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Beasley-Murray on Revelation 3:15

No charge is laid against the Laodiceans of evils such as find mention in the other letters. This presumably relates to the nature of their faith. The Laodiceans do not reject the gospel of Christ, nor do they affirm it with joy. They maintain it without conviction, without enthusiasm, without reflection on its implications for life. Paul’s language about the world being crucified to him and he to the world (Gal. 6:14), or of his being dominated by the one aim of pressing forward to win God’s prize of life in his kingdom (Phil. 3:12f.) would have sounded to the Laodiceans like another religion, which indeed it was. So aliean to the spirit of Christ is the religious profession of the Laodiceans, John declares that the Lord would prefer them to be outright pagans. Would that you were cold or hot! To have enough religion to disguise one’s need of a living faith is to be in a worse condition than having no faith at all. An honest atheist is more acceptable to the Lord than a self-satisfied religious man, for such a man’s religion has blunted his conscience and blinded him to his need for repentance. The road to the cross has always been easier for the publican than for the Pharisee.

George R. Beasley-Murray, Revelation, The New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1974) 104–105.


The Devil’s in the Details

… unless he’s completely AWOL, that is. Duane Smith has all the abnormal info.

Bird: Christmas in the Apocalypse

Michael Bird on the true meaning of Christmas according to John the Seer:

What if we could do the nativity story directed by Quentin Tarantino? … What would the nativity look like if Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed it? I think the answer is Revelation 12? A woman in child birth is crying out in pain while a dragon is waiting to devour whatever is ejected from her birth canal. This is the nativity of John the Seer! No mangers, no shining stars over Bethlehem, a dragon waiting to kill and consume the Christ child. You see for John the Seer, Christmas (the birth of Jesus) is not simply a positive message of hope, good will, and joy to all people. Christmas is about God’s plan to destroy evil, vanquish the devil, and the triumph of God’s people against their chief adversary. Christmas is not consumer Christianity for the masses. It is an apocalyptic drama of God’s plan to repossess the world for himself through the seed of Eve, the child of a Galilean maiden, the fruit of Israel’s own womb. It’s the Woman vs. the Dragon. It is the Church vs. Satan – that is why Jesus was born. That is Christmas according to the book of Revelation.

Emails to a Student 3


You write:

2) Are other prophecy sections in the Bible ex eventu prophecy?

This is a subject of some debate. Many would point to the predictions in the Gospels of the impending destruction of the temple (see Lk 21:20ff.) as an example—assuming that this saying was fashioned by the early church and was not in fact something Jesus said. As you can imagine, there is always a danger of arguing in a circle with these kinds of assertions. If I say, “Jesus really said this and it proves something about his spiritual awareness,” then someone else can say, “Jesus could have never said this, and its inclusion in the Gospels proves they were written after AD 70.” This and Daniel 7–12 are probably the major examples some people would point to.

If you’re of a skeptical bent, then pretty much all of the prophecies of the Bible are ex eventu! If, like me, you don’t object on philosophical principles to the possibility of genuine divine intervention, then you have to decide about the date of any particular writing on the basis of other factors (how archaic is the language? what other cultural clues point to a later or an earlier date, etc.). But remember as well that most biblical prophecy had to do with anticipation of events unfolding in the short term, and came with a certain conditionality based on how the recipients of the prophecy responded. (We talked about Jer 18 in class; Jonah is also a good example.)

3) If Revelation is like the Apocalyptical literature in Daniel, how are we supposed to know how to read it? Can we really expect to have an end of times with an antichrist and tribulation like so many people interpret it? What do you think about the end of times?

If Revelation is an apocalypse then we know precisely how to read it! It is an exhortation for believers to stay true to Christ in spite of the forces of evil all around them that seemingly have the upper hand. To the contrary, God is in control of the situation and will one day put everything to rights. This is a consistent message of the New Testament, both in apocalyptic and non-apocalyptic texts, and I see no reason to dispute it. If you want to dig into the details of what this or that particular symbol in Revelation means in a first-century context, there are several decent commentaries you can turn to.

What we are not supposed to do with Revelation is try to play “pin the tail on the Antichrist” by trying to line up various Bible verses with tomorrow’s headlines. People have been doing that almost literally from the beginning, and so far they have all been wrong! Actually, John tells us we are to “keep” what is written in Revelation (Rev 1:3)—the same word Jesus used in the Great Commission when he said, “teaching them to keep (NRSV ‘obey’) everything that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). That sounds to me like John thought his book was filled with things Christians are supposed to do, not necessarily
things they were supposed to figure out.

What do I think about the end times? I affirm what is taught in the Nicene Creed, that Christ “is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall not end.” Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Once again, I hope this is helpful to you. God bless!

Dr. P.


The winning word in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee was “laodicean,” defined as “lukewarm or indifferent, particularly in matters of politics or religion.” Congratulations to eighth-grader Kavya Shivashankar for spelling it correctly. The word comes from a passage in the book of revelation describing the church in the ancient city of Laodicea:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation:

“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth….” (Rev 3:14-16)

One might assume that being “hot” is a positive and being “cold” is a negative, but the imagery need not refer in simplistic terms to the degree of one’s spiritual zeal. In fact, both “hot” and “cold” can be understood as commendable characteristics. As Mitchell Reddish explains,

The reference to cold, hot, and warm water would have had special significance for the people of Laodicea. Six miles away in Hierapolis, hot water springs bubbled up and cascaded over the cliffs, leaving behind snowy white deposits of calcium carbonate. These white cliffs were easily visible from Laodicea. The hot springs in Hierapolis (and elsewhere in the Lycus Valley) were valued for their medicinal benefits. At Colossae, on the other hand, was a stream that perennial funished clear, cold water that was excellent for human consumption. At Laodicea, however, the water supply was not good. The water that was available was barely drinkable, lukewarm, and apparently had an emetic quality. Like the water at Laodicea, the church is useless. (Revelation, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary [Smyth & Helwys, 2001] 81-82).

It seems God can and does use people and churches with different passions, different callings, and different gifts. But God has no use for passionless, spiritually indifferent or smugly self-sufficient Christians.