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Revelation Study

Bible Study of General Epistles & Revelation

General epistles are are termed "general" because for the most part their intended audience seems to be Christians in general rather than addressed to individual persons or congregations as is the case with the Pauline epistles. The General Epistles set the final stage for God completeing the mystery that he formulated before the world was created (1 Cor 2:7-8).

When we started this study back in Genesis I cautioned you to the fact that your school of theology greatly effects your Bible interpretation. For example, many Biblical and Covenant theologians see Paul's writing to be in agreement with the progressive revelation of God in a sequential way from Genesis to Revelation, Dispensationalist view it very differently.

The Dispensationalists view that following Israel's rejection of the kingdom proclaimed by Peter, God transitions from a dispensation of Law to Grace at the calling of Paul. Dispensationalists have difficulty dealing with the General Epistles because these epistles seem to conflict what they consider Paul's teaching of grace and view the general epistles not for the gentile church, but directed to the Jews. Therefore the dispensationalist believe that the Old Testament is for the Jew and the General Epistles are for the Jewish Christians and Paul's Epistles are for the gentile Christian.

However most Biblical theologians and Covenant theologians view that all of scripture is consistent and relevant to the believer and that Paul was speaking of all of God's Word when he said to Timothy, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus".

"All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" ( 2 Tim 3:15-17). This also seems to be in agreement with both James who states "faith without works is dead" and Paul's statement,"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" ( Eph 2:8-10).

Our goal should be to know and understand the entire Bible in light of the whole counsel of God including Old Testament, Gospels, Paul's and the General Epistles. Many pastors who focus of what they see as a dispensation of grace from Paul's epistles unfortunately neglect or ignore the rest of the Bible.

Most dispensationalist believe that only certain portions of scripture apply to the church and other parts to the Jews, therefore to many the Old Testament is not relevant. However we need to remember that Jesus consistently referred to the Old Testament in His teaching and that our understanding and application of the general epistles and book of Revelation must be built on all of God's Word and not just a portion.

As we complete our study of the Bible, the questions we must answer are is God unchanging and is all of the Word of God for us today or only a portion. If we believe only a portion then have we not believed Satan's lie when he says did God really say and have we not also become God ourselves by deciding which portion applies to us and which portion applies to the Jews?

The theme of the epistle of James seems to be giving an overview to the basic concepts of Christianity. It is significant that there are only two short references to Christ (1:1 and 2:1) and if those two references were removed from the text, the whole epistle could easily have been called a simple Jewish exposition on Old Testament values and theology. This Old Testament theme in James presents no problem if one understands that James and the general Epistles were intended simply to be a Christian introduction of a general nature to Spiritual Israel (the church).

James was speaking to Jewish Christians who were just beginning to learn what the first principles of Christianity really were. It was intended to provide some preliminary teachings of Christianity without involving the readers in major doctrinal issues. The other epistles following James were meant to set forth a little more advanced teaching of what the Gospel of Christ entailed, but still, their teachings remain quite general and non-specific.

The seven epistles (starting with James) are positioned so as to present in a progressive manner the doctrines of Christianity. Jude focuses in on a specific problem that was facing the Christian community when he wrote, "that you should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). This is consistent with Paul's plea to "work our salvation with fear and trembling" and with Hebrews, which state to "lay aside all sins that encumber us and run the race with our eyes focused on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith".

God's Word is laid out in a progressive manor. Therefore we need to have a solid understanding of God's Word from Genesis to Revelation in order to be ready for His coming as outlined in the book of Revelation. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last and the Beginning and the End. And as Romans states, "All things were created by Him, through him and far Him."

Jesus tells us in Luke 24: 25-27, "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.""

This is consistent with Paul's statement "I preach nothing but Jesus and Him crucified."" This is stated in a different way by a combination of Paul in Corinthians and John in Revelation when they state, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known [it], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2:7-8) and John in Rev 10:7 that completes this revelation when it states "But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets".

The Christian Pentateuch (the Gospels and Acts) could be reckoned the basic Elementary School for Christian development, the fourteen epistles of Paul would be the high School, then the seven General Epistles would be the College, and, to conclude the illustration, it would mean that the Book of Revelation, which occurs last of all in the manuscripts, would be the Post-Graduate Studies.

The book of Revelation completes God's revelation of Jesus Christ and His role in the Eternal Covenant relationship between God and mankind. Can we pray today the prayer of John, "Come Lord Jesus, Amen".