Darren Jones

On blank pages in printed Google docs

I use Google docs all the time. I print a lot of it out for church.

I create A5 PDF’s to print off as double-sided 8-page hand-outs.

When saving as a PDF to print off in booklet form, I was getting blank pages inserted. Super irritating.

The “fix” seems to be to click on Print, and in the print preview change “Margins” to “Customised” and then just move the left margin a tiny amount.

Bingo. From 16 pages with every other page a blank, down to the correct 8 pages ready to go.

How to paste Hebrew into Microsoft Word

I searched around for this quite a bit online!

The problem is this: When you copy Hebrew text in one application and then paste it into Microsoft Word, the sentence word order is reversed. The letters still read right-to-left, but the words run left-to-right.

That might be just about ok if you wanted to write an interlinear, but it’s not really what you want.

The solution is simple: First copy your text as normal. In Microsoft Word, put the cursor where you want the text to appear. On the Ribbon at the top of the screen, you’ll see two buttons you’ve possibly never used: Left-To-Right and Right-To-Left. Click on Right-To-Left and then paste your text.

That should paste your text just how you want it.

Where the English national football team go wrong

Lots of people have picked over the bones of England’s dismal Euro 2016 efforts, and the general tone is one of mystery and confusion – as if it’s almost a problem that can’t be solved.

It’s funny to think that the business world likes to hear from Sir Alex Ferguson about leadership, because the football world should probably pay a bit more attention too.

Football is a team game. You can’t put individuals together and hope for the best, even when they are as talented as some of the young English players are. You have to build a plan for each game you face; you build your plan around the weaknesses of the opposition and the strengths of your individuals; you then organise your players around the plan.

You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of both teams so that when something happens (injury, substitution) you can adjust your plan and team shape.

This is all obvious, of course.

Where England go wrong is they never have a manager who is bold enough to stamp in his plan, his style. Someone willing to drop the big names if they don’t fit or perform. National sides play far, far fewer games than domestic clubs, so the outcome for each game is significantly more dependent on the manager. He is the 12th player, and ought to be intimately connected to and directing the action minute-by-minute in a way that domestic managers don’t quite need to be.

Iceland don’t have better players, but they did have a better plan. It was simple and effective and, frankly, obvious.

You will know from the moment the next England manager is appointed whether they have a chance in the near future. It will be down to him, far less than the team at his disposal.

Revelation 21 & 22, the end and the beginning

There’s relatively little for the various commentators to differ on in these chapters.

There are the usual questions about literal vs symbolic (is the new Jerusalem an actual city or symbolic language for the people of God? – and so on). There are questions about whether the earth will be destroyed and replaced, or renewed in some way. Will the whole cosmos be replaced, or just our bit?

But, in the end, there is a general longing to experience it all, a yearning to be part of it. The vision of the end is simply sensational.

I’ll be preaching through Revelation in 2015 and I can’t wait. Unless, of course, the Lord returns..!

Revelation 20, Millennium

I think I’ve been fair in my exegesis of Revelation so far. I’ve not gone into every nook and cranny, but I have been trying to find the right interpretive keys for the book as a whole. I’ve tried hard to let the book itself determine what those interpretive keys are, without coming to the text with a pre-determined bias.

On that basis, the appearance of this 1,000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20 is somewhat out of the blue.

First impressions

To begin with, it reads sequentially. Babylon has fallen; the beast and false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire. Then we read of Satan being locked in the Abyss for 1,000 years. During that 1,000 years souls live and reign with Jesus. At the end of 1,000 years Satan is also thrown into the lake of fire. Then we read of the general resurrection of the dead and judgement before the great white throne of God.

But there are questions.

  • The reign seems to include souls of Christians. So is the reign in heaven or on earth?
  • If Satan is bound, and the beast and false prophet destroyed, what becomes of mankind in those 1,000 years? Can people become Christians? If so, will it still count as faith if they can actually see Jesus in action? Will people still marry, have kids, have jobs, etc?
  • With pretty much every other number in Revelation being symbolic (7, 10, 144000, etc), what’s the hermeneutic for taking this number literally? Or, if it is symbolic, what does it signify?
  • There’s quite a battle scene when Jesus rides out in chapter 19, destroying the beast and the false prophet. Jesus then reigns with peace, until there’s another battle at which Satan himself is snuffed out. Who will Satan deceive? Unsaved people? Why not be done with it all at the first battle?
  • More than everything, why has my reading of Revelation up to this point not prepared me for hearing about this 1,000 years of reign after Jesus’ return? What is the function of that reign?
  • Further searching

    I’m not saying that the above summary is wrong. But I do think the questions are valid.

    So I decided to dig some more. The key question is whether the events of chapter 20 denote sequential action or are another of John’s chronologically-shifted visions. All commentators agree that John’s Revelation is not wholly chronological, but is that a valid question at this point?

    John doesn’t say, “Then I saw”; he says “And I saw” – that’s not conclusive either way, but does permit us to at least question the chronology. John has rewound the clock a few times: the seals, trumpets and bowls all seem to cover the totality of time between Jesus’ first and second coming. He also rewound in his portrayal of the woman in chapter 12, and how Satan pursues the church. If we consider the 1,000 years in the same way then we’d have the binding of Satan at Jesus’ first coming and his release at Jesus’ return. That “fits” in the sense that Jesus’ work at the cross certainly bound Satan and opened up salvation to the nations, and the idea of final battle is easy to see in the Bible. In short, it puts Jesus’ return as a decisive, one-off activity which destroys evil once for all and ushers in the new eternal reality in one go. It removes the need for an awkward post-return reign for which there is little specific evidence. (Wayne Grudem would disagree – he gives lots of evidence in his Systematic Theology but it just doesn’t seem to join up well to me!)

    If this is a better way to read these verses, then the souls reigning with Jesus would be reigning with him right now. Paul does say something like that in Ephesians 2, and it would surely fit with our interpretive key of how this book is of relevant to Christians in every time, from the first 7 to read it until now.

    But here too there are questions.

  • Throughout Revelation, the same period has been referred to as 3.5 years. Where does this 1,000 come from?
  • What’s the hermeneutic for rewinding the clock at 20:1? I suppose it’s possible that John is consciously “finishing off Satan” in a move designed to highlight him specifically, to undo the damage of Genesis 3.
  • What does it mean to have Satan bound when he remains so visibly active in the world?
  • From these observations I end up at an amillennial position, but it’s more of a persuasion than a solid conviction. The most significant thing I can say about it is that I haven’t had to face the question until I reached chapter 19, and I think that may be the most significant observation of all.

    Revelation 18 & 19, Babylon falls and heaven rejoices

    So much of the interpretation of these chapters depends on (a) how to apply the Old Testament allusions, (b) how literal the reader should be, and (c) the chronology of events.

    Back in Zechariah 4, there was a vision of a woman in a basket being taken to Babylon where a temple to idolatry was set up. It was a vision, not a literal activity. If Revelation 17 alludes to a vision like that, should we expect the Babylon of Revelation 17 or 18 to be a literal place or symbolic of idolatry, worldliness, or something else? Since the ancient city of Babylon no longer exists, some interpreters would insist that it will be physically rebuilt at some point in the future.

    It rather seems that as we approach the climax of history in these final chapters we need to try to be “big” in our thoughts. The Babylon of chapter 17 represents the whole sum of idolatry, values, fashions and trends that are “the world” – and it would seem from the end of chapter 17 that it will actually implode; society destroying itself as God delivers people over to themselves (in Romans 1 & 2 terms). Under the sovereign control of God, Babylon is destroyed seemingly by itself. The nations mourn its loss, God’s people are told to withdraw, and meanwhile heaven rejoices.

    Why does heaven rejoice? Because this collapse marks the vindication of God, his righteous judgement, and also the end – the time for the marriage of the Lamb to his bride. Literalists berate others for “over-complicating” or “over-spiritualizing,” and yet terms like “Lamb” and “bride” are so symbolic as to demand that we be exceedingly careful over being “over-literal.”

    But we have come to the point we’ve been waiting for: Jesus’ return! There are some lovely pointers here back to the letters to the churches. Jesus is called “Faithful and True” (Laodicea), has eyes like blazing fire (Thyatira), and his words are a sword (Pergamum). How wonderful! This same Jesus who knows his churches and walks among them is the one who will one day return to claim his bride. And what of the persecutors? They will be destroyed in an utterly one-sided affair. How can the creature destroy the Creator?

    But we need to note that the beast and the false prophet are particularly singled out as being thrown into the lake of fire. I mention that because it’s important when we think about the vexing millennium of chapter 20.

    Revelation 17, Babs rides the beast

    Chapter 17 is quite a piece of writing! What vivid imagery!

    The woman is “Babylon” but what does that mean, exactly? For some, the reference to 7 hills prompts thoughts of Rome under the conviction that the whole book relates to 7 churches under Roman persecution. Of the four approaches to Revelation usually taken, it’s noticeable that this is the first time we’ve come up with a text that forces us to think about the Historical Intepretation.

    Students of first century Roman history have reviewed Revelation and worked to align prophecy to history, particularly identifying specific emperors with beasts. In the Old Testament,  we can read the historical accounts alongside the prophecies to understand how they interrelate; that teaches us how to understand the prophetic writing. We have nothing in the Bible that records a history of Rome, so I’m uncomfortable with an interpretation of Revelation that depends on external historical evidence – it would mean that the meaning of the book is hidden to any reader without that external knowledge.

    The vision is introduced by one of the 7 angels with the 7 bowls, and seems to be setting us up with a final image of Babylon before her destruction. Perhaps she is the completion of the worship begun in Zechariah 5. Certainly that emphasises the separation between this woman and the people of God.

    The woman is the accumulation of ideals, values, and idols that we might call the world, riding and upheld by the beast of rulers, governments, fashions, trends, and influencers, all floating on the vast sea of people who do not know God. The entire picture is godlessness, yet remains under God’s sovereign control (17:17).

    Some limit the scope of the woman to be ecumenism or apostate Christianity, but I can’t see any such limit in the text – as ever, it’s critical to read first with respect to the 7 original churches rather than looking back through post-Reformation eyes.

    Revelation 16, it is done!

    LaHaye helpfully points out that the plagues of Egypt alluded to by the bowls of wrath in Revelation 16 were literal, historic events. Why then, asks LaHaye, should these events be anything other than literal?

    Believing that to be that, there is then little difficulty in speculating about the nature of these events in some future “Tribulation Period.” Actually, it seems to me that his question is worth a bit more effort (it’s a good question).

    The song of Moses and the Lamb, the allusions to the plagues of Egypt, and the underlying themes of Passover lamb and Exodus are all highly significant. But just as Jesus is a superior Passover lamb, leading an ultimate, superior and altogether different kind of exodus, it seems that the plagues of Revelation 16 are similarly symbolic of far greater judgements than their OT types. That means we need not be overly literal – indeed, I would think we might downplay them if we are.

    What is clear, however, is that while there are links with the trumpets there is more intensity in judgement. In particular, these judgements are final. They might sit over the same timeframe as the seals and trumpets, but there is a definite bias towards the end.

    Revelation 15, more important than it seems?

    This little chapter is deceptively complex in relation to the rest of the book. There are threads and links with other chapters that we must account for.

    First, notice the way chapters 15 through 19 are linked. The 7 angels with 7 bowls occupy chapters 15 and 16; one of them introduces the vision of the woman in chapter 17; she has Babylon on her forehead, and Babylon falls in chpter 18; this leads to rejoicing in chapter 19. The language and overall sense is that of final judgement – the end.

    We mustn’t miss the big textual clue from John in 15:1, where he speaks of “another great and marvellous sign in the heavens”. It begs the question as to what was/were the other(s)? It was back in chapter 12, so that chapters 12 to 14 can be regarded as a structural unit. Looking back across them together, it could be a description of the experience of the church from Jesus’ time until the end, with the gospel mission coming under sustained opposition calling for perseverance to the end. That looks like a very helpful message for the original readers (and us).

    We concluded earlier that the 7 seals and 7 trumpets seemed to be different perspectives on the same time period, namely these latter days between Jesus’ first and second comings. We left open the question as to whether the 7 bowls were to be included likewise. And now we have a problem:
    1. The bowls certainly seem more closely linked with the end than with the overall latter days (now).
    2. There are clear, deliberate links between some of the 7 bowls and the corresponding trumpets, albeit with greater intensity.

    Notice, too, that the contents of the bowls link more closely to the plagues in Egypt in Exodus than even the trumpets did. And then there’s the song of Moses and the Lamb. Moses sang in Exodus after passing through the Red Sea (judgement on Egypt complete) and again in Deuteronomy just before the nation entered the promised land. The trumpets are a call to repentance on mankind; the bowls speak of judgement. Likewise, Pharaoh’s heart hardened as he ignored opportunity to repent as the plagues piled on.

    Are we to expect, then, that mankind will progress like Pharaoh? Should we expect intensifying judgements leading, ultimately, to gospel-hardened hearts? Is this what is meant by Daniel 12:7, “When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed”?

    Revelation 14, the lamb with 144,000, and 3 angels

    We come to another vision of the Lamb! He’s on Mount Zion with 144,000 believers. Again we have the challenges of identity, location, and time. This is Revelation’s only mention of Mount Zion, and its only mention of Jerusalem (by name) is in relation to the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem. As we appear to be in a timeframe prior to the end, it seems this is a vison of heaven.

    There’s a desire by some to identify the 144,000 as a literal group, while somehow arguing that they’re not all virgin men. I struggle with that; it seems more likely that this is symbolic. In fact, it seems this is a vision of heaven to offset the beasts we’ve just read about. In Ephesians terms, the 144,000 believers on the earth in chapter 7 are already seated in the heavenly realms. While I can’t be sure that’s the right interpretation, it does fit with the interpretive key of being hugely encouraging to Christians in all ages (not least the original readers).

    If that is a fair interpretation, the 3 angels denote the ongoing proclamation of the gospel calling for the perseverance of Christians in the face of opposition and persecution.

    Then, coming to a vision of harvest, we seem to be thinking of the end of everything.