PREACHING THE WORD with Dr. John Herbst

John Herbst, our Scholar-in Residence, offers pastors and other church leaders insights into the scriptures. These blog posts focused on books of the Bible, and biblical themes are designed to help those preparing messages and Bible studies.


 

 


Revelation 6:1–8: Four Horses and Riders, Subject to God’s Four Creatures

For many readers of Revelation, this is where things start getting exciting: we’re now ready to tackle Revelation’s tantalizing description of future events. Yet as we work through these images, we must connect them to what we’ve seen in chs 1–5. Like most books of the Bible, Revelation is meant to be read all at once (easily done in a couple hours, tops). So, if we do not pay attention to the earlier chapters, we will miss much of the message of the rest of the book. This post addresses the first four of the seven seals, containing the famed “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” Many commentaries and books scrutinize each verse in this section, even dwelling on fractions of a verse. While we will address each verse here, we must not miss the forest for the trees by dwelling on details and ignoring the larger narrative.  Like the seven ...
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Revelation 4-5: Jesus in the Throne Room of God  

God rules. Period. No matter how difficult things get for us, our faith teaches us that God is in charge right now. While we are preoccupied with events on earth, the universe’s center of power rests in heaven. Nothing can happen here without God’s knowledge and willingness to permit it. This connection between heaven and earth is a major theme of Revelation, and is the main topic of chs 4–5. We need these chapters to understand how God will address the challenges we will soon face. One of the fascinating things about Rev 4­–5 is the way that it adds New Testament ideas to a broadly conceived Old Testament foundation. In this post I can only briefly point to some of the allusions and references. But I hope that you will take some time to read and think about the deep biblical theology evident in these chapters. The scene of ...
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AMERICAN EIJAH

Given some events of the past two weeks, I‘m taking a brief pause from “Revelation and the Post-Coronavirus Age,” to talk about a modern-day American prophet.  We can identify this prophet when we read 1 Kings 17–18. First Kings 17:1 is fascinating: Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." While the verse itself may not sound all that remarkable, in its Old Testament context it is extraordinary.  In the rest of the Bible, prophets do not appear out of the blue with public declarations. Instead, they get some sort of introduction: think of Jeremiah’s call in Jer 1:1–10, or Jehoshaphat’s words about Micaiah in 1 Kgs 22:7–8. Prophets sometimes do suddenly appear so that they can give counsel (2 ...
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Revelation 2–3: The Message of the Seven Letters

One of our core Christian teachings is that the battle between good and evil is not much of a battle, since we already know the result. In the end, Christ wins. This is not just a teaching of the last book of the Bible; we see references to God’s ultimate victory throughout Scripture (Isaiah 62 and Phil 2:9­–11 come to mind). But while talking about the certain defeat of the enemy is encouraging, this truth comes with a responsibility. Christ wants us to take action in the knowledge that we will win.  This is the message of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2–3. As many of you know, Revelation 2–3 consists of seven short letters to churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Very often, Christians approach these letters one at a time, perhaps comparing them to each other and thinking about how modern-day churches might benefit from each ...
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“Christ’s Message to Christians in 2020: Revelation 1”

We are entering a new age. Just a few short months ago none of us could have foreseen the crisis that today affects almost everyone on the planet. The world has changed, and not for the better. While we hope that we may soon have the COVID-19 virus under control, there will be local outbreaks in the months and years to come. And already the US economy has suffered a serious shock that will require months and years of recovery. Many of us have lost jobs and economic security, and we have very good cause to fear for the financial well-being of our churches and other ministries. Nevertheless, we still have our charge to be salt and light to the world. Christianity is not about self-preservation, but about infiltration, and growth.  No matter what, God wants us to share the love of Jesus Christ with people who desperately need it ...
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