GRACE INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP
P.O. BOX 7187
GULF SHORES, AL. 36547
                                                                                 www.giftdigest.com


Dear Friends & Co-laborers in the Gospel,                                                                                                             Jan. 20th 2009

Greetings in the blessed name of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was good to hear from so many expressing appreciation for the monthly mailings.  Using email certainly saves time and money.  We did notify all on our mailing list that we would no longer be using snailmail.  However, where there are special requests, we can still send them out by regular mail. We continue to add to the email list, and would be happy to add addresses.  Occasionally, there are those who for one reason or another prefer not to receive them.  Let us hear from you in this regard.

We are really blessed by the ministry and fellowship down here in Alabama.  We have made new friends and have been invited through a number of new open doors.  One blessing in particular is the increasing revelation that there are many more Berean-minded Christians than we had expected.  

Shirley is teaching her weekly Ladies Bible Class, and we are both teaching a new venture in a Couples Bible Class.  This past Sunday I ministered at The New Life in Christ Church in Foley, Alabama.  Enjoyed the blessed fellowship with Pastor Paul and Carolyn Wilde. Wonderful people!  It is refreshing and encouraging to meet those who boldly stand for the truths of Holy Scripture.

Our dear friends Norman and Carol Gidney will be with us March 11-16. Norman will be speaking the 12th in Mobile at the Christian Businessmen’s Luncheon at the Hank Aaron Stadium Restaurant.  If you are in the area join us.  He will be at the Genesis Church in Foley on Sunday A.M., March 15th.  Again, join us if you can.  Pray for these meetings.  His ministry has been richly blessed in the past, and we have seen many men come to a knowledge of Salvation.

Do pray for us.  Read the studies in the Revelation. They have been a blessing to me.  Shirley’s “Soliloquies” continue to be well received by many. They now go out to about 200 people every week.  They are free.  Consider the summarized sermon.

Continued blessings, Henry (Jn. 3:30).  “Jesus, the Lord, who came to save is so wonderful.” Amen! And Amen! Do you know this chorus?  I still enjoy singing it.  The choruses by Wayne Webb remain among my favorites.   

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       REVIEWING THE REVELATION


                CHAPTER 1     (STUDY 2)


              APPROACHING THE BOOK

REVELATION 1:1-3

The fact that it can be assumed that the original recipients of Revelation were expected to understand what John was instructed to write to them is no certain guarantee that they actually did. Some thing similar could be said of contemporary readers.  In fact, it might be even more difficult for today’s readers because they generally tend to approach the book under the influence of second hand preunderstandings such as have been assimilated from either their teachers, or from extra biblical books.  What is more, there have been over nineteen hundred years of interpretative traditions handed down and embellished by well meaning expositors. I remind my reader of this fact because like other traditional embellishments of the Word of God there can be found basic premises that provide conclusions even before the facts are considered.  Who among us does not realize that there is always the possibility of subtle psychological dispositions wherein persuasions are reinforced by desires to believe what one wants to believe.  There can be no doubt that if there is any book in the Bible that provides an open door to sensational embellishments it is the Revelation. 

However, having said this, I would hurry to add what might seem like a contradiction. There are difficulties in the book even for sincere students, and quite frankly, I would be suspicious of any commentator who evinced a spirit that conveyed a boast that he fully understood every single jot and tittle in the book.  But then, I would quickly add that I don’t think it is necessary to understand every jot and tittle in order to have an appreciation of the scope and content of the book.

I am writing these words on a computer, yet by no stretch of the imagination do I profess to be an expert on all aspects of this wonderful invention.  Far from it!  I do nonetheless avail myself of the input from those men and women whose expertise with computers never ceases to amaze me. In a similar manner, knowledgeable commentators can help in the jots and tittles found scattered throughout the book. Their expertise can help me to understand and enjoy a greater appreciation of this intriguing book, a book that Richard Bauckman called The Climax of Prophecy.  For this reason I suggested a number of commentators who are readily available, and whose works are worthy of utilization.  As these studies progress I will mention others, but let it be understood that Scripture itself should always be the final authority. “It is amazing,” as a friend often reminds me, “how much light Scripture can shed on the commentators.”

APPROACHING THE BOOK

It might be helpful if I explain how I intend to proceed in these studies.  Then I would like to say a word about why I think so many have so much trouble with its content.  And finally, I would like to share an outline that summarizes the content of the book.  This last objective might be jumping the gun a little, but I cannot help but think that the failure to appreciate the sweep of the whole might be one reason why many have problems with the parts. 

As far as my approach is concerned, I do not intend to pursue these studies in a common verse-by-verse manner.  I will of course, from time to time, be focusing on particular verses, phrases, and words in their respective contexts, but my main concern will be to concentrate on broad sections and thus attempt to highlight relationships between the various parts.  

The title of these studies, Reviewing the Revelation is one that is analogous to something common to life in the military.  Often there is an event known as a Reviewing of the Troops, and occasionally A Pass in Review.  A ‘Pass in Review’ would involve a ‘march past’ and a review of the troops would usually concentrate more on an inspection of each soldier with a Sargent-Major or even the Colonel of the regiment occasionally stopping and checking on a particular soldier’s uniform, or taking time even to exchange a little persiflage.  The reviewing of the individuals who made up each squad is the parallel to the verse-by-verse approach, whereas the pass in review has the senior officer standing and observing each squad or section move past the review stand.  I once had the privilege, as an honorary Padre (Chaplain), of being on the parade stand with a Brigadier General, who was Provost Marshal of the British Army, as a parade of Veterans marched by with their various association banners flying in the wind.  It was an exhilarating experience. The analogy, based on this kind of review, comes closer to the approach I have in mind in the following studies.  Although, I will from time to time pause and give special attention to particular verses as they relate to the overall “pass in review.”

Maybe another analogy might better explain my approach. Let me call to mind the image of how trees relate to a forest.  It takes a lot of trees to make a forest, but when walking through a forest one usually does not stop to examine every single tree.  In other words, rather than concentrating on any single tree, people generally tend to take in the sweep of the whole forest.  Of course, this cannot be done without looking at certain trees that seem to stand out from the rest, but even here, such trees are not permitted to block the appreciation of the whole.  This only happens if a person stands too close to any given tree.  A similar phenomenon can happen in the study of Revelation if one verse (one tree) be allowed to assume a dominant significance.  The same could be said of narrowness of perspective caused by certain preunderstandings, if they be allowed to dictate interpretation, for they could tend to obscure the interdependent relationships between the chapters and the verses (the many trees).   

The preceding thoughts may have weaknesses, but they nonetheless serve to illustrate, at least to some degree, why a point of departure can be of great importance.  Most serious students of Holy Scripture, sooner or later, become aware of the perennial problem of allowing the pendulum to swing too far.  Now I am mixing metaphors.  What I mean, as was just implied, is that there is a danger in singling out certain trees (verses) for special attention, and thus ignoring the adjacent trees.  In other words, certain trees can receive preferential treatment because they harmonize with preconceptions of how the whole should be appreciated.  This of course is not to say that one tree can be bigger and more striking than another tree, but it can only be such when seen against the wider background.  
 
THREE PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS

I would add three further observations.  First, picking up on the preceding analogy, I would introduce a word of caution.  Like a forest, the book of Revelation does have variety, but there is also unity in its overall content.  It is not, as sometimes imagined, a hodgepodge of disjointed phantasmal visions.  On the contrary, there exists an interrelated plot that gives unity to the whole.  The second observation also falls into the category of caution, and carries a warning sign.  It goes back to what was just said about the possibility of allowing presuppositions to dictate how the book should be approached and interpreted.  I can think of many examples of this fallacy.  One that comes to mind at the moment, can be seen in how the Roman Catholic Church, guided by the pragmatic needs to defend the institution of the Papacy, has distorted Matthew 16:18.  Even Augustine made it clear that he did not admit any claim of papal jurisdiction based on this passage.  The petra was not Peter but Christ (See, Garry Wills, Why I Am a Catholic p. 91).  Other examples of such distortion will be mentioned ere too long.  There can be little doubt that it is an insidious ever-present danger to allow presuppositions to dictate interpretation.  In other words, problems are not necessarily in the Bible itself, as much as they might be in the theories that are supposedly the keys to its interpretation.   
   
The preceding statements call for additional explanation. Students are not always aware of the phenomenon in which a given system of theological thinking can influence exegesis.  Supposedly, theology is the product of the ordinary rules of grammar and logic applied to the interpretation of Holy Scripture. The problem I am trying to describe arises when the logic takes its bearings from premises that some-times are allowed to dictate attempts at exegesis.  Illustrations of this insidious happening will appear in later studies, but for the moment let the warning be posted.

In thinking about what I have just said, my mind recalls a passage from the pen of E. W. Bullinger.  It can be found in his book, How to Enjoy the Bible.  He contended that much of what Christians believe comes from various intellectual traditions rather than coming from the Bible itself. Then, inadvertently, in the process of pursuing the study of the Bible, much of the consequent dynamic is guided by a desire to make the teachings of the Bible conform to the various traditions. When the confirmation cannot be found it results in a consequent “difficulty.”  “But,” as Bullinger wrote, it does not seem to dawn on the student that, “the difficulty is not in the Word of God itself.”  It does exist, but only in the mind of the student.  Hence, “The real difficulty is in giving up our views because we fail to make the Bible conform to them.”  And, as he continued, he pointed out:  “It does not, at first, occur to our minds that we may have to abandon some of our views if we would get rid of the difficulty.” This could of course apply to most controversies; the interpretation of the Revelation being no exception.      

The third observation comes as a word of encouragement. It high-lights my opinion that an intelligent understanding of the Revelation holds practical benefits for those who have “ears to hear, and eyes to see.”   I firmly believe that the book forms an important part of Holy Scripture and therefore is profitable in “thoroughly equipping” the man of God unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).  This would apply as much to those who are young in the faith as it does to those who have traveled the Christian way for many years. I do not think for one moment that John composed Revelation solely for an esoteric-ivory-tower-elitist cult.  This is not to say that the book is therefore an elementary primer on prophecy. It does contain many challenges, not only to those young in the faith, but also to the more mature believers.

With regard to those young in the faith, it should not come as a surprise that they should find challenges as they read and study the Bible. There usually are difficulties in most learning processes.  Therefore the truths of the Bible are no exception.  Mortimer Adler expressed the opinion that the Bible is a very difficult book to read.  In some ways I would tend to agree with him, but then I would wonder about such passages as Psalm 19:7, and 2 Timothy 3:15.  Yes, there are so-called experts who fail to apprehend its overall message.  The Lord Jesus himself ran into this very phenomena (Cf. Jn.5:39, 40). Even though such experts sometimes fail to make sense of its content, let it be mentioned that there were humble fisherman who were able to apprehend its general message and put the various parts together into intelligent relationships (Jn. 5:39-47; 2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Pet.1:19-21; 3:1-14).  This however, does not necessarily mean that there could be certain parts of the Bible that might be more difficult than other parts.   For example, Peter mentioned that there were some things in Paul’s epistles that were “hard to be understood.” (2 Pet. 3:16).  So while Adler could be right to a degree, his statement needs qualification. 

ANALYZING THE DIFFICULTIES

What Adler went on to say is interesting.  He added that, “the Holy Book . . . The Word of God is obviously the most difficult writing men can read; but it is also, if you believe it is the Word of God, the most important to read.” (How to Read a Book, p. 294).  No doubt, if he had singled out certain sections as far as degrees of difficulty are concerned, he would probably have put the Revelation near the top.  Nevertheless, his logic cannot be faulted. If it is the Word of God, and I believe that it is, then there is no more important book.  The Revelation is part of that Word. Hence, it is an important book and should not be neglected.  Perhaps, the question needs to be asked, what is it that lies behind the difficulties in the Revelation?   If this can be answered, then maybe the light can be turned on and some mitigation of the difficulties might be allowed.

For example, do the problems spring from the fact that the book is full of figurative language?   Figures of speech can be confusing, but they can be explained and thus they can be understood.  In fact when they are understood it soon becomes evident that rather than water down meaning they intensify it.  However, sometimes apprehending  meaning involves an attempt to research the cultural perspective of writer and reader.  I still use figures of speech, even words that were peculiar to my childhood days in the northeastern part of England.  Every once in a while they need to be explained, and when they are, “the penny drops!”  What do I mean when I say, “the penny drops?”   It was little more than a half century ago that homes in Great Britain had meter-machines which needed penny coins to keep the light supply available.  When the light went out, a penny was dropped in the meter and voila, there was light! 

If figures of speech are sometimes difficult in one’s own native language, imagine what they are like when they are found in a translation.   I remember reading about the fateful words of Gameel el-Batouty when, on October 31, 1999, he, as co-pilot of that Egyptian Air Flight, careened toward the sea.  In Arabic, they are transliterated: “Tawakilt ala Allah!”  The English language news media learned that the literal meaning of the words could be translated, “I entrust myself to God!”   The hasty conclusion was that the man at the controls was deliberately committing suicide and taking the lives of two hundred and sixteen people with him.   However, with the help of those who know the Arabic language and culture, it came out that the closest dynamic translation of the words would be somewhat equivalent to an American exclaiming, “Jesus Christ!”  In other words, they were words that express sudden surprise.  There are many expressions that are common fare in the vocabulary of Americans which sound like a prayer, but in reality are anything but a prayer.  On the contrary, they are blatant infractions of the commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” (Ex. 20:7). 

In the case at hand, el-Batouty might have uttered the words, not as a resignation of his soul to Allah, but rather as an exclamation of shock when he realized that the plane was out of control, and he was unable to do anything about it.  With such in mind, context and culture help turn the light on and bring better understanding of original meaning.   The point in this illustration can be applied to the interpretation of the Revelation.  Like the matter of el-Batouty’s words, there is a need to ask questions and avoid hasty judgments.  In this regard, it might be mentioned that the Revelation is filled with imagery much of which comes directly from the Old Testament.  I believe it was Bruce Metzger who claimed that there were over 400 such quotations. 

There is also the possibility that frustrations might arise from the fact that there are scholarly differences of opinion over how the Revelation should be interpreted.  In other words, if the experts disagree, what hope is there for rank and file people?  When I hear this, I am frequently tempted to respond, “So, what else is new?”  Should anyone really be surprised when this happens?   I think of the times that I have attended symposiums in the fields of theology, philosophy, and psychology. Not only do the disciplines have their private domains in which scholars fight their respective battles, but there seems to be resentment toward intruders and toward any crossing over between disciplines. But even apart from these considerations, is there any subject of consequence that finds universal agreement among scholars? 

At the period of time in which I am writing these words, the United States is witnessing widespread controversy over who should be the next president.  Even among Christians strong differences exist over the candidates.  Interestingly, both candidates themselves claim to be believers, at least as far as the existence of God and man’s accountability to him is concerned.  I am not for one moment implying that this question is unimportant.  On the contrary, I agree with Jacob Neusner, a distinguished Talmudic scholar of the University of South Florida, who said, “I’d rather have a Christian bound by Scripture, as I am, than a functional atheist, bound by nothing.” (Newsweek, Feb. 7, 2000, pp. 33, 34).  My point here is simply to illustrate that differences over important issues are really par for the course and are quite normal.
 
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To be continued:  My apologies to my reader if I have stopped at what might be judged to be a bad juncture.  However, hopefully I have wet the whistle and created a desire for more.  My plan is to put these studies together in book form by the summer of 2009.  Since it is “A Pass in Review” it will be a book of some 250 pages.  Since our monthly mailings are now coming via email the reader is at liberty to download whatever he deems to be useful.  This is the second study in the series.

In fact, being able to download (studies) from our web page has saved hours of time and a lot of money.  I would encourage those with computers to download for friends. Even some of my books and booklets are now available on our web page: www.giftdigest.com.  I would also invite dialogue, particularly on these studies in the Revelation.

Personal email address pastorhudson@giftdigest.com. Regular mail address till April, 2009: P.O. Box 7187, Gulf Shores, AL 36547. 

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EXEMPLO DUCEMUS

A Condensed Version of a Sermon Preached by Dr. Henry T. Hudson at The Prince of Peace Episcopal Church during the North American Royal Military Police Reunion held at Gettysburg, PA. Sept. 13, 2008

May I begin with an exaggerated caricature? My purpose will soon be evident. There were two Scotsmen, two Irishmen, Two Welshmen, and two Englishmen shipwrecked on a desert island. The two Scotsmen opened a bank, the two Welshmen started a choir, the two Irishmen killed each other, and the two Englishmen were still waiting to be introduced after twenty-five years!  An exaggeration no doubt, but nonetheless containing distinctive elements of nationalistic traits. What do these traits have to do with the motto of the Military Police? Very little. Yet, if the motto of the Royal Military Police is the ideal of the men and women who wear the Red Cap, then they will exemplify certain distinctive characteristics that will be a credit to the uniform they wear and to the Corps with which they identify themselves.  These thoughts came to me when I was reading the words of the apostle Paul found in his epistle to the church at Philippi. I had been exercising my brain trying to fathom some of his statements found in chapter three. He had given his personal testimony and, for argument sake, had listed his religious accomplishments and cited his boast-worthy pedigree. He did this in order to combat the damage being done by those who opposed the gospel of the grace of God that he was preaching. In other words, if they thought they could boast he could ‘out-boast’ them. What is striking in his testimony is the fact that he heaped all his accomplishments together and considered them as “but dung,” in order that he might gain Jesus Christ and be found in him possessing, “the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (vs. 9).  Then, Paul went on to encourage and exhort those who had come to faith in Christ, to follow the lead of those who were setting the example of how they should walk in their newfound faith.  I could not help but recall a certain parallel in how my training at Inkerman Barracks had impacted my life. I was an eighteen year old street-wise kid from the east side of London who thought he had all the answers to life, but three months of square-bashing and discipline knocked off almost all the rough edges and even altered the way I walked down the street. I was a member of an elite group of men and was imbued with an esprit de corps that dramatically changed my life. I was proud to be a Royal Military Policeman.  However, Paul was describing an even greater transformation. In his second letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, he used the analogy of what it means to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. He is one who knows how to endure hardness and who obeys his commanding officer. Sadly, in this Philippian passage, after writing about what it means to be a good example, he went on to say that not all will follow. In fact, he added that some had become like insubordinate soldiers, and were virtually enemies of all that their faith in Christ represented. Some of us have known soldiers like that, and they bring shame to their uniform and regiment. His final words are challenging: “For our conversation (our citizenship) is in heaven; from whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 20). Paul was implying very clearly that the citizenship of a Christian exists right now in heaven and that while on earth he is to be a walking example of all that this means. He might be a Scotsman, a Welshman, an Irishman, or an Englishman, but if he is a Christian then he is also a citizen of the heavenly realm and thus is be an example of what this means. Paul would have said a hearty “AMEN” to the R.M.P. Corps’ motto. He wanted to lead by his own example.  He began the next chapter of his epistle: “THERE-FORE . . . SO (IN QUESTA MANIERA i.e. IN THIS MANNER) STAND FAST IN THE LORD.” Paraphrased: “Therefore, knowing that you are a citizen of a heavenly commonwealth, do your best to lead others by your own example.”

Dr. Henry and
Shirley Hudson

Soliloquy #217 - by Shirley Hudson
Shirley is the wife of our Branch Padre, Dr. Henry Hudson, and she wrote this soliloquy that seems appropriate
to include in this edition of the Watchdog as it relates to the Gettysburg Reunion and Henry’s sermon. Please
read and enjoy.

Storms and Wars

“Guess I’d better stop working for a while, and go out ‘n get some lunch,” a friend was telling us. Then with his typical dry humour, he said that it was a good thing he did go out, because when he got back home again, a tree was laying across the driveway, right where his truck had been parked! They had experienced high winds, with many trees and branches down. In some areas, power was still off. I thought to myself, we’re not used to being without electricity. That’d be difficult!  A week ago we were in St. Louis, Missouri. Henry was due to preach there. But when we got down to our car to go to church, it was completely dead. Perhaps the strong wind and rain from the aftermaths of Hurricane Ike got into the engine. People around were trying to help us, and we did get to the church with five minutes to spare! It was a blessed day, even though we heard some people had been turned away because of high water on the roads and even the Interstate! I thought to myself that maybe it was a good thing we were delayed. Only the Lord knows.  On the road to Ohio, when I was driving to give my husband a rest, I could feel the strength of the wind against the car. I had to hold the steering wheel with both hands! Along the way, we saw branches and trees down.  But we had no trouble getting to our daughter’s home for a couple days before heading on to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Again I thought it’s a good thing we have a couple days to relax here.

Then we went to Gettysburg and Washington D.C. for the reunion of the Royal Military Policemen who had settled in North America. Their regimental motto is EXEMPLO DUCEMUS. “Lead by Example.”  Requirements for their units were high. They were tall, good-looking, obviously intelligent men who were interested in continued learning. Their wives were lovely ladies. I felt honoured to be among them.  As we heard the guides and observed the many historic buildings of Washington D.C, I was filled with wonder
as I gazed upon them and thought about the role of each in America’s history. I felt breathless especially as I gazed at the Statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. He was a man confronted with enormous problems as he faced the possibility of a divided nation. Also the acres of tombstones in the Arlington National Cemetery moved my heart almost to tears. Most of our group, many of whom were former military men, along with their wives, was emotionally stirred as I was. This experience was intensified by the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The next day at Gettysburg, we toured the Battlefields. We had an excellent guide. In my heart of hearts, I wondered at the futility and horror of war.  Tomorrow we will be worshipping together in an Anglican Church in Gettysburg. There will be a special ceremony with these military men in their regalia and colours. My husband will be delivering the sermon.  Afterwards they will be having a little ceremony of the laying of a wreath on the grave of one of the servicemen.  Henry will have a few words there also. I pray for him and for all these military men and their wives along with the members of the congregation. These last few days have given me a great deal to think about. They have made me realize that the only solution to the madness and futility of warfare is the return of the Prince of Peace, for when He returns He will abolish all the weapons of warfare, and, “Of the increase of His government and of peace, there will be no end.”  Isaiah 9:5-7

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