Friday, April 28, 2017


I recently received two advance copies of scholarly papers written by my friend Dr. Scott Bartchy.

Having already written about one of them earlier - Our Cultural Blind Spots -  I wanted to make sure to share what was in the second paper with you.

This paper deals with Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 4:21 where he says:

“What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”

The context of the statement is that Paul’s authority among the Corinthian Christians was being challenged, and Paul certainly felt that his grip on these people was slipping away as some of them began to follow other teachers.

Bartchy’s interest here is in the phrase “Am I to come to you with a stick..?”

Why? Because he’s curious what sort of “stick” Paul may have had when it came to exercising authority over the ekklesia.

As he points out, in a former life Paul [Saul] certainly knew what it was to carry the stick. He was once empowered by the Jewish authorities to knock down doors, arrest men and women, and even threaten them with death for blasphemy [as we see with the stoning of Stephen where he was an eye-witness to that event].

So, we know that Paul was well-acquainted with the power of a stick to motivate people by fear and even by harsh rebuke. However, Paul has gone to great lengths to distance himself from that former frame of mind, even to the changing of his own name, as an indication of just how completely he has become a new person in Christ.

Bartchy quotes from Kathy Ehrensperger’s book, “Paul and the Dynamics of Power” to support his contention that Paul did not seek to maintain power over his disciples, pointing out that Paul “only has authority in relation to them in as much as he is building them up.”

Ehrensperger also argues [per Bartchy] that Paul “did not aim or claim at establishing a position of domination or control,” and notes that Paul “repeatedly left behind the house churches he had founded. While later keeping in touch with many of them through letters and colleagues, he pushed on to the West.” (See Romans 15:14-29) and separated himself from his converts in the hope of their continuing empowerment by God’s Spirit in Christ.” [pg. 199]

Bartchy continues: “What hold do we imagine that Paul had on his converts, such that his disapproval, however expressed, could make a serious difference in their lives? What price could he make any of his converts pay for not obeying him? What do we suppose Paul could have done, if indeed he had come to the Corinthian covnerts ‘with a stick’”

This is the focus of the paper, and a fascinating question to ask. One that I have hardly heard anyone ever pose before, to be honest.

Later, in the second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul even warns them that he will “not be lenient” when he comes to them again (2 Cor. 13:1-4) and that he hopes he “will not have to be severe in using the authority” that the Lord has given him (v. 10).

But, Bartchy wonders, what exactly did Paul have in mind here? What would they have expected this to mean? Would Paul shout at them, or single people out to be banished, or would he just come to them with a bad attitude?

Well, we do see that Paul made a point to say that he did not want to shame anyone, (see 1 Cor. 4:14), so that removes a few options from our list, but what did Paul mean to suggest?

Bartchy notes: “Whatever means of punishment Paul thought to use, would he, by his own example, have been inadvertently hindering the transformation of his converts by the Spirit? If he came to them with a stick, even in view of the harshness and thrashings for which [teachers] could be known…would not such a negative example of interpersonal relationships have placed an unintended but significant barrier between his converts and his own goal of changing both their convictions and their behavior?”

What became apparent to me as I considered Bartchy’s questions was that Paul’s authority over these Christians in Corinth was quite obviously very loose. In other words, the very fact that the Corinthian Christians challenged Paul’s authority over them testifies to their freedom. They did not feel the “wrath of Paul” might come down on them for listening to other teachers. In fact, Paul’s “stickless” authority over them is, in itself, partially why they could entertain other ideas without feeling the need to run everything by Paul first.

Bartchy correctly notes that, when it comes to authority in the new testament, “it does not exist until it is granted by those who willingly give that power over them [to others]. While power can coerce, authority results from gained assent.”

My friend Jon Zens has phrased it as: “Authority is something you grant, not something you demand.”

So, the authority that Paul has is only that which has been granted to him by the people in the Body of Christ. In the beginning, they freely granted Paul authority to teach and to care for their spiritual health. Now, for some reason or the other, Paul feels that this authority may have been revoked, or perhaps even stolen, by other teachers.

Bartchy’s main thesis is that Paul would not likely come to them “with a stick” because to do so might play into their expectations of authority [as they might have been used to in their own previous experiences with so-called “leaders”]. Instead, Bartchy argues, Paul would have taken another approach – a “cruciform” authority.

As he notes: “Paul must have known that the key to his success in this regard was his own Christ-like, Spirit-filled behavior. As one who had been raised according to the dominant values and social codes in ancient Mediterranean culture, Paul must also have known that he had undertaken a super-human task as he sought to lead the Corinthians into a less arrogant, less competitive, less envy-filled way of acting.”

Just before the “stick” reference, Bartchy notes that Paul said: “When reviled, we bless. When persecuted, we endure. When slandered, we speak kindly.” [1 Cor. 4:12-13]

“Such counterintuitive responses make clear that Paul himself as a Christ-follower had been undergoing a very serious, Spirit-led re-socialization process, in sharp contrast to the values by which his parents and other significant adults had raised him.”

Then? Paul urges his converts to follow his own example and to imitate his Christ-like character. [See 1 Cor. 11:1]

So, why even mention the possibility of coming to them with a stick at all?

Bartchy suggests that Paul did this “…to stress in sharp contrast the alternative values that he had consistently lived by when he was among them…Was he assuming that some of them would really have preferred him to act ‘the old-fashioned way’ and thus ironically reminding them that he really did not have a stick anymore?”

Paul has already stressed his lack of power by saying: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak but you are strong. You are held in honor but we are in disrepute.” [1 Cor. 4:10]

Bartchy says: “Paul’s stress in this passage is on his refusal to retaliate and use power for himself is unambiguously the behavioral context in which Paul urges his converts to imitate him…’not seeking his own advantage but that of many’.”

Interestingly, Paul does not play the “Spiritual Father” card. We know that he easily could have, but he does not.

In 1 Cor. 4:15 Paul reminds them that “they did not have many fathers [pateras]” in Christ and that “indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”

Yet, the word often rendered as “Father” in our English translations betrays the reality of what Paul is saying here. He does not use the term “father” (Pater) in this sentence. Rather, what Paul wrote was “in Christ Jesus through the gospel I begot you” (egennesa).

By using this term, Paul carefully avoids claiming the title of “Father” (Pater) for himself. He also avoids the use in the letter to Philemon but again used the term “egennesa” instead to suggest that Paul wanted only to emphasize the nurturing caretaker side rather than the authoritative position of dominance typically associated with the term “Pater”.

If Paul had wanted to leverage the “Fatherly” aspect of his relationship with them, as one with an inherent authority over them, he could easily have done so by using the word “Pater”, yet he carefully avoids it and simply says that he has cared for them like a loving father-figure whose only authority would be granted in love by a child who reciprocated and appreciated that loving care.

As Bartchy notes: “What Paul did not do is claim ‘because I am your father you must obey me!’ In that sense, Paul never played his culture’s well-known ‘father card.’”

If anything, Paul appeals more to a motherly metaphor by comparing himself to a nursing mother [1 Cor. 3.2] and in other epistles used similar motherly images to refer to himself [see 1 Thess. 2:7; Gal. 4:19-20]

This comparison with a maternal figure automatically defers any and all paternal authority that Paul might have claimed for himself, and this is most obviously by design.

Bartchy closes his paper by saying: “No matter how weak his opponents perceived him to be, Paul knew that his strength was based on acting with agape love ‘in a spirit of gentleness.’ Paul at his best, according to his own transformed values, was indeed ‘stickless’ in Corinth.”


Thursday, April 27, 2017


"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus... – (1 Tim. 2:5)

The power of this statement really hit me recently.

Here, Paul the Apostle is clearly saying that there is one, and only one, mediator between God and man – Jesus.

Not your pastor.

Not your church.

Not your denomination.

Not your bishops, or elders, or deacons.

Just Jesus.

In fact, this verse means that Jesus – and only Jesus – is your mediator.

Only Jesus stands between you and God. 
Only Jesus connects you to God. 
Only Jesus reveals who the Father is, and what the Father is like.

So, no one – and nothing – else is stands between you and God.

Not even the Bible.


Yes, that’s right. Jesus – not the Bible – is the one mediator between you and God.

“But…the Bible is the Word of God!”

No, actually Jesus is the Word of God. [The Bible says so]

“But…you wouldn’t even know that if it wasn’t in the Bible!”

Yes, but just because the Bible tells me this information, that doesn’t mean I worship the Bible.

For example, if you called me and let me know you loved me, wouldn't it be weird if I attributed that to my phone and not to you? [But, I wouldn't even know that you loved me without my phone!]

So…I will continue to affirm what the Bible says:

That Jesus is the Word of God and that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man.

So, what does this actually mean in a practical sense?

It means that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep can hear His voice. 

It also means that Jesus is more than capable of making Himself known and heard loud and clear.

It also means that we don’t need to go to another person – a pastor, a teacher, a guru, or anyone else – to hear the voice of God or to discern the will of God for our lives.

Dare I say it: Jesus is capable of revealing Himself to us today by His Spirit.

Yes, the scriptures also help us to know things about Jesus, and that can help to point us to Him and help us to know Him in a deeper way.

But, that's not the only way we can know Jesus.

He is not limited by ancient texts or scholarship. We can come to Him to receive life directly. 

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." -Jesus [John 5:39-40]

Jesus also promised us that He would send the Holy Spirit to us and that it would be better for us than if he remained with us in person. [See John 14]

That’s a pretty big claim.

Jesus says that having the Holy Spirit live within us is better than having Jesus remain with us in the flesh.

Take some time to meditate on that. I’ll wait…

To review:
Jesus is the one mediator between God and man.
Jesus is capable of speaking to us clearly.
We are capable of hearing Jesus speak to us.
We do not need anyone else to tell us what God is like, or to reveal what God wants to say to us.
Jesus is exactly what God has to say to all of us.

So, let’s spend as much time as possible with Jesus. 

He is alive. He is within us. He is the one and only mediator between us and the Father.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” - God [Matt. 17:5]


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

JESUS THE PROPHET: Introduction [Part 1]

In this first video in our new series on Jesus and Prophecy, Keith explains what the scope of the study will be going forward.

*Key prophecies about the Messiah from the OT
*44 Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ 
*The Name of the Messiah Revealed in the OT
*70 Weeks of Daniel: Messiah's Arrival Predicted In Advance
*The Olivet Discourse: Jesus the Prophet
*The Abomination of Desolation
*Details about the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70
*The Date of Revelation [When was it written and what does it matter?]
*The Mark of the Beast Explained
*"Where the eagles are there the vultures will gather" explained
*Tisha B'av: What is it? Why does it matter?

And more!


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

FINAL: Dispensationalism Refuted - Summary

In this final video of our series on Dispensationalism, we take time to recap what we have learned about what Dispensationalism teaches and how these ideas are not only not supported by the New Testament, but they are actually soundly contradicted and refuted by Jesus and the Apostles. 

As referenced in the video, the documentary "With God On Our Side" [the complete film] is available here:

Also: Steve Gregg Responds to Critics of "Replacement Theology":

BONUS: If you would like a copy of the 2 documents mentioned by Keith in the video, please contact him via Private Message on his Facebook or Twitter pages:



Monday, April 24, 2017

DISPENSATIONALISM REFUTED [Part 12] - The Restoration of the State of Israel?

In 1948 the State of Israel was restored, in part. 

Doesn't that "prove" that the Dispensationalists are right when they suggest that there are prophecies still to be fulfilled about Jerusalem and the Jewish people?

Wasn't the restoration of Israel a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy?

Not exactly.

Take a few minutes and listen as Keith explains what prophetic scriptures say about the restoration of Jerusalem in both the Old and the New Testament scriptures.

Click the image above to watch the video, or visit the YouTube channel here>

Friday, April 21, 2017

DISPENSATIONALISM REFUTED [Part 11] - Rebuilding The Temple?

According to Dispensationalism, the Temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt to fulfill prophecy.

But is that true?

Not according to Jesus, Paul, Peter and the New Testament scriptures.

 The Temple has already been built, and it's YOU! 

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
(Ephesians 2:19–22)

More about the Temple of God in the New Testament:
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Cor 3:16–17)

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19)

“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will Dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (2 Cor 6:16).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

DISPENSATIONALISM REFUTED [Part 10] - The Problem of the New Covenant

Dispensationalists have a problem. It's called the New Covenant.

Here's why: Because according to Jeremiah 31:31, this New Covenant will be made with the "House of Israel", and Jesus fulfilled this at the Last Supper when he took the cup and said, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood".

Those Disciples to whom Jesus made this Covenant went on to establish the Ekklesia [the Church] and then they taught those Christians to remember this New Covenant promise as often as they gathered together.
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, taught Gentile Christians in Corinth [and elsewhere] to share this Lord's Supper together and to remember these promises which are applied to them - the Ekklesia - and effectively, as the "New Israel" of God.

Watch the video to learn more.

Click on the image to watch, or go to Keith's YouTube channel here>

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DISPENSATIONALISM REFUTED [Part 9] Are the Church and Israel Distinct?

Charles Ryrie, noted Dispensationalist, said that “A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the church distinct" and stressed that "This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a person is a dispensationalist.”

So, does the New Testament affirm this notion? Can we find the overwhelming support we might hope for if this is, indeed, what the Scriptures teach?


Instead, we find the exact opposite. Here in Ephesians chapter 2, starting in verse 11 and going through verse 21 we read that Jews and Gentiles have now been made into one new entity known as the Church.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

DISPENSATIONALISM REFUTED [Part 8] - Christ's Kingdom: Now or Later?


In this episode, we look at Ephesians Ch. 1: 20-23

Problem: Dispensationalism teaches that Christ came to offer an earthly-political kingdom to Israel, and they rejected it. So, Christ withdrew his offer, postponed the kingdom, and established the Church as a Plan B until the Jewish people are finally ready to accept him as their king so that the Millennial Kingdom may be established.

In short: Dispensationalists argue that Christ is not now reigning as king.

But is that true? Not according to Eph. 1:20-23:

“He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

Click the image above to watch the video, or visit Keith's YouTube channel to view here>

Also, read Keith's blog: "The Kingdom Reality"

Monday, April 17, 2017

DISPENSATIONALISM REFUTED [Part 7] - Slave and Free Women

This "Bonus" episode of the series looks a bit closer at Paul's metaphor in Galatians of the Free Woman [Sarah] and the Slave Woman [Hagar] and how they reflect either those who are the true children of Abraham or merely those who are children by birth or circumcision.

PODCAST: Libertarian Christian Podcast Interview Keith Giles

In this week’s episode of the Libertarian Christian Podcast, we are joined by author Keith Giles, whose new book Jesus Untangled is making waves with its thesis that the Church must separate itself from the state.
Doug and Nick discuss with Giles how he reached his conclusions and his insights on contemporary Christian political thought, as well as explore what he thinks of libertarianism and how his thesis lines up with LCI’s.
This was a fantastic interview, and if you’re looking for a clear, readable resource which plainly explains to the everyday Christian why the Church allying with the state is both unwise and unholy, then Giles’ Jesus Untangled is a great choice. Hopefully it will help many more Christians untangle from the web before the statist spider injects its venom and then charges them for the government-monopolized cure.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


In this video, Keith looks at chapters 3-6, especially:

In chapter 4 where Paul shows concern that the Galatians were "observing days and months and seasons and years!" which correspond to Jewish Sabbath days, festivals and feast days.

And also where Paul uses the metaphor of the Slave Woman and the Free Woman to correspond to the Old Covenant [the Law] and the New Covenant [Life in Christ], we look at those distinctions and what they mean for us today.

Keep in mind that Paul ends this epistle by saying: "And as for all who walk by this rule [the New Covenant reality found in Christ], peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God." ch. 6 v. 16

So, the "Israel of God" are those who are in Christ, not those who keep the Law and look to the keeping of feasts, festivals and sabbaths.

Friday, April 14, 2017


In this video, Keith looks at the first 3 chapters of Paul's letter to the ekklesia in Galatia.

The entire letter deals mainly with the infiltration of Judaizers in those communities who sought to impose the keeping of the Law - circumcision, observing the Sabbath, celebrating Feasts and Festivals, etc. - upon the early Christian church.

Paul opposes this completely referring in chapter 1 to his own "former life in Judaism" and how he "was advancing in Judaism beyond many of [his] own age..." but all of this was BEFORE he came to know Christ. 

In chapter 2, Paul references his rebuke of Peter who, like himself and the other Jewish Christians in Antioch, was behaving like a Gentile - which was acceptable and right. But when the Jewish Christians from James [in Jerusalem] came to visit, Peter suddenly began to distance himself from the Gentiles [as if they were unclean] and his behavior began to affect the other Jewish Christians in Antioch to do the same. Paul calls out this hypocrisy and reminds Peter, and all the other Jewish Christians, that "by works of the law no one is justified" [v.16]

Finally, in chapter 3 Paul explains that the promises made to Abraham were not to every Jewish person but only to Christ and that anyone who is in Christ is an offspring of Abraham and an heir according to the promise.


Excited to announce that the Documentary short film about me and our house church will play at the prestigious Newport Film Festival on Saturday, April 22 at 12pm.

Details here>

If you're in SoCal, make plans to be there!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


In this video, Keith stops to respond to a few comments and questions and to address the question: "What's the big deal about Dispensationalism?" 

Take a few minutes and watch as Keith explains the dangers of Darby's teachings about the promises of Israel being unfulfilled and a futurist view of prophecy.

Interview: TogetherLA Talks To Author About Political Compromise

As the Church has become increasingly entangled in the pursuit of politics, the Gospel has become tarnished and often abandoned as the primary focus of the Body of Christ. — From Jesus Untangled — Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb back cover
Jesus Untangled author Keith Giles recently shared with Together LA that unity in the Church in Los Angeles is more critical than even other big cities simply because of “the breadth of diversity and the collision of cultures that are represented.” He makes the case that his book is a “prophetic call for the Church to awaken from the ‘American Dream’ and to return to Her first love.”
Our interview (transcript below) with Giles drew some rather pointed answers from him about the state of affairs for Christians and their politics today.
Together LA: What parts of your book address unity?
Keith Giles: The entire theme of the book is about the dangers of putting politics at the center of our faith; whether as individuals or as the church. Unity itself isn’t the goal. It’s the byproduct of placing Jesus at the center and following Him. The book certainly does examine how divisive politics can be to the Body of Christ, so as we untangle our faith and crucify our politics, we begin to see our brothers and sisters as they truly are, without seeing them through a political filter.
One reason we need to untangle our faith from politics is that if we are more “American” than “Christian” then we’ve become compromised by our nationality. AS I point out in the book: You can’t convert a culture if that culture has already converted you. We need to abandon our politics and seek first the Kingdom of God.

Read the entire interview here>

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RELEVANT MAGAZINE: Keith Giles Explains Why The Church Has To Reject Politics

I honestly had given up all hope that this interview with Relevant Magazine I did would ever actually get published. But, just when I had given up, it happened!

Click HERE to read the entire interview and please leave a comment after you share it with all of your friends!



In part 3, Keith answers the question: Who Is Israel according to the New Testament?

Those who follow Dispensationalism say that Israel is anyone who is Jewish, but what if the New Testament actually says the exact opposite? 

[Hint: It does]

This video will also look at the distinction between Jewish people, the Nation of Israel, and those who are "True Israel" according to the Apostle Paul, John the Baptist and Jesus Himself.

To learn more listen to Keith interview Steve Gregg about "Jesus, Israel and the Church":

And listen to Keith's [Subversive Radio] Podcast "God's Chosen People?"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


In this video session, Keith examines the land promises made to Israel and asks:
*Did God's promise to Abraham apply to every Jewish person on earth?
*Was this promise to give the land to Abraham's offspring ever literally fulfilled in history?
*Who does that land really belong to? 
*Where there any conditions to owning that land?
*What surprising thing does the Apostle Paul reveal to us about that promise to Abraham?
*What is "Replacement Theology"?

For more on this:

TODAY'S ISRAEL: IS GOD ON HER SIDE? by Jon Zens [quoted in video above]

Monday, April 10, 2017


What is Dispensationalism? Why do so many who believe in it have no idea what it is or where it came from?

Take a few minutes and listen as Keith introduces this new series of videos exploring the most problematic teachings of this relatively new Christian doctrine and why embracing these teachings can lead us off track.

In this video Keith will explain:
*Where does Dispensationalism come from?
*How recently was this doctrine introduced?
*What are the most troublesome teachings of this doctrine?
*How has it become the dominant theology in America today?

The rest of this series will cover:
*Who is Israel according to the New Testament?
*What does it mean to "Bless Israel"?
*Does God still owe any land promises to the nation of Israel today?
*Are there still promises and prophecies regarding the nation of Israel and ethnic jewish people left unfulfilled?

This series will look at Romans, Galatians and Ephesians in detail to refute some of the main tenets of Dispensational Theology.
Click the image above to watch the video, or go here to watch on my YouTube channel>

Sunday, April 09, 2017

PODCAST INTERVIEW: Zao Church Talks To Keith Giles about "Jesus Untangled"

Joe and I had the pleasure of interviewing church planter and author Keith Giles. He wrote a book called J
esus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb.
It was a great conversation and hopefully it will spark a paradigm shift when thinking about our place, as Jesus followers, in The Kingdom and politics.LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE>

Friday, April 07, 2017

Why Is Jesus Violent In Revelation?

According to the book of Revelation, when Jesus returns He will bring an army and strike down His enemies in a bloody war.

Before I get into this one, let’s start off with a few observations: First, this objection seeks to temper the numerous commands of Jesus to love our enemies, turn the other cheek and bless those who curse us by saying, “Look! Jesus gets violent in the end”, as if this negates His clear commands to His disciples.

It does not.

Whatever Jesus has commanded, we must obey. Regardless of what might happen in the future, we here today are still expected to follow Jesus as our Lord. As He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Secondly, just because Jesus acts as the Judge of all mankind—as He is seen doing in these Apocalyptic passages within Revelation—it does not follow that we are also allowed to act as judges.

In fact, we are specifically told by Jesus not to judge others, and we are reminded by Paul that our calling is to feed our enemies and to allow God to be the judge who repays them for any evils they may have done.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

So, what exactly is going on in Revelation? Why do we see a picture of Jesus that looks so radically different than what we see in the Gospels? How did He go from the suffering servant who said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” to the guy on a white horse with a sword coming out of his mouth and wearing a robe dipped in blood?

Let’s look at Revelation Chapter 19 where most of this violent imagery is found.

Especially these verses: 

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

"And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, 'Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.'

"Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”  (Revelation 19:11-21)

Pastor Mark Driscoll famously celebrated the gore of Revelation at one time, saying that Jesus is depicted here as “a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed.” For some Christians, this picture of Jesus is the one they prefer. Driscoll himself has said that he finds great comfort in this violent picture of Jesus because, “…that is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”

For those who embrace a more violent Gospel, this seemingly violent Jesus serves as a welcome buffer against the Jesus they appear to fear the most: The Jesus who commands them to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. But what is really happening here? Is Jesus suddenly a warmonger who delights in slaughtering thousands of His enemies? What happened to the command that we should love our enemies? Are we held to a higher standard that God? Isn’t the admonition to love our enemies connected to God’s love for the just and the unjust? Aren’t we imitating God when we do this? How then can we explain these passages in light of the Sermon on the Mount?

First of all, we have to recognize that the book of Revelation is a different genre of Biblical literature than the Gospels are. In the same way that none of us would read a fantasy novel like “The Lord of the Rings” the same way we might read a romance novel, or a children’s story, we cannot read all genre’s of Biblical literate the same way either.

The book of Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. As such, it contains certain motifs and even borrows specific metaphors from other apocalyptic sections of books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These images and metaphors are never to be taken literally. The original audiences for these writings did not believe that the smoke from a city that was judged by God would literally rise up forever and ever. They understood that this was hyperbole intended to illustrate that the finality of such judgement was absolute—as far as those who received that judgement were concerned. In the Gospels, even Jesus referred to these same apocalyptic metaphors whenever he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish age. (See Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21)

So, if we understand that the images we read about in Revelation are not intended to be literal, that can help us on one level, but we still may wonder what exactly is going on and what is it we are supposed to glean from passages like chapter 19?

First of all, Revelation 19 shows us a picture of Jesus as the Judge of the World. He has been given authority by the Father to judge the nations and to execute judgment on those who have rejected Him as their King. The sword is not in His hand, as Driscoll claims. It is coming out of His mouth. Why is that? Why does Jesus pull a sword out of His mouth like a magician on a carnival sideshow? Again, because this isn’t meant to be taken literally. The sword that comes out of His mouth is symbolic. It tells us that the judgments spoken by Jesus have authority. His words hold the power of life and death.

The robe Jesus wears is dipped in blood, but we must keep in mind that this blood is not the blood of His enemies. It is His own blood. Jesus has the authority to judge the nations because He has suffered and died and risen again to sit at the right hand of the Father. The Lamb who was slain is given the authority to open the seals of the scroll and to execute judgement. Only the Lamb who was slain is worthy. No one else.

Still, we have to admit that the imagery near the end of the chapter is quite gruesome. Birds are called to gorge themselves on the flesh of the slain. But, again, we have to remember that the connection between the apocalyptic hyperbole and the actual fulfillment is not the same thing.

When God prophesied against Egypt in Isaiah 19, we read that God will be seen “riding on a swift cloud” (v.1) as He comes to judge that nation. This is not a literal event. God is not saddling up a cloud and riding into battle against Egypt. The fulfillment of that image is when the armies of an invading nation ride into battle against Egypt and destroy her cities. In other words, these fantastic images of God (or Jesus) riding into battle against the people of the earth to do battle with them is fulfilled when the armies of other nations rise up and attack. There is always a practical fulfillment to these sorts of prophesies, as we see whenever God’s prophets proclaim judgment on nations using these kinds of apocalyptic hyperbole.

In Ezekiel 39 when God prophesies against Assyria (or Gog) He says “I will give you to the birds of prey of every sort and the beasts of the field to be devoured.” (v.4) This is the exact same apocalyptic hyperbole used in Revelation 19 to describe the fate of those who will be judged by the words spoken by Jesus against those who reject Him as their King.

Simply put, Jesus is the righteous judge. He has said that those who reject Him will perish and will not receive life. This is the sword that comes out of His mouth. Those who refuse to repent and to turn to Jesus as their Lord will die. They will not receive the gift of life. The author of Revelation borrows violent apocalyptic hyperbole found in the Old Covenant scriptures to illustrate this truth. He expresses it in dramatic, yes even violent metaphorical terminology, but if we boil everything down all that is really happening in Revelation 19 is that Jesus, who is the Judge, speaks life to those who love Him and those who reject that life receive the penalty of death.

Jesus takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. Not even those who reject Him. His love for you is the same as His love for Hitler. That is to say: enough to die for both of you and to extend to everyone the same mercy, grace and forgiveness.

The images of Jesus riding into battle on a white horse with a sword coming out of His mouth are meant to call the sinner to repentance. It is intended to warn those who have rejected Jesus as Lord of their ultimate fate—which is certain death—if they refuse to accept the life that is available only through Christ.

[From the bonus e-book “Unraveled” by Keith Giles]