The Bible in a Year – 29 December

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

The last four sections of the Bible in a Year blog, covering the whole of the Book of Revelation, are being uploaded together (just because I was without Internet access this week).

29 December. Revelation chapters 6-11

The book of Revelation famously includes all kinds of fantastic scenes involving heaven and hell, angels, demons, imaginary beasts, plagues, natural disasters and divine punishments.  Few people would take it all literally, but among all these visions there is clearly a message to be found.  I think we need to look at those verses that refer to ordinary humans, for the overall aim of the revelation seems to be to encourage people to see God at work in otherwise unbearable circumstances.

Within today’s reading the first clear reference to the people of the earth is in 6:15-17, where “the kings of the earth, the princes, generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains”. In other words, the plagues affected all people equally, and neither wealth nor status could have protected people from them.   The other clear reference to life on earth is this : “The rest of mankind who were not killed by plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands: they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood … nor did they repent of their murders, magic arts, sexual immorality or thefts” (9:20-21).  That word “still” implies that the plagues, torture and other forms of suffering were intended as signs to persuade people to repent; signs that were ignored.

In these passages we see nothing different from the message of much of the Bible: that in God’s eyes, everyone is equal, whether powerful or slave, rich or poor; and that idolatry, theft, murder and sexual immorality (generally meaning adultery and promiscuity) are the sins that particularly incur God’s wrath.   These are among the sins condemned in the Ten Commandments, and therefore there is no new theology here.

The visions in Revelation might be taken either as referring to some future calamity that is yet to occur, or to events that happened nearer the writer’s time in the Roman empire, but either way, there is clearly intended to be a connection between these events and the lives of ordinary people.  High or low, rich or poor, the word of God comes to us equally: when sin becomes so rampant that God has to intervene, everyone suffers, but those who come out of the suffering with God’s favour are those who kept his commandments and suffered innocently. It is a message for all time.


The Bible in a Year – 1 March (Ash Wednesday)

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

1 March. Deuteronomy chapters 5-7

It may be no coincidence that the Bible reading plan I am following includes Deuteronomy 5 today, for it is a reprise (in slightly different words) of the Ten Commandments. Today is Ash Wednesday when Christians particularly focus on confessing sins in order that we may make a new start with God and make new resolutions to be more holy, whether that is by giving up something that takes us away from God, or doing more of something that brings us closer to him such as prayer, volunteering in the community or charitable giving.


Note what Moses says to the people – “Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today” (5:3). These commandments are for all people at all time, universal rules for living in harmony with our creator and the creation. Whereas the more detailed rules and regulations already given through the books of Leviticus and Numbers were, as Moses says in chapter 6, for this specific nation at the time they were settling that particular country, so not all of them will be applicable to us today.


Chapter 7 stresses again the importance of keeping the commandments. Why?  “God maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays in their own person those who reject him.” (7:9-10)  The results of sin can be seen in someone’s own life very quickly, but the fruits of good works may not be evident until future generations.  That’s a lesson within families as intended – a bad parent creates a dysfunctional family easily, but good parenting only really shows itself as one generation succeeds another.  But it’s also true when it comes to something like tackling climate change (something that many Christian charities now ask us to think about in Lent as well) – cutting my energy use now will not make much difference to me in my lifetime, but it’s a small contribution to preventing changes that will massively impact billions of people in the future.