Thunker’s Weblog


Revelation 21-22 (Part 4)
September 30, 2016, 3:49 pm
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Robert Wheadon-126x150

This is a review of lecture four in the book, “Apocalypse-Reading Revelation 21-22.”  This lecture was prepared by Shon D. Hopkin, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU.  His lecture is entitled, “Seeing Eye to Eye: Nephi’s and John’s Intertwining Visions of the Tree of Life.”

The premise of Dr. Hopkin’s paper is one that permeates many of the other articles in this volume.  The idea is of the connected nature of scripture and the idea of how scripture from different places and times can support the tenets of the gospel, the divinity of the Savior, and God’s plan for each of us.

In particular, Dr. Hopkin looks at the symbolism and commonalities between John’s vision in the New Testament and Nephi’s vision in the Book of Mormon.  These two visionary experiences differ in place and time, and yet compliment each other and support the divine message of God’s love for his children.

Let’s begin with Nephi’s vision.  In 1 Nephi 11-14, Nephi is shown the desire of his heart, the vision that has father, Lehi, experienced.  Nephi’s recounting of his experience is much more detailed than the Lehi’s account and offers readers explanations and clarifications of the symbols used in the vision.  The first commonality between Nephi and John’s revelation lies in the presence of an angelic guide.  From the beginning of John’s experience we read,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John,” (John 1:1).

In 1 Nephi 11, Nephi’s vision is initially led by the Spirit of the Lord.  Then in 1 Nephi 11:14, we read, “And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?”

The presence of an angelic guide coincides with other scriptural visionary experiences.  If one thinks of Isaiah, Peter, King Benjamin or Alma the Younger, all of these prophetic figures experienced visions with the presence of an angelic guide.  Of note, these celestial guides tend to lead the receiver of the vision by asking questions, rather than just imparting information.  For example, the angel in 1 Nephi repeatedly asks Nephi, “What do you see?”  Only after Nephi responds does the angel share the meaning of the vision.

Another commonality with the visions of John and Nephi is the designation of the twelve apostles.  In John’s vision, the number 12 is not limited to the apostles.   The numerical imagery extends to the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles and with twelve angels that guard the gates of the New Jerusalem.

In Revelation 21:12-14 we read:

“12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

 Another reference to the number twelve is the  144,000 high priests, as mentioned in Revelation 7, as multiples of twelve from the twelve tribes.

An additional commonality is the usage of the the term the Lamb.  In the New Testament, John is the only scriptural writer to use the term to connote the Savior.  Nephi, in his writings, uses the term multiple times as he describes his vision.

Dr. Hopkin points out several other shared symbols between John’s and Nephi’s visions.  These consist of heavenly versus earthly cities, rivers of water, trees of life and straight paths/ways to God’s love.

Finally, I want to share what I believe is the most important link between the vision of John and the vision of Nephi.  Each prophet was tasked with writing certain aspects of what they were shown.  John’s vision concentrates on pre-Millennial and Millennial events in the life of earth.  He writes of the eventual overthrow of evil and Satan by God and the presentation of the New Jerusalem.

Nephi’s vision precedes John’s vision and Nephi shares his experience right up to the point where John’s begins.  Nephi is commanded by his angelic companion that he is not to write more of what he saw.  He is told that John will take up the vision and write the portion John has been assigned.  In 1 Nephi 14:18-28 we read:

18 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me,saying: Look!

 19 And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.

 20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

 21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.

 22 And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.

 23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

 24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.

 25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

 26 And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord,unto the house of Israel.

 27 And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.

 28 And behold, I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard;wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me;and I have written but a small part of the things which saw.”

And so, to get a really good read of God’s message on the last days, let’s read 1 Nephi 10-14 and then the book of Revelation.  The two visions go hand in hand and offer a more complete picture of God’s last days message to the world.

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Revelation 21-22 (Part 3)

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Here we go with the third installment of my review of, “Apocalypse-Reading Revelation 21-22.”

The third lecture is by Brandie Siegfried and is entitled, “The Fruit of Eden’s Tree: The Bride, the Book, and the Water of Life in Revelation.”  Brandie Siegfried is an associate professor of English at BYU, specializing in sixteenth and seventeenth century literature.  Her area of expertise shines through in this lecture.  The reader immediately is immersed in Dr. Siegfried’s love of the English language.

Her lecture takes a rather different approach than other biblical scholars.  Modern biblical scholarship tends to shy away from the King James Version (KJV) in preference to more modern translations, such as the New International Version (NIV), or the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).  Dr. Siegfried’s paper examines the beauty of the language in Revelation 21-22 as found in the King James Version.

The first point made relates to the imagery of the tree of life found in Revelation 22.  When the KJV was produced in 1611, the Reformation was in full swing.  One of the images popular in this time period was the joining of the tree of life with the tree of knowledge.  The idea of obtaining Godly knowledge through the publication of the bible for all to read would bring people to the tree of life.

Dr. Siegfried then makes an interesting point about the genealogies found in both the Old and the New Testaments.  The genealogies, of course, legitimize the royal line of David and the royal lineage of the Savior back through the line of King David and back to Adam.  Yet Dr. Siegfried makes the point that the genealogies also serve as a reminder that God has been mindful of His children here on the earth from the beginning.  The genealogies show that God has placed prophets, patriarchs and kings on earth with the unified purpose of bringing the Savior to mortality and the Atonement to actuality.

Dr. Siegfried introduces her second point with a quote from a seventeenth century Englishman, Thomas Browne.  He said, “There is a piece of Divinity in us, something that was before the elements, and owes no homage unto the sun.  Nature tells me I am the image of God, as well as scripture: he that understands not thus much, hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the alphabet of man,”(Keynes,  Sir Thomas Browne, 83.)

Each of us is born with a spirit springing from the Eternal.  Our journey in this life is comprised partly of proving, trying and expanding our souls in molding our natures to be like Christ’s nature.  Much as a child must learn his or her first letters in the quest for literacy, each of us takes tottering steps as we try to find and stay on the straight and narrow path, take hold of the iron rod and reach the tree of life.

Thirdly, Dr. Siegfried makes a wonderful comparison between biblical translation, personal scriptural interpretation and the midrash.  If you have ever read the midrash or portions of it, you realize that the midrash consists of collected rabbinical interpretations of the Old Testament.  Rabbinical tradition is solidly set on a foundation of Talmudic interpretation; of explaining the Law of Moses in excruciating detail.

In the same way, biblical translators have set forth their own interpretations of doctrine through their translations.  Translations are done in the context of the time in which they are made.  Bias is regularly construed through a particular religious viewpoint in translations, as well.

The fourth point in the lecture focuses on the roots of three words used in the chapters of Revelation being discussed.  The words behold, come, and offspring, are examined at a deeper level.  Behold, in our modern usage brings to mind the act of looking or seeing something or someone.  In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, behold, had a different meaning.  In Old English the word derives from bihaldan.  The bi connotes to examine something thoroughly or completely.  Haldan suggests the act of grasping, as by the hand.  So, when the KJV translators chose behold in Revelation 21:3-5, they are trying to convey an action deeper than mere looking.  When the Savior says, “Behold, I make all things new,” (Revelation 21:5) he is not merely  commanding us to look at the rejuvenating and restoring of the earth and righteousness or at the temple that has come down from heaven.  He is commanding us to to internalize his words, his teachings and his expression of eternal charity for his children.

The word come also possesses a deeper meaning than our modern usage incorporates.  We use the word currently to invite someone to approach or draw closer.  An older definition of the word added the meaning of acting with vitality, to arrive swiftly, full of life and vitality.  So, in Revelation 22:7, the Savior says, “Behold, I come quickly.”  An added meaning to this phrase would now include the ideas of actively pursuing the life of a disciple of Christ and embracing life as one of His own.

Offspring is an interesting word choice by the KJV translators.  They could have chosen child, heir, descendant, or something along those lines of definition.  Instead, they chose offspring, with its related nuances to a root and a branch growing up from the root.  In Revelation 22:1 we read, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”  The idea of pure water emanating from the throne of God supports the idea of the water nourishing the offspring of God, those who actively seek to spring up and follow the flow of water to the tree of life.

The final point in the lecture is the comparison between the tree of life in the garden of Eden and the  tree of life in the New Jerusalem.  Both trees are mentioned in referenced acts of celestial creative acts.  The tree of life in the garden of Eden is an initial symbol of the plan of salvation: God setting out His desire to have His children return to Him.  The tree of life in Revelation demonstrates that the love of our Heavenly Father is eternal and for all His children who actively desire to return to Him.



Revelation 21-22 (Part 2)

Robert Wheadon-126x150

I’m continuing with my review of the volume, “Apocalypse-Reading Revelation 21-22,” published this year by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.  This is part two of a six-part review covering the six lectures contained in the book.

The second lecture is by the book’s editor, Julie M. Smith.  It is entitled, “The Beginning and the End: Echoes of Genesis 1-3 in Revelation 21-22.”

Smith works her lecture around an article by the evangelical scholar, Gregory K. Beale.  Beale wrote a piece in 2005, “Eden, the Temple, and the Church’s Mission in the New Creation,” Journal of the Evangelical Tehological Society 48/1 (March 2005): 5-31.

In Beale’s article, he outlines nine areas of comparison between the the Creation account found in Genesis 1-3 and the New Jerusalem temple imagery in Revelation 21-22.  Julie Smith expands on Beale’s article, including LDS perspectives and scripture, especially Book of Mormon imagery.  The argument is made that Eden’s Garden and the New Jerusalem both meet qualifications identifying a temple is present.  I am only going to highlight a few of the areas of interest.

So, let’s begin:

God’s Presence

The first item to be considered when examining the garden of Eden as a temple is demonstrated  in both Genesis and the New Jerusalem in Revelation.  The common tie is God’s presence is evidenced in both accounts.  In Genesis 3:8, we read, “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”  The garden of Eden was a place where God could come.  In Revelation 21:3, we read, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”

Both of these accounts coincide with Israel’s temple rites, where once a year, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies.  In Exodus 25:22, God said, “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”

We see the common thread of God’s presence in all three accounts, making an excellent case for the garden of Eden to be considered a temple, as well.

Priesthood

The second evidence presented is that of common priesthood philology.  In Hebrew, the words describing Adam’s duties in the garden are abad and shamar, which correspond to, “dress,” and “keep,” (Genesis 2:15.)  The same hebrew word, shamar, is used to describe the duties of the cherubim to guard  and keep the tree of life after the Fall, (see Genesis 3:24 – “and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”)

In Revelation 21:12, we read how twelve angels will guard the city gates of the New Jerusalem, ensuring that only the righteous will enter.  In the same spirit as the cherubim guarding the Edenic tree of life and the Eden temple space, angels will guard the temple space of the New Jerusalem.

Tree of Life

Next up are the examples concerning the tree of life.  This is where we arrive at Book of Mormon entries into the lecture.  Of course, the biblical examples are easy to pick out.  We know of the tree of life in the garden of Eden.  The existence of the tree of life in the garden ties the garden/temple idea neatly in with the Revelation 22:2, “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life…”  So, there is at least one tree of life present at the temple of the New Jerusalem.

The vision that both Lehi and Nephi receive depict what they clearly identify as the tree of life.  Nephi’s telling of his vision includes the definition of the tree of life:  it is the love of God, (1 Nephi 11:1-22.)  To carry that definition further, logic leads one to say that when the tree of life is represented, a holy temple space is present, and the presence of the temple is a physical manifestation of God’s love for his children here on earth.

And that point, I believe, is really one of the main points of the gospel: God’s evidences of His love for us, His children.  He has returned temples to the earth, as He did anciently, and as He will again with the New Jerusalem.