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The Hoax of the Three Days and Three Nights
Revelation uses apocalyptic language and symbols to convey its message to the hearer, but differs from other apocalyptic writings in its intent. The Old Testament book of Daniel for example, is apocalyptic but functions in a different way. Daniel?s message is hidden away and pertains to future events which are to come, but Revelation is put in the form of a letter to the Church and pertains to the current coming of the Lord, which is the present. The author of Revelation combines the apocalyptic language found in books like Daniel and the epistle form used by Paul when writing to the various churches. In this way, Revelation is very much a letter that is meant to be heard now and applied now by the hearer. We must always hear Scripture in the present because we are always inevitably in Scripture. We are not post-Scripture, or pre-Scripture, but in it. The immediate concern of the writer is that the new Christians are being tested and some are falling away. They are being persecuted for their faith by the Romans and they know that if they stand firm in their witness, there is a good chance that they will be killed, perhaps even tortured in heinous ways. In order to stand firm in their witness, through torture and even unto death, Revelation presents the alternatives for the believers and exhorts them to pick the reward that is in heaven and not the easy way out because the easy way out leads to even more pain and suffering in the end. The wrath of God is brought to bear as the long term alternative to those who fall away, those who fail the test. For those who hold fast to their witness, they will be judged and justly rewarded in the Kingdom and for those who are martyred for their faith, an even greater reward is offered in that they are already judged. This is similar to being offered to take the final exam early. You take it and pass then you are done. The exam results won?t be announced until everyone else has completed the exam, but you have already passed. So too, the author of Revelation exhorts the Christians to take the exam of martyrdom if it is offered, because if you pass, then that?s it, you are assured in the Kingdom of Heaven. You will still have to wait for the others to enter, but you are assured because you have already passed the test by giving your life for Christ, who is the prototype to be followed. Christ is of course prototypical martyr. His obedience unto death is the example for those who are His witnesses to follow and if they do then they will rule with Him in His Kingdom. This is the Gospel of the cross found almost identically in the three synoptic Gospels: Mat 16:25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
This is fairly straightforward, but where many people run aground is in the plentiful symbolic language used to convey the message, especially the symbolism surrounding numbers in Revelation. The letter is divided into three parts, each with seven repetitions. The first thing that must be understood is that the three parts do not represent different events that are sequenced in a serial manner chronologically. The repetition is a literary device used to provide emphasis to the same message. It is repeated three times to emphasis its assuredness. The first cycle of seven is an introduction to the message and is conveyed using the seven seals. It is fairly short as an introduction, but that is expected. The seventh seal then is used to usher in the next series of seven and this device is repeated in the following series of seven as well because we must always be ready in watchful expectation of the Lord?s coming. The second iteration uses the image of seven trumpets and is very long compared to the first cycle. This very long second part is common in Scripture. Luke for example, is roughly divided into three parts which begin with Jesus? prediction of His own death. The first is short, the second is very long, and then by the third, you are already in Jerusalem. This type of communication is engrained in our daily lives even today. When it?s time for my kids to brush their teeth, I tell them once, and of course they ignore me, I tell them again in a drawn out way to get them moving the right direction, and finally, when the third reminder comes it?s time for the proverbial stick. One, twooooo, three. The author of Revelation uses this same method by conveying his message three times, the second of which is very long and drawn out. It is the meat of the message. Then when you come to the third and last iteration, that of the seven bowls of wrath, it?s essentially over and the narrative moves very quickly to the end which is always the coming of the Lord and judgment. The message is the same throughout the three iterations, and is meant to be emphasized by the repetition. The second iteration does not represent a new message or even a new event in terms of chronology. It is a repetition of essentially the same message three times.
The number three also serves another purpose within the text. Throughout Scripture three is used as a number that represents completeness. In many ancient languages and even some today, there isn?t simply singular and plural. Instead, there is singular, dual, which is two, and plural, which is three or more. This comes from the idea that two cannot be a plurality because it inevitably contradicts itself. If one is the thesis, then two is the antithesis, and a third is needed to resolve the conflict. So in this way three represents assuredness or ?indeedness?. If something is three, then it is true, without a doubt. This doesn?t mean that if it is four, then it is truer. There is no empirical numeric value. When the Seraphim sing ?Holy, Holy, Holy is our God? it means that He is indeed Holy. When Christ is said to have been dead for three days, it means that He was indeed dead. When Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, it means that he was indeed in the belly of the fish. Three in these cases relates to the assuredness of the action not to the counting of days.
There are several other numbers that appear frequently in Scripture and especially in Revelation. Four is often used to represent a complete whole, as in the whole class or the whole assembly. It is also used to refer to the whole world or earth, as in the four corners of the earth, taken from the four cardinal directions on a compass. Four can also be used in reference to a house or building with its four walls that enclose it. Five generally represents power, and in Scripture specifically God?s power given in His Law, which is written in the five scrolls of the Pentateuch. The image of the hand of power or the hand of God, with five fingers comes to mind. Five can also be used as half of ten in the sense that one is in the middle of something that when complete will represent a totality of person or individuals. Ten is very similar to four, but represents the whole taken as individuals. Ten is often multiplied by other numbers for emphasis or by itself to give scale. For example, every person in a village might be represented by 1000, but every person in a large city might be 10,000 because a city is larger than a village, but in both cases the meaning is ?everybody? regardless of the actual number who dwell there. Twelve is similar in that it generally represents the totality of God?s people, as in the twelve tribes of Israel, but now when applied to the Christian church refers to the new Israel which doesn?t have tribes per se, but is still represented by twelve. Many times a number will be doubled to indicate agreement like having two witnesses that agree in their testimony, so 24 judges indicates an agreement of 12. Finally, seven and six need to be understood especially for the message of Revelation. Seven is the number that represents God and His activity in the world. If it?s seven, then it?s of God, and it represents the fullness of His divinity. If there is something that pretends to be God, to masquerade as divine, then it tries to be seven, but it doesn?t quite get there, so it is called six. This is the meaning behind the infamous number of the beast, 666. This is simply six repeated three times, so it is assuredly only six and not seven. It is assuredly not divine, but something less. It is antichrist because it tries to be Christ but isn?t. It tries to take the place of Christ in the hearts and minds of the people, and they may even be tricked into thinking that it is Christ, but it assuredly is not.
Combinations of numbers are also used to convey a combination of meanings. The infamous 144,000 is often completely misunderstood by people who want to assign a numeric value to the text and incorrectly deduce that the total number of souls that will be saved is fixed at that specific value. Nothing could be further from the truth. 144,000 is simply twelve, which as described above represents the totality of God?s people, squared for emphasis and then multiplied by 1000 to show that it is a very large number of people. This number should underscore that all of God?s people will be saved, not that someone might left out if they are number 144,001.

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Re: The Hoax of the Three Days and Three Nights - by Alan G77 - 05-14-2011, 11:01 AM

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