All good things must come to an end… NTiR

Bible and magnifying glass I started this project in April 2010. I finished in December of that same year. Eight full months dedicated to reading the New Testament and then writing down my thoughts for the world to see.

I have to admit that I have come away with a slightly different view of Christianity. It was very enlightening to read through the entire story of Christ starting from Jesus’s birth. It was illuminating to see how the stories and legends grew, how the ministry of Christ changed those around him, and how Christ’s message was changed after his death.

I have more reverence for Christianity now than when I first started this project.That is pretty humbling for me. I always thought I am open-minded when it comes to any religion. I didn’t realize, though, that I was letting my view of Christianity be influenced by others.

the earth and the sea
Image by khrawlings via Flickr

There are so many people who use Christianity as an excuse to judge others, to justify discrimination and abuse of others, to try to force their own beliefs on the world in the name of Christ. There are a surprising number of people in the world who are more than willing to twist Christ’s teachings and ministry to suit their own purposes. I allowed my view to be distorted by such people, and that made me very biased against Christianity.

So it has been refreshing to see the core of the religion. To see what Christianity was about when it first started. I still don’t believe in Christ’s divinity, but see him as one of this world’s greatest teachers and philosophers. I think that his gospel spread love and hope and tolerance and understanding throughout the world. The world is all the better because of Jesus.

The end is here! (New Testament in Review)

Bible and magnifying glassThose of you who read my last entry will realize that we have reached the end of the New Testament. For better or worse, this project is just about finished.  I started reading and reviewing the New Testament in April 7th of this year (2010) and I will put a capstone on this project this coming Tuesday, December 28th, 2010. Just in time to ring in the new year!

I am going to take a break from now through the end of Christmas weekend. I think I’ve earned a break after 8 months of this. [grin]

Ho ho ho Until then, Happy Holidays! Enjoy this time of the year. I truly believe it is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter how much that song is overplayed.

Speaking of songs, here’s one for you to use to help enjoy the holiday.

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

One resurrection, two deaths and a thousand years – Revelation 20-22

Bible and magnifying glassWe have arrived at the end of the universe, at the end of all things, and the creation of the new Heaven. At the end of Chapter 19, Christ led heaven to a final, climactic battle with the armies of evil. The White Rider trampled all enemies, and banished both the Beast and the Anti-Christ to the lake of fire.

One might wonder what is there left to do? Evil is vanquished. Doesn’t that mean that good has won, and the story is now over?

About the only complaint I had about the Lord of the Rings movies regarded The Return of the King. The last, oh, half-hour or so was a series of endings. The battles had been fought, Sauron had been defeated, Mordor was no more. But there was scene after scene with someone saying goodbye, or someone heading off across the sea, or of someone claiming their power. All of which could’ve been edited down to a 5-minute montage.

The end of Revelation is pretty much exactly like that. Only without Orlando Bloom.

Chapter 20

An angel from heaven comes down to earth and captures Satan. He throws the serpent into the bottomless pit, then seals and locks the pit. The dragon must stay in that pit for a thousand years, giving him no power over the nations. However, at the end of the thousand years, he will be set free.

After the serpent is captured, John sees thrones set up. Those who sat on the thrones were given authority to judge the living and the dead. However, that is neither here nor there since it isn’t mentioned again.

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...
The Highest Heaven
Image via Wikipedia

John then saw the souls of those martyred in the name of Christ. These had continued to worship Christ in the face of mortal peril, they rejected the beast and did not receive the mark. These souls were resurrected and were able to rule with Christ for the thousand years that Satan was imprisoned. This is the First Resurrection.

After the thousand years, Satan was released from prison. He set out and gathered another army of nations to make war against the armies of God. This time, Satan took the assembled armies to the “beloved” city. That was a bad move: God rained down fire on the army, burning them all to a crisp. Satan was once again captured, but this time was thrown into the lake of fire to join the beast and the false prophet. The three will be tortured there forever.

Finally, with his enemies defeated and the earth and heaven destroyed, God took his throne. Death, Hades and the sea had to surrender the dead they held. Everyone who had ever died were raised and brought before the throne. Books were opened for each person, and that person was judged according to their works. Anyone worthy had their name recorded in The Book of Life. Once the judgement was done, those whose name wasn’t in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death, the eternal death.

Chapter 21

John saw a new, Utopian earth and heaven. God lived among man. There was no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. Nothing unclean would be allowed in, no one who’d do destestable things or would tell lies. There’s only the righteous and God.

Here’s where being a non-believer changes one’s perceptions. For a Christian, the new Heaven and Earth are their ultimate goal. They want to be in the new Holy City living with God/Christ forever. On the other hand, I can’t help but think this would be boring. I could live with not dying, of course. But I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with people who all act and think the same way, worshiping a god who just destroyed all of humanity along with the universe.

Fresco illustrating the Aocalypse (Book of Rev...
Fresco illustrating the Aocalypse
Image via Wikipedia

If there’s no suffering, who is going to write the great works of literature? If there’s no pain, who is going to create new musical masterpieces? How can there be joy, if there’s never any sorrow? Who can enjoy light if there isn’t dark to differentiate?

Nope, this vision of the afterlife is not palatable to me at all.

But I digress…

Chapter 22

The book closes with John coming back to his present. Both the angel and Jesus say that Christ will be returning “soon.” The angel warns John not to seal up this prophecy, because the time is near for the Lord to return. “Let the one who does what is evil continue to do evil, and let the filthy person continue to be filthy, and the righteous person continue to do what is right, and the holy person continue to be holy.”

John wraps up the book – and the New Testament – by inviting Jesus to return. “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”


Up next: Time for goodbyes

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Babylon is about to get fucked up – Revelation 16-19 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassIt is getting harder to keep track of what is happening in Revelation. Everything seems to happen again and again. Angels unleashing major carnage on the earth. The sun and moon first turning black as cloth, then red as blood, then green as cheese. Or something like that.

All I know for certain is that God is letting an eternity’s worth of wrath loose upon the earth, and mankind is getting screwed. Take the trials of Lot, add the plagues of Egypt, and throw the Angel of Death into the mix. What do you have?

God’s love.

Chapter 16

It is time for the angels to pour god’s wrath onto the earth. These sound a lot like what happened when the seven seals were open, and definitely sounds like the signs that were shown in The Seventh Sign. So I am just a little confused. Not that this matters much, especially when there are seven bowls full of destruction to write about!

  • The first angel poured his bowl onto the earth. A sore appeared on everyone who had the mark of the beast, or who worshipped the beast’s image.
  • The second angel poured his bowl into the sea. The sea became like the blood of a dead body, and everything that lived in the sea died.
  • The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers. Water in all of the rivers and springs turned to blood.
  • The fourth angel poured his bowl onto the sun, which then burned people with its fierce heat. (Global warming?)
  • The fifth angel poured his bowl onto the beast’s throne. The beast’s kingdom was plunged into darkness.
  • The sixth angel poured his bowl on the Euphrates river, which then dried up completely.
  • The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air. God roars “It has happened!” and then there’s a powerful earthquake.

Chapter 17

More imagery, but this time one of the angels of the bowls provides an instant translation. That was very nice of him! John sees the notorious prostitute Babylon sitting at the edge of many waters. The angel says this prostitute is the mother of all detestable things, and the waters she sits on are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. When the time comes, the beast will leave the woman abandoned and naked.

An 1800s Russian engraving depicting the Whore...
Image via Wikipedia

John is then carried off into the wilderness, where he sees a woman. She is wearing the finest of clothing and jewelry, but holds a gold cup filled with detestable things. The woman is drunk on the blood of true believers. This woman represents the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.

The woman sits on top of a seven-headed, ten-horned beast. The heads are the seven mountains on which the city rests. The are also seven kings. In a sentence that could be ripped straight from Tolkein, “Five of them have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come.” The beast is actually the eighth king, and will be destroyed with the other seven.

The ten horns are also kings. These kings have not received their kingdoms yet. They have one purpose: to give their authority to the beast.

Chapter 18

There is one thing that is absolutely, positively, 100% obvious in the book of Revelation: the city Babylon is going to get fucked up when the world ends. Plagues of death, misery and famine will strike the city all in the same day. The city will burn to the ground. Merchants everywhere will cry and mourn, since the city’s destruction means the destruction of commerce throughout that region of the world. The city is destroyed, as is industry.

Chapter 19

We are at the beginning of the end. There is celebration in heaven at the fall of Babylon. Everyone in heaven sings their praises to God. And everyone rejoices because it is time for the wedding of the lamb and the church.

Heaven once again stands open, and at the gates is a white horse ridden by Faithful & True. The rider wears a robe that was dipped in blood. The robe has “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” written on it. The rider has a secret name written on himself, and his name is the Word of God. To quote from the Gospel of John, “In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That all kind of flows together nicely.

The white rider leads the armies of heaven. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth (we heard of the mouth and sword thing earlier) and he uses this to battle the beast and the armies of the earth. In the end, the beast was captured. The beast and its false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire; the rest of the beast’s followers die by the sword of the white rider.

Up next: One resurrection, two deaths and a thousand years

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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The anti-Christ and the Beast – Revelation 12-15 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassOnce upon a time, back in my wild younger days, I had an actual alcohol-induced hallucinative episode. I blacked out, but continued to function. My friends said I left the apartment we were in, ran to the park across the street, then started climbing up a hill. I was yelling that I had to get to the top of the hill so I could greet spirits that had come to save earth from its destruction. That was – by far – the weirdest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

The Book of Revelation is even weirder than that.

Chapter 12

Wow! I mean, seriously, WOW! Let’s see: we open up with a woman who dressed with the sun, stepped on the moon, and wore a crown of twelve stars. She is about to give birth. At the same time, a seven-headed, ten-horned, red dragon is there, waiting to devour the baby once it is born. However, the baby boy is whisked away to heaven. The woman flees to a safe house.

Then a war breaks out in heaven. Michael (presumably the Archangel) and his angels battle the dragon and its angels. The dragon is Satan, of course. Up until this point, Satan has been allowed to stay in heaven and to speak with God. That’s… interesting. Doesn’t seem internally consistent with other passages of the New Testament. But I’ll let that slide. Michael and his angels win the war, casting Satan and Satan’s followers out of heaven, down to the earth.

The woman’s safe house was also on earth, which was a bad idea. The dragon sought her out, looking to get revenge. The woman was given eagle’s wings and was able to fly away to an even safer house. The dragon is even more pissed off, so he opens his mouth and a river of water streamed out of its mouth. The plan was to drown the woman, but the earth opened up and swallowed the river.

The number of the beast is 666 by William Blake.
The number of the beast is 666
by William Blake
Image via Wikipedia

What the fuck?

Chapter 13

This chapter is the basis for a lot of end-times stories and sermons and fears. It reinforces the tale of the anti-Christ, as well as the mark and number of the beast. The first beast comes out of the sea. it has 10 horns wearing royal crowns. It had seven heads, each with blasphemous names. One of the heads was wounded by a sword and appeared to be dying. However, that head was healed, which was taken as a miracle by the people of the earth. The dragon gave the beast his power and throne, and complete authority over everything on earth. The people of the earth started to follow the beast.

A second beast rose from the earth. It looked like a lamb, but talked like a dragon. It too had authority over the earth. It bragged of its miracles and signs – it was even able to make fire rain down from heaven – and demanded that everyone worship the first beast. The second beast also forced all people to be marked either on their right hands or on their foreheads. If they did not do so, they wouldn’t be allowed to do such things as buy food. The person would be marked with the number of the beast, which was mis-translated as 666.

This just came to mind: the idea of the mark of the beast is very much in-line with biometrics. We use the swipe of a fingerprint to access some systems. Super-high security places require retina scans. Hands, forehead, etc. Maybe John’s revelation is the work of a time traveler? Like a really bored security engineer?

But now I am just being silly.

Chapter 14

If I didn’t know there were 8 more chapters to go, I’d swear this is building to a crescendo. The true lamb is finally back, standing on Mount Zion. He is commanded to swing his sickle and harvest the earth. Everyone who was worthy was saved. A second angel – one who had authority over fire – also was called to harvest. He harvested grapes to add to the winepress of the wrath of God. Which is weird, but what is weird is the winepress was trampled outside the city. Blood flowed from the remains of the winepress, creating a lake of blood that was 200 miles across. Ick!

Chapter 15

This is by far the shortest of all of the chapters of Revelation. There are seven more angels, these holding the last seven plagues. Once they released their plagues, God’s wrath was finally been sated. John also saw a sea of glass, on which stood everyone who had remained true to God and Jesus, and who had spurned the beast and refused the mark.

Things still weren’t quite over, though. Because apparently God still had seven cups of wrath-wine. These were given to the seven plague-bearing angels.

Up next: Babylon is going to get fucked up

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Angels can be bad-asses! – Revelations 9-11 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassOne theme in the book of Revelations is the importance of the holy numbers. Threes and sevens are littered throughout the book. Three angels. Seven seals. Seven trumpets. John wanted to make sure that we knew divine numbers are in use here. Expect many more instances of the divine numbers, and we’ll be adding in twelve to go with them soon.

In the previous chapters, the destruction of earth begins. And then begins in a slightly different way. The sun, moon and stars are either darkened or turned black and blood-red. People all over the planet are getting killed. Again and again, by plague, famine, you name it. We left off after the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and an eagle warned that things up until this point have been tame compared to what comes next…

Chapter 9

Every time I think that this book can’t get weirder, it does. And in this chapter, things quickly change from weird to bizarre! It is definitely a trip down the rabbit hole.

The fifth angel blows his trumpet, and a plague of locusts invades the earth. These aren’t ordinary locusts, though. They looked like horses with human faces. They had hair like a woman’s, teeth like lion’s, they were wearing breastplates, they had scorpion tails, stinger and all. The locusts were allowed to torture people for five months.
The sixth angel blows his trumpet, and four more angels are released. One thing to note here: angels can be bad-asses! First the horsemen of the apocalypse, then the angels with the trumpets, and now angels who were imprisoned at the Euphrates river. These angels ride with an army of 200 million calvary troops, and are allowed to kill one-third of humanity. The horses in this attack breathed three plauges – fire, smoke and sulfur. These plagues killed another third of humanity.
The remaining third had not learned their lesson, and did not repent of their sins.

I have to say, that’s pretty fucking stupid. If I were to see fire and brimstone rain down from the skies, the oceans boil, the sun and moon blackened, a plague of mutated scorpion/locust hybrids wiping out a third of humanity and mounted army of 200 million come sweeping across the world, killing another third of the world’s population, you can rest assured that I’d be saying “okay, I was wrong. I’m sorry!”

Chapter 10

We’re going back to the bad-ass angels. The next has legs that were like columns of fire, and his face was like the sun. He speaks with the roar of a lion, and is big enough that he can set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on land. The angel speaks, and then seven thunders (???) cried out. God wouldn’t let John write down what the thunders said, however. Which I take to mean that John couldn’t figure out how thunder could talk, nor what it would say. But that’s just me being cynical.

The Seven Trumpets and the angel with a censer
The Seven Trumpets
Image via Wikipedia

The giant angel holds a scroll in his hand. God tells John to eat the scroll. John does, and finds that the scroll tastes like honey, but sours in his stomach. And look, I know that this is symbolic of something. The scroll stands for something – maybe the teachings of a false prophet? I am not completely blind to imagery. I don’t have a lot of patience for it, though. I am too literal a person to make these types of connections. My brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t like imagery, and this chapter is one great big batch of symbolism.


Chapter 11

John is told to measure the temple of God, but I’m not sure why because his measurements are never used. God does say that the Holy City (Jerusalem, I presume) will be trampled by representatives of all nations for 42 months. During this time, there will be two witnesses (who are each an olive tree and a lampstand) who will prophesy of things to come. These two witnesses will have the power to rain down plagues upon the land. In the end, they will do battle with the beast from the bottomless pit. Never fear, though: the Beast will conquer and kill the witnesses.

No, wait, what?

The peoples of the earth rejoice, since the two witnesses had been saying things like “you’re a sinner living in a land of evil!” Who wouldn’t want to be able to put a sock into a self-righteous party pooper? The witnesses aren’t buried, and lay displayed for three and a half days. At that point, God resurrected them and took them into heaven. Then there was a powerful earthquake, destroying 1/10th of the city (I’m surprised there’s that much still standing) and killing 7,000 people.

Getting back to the angels and the trumpets, the seventh angel finally steps up to bat and blows his trumpet. There was singing from heaven. The Elders fall to their knees to praise God. The heavenly temple of God is finally opened – oh, look, there’s the ark of the covenant!

Up next: The anti-Christ, the mark of the Beast, and the number of the Beast (sorta)

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse – Revelation 6-8 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassThere are a few theories tossed about regarding why, exactly Revelation is so bizarre. Some of my favorite theories are:

  • John was stoned out of his mind
  • John was extremely drunk, or had sobered up and was having the DTs
  • John was starving/dehydrated during his imprisonment and banishment, and his fevered brain pulled up a number of hallucinations.

Whatever the true source, Revelation is one hell of a trip.

Chapter 6

The seven seals are opened in a faster manner than I remembered. The first four seals are, of course, the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The rider of the white horse is given a bow and sent out to conquer. The rider of the red horse is given a sword and sent to take peace from the world. The rider of the black horse was given a scale, and sent out to go grocery shopping. Or something like that. He is instructed to take a quart of wheat for a denarius or three quarts of barley. But he was not supposed to damage olive oil nor wine. I guess this actually means he is to bring famine to the world. What an odd way to say that, though. The rider of the pale horse was Death, and Hades followed. They were given control over a quarter of the earth, to destroy with war, famine, and plagues.

Thr first horseman
Thr first horseman
Image via Wikipedia

There are more seals, though! When the fifth is open, the souls of everyone martyred in the lords name cry out for vengance. The martyrs were given robes and told to be patient for just a while longer, until the last martyr is killed and joins them. When the sixth seal is opened, destruction came. There was a terrible earthquake, the sun turned black, the moon turned red as blood. The stars fell out of the sky, and the sky itself vanished. People on the earth fled to caves and the mountains, hoping to escape the wrath of god.

Chapter 7

Finally, an angel declares that the four horsemen stop what they are doing. The servants of God – both Jew and Gentile – needed to be marked with a seal on their foreheads.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
The Four Riders …
Image via Wikipedia

Chapter 8

The seventh seal is opened. There is silence in heaven for a half hour, then seven angels step forward, each holding a trumpet. The angels take turns sounding their horns. The first angel blows his trumpet, and a mixture of hail, fire and blood were thrown on the earth. A third of the earth, trees and grass were burnt. The second angel blows his trumpet, and a volcano opens in the sea. A third of the sea is turned to blood, and one-third of all sea life is killed. The third angel blows his trumpet, and the star Wormood falls from heaven onto the earth, destroying a third of the rivers and springs. One-third of all water is turned into wormwood, sickening and killing those who drink from it.

One more angel for this chapter: the fourth angel blows his trumpet and a third of the sun, moon and stars were turned dark. (So ignore that bit up above where the sun turned black, the moon turned red and the stars fell out of the sky. Apparently, that didn’t really happen when the sixth seal was opened. Or it did, but John was so stoned that he forgot that detail.)

An eagle flies overhead, warning that things are going to be even more terrible for people of the earth when the other three angels blow their trumpets.

Up next: Angels can be bad-asses!

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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John takes a spiritwalk – Revelation 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassIn the last entry, Jesus was sending nasty letters to the seven churches of Asia. These letters contained everything from praise to condoning the murder of children. There were also some bits about stars and candlesticks and whatnot. I dunno, it isn’t my hallucination…

Chapter 3

Three more churches to go. Three more messages to read. I am starting to grow weary of this book, but I know far weirder things lie ahead.

The church in Sardis appears to be alive and healthy, but Jesus declares them dead. He wants them to work to strengthen those few things that remain in the church, to try and keep those from dying, too. There are a few Sardisians (Sardines?) who are worthy; those will walk beside the Lord and will remain in the Book of Life.

The chuch in Philadelphia is weak, but have continued in their belief of Christ. Jesus will reward them for this by making the disbelievers and slanderers bow at their feet. Their endurance in their faith has won them a reward: the Philadelphian church will not have to suffer the hour of testing that is to come for the rest of the world.

Finally, the church in Laodicea. This church takes a middle road, neither being on fire in faith for Jesus, nor being cold towards Christ and his teachings. Instead they are content with their own wealth and comfort. Jesus says he would rather they be cold than lukewarm, it is better to choose one side or the other. There’s no room to sit on the fence.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
The Four Riders …
Image via Wikipedia

Chapter 4

John’s hallucination kicks in strong. He says “instantly I was in the spirit” and of that I have no doubt. What that spirit was – gin? wine? opium? – I cannot say, but he was into something. John sees a throne in heaven that had someone sitting in it. There were seven flaming torches burning in front of the throne, symbolizing the seven spirits of God. (Seven?) There were also 24 lesser thrones arrayed around the main one, and in these thrones sat 24 elders who were wearing white robes and gold crowns.

Wait, it gets even better! The throne is set on a sea of clear glass or crystal. There were four living creatures surrounding the throne. These were beings that resembled a lion, an ox, a human and an eagle. Each of these creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes. These creatures constantly sang praises to Jesus Christ. The 24 elders join in with this song, also giving glory to God.

Chapter 5

At this point, it is left up to the reader to determine who is actually sitting in the throne. Sure, it is safe to assume that it is God. But that is never expressly stated. One could’ve also thought it was Jesus Christ who sat there. Until this chapter, that is.

The one sitting in the throne had a scroll in his right hand. The scroll was sealed with seven seals. An angel asked who was worthy to open the scroll. Throughout creation, none was deemed worthy. John cried bitterly at this thought. But one of the 24 elders told John to stop crying, and instead look at the throne. There was now a lamb standing in the middle of the throne. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, also representing the seven spirits of God. The lamb also looks like it had been slaughtered. The lamb takes the scroll, causing everyone in heaven and in all creation to sing of the worthiness of the lamb.

I had thought that this chapter disproved the theory of unitarianism – or at least made a credible argument against it. After all, how could Jesus be “the one sitting in the throne” if he approached the throne and climbed onto it? But I misread the opening verses. It does not say that the lamb approached the throne, nor had to climb on it, nor wasn’t already seated on it. It simply says that the lamb was standing on the throne. It is conceivably possible that the lamb was sitting on the throne all along, but then rose to stand in the middle of the throne.

Up next: The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Down the rabbit hole – Revelations 1-2 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassAh, the book of Revelations. The capstone of the New Testament. The weirdest book in the whole Bible, and one of the weirdest books ever written. Revelations makes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seem pedestrian. The end of the world, the four horsemen, something about swords and seals and locusts…

I have had a life-long fascination with Revelations. I remember back in my high school days ordering a set of three booklets offered on a late-night commercial by the Church of Latter Day Saints. The books were laid out to cover three major topics from this book. I don’t remember what those were, but we’ll know by the end of this book.

One note before we get started: John claims many verses being said by Jesus Christ. I don’t buy it. By the time Revelations is released, Jesus is long dead. John’s experience here conjures up visions of Christ speaking, but these seem to me to be figments of John’s imagination. I will treat anything attributed to Christ in this book as such.

Revelation of John

Chapter 1

John gets the administration out of the way right off the bat. John has been exiled in Patmos. Jesus has commanded this letter is for the 7 churches in Asia. The end times are nigh (don’t let Peter hear you say that!). Jesus has conquered death and rules over all other kings. He has made as a kingdom, and the kingdom awaits.

With the formalities, John moves on to the stranger, more esoteric and mystical parts of his story.

John is on the island one Sunday, minding his own business, when he hears a voice trumpet into his ear. John turns to see who is commanding him, and instead sees seven gold lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands was someone who looked like Jesus – he was wearing a robe and a golden belt. One thing I didn’t remember: Jesus had white hair, white as snow or wool. Jesus also had a two-edged sword sticking out of his mouth, and he held seven stars in his right hand.

I know what you’re thinking: what the hell is up with the sword? I told you this book is esoteric!

John does the wise thing and drops to his knees in fright. Jesus tells him to stop being afraid. Jesus lives forever, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.1 Jesus does try and make sense of some of the symbols for John: the lampstands are the seven churches, and the stars are messengers for the churches. That info is like a map legend; it’ll come in handy later, when we need it.

1Translation note: The KJV has this as “death and hell.” Every other translation I checked had “Death and Hades.” I don’t pretend to know what the difference is, I just find the demarkation between King James and everything else interesting.

Chapter 2

I am surprised at how quickly this book lunges down the rabbit hole. This chapter recounts the m

The White Rabbit in a hurry
Image via Wikipedia

essages Jesus wants to send to the lampstands. There’s a consistent structure to this chapter: first Jesus says something good about the church, then something negative, then gives a way to improve. It’s classic “Delivering Feedback” training material, with some very weird examples.

The people of Ephesus works hard for Jesus, does good deeds, and doesn’t tolerate evil. They have been able to root out false apostles. However, they have abandoned the love they once had to favor their discipline in following Christ’s words. The church needs to repent and get back to its original teachings.

On a side note: who are the Nicolaitans, and why does Christ (or John’s vision of Christ) hate them so?

The people of Smyrna live in poverty and suffer for their beliefs. Even worse, others in Smyrna who claim to be Jews say derogative things about Smyrnians. They fear what further sufferings they must endure, though. Rightfully so, for apparently they will suffer 10 days of intense suffering to test their faith. If they are faithful up to death, they will be rewarded.

Holy crap!

Satan apparently rules Pergamum, ‘cuz that’s where his throne is set. The people of the church there hold fast to their belief and love of Christ. A prominent Christian leader – Antipas – is killed in front of the Christians to try and dissuade them from their faiths. The people of the church in Pergamum continue to stand by their belief in Jesus. They are not blameless, however. Some of the membership hold to the teachings of the deceiver Balaam, some are Nicolaitans. The church must repent, and presumably sever ties with these people.

The people of Thyatira are faithful, and they continue to get stronger. But they also allow Jezebel to stay among them. Jesus apparently gave Jezebel the chance to repent, but she did not. So he has thrown Jezebel into a sick bed. Anyone who has sex with her will suffer greatly. Christ will strike all of her children dead.

Again: holy crap! And since when does Jesus condone killing children?

Up next: John takes a spiritwalk

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Three Rings for the elven-kings under the sky – 2 John, 3 John, Jude (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassHey, we made it! We are at the end of the Epistles. The last three books of the New Testament before the beast that is Revelations! This has been a long, tough road to haul. I truly wasn’t sure if I’d get through the letters or not. Paul’s batch of letters really did sap a lot of my enthusiasm out. I wondered a few times whether I shouldn’t just give up on this project. As I feared, the epistles don’t lend themselves to this kind of project. There’s no narrative form to them, and this whole premise works best when there’s a narrative to follow.

I’ll talk more about that in a later entry. For now, it is time to wrap up the letters in one quick batch. The last three letters are all one-chapter books.They are all far too short to deserve their own post, so I am going to review all three in today’s article. Strap in! But don’t worry, it’s a lot less painful than it sounds.

Second Epistle of John

I am sure that John has something to say in this letter, but I am distracted trying to figure out who the letter is to. John starts the letter addressing it to “the chosen [elect] lady” and finishes with “the children of your chosen [elect] sister…” Is the woman a church elder? What’s her relationship with John? For part of the chapter, I thought that she might be John’s wife. He asks that the lady and he continue to love each other. He states that he wants to meet with her face-to-face so their joy may be complete. Am I the only person reading this that interpreted this as a romantic relationship between John and this unnamed woman?

Of course, the closing line puts a bit of a damper on that. The children of your elect sister? Is she his aunt? Great aunt? Somehow related by blood?

I am so confused!!!

Third Epistle of John

Apparently, John prefers to meet with everyone face-to-face instead of via letter. I can understand that. There could be weeks between delivery of a letter and receipt of the response. John does give a pretty good account of what is happening. The letter is to one of John’s friends, Gaius. Gaius has the chance to emulate one of two other men. One is Diotrephes, who is covertly working against the apostles by refusing to provide room and board for them, and encouraging others in the church to also not lend aid. The other is Demetrius, who is a good man and presumably would help anyone that came along.

Wait… why is this book in the Bible? This book reminds me of Philemon. Both short, both pointless. Why were these two letters chosen for addition in the New Testament?

That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. Can someone tell me why these letters were included?

Epistle of Jude

Wow, Jude is pretty pissed here. And apparently rightly so. In 1 John, John wrote a list of criteria for churches to use to determine if a person was of god or not. The criteria was “1) does the person say they believe in Jesus, and 2) does the person profess to follow our faith?” Given that anyone could say “yeah sure” without really meaning it, it’s not a surprise that people would infiltrate the church for their own personal gains. Jude has found out about this, and writes a scathing letter to churches in the area.

In the letter, Jude calls the infiltrators ungodly, irrational animals, defilers, stains in the love feasts, fruitless trees. These people care only for themselves, commit “sexual sins” (Paul would be so proud!), they are boastful, and they take advantage of others who try to be nice to them. Jude commands that these people be removed from the church. However, the members of the church shouldn’t just turn their backs on outsiders. Instead they should help them, but be wary.


What an odd trio of stories. We started out with the mystery of the chosen woman, moved on to the boredom of the saints, and finish up with a pure, unadulterated rant. These letters couldn’t be more different. They are a jumble, all read together in a group. But they aren’t any clearer when read individually. They are too short to convey any real meaning. They are a peek into the early church, showing that many things were not all peaches and cream. Otherwise, I can’t think of a reason to want to read these letters.

Up next: The end is here!

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, The entire series is accessible via If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.