Special Feature: A Day with Pastor Thomas Penney: Dissecting & Understanding the Book of Revel
Many academics and theologians showed little interest in the book of Revelation until recently. Of all the 66 equally enlightening and important books of the Bible, the book of Revelation is controversial and confusing, even to the erudite and scholarly. But why the interest in the last book? Because the book of Revelation gets us talking about the future, in addition to justice, theodicy (why is there evil if the world is good), evangelism, prayer, and worship.
Before we attempt to understand this book, we must clearly remember that it is a book of holy scripture— the will and voice of the liberating life-giving Lord. Thomas Penney, in his book, Revelation, dissected the book to give us a clearer picture and to guide us on how we interpret the text. The book should be seen as a companion to the Holy Scripture; a must have in every home. Thomas Penney's Revelation is a well-presented, well-researched work that guides the readers how to take on the book of Revelation.
" Revelation - Worthy Art Thou, Our Lord, and God, To Receive Glory and Honor and Power " is a verse by verse exposition that also considers the literary context of John's vision. How often have Bible study leaders or pastors avoided teaching or preaching from Revelation because it seemed too mysterious and daunting? This commentary intends to aid teachers and preachers. It will also benefit the advanced layperson. Following each passage or chapter, there is a discussion of different views of interpretation.
Thomas H Penney has pastored several churches, been an interim pastor, led midweek services, supply preached, and taught numerous Bible studies. He has also worked for state agencies helping people in poverty. He graduated from Howard Payne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and has a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
An excerpt from the book;
The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. ”
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and John says that something which appeared like a burning mountain was cast into the sea; he did not say it was a mountain. This verse in Revelation alludes to Jeremiah who addresses Babylon in 51:24, then in verse 25 continues, “‘Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, says the Lord, which destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burnt mountain.’” The “destroying mountain” may refer to the great ziggurat in the city of Babylon; that it was made a “burnt mountain” indicated it had been razed. In the Old Testament, mountains symbolized kingdoms because mountains provided strong natural protection for a capital city to defend itself from invaders. Later in Revelation, Babylon will be mentioned. For the Apostle John in the first century, Rome has replaced ancient Babylon. As Babylon has conquered the southern kingdom, destroyed Jerusalem, and deported the Jews from their homeland, Rome is persecuting Christians. Both have oppressed God’s people. The burning mountain thrown into the sea represents God’s judgment upon an evil and oppressive kingdom.
The burning mountain could be a symbol of judgment for Rome. The Roman Empire is thrown into the sea, another symbol of judgment, because Rome depended on the Mediterranean Sea lanes and its commercial traffic to sustain the empire. In a sense, Rome is seen polluting the waters it depended upon for its existence. A second possibility could be this is a reference to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The destructive force of this volcano destroyed the city of Pompeii and shipping in the Gulf of Naples. In John’s vision, he could have seen a huge mass of lava from the volcano descending into the water. A third consideration is that John may have seen a meteorite crashing into the sea.
The first three trumpet judgments have fire in common. The first judgment contained hail and fire, mixed with blood. The second trumpet judgment revealed the burning mountain. The third tells of a great star falling, blazing like a torch (8:10–11).
The background to this verse comes from Exodus 7:20 & 21: Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded; in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, he lifted up the rod and struck the water that was in the Nile, and all the water that was in the Nile turned to blood. And the fish in the Nile died; and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
In Exodus, all the fish in the Nile River died. In Revelation, a third of all that lived in the sea dies. In both accounts, the water turns to blood. Roman historians in the first century recorded how the lava from the volcano at Santorini caused the sea to turn red. Since most people around the Mediterranean world ate a substantial amount of fish in their diet, they would have understood the impact of water turning red. Like the first trumpet judgment, this may be a reference to famine. But the judgment is limited in John’s Apocalypse in that it offers the opportunity to repent.
Preterists (those who seek to understand Revelation in the context of the first century) accept the image of a mountain representing either a kingdom or government. The burning mountain in verse 8 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea after the war with Rome during the years AD 66-70. Mount Zion symbolized the Jewish nation, and Jerusalem was burnt by the Romans. One consequence of the war is that Jews were spread throughout the Gentile world. In the Old Testament, the sea is sometimes used to represent Gentile nations. During the war, Josephus recounted a naval battle on the Sea of Galilee which the Romans won decisively with the result that so many Jews were killed the water turned red with their blood. Other preterists note the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which could provide the background in these verses.
Historicists (those who see Revelation as an outline of church history) point out that while Rome was the Mediterranean power it controlled the sea. The second trumpet represents the Vandals who destroyed Roman commercial shipping and later occupied Rome itself.
Futurists (interpreters who look at Revelation as prophecies for the future) are divided as to whether these verses are metaphorical, literal, or contain elements of both. The burning mountain represents the revived Roman Empire that takes over Gentile nations symbolized by the sea. Others view the burning mountain crashing into the sea as a meteor or an H-bomb directed at navies. Others suggest that the details may not be understood but John clearly describes the effects of this judgment.
Cyclists (those who look for patterns in history that are repeated through the centuries) understand these verses as describing any political power being brought down as Babylon was.83 John’s words are to be understood as inspired by the Old Testament and not to be considered as literal. What is described is God’s judgment upon all who disobey His will which He inflicts upon the seas and commerce.
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