Archives For Revelation

RevelationIn this post, I want to answer three questions:

  1. How do we know all of the books in our Bibles belong?
  2. How do we know we are not missing any books from our Bibles?
  3. How do we know God doesn’t want to add to our Bibles?

 

How Do We Know All of the Books in Our Bibles Belong?

Very simply, I would appeal to the information in the last post as evidence that all of the books in our Bibles actually belong there. When the time came to write down a complete list of New Testament books, God’s people looked at which books carried the authority of God and were being accepted and used by the church in its life and worship on the same level that they used the Old Testament Scripture. As I said in the last post, there are good historical reasons to see that the right books were chosen. And add to that the reality that God is faithful to his people and would not have allowed an erroneous book to have slipped into the Bible that his people would be trusting as his word.

 

How Do We Know We Are Not Missing Any Books from Our Bibles?

Once again, I would argue that because God is faithful to his people, he would not have spoken words that were essential for our life and growth and then allowed those words to be lost. This confidence in the faithfulness of God is backed up by historical research. While some people would like to add other books (the Apocrypha, the Gnostic Gospels, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and others have all been candidates), these books are either known to be inauthentic or they teach doctrines that contradict the teaching of the biblical books. Though there was some debate over the canonicity of some of these books, the early church ultimately decided against them for strong reasons.

Da Vinci CodeIn recent years, some of the Gnostic Gospels have gotten a lot of press. For example, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (keep in mind that this is a work of fiction) explains that The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene show clear evidence that Jesus was married and claims that these books were only excluded from the New Testament because of the bias of manipulative church leaders.

In reality, the Gnostic Gospels do not compare to the New Testament writings whatsoever, not least in terms of credibility. Most of these gospels were written much later than the accounts they record. It is possible that The Gospel of Thomas was written in the first century, but this is extremely unlikely. The Gnostic texts were actually written in the second and third centuries, and they reinterpret the life of Jesus through the lens of a worldview that does not fit the four biblical gospels.

If you want assurance that books like the Gnostic Gospels don’t belong in our Bibles, I’d suggest reading The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. I know I’m biased, but I think you’ll immediately see a qualitative difference between these writings and the biblical writings. I am convinced that what makes that difference is the inspiration and authority of God.

Ultimately, the books in our Bible are completely unique, and no other ancient documents measure up.

 

How Do We Know God Doesn’t Want to Add to Our Bibles?

The Bible begins with the beginning and ends with the end. The Old Testament records how God set his plan of redemption into motion, and it ends with a cliff-hanger. God created humanity, humanity failed, God made a promise to redeem the world, God gave the mission to Israel, and Israel failed. We are left with the question: how will God’s plan of redemption be accomplished?

The New Testament answers that question by recording both the climax of that plan and its consummation at the end of all things. God’s word to us in the New Testament consists of the word that he has spoken in Christ in the last days (Heb. 1:1-2). Since this authoritative word about Christ has come to us in the New Testament, and since the book of Revelation takes us right up to eternity future, what more do we need? Revelation then ends with a warning to not add to the words of that prophecy (22:18). We should not expect God to change or add to this final revelation in the New Testament.

It simply does not work for God to have spoken a definitive word “in these last days” (Heb. 1:1-2), and then for him to later add a few follow ups that contradict what he has already said. (Mormons believe that Jesus later added The Book of Mormon, The Doctrines and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. They will deny this, but each of these contradict the Bible and must therefore be rejected.)

 

I will conclude this series tomorrow by adding a final thought on how exactly we come to trust the validity of Scripture. And just as a hint, I think it goes far beyond the solid historical evidence we possess.

Why do a series of blog posts on sin? So I can talk about the end of the story! Think about it. We spend every moment of our lives in a cursed world. The effects of sin are everywhere, from the pain that haunts us to the pollution in the air to the brokenness in our relationships. Every tear we shed, every unsatisfied longing we feel, every regret we entertain—sin surrounds us, threatens us, takes every opportunity to ruin that which God created to be good.

The world is not now as it is supposed to be. In the first pages of the Bible, we see a picture of our world. The world of Genesis 1-2 looks familiar, yet there’s something distorted about it—distorted in a good way! It’s a “good” version of our world. It’s difficult to read without a sense of loss and a longing for a place we’ve never visited but recognize as our true home.

“The Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan Van Eyck (1432)

The good news is that at the greatest possible cost to Himself, God has defeated sin through Jesus Christ! We experience substantial healing now, and receive the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to conquer sin in our lives and enables us to please God (see Rom. 8). Through the redemption that Jesus offers, we are called into the battle against sin and evil that God has been fighting from the very beginning. This battle is deadly serious, and even with God’s enabling power we will only just overcome in the end.

But there will come a day when we will step into eternity. The time is coming when our experience with the sin-stained world will come to an end and we will find the home we have always longed for in God’s new creation. John was given a vision of the end of the story, and what he saw resonates deeply in the heart of every Christian. He saw a picture of God’s new heavens and new earth. This new creation evokes the good creation of Genesis 1-2, yet things appear to be even more glorious in the end. When John sees the new creation, he records some of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture:

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:3-5)

Think of every tear you’ve ever cried, and picture God Himself wiping those tears away, promising that you will never shed another tear. Think of all the ways that death has affected your life—from stories on the news, to family members passing away, to the fear of death that has hung over you like a dark cloud—and hear God’s declaration that death shall be no more. Think about all the pain you’ve experienced, whether personally or vicariously through those you care about. There will be no more pain, no more mourning, no more crying. The former things will pass away. Everything will be made new.

Here is our glorious future. And the part that should sustain us more than any other is that “the dwelling place of God is with man.” He will dwell with us, and we will be His people, and God Himself will be with us as our God.

The story of sin has an amazing ending. In the beginning, God. Sin has affected much in the middle, but even then God’s plan of redemption has brought healing and victory in unbelievable ways. And then in the future, God. The world is not the way it’s supposed to be. But that day is coming.