children Ten Commandments–‘Your Child’s Endangered Heart’]
In A Word to a Sabbath-Breaker, Wesley wrote, “Never more disappoint the design of his love, either by worldly business or idle diversions….You have lived many years in folly and sin; now, live one day unto the Lord.”
[Please learn to share these posts. They do little good hidden in the corner.]
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. –John 13:34, 35.
“Maundy” refers to the Latin text of verse 34, mandatum, from which we get the word mandate—an authoritative command.
In the Liturgy, it refers to the foot washing ceremony, the example which Jesus set for us before the new command.
The Gospel of John, which does not mention the institution of the Lord’s Supper, repeats this new mandatum three times! Peter refers to it three times in his First Epistle; First John references it five times, it being one of the tests he gives to discern true Christians. Paul refers directly to ‘love one another’ in four of his letters.
An amazing feature of our American culture stares us in the face—many Christians do not even know that in the New Testament, (link)“one another” refers exclusively to our fellow believers.
In John, Holy Week begins with the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary along with her wiping them with her hair. And Jesus’ last physical act, before the events of the arrest and trial, consists of his washing his disciples’ feet.
Then follows the new commandment.
“The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them.”–Leon Morris, NICNT
“The standard of love which the disciples are to have for one another is that which their Lord has lavished on them.”–F. F. Bruce, John
In the early church, Tertullian remarked that pagans noted, “See how they love one another.”
Tennyson penned these lines:
Love your enemies, bless your haters, said the
greatest of the great;
Christian love among the churches, look’d the
twin of heathen hate.
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,…
For More on Christian Confusion, see: Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies (linked)
“…an excellent piece…one that many Christians need to hear”–R.C. Sproul
[Anniversary–This blog began during Holy Week, seven years ago]
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”–Matt. 28
We must first be a disciple before we can make a disciple.
Disciple: a learner; a follower and student of a teacher; …actively imitating both the life and teaching of the master.
Back to the Word vs. ‘What this Verse Means to Me’ (link) Read and Learn
Obedience is the key to all doors… –C.S. Lewis
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?–1 John 3:17 (ESV)
The Christian life is Christ-centered, NOT self-centered.
Here is an enlightening illustration which displays our modern feelings about “heart.”
The Greek text behind this verse (above) uses the word for “bowels” σπλάγχνα NOT “heart” καρδία The KJV renders this as “bowels of compassion” which represents the feelings to the Hebrew mind. (ISV: Whoever has earthly possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God be present in him?)
In Jeremiah 31:20, “bowels” are used in “a metaphorical sense to denote the seat of emotions” (TWOT*). We use bowel metaphors like “a gut feeling” and “butterflies in my stomach.”
Again in the KJV, Colossians 3:12 is translated literally, “bowels of mercy” (where others use heart:”Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts…”) The New International Bible Encyclopedia relates bowels, here, to “powerful emotional forces.”
This is how we moderns understand “heart” today. “Follow your heart” epitomizes the Zeitgeist. Do you desire to divorce your spouse? Have an affair? Abandon your children? Change your gender?
“Follow your heart.”
When it comes to modern translations of “bowels,” many use the paraphrase “heart.”
Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the RSV, NASB, Phillips, and the later NKJV rendered “bowels (of mercy/compassion)” as “heart.” And the English Standard Version (ESV) continued that in the twenty-first century. This misleads those with today’s mindset when we come to the actual word “heart” (kardia) in the Bible.
As noted (please be a disciple; read and learn) in the first article on Heart and Mind:
“A striking feature of the NT is the essential closeness of kardia (heart) to the concept nous, mind…”–The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. “heart”
All quotations of the Great Commandment in the Gospels interject the word “mind.”
The person who is awash in his feelings, following his ‘heart’ and not loving God with his whole mind, cannot “understand that the goodness of God is meant to lead [him] to repentance…because of [his] hard and impenitent heart [closed, stubborn mind]”–Romans 2:4,5.
Hebrews repeats this warning three times: “…do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (3:8ff). This is not an exhortation to follow your feelings. The faithful heart is one which listens to God’s voice. The heart that goes astray is the one that “has not learned my ways.” A disciple is a learner, tutored by his Master.
The hard heart is the unteachable, disobedient mind that “refused to listen to God.”
Be a disciple. Read and Learn More
*Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
Here in Romania, on the second day of celebrating the Resurrection, our pastor’s text from Luke 24 concerned two perplexed disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Their state of mind is best summed up in their words, “We had hoped…”
In their encounter with the resurrected Jesus, that dashed hope blooms as he breaks bread with them and they recognize him. Rushing back to Jerusalem, they find the other disciples also rejoicing. The worst moment in their lives, the Crucifixion, has now been transformed into the most hope filled day of their lives. “The Lord has risen indeed.”
Hope abounds and persists. Years later Peter wrote, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…” (1 Peter 1).
Our hope is rooted in, and confirmed by, the Resurrection. But the Resurrection also has consequences. As Paul told those who worshiped other gods,
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17
And the responsibility for conveying that message is given to us. “Ye will be my witnesses.”