You are hereGalatians and Revelation: Short Summaries
Galatians and Revelation: Short Summaries
by Marcus Booker
I have recently taken to heart the importance of summaries. Summaries offer a concise, quick, palatable overview of something much larger, something that may involve numerous details wherein it is easy to get bogged down (and lose your reader). In writing a summary, it is quite difficult to resist making proofs and addressing/discussing every verse, nuance, and piece of background. Yet I think that I have held myself back reasonably. Below I have included summaries for both Galatians (1 page) and Revelation (1.5 pages). I have recently taken to heart the importance of summaries. Summaries offer a concise, quick, palatable overview of something much larger, something that may involve numerous details wherein it is easy to get bogged down (and lose your reader). In writing a summary, it is quite difficult to resist making proofs and addressing/discussing every verse, nuance, and piece of background. Yet I think that I have held myself back reasonably. Below I have included summaries for both Galatians (1 page) and Revelation (1.5 pages). Summary of Galatians:
Paul, throughout his letter to the Galatians, contrasts the Mosaic covenant with that of Christ, always proclaiming the superiority of the latter. He identifies the law of Moses, which had become a perversion, with the power of men, with the flesh, with bondage, and with sin. On the other hand, he identifies the “law of Christ,” which he designates also as “grace,” with the agency of God, with the spirit, with freedom (and sonship), and with righteousness. Paul seems intent, first and foremost, upon guarding the Galatians against “false brethren,“ whom he elsewhere labels the “false circumcision.” He warns the Galatians not to give in to the deceit of those dogs, exhorting them instead to endure the persecution (that comes from not being circumcised), knowing that the inheritance belongs to them.
At the outset, Paul contrasts deliverances from men with deliverances from God. As in other epistles, he almost certainly means to contrast his former life in Pharisaical Judaism, which he received as the word of men, with the power of the good news in Christ. He continues to emphasize that it is no longer he that lives, of himself, but Christ in him. Paul hereby affirms the weakness of the flesh and the ability of the spirit. He means ultimately to show that God accomplished, by sending his son, what the law could not do, weak as it was in the flesh.
Like Hebrews, which speaks of the law as patterned off of heavenly originals, Paul relegates the law to the position of a tutor that merely pointed to Christ. He contrasts the two covenants in terms of the slavish condition of a child (who is under a tutor) versus the freedom, maturity, and full inheritance attained by an adult son. Also, like Hebrews, Paul claims that the good news actually preceded the law. He summarizes the good news in the promise made to Abraham that “in you all nations will be blessed.” Paul regards the fulfillment of this promise as utterly impossible as long as a dividing wall stood between the nations and the Jews. For Paul, the law itself was this dividing wall. Indeed, since it created distinctions and thereby disallowed the blessing upon the nations, that barrier needed to be utterly removed. He goes on to affirm that the law, which came 430 years after the promise, does not invalidate the covenant that came previously so as to nullify that promise. Yet to Paul the two are at odds, opposed to one another. And Paul affirms that the promise must prevail over the law, for he says “if inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on promise, but God granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” Indeed, in speaking of the casting out of the bondwoman and her son, Paul expresses his eschatological expectation, which is Christ’s judgment upon the Jewish accusers and antichrists and the throwing down of their temple, city, and indeed their entire law (which was their idol). These events would spell vindication and victory for the church and for the “Jerusalem that is above.” Yet Paul looks for the dissolution of the law, not that it may merely be done away but that it may be filled with Christ, that whosoever is of faith (both Jew and Gentile) may ascend Jacob’s ladder (i.e. Christ) and boldly receive access to God in His holy sanctuary.
Paul emphasizes that those who are under the law, because of sin, are also of necessity under the curse of the law. Yet he affirms that in Christ alone is the true justification. Ironically enough, Paul identifies the law with lawlessness, which has long been a point of confusion. Like Christ, who says, “Did not Moses give you the law? and yet none of you carries out the law,” Paul also affirms that this same lawlessness resides within the circumcision, who were bewitching the Galatians. Yet Paul calls upon the Galatians to keep away from the sins committed under the law, which he labels the “works of the flesh.” He encourages them instead to bear the “fruit of the spirit,” which is in Christ. Furthermore, he states firmly that those who sow in the flesh will, from the flesh, reap corruption while those who sow in the spirit will, from the spirit, reap eternal life. For this reason he says, “if you receive circumcision [i.e. on this false basis], Christ will be of no benefit to you.” He hereby speaks words of hard truth to these “foolish Galatians.” Yet they are also words of comfort and encouragement. Paul intends to strengthen their faith, so that the churches in Galatia may persevere through whatever trials they were suffering at the hands of the circumcision, who are the true sinners.
As Paul elsewhere calls the church the “true circumcision” and “a people for His own possession,” he designates it at the end of this letter as the “Israel of God.” He encourages them by this designation to silence the boasting of those who glory in their [fleshly] covenant identity and in their [outward] separation from the unclean and uncircumcised. He hereby reminds the Galatians that they have not at all abandoned their covenant identity and holiness (or, if they are Gentiles, they have not failed to come to it), but have attained it in even fuller measure. He comforts them on the basis of their shared eschatological hope, that as Abraham sent Hagar and her son away, according to the will of God, so too would God cast out their adversaries.
Summary of Revelation
John writes to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, all of which undoubtedly were enduring scoffing, hardship, and even death from the circumcision, who dwelt in their midst. This letter is a call for these churches to keep hope and to persevere through their present affliction at the hands of their countrymen. From the start, John comforts them with words of immanency, affirming that the time of vindication and deliverance was near for them. With the destruction of the Judeans, the Temple, the city, and the law, all arrogant, blaspheming mouths would instantly be silenced. The circumcision, who were abroad in Asia Minor (and who escaped utter destruction), would no longer have grounds for boasting, so the persecution that arose from their hands would immediately cease. On this basis, John calls for them to keep the faith; he relays the message that God will keep them from the hour of testing, which was about to come upon the whole world.
John calls them the true Israel, “a kingdom, priests to His God.” He affirms the gospel preached to Abraham, the blessing upon “all the tribes of the earth” [in LXX language]. These tribes mourn and receive God’s blessing as in Zechariah where the Lord protects Jerusalem from her adversaries and pours upon it a spirit of grace and prayer. In this place, the “tribes” are this reformed “Israel of God” in Christ, not “Israel after the flesh.” And the Jerusalem that God upholds is not the “present Jerusalem” that killed the prophets, Christ, and the saints, but “the Jerusalem that is above,” the heavenly city, which was under siege by the uncircumcised (in heart), the “false circumcision.”
Next, John addresses each of the churches individually, confronting the strengths and weaknesses of each one. John appeals to accounts in Jewish history and thereby compares the circumcision with various past opponents to God’s purposes. Among these adversaries are such figures as Balaam and Balak and Jezebel, who cast stumbling-blocks in the way of God‘s people. In the situation at hand, the stumbling-block was the law, “a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” according to Peter. John affirms that judgment will come upon these opponents and that they claim to be Jews but are not. By implication, he calls them false Jews, much like Paul’s “false brethren” and “false circumcision.” Indeed, as Paul affirms, “he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that which is of the heart.” John operates on the same principle. Furthermore, he says that these obstructers are of the “synagogue of the Adversary.” Like Christ, who said that the Pharisees were of their father the devil, so likewise does John identify the circumcision with the dominion of Satan.
Then John depicts the worship of the new covenant, which is in spirit and in truth. He shows that with the destruction of the law comes full access to the Ancient of Days, through a “door standing open in heaven.” Hebrews sums up this worship well, saying, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant...” In Revelation’s depiction of worship are all of these things: the myriads of angels (“myriads of myriads”), the general assembly (governed by 24 elders), God (represented by the one sitting upon the throne), and Jesus (a slain Lamb, whose blood speaks better things than the blood of Abel). Revelation shows a fulfilled priesthood in Christ. These priests wear fine linen, which is the righteous deeds of the saints. They play harps, which are their hearts expressing joy over the sacrifice. They burn incense, which represents their prayer to God. In this way, Revelation shows how Christ fulfills the Law of Moses.
Next, the seals of the covenant are broken. Christ, by his worthiness, opens the seals and reveals the contents of the everlasting covenant. Like the first covenant, Christ’s covenant contains both blessings and curses. Yet, as Hebrews also affirms, the curses and judgments under the law, which unmercifully came upon violators by the testimony of two or three witnesses, were a mere shadow of the much severer judgment that comes upon those who “trample underfoot the son of God.” In this way, Christ unleashes the curses of the new covenant upon transgressors. The curses are summed up, as they had been in times of old, by war, famine, and death (yet not the shadow, but the body); John goes on at length about these curses. Also, God seals those who are to be saved from this destruction, those from the “twelve tribes” not after the flesh but after the spirit.
John then measures the temple in heaven because it is permanent. The “two witnesses” are the church, through whose prayers come the curses of the covenant. Like the heavens and earth, who brought destruction upon violators of the law, so too would these two witnesses (a new heavens and new earth) testify against violators of the new covenant, “striking the earth with every plague as often as they desire.” These witnesses are killed in Jerusalem, “where also their Lord was crucified.” Paul speaks likewise of this iniquity, saying that the Jews “both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out...But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” Indeed, the persecution was even harsher upon Christ’s disciples than upon Christ himself, for our Lord says “if they do this in the green tree, much more in the dry.”
Next, a sign in the heaven appears, a woman who is with child. This woman is the virgin daughter of Zion, who gives birth to a “male child,” that in Isaiah is a blessed nation, one with God’s presence (God with us). As Matthew demonstrates, there is a nation in Jesus. This nation is the true “Israel of God.” Then a second sign appears, a dragon. This dragon is the Adversary, who seeks to devour this Israel of God. Next a beast arises from the sea who receives its authority from the dragon. This beast is most likely the idolatrous leadership of Israel after the flesh. Another beast, the false prophet, arises from the earth. Like the false prophets of old, this false prophet cried “peace and safety,” when there is no peace and when destruction is immanent, due to sin. This false prophet demands worship of the first beast, so that the first beast could sit in the temple and proclaim itself to be God. Those who had the mark of this beast were those who demanded circumcision of the Gentiles and sought to be in bondage to the law. These people were idolatrous in what they did and in what they thought; they had the mark upon their hands and upon their foreheads. Also, John compares the murderous Jerusalem to Babylon of old, as does Peter in his first epistle.
Yet, at the second coming of Christ, all of these are destroyed. Babylon is laid waste. The beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, as is the dragon. The law also passes away, and Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire.
John then depicts life after the destruction of the law, after God’s people receive full access to the Father. He says, “behold, I make all things new.” He acclaims the new order of things, the new heavens and earth, the new Jerusalem in which all sin is done away. He describes the city at length and says that the nations will enter into it. Yet he restricts access to those who are “unclean,” which in times past meant the uncircumcised in the flesh, but now meant the uncircumcised of heart. At last, the law, the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, had been permanently removed. John also says of the city, “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” John hereby proclaims the swallowing up of the law in Christ.
He again calls them to persevere and concludes with this promise of access to the heavenly city to those who do. He then emphasizes the immanency of the events about to happen to encourage them to keep hope.