Why the Lamb Is Worthy to Open the Scroll (Rev 5:8-14)

November 21, 2016 — Leave a comment

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Past Lessons

John’s Introduction and Vision of the Son of Man
Letters to the Seven Churches
John Taken to Heaven to See the 24 Elders (Rev 4:1-6a)
John Take to Heaven to See 4 Living Beings (Rev 4:6b-11)
The One Worthy to Open the Scroll (Rev 5:1-7)

B. Text of Rev 5:8-14

“8And when the Lamb took the scroll the four living beings and twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense (which are the prayers of the saints).9They were singing a new song:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slaughtered and in your blood you bought for God every nation, language, people, and ethnicity.10and he made you all kings and priests of our God and they will reign on earth.’

11Then I looked and I heard noise from many angels around the throne, from the living beings, and from the elders. The number of those around the throne were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. 12The loud voice was singing:

‘The Lamb which was slaughtered is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise.’

13I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea singing: ‘Praise, value, honor, and power to the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’ 14Next the four living beings said ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

 Why The Lamb Is Worthy to Open the Scroll (Rev 5:8-14)

“St. John Altarpiece” by Hans Memling (1433-1494)

C. General Remarks

“With this awe-inspiring introduction, the groundwork is laid for the unfolding revelation beginning in chapter 6, when the scene shifts once again from heaven to earth” (Walvoord, Revelation, 115).

“The scene of chapter 5 can be considered prophetic of future events in which the church of Jesus Christ will be with Him in heaven. Those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and who have entered into the blessings of His redemptive work will be numbered among the tens of thousands pictured as giving their worship and praise to the Savior. That which John saw in prophetic vision will be the future experience of raptured believers as they wait with Christ in heaven for the consummation events of the age and the establishment of His kingdom” (Walvoord, Revelation, 116).

II. THE SCROLL AND NEW SONG (5:8-10)

A. The Lamb Takes the Scroll (v. 8)

Καὶ ὅτε ἔλαβεν τὸ βιβλίον, τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα καὶ οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεσαν ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἀρνίου ἔχοντες ἕκαστος κιθάραν καὶ φιάλας χρυσᾶς γεμούσας θυμιαμάτων, αἵ εἰσιν αἱ προσευχαὶ τῶν ἁγίων,

“And when the Lamb took the scroll the four living beings and twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense (which are the prayers of the saints). (Rev 5:8)

1. Harp

The “κιθιρα” is translated as “harp” (as in NLT, NASB95, LEB, ESV, NIV, NRSV or a “lyre”). This was a stringed instrument with ten to twelve strings that was used along with hymns. This instrument is used:

  • two other times in the book of Revelation (Rev 14:2; 15:2)
  • when singing psalms (Pss 33:2; 57:8; 71:22; 92:3; 98:5; 147:7; 149:3)
  • by David (1 Sam 16:16)
  • in the temple choirs (1 Chron 25:1-6; Neh 12:27)
  • in association with prophesy (1 Sam 10:5; 1 Chron 25:3; Pss 49:4)

2. Golden Bowls Filled with Incense

Golden bowls filled with incense only occur in the book of Revelation (5:8; 15:7; 16:1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 17; 17:1; 21:9). Nowhere else in the Bible do these items show up. They were wide-necked saucer bowls made for religious services.

3. Prayers of Who?

My translation says saints’ prayers fill the golden bowls. Several other translations use “saints” (NASB95, LEB, ESV, NRSV, NKJV). However, two translations say these are the prayers of “God’s people” (NLT, NIV). The first conclusion we should make is that these are the prayers of the saints living on the earth, not the prayers of the people in heaven.

The second conclusion should be about the content of the prayers. One view is that they are worship. Another is that they are petitions brought before God. N. T. Wright says that they are the “ordinary, faithful, humble prayers of Christians here on earth” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 56).

B. The Lamb’s Blood (v. 9)

καὶ ᾄδουσιν ᾠδὴν καινὴν λέγοντες·
ἄξιος εἶ λαβεῖν τὸ βιβλίον καὶ ἀνοῖξαι τὰς σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ,
ὅτι ἐσφάγης καὶ ἠγόρασας τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου
ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς καὶ γλώσσης καὶ λαοῦ καὶ ἔθνους

“They were singing a new song:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slaughtered and in your blood you bought for God every nation, language, people, and ethnicity.’” (Rev 5:9)

1. New Song

The song that is “new” is based on the “new” revelation about God. Mulholland says that this is “not something never sung before at all . . . but a new version of something that previously existed” (Mulholland, Revelation [2011], 467). According to Thomas, καινος “in the Apocalypse signals something regarding the quality of a thing, not new in reference to time. . . This is the description of a song that is new in nature, different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, and superior in value” (Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 399).

2. A Slaughtered Lamb

  • “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NLT)
  • “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.” (1 Peter 1:18–21, NLT)

3. A Bought People

Through the sacrifice of the Lamb people have been purchased. The New Testament makes it crystal clear that Jesus Christ purchased us from death for life through his sacrifice.

  • “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NLT)
  • “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.” (1 Corinthians 7:23, NLT)
  • “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13, NLT)
  • “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” (1 Peter 1:18–19, NLT)
  • “But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1, NLT)
  • “This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders. No one could learn this song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. They have kept themselves as pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:3–4, NLT)

4. Christ’s Death for All People

One question I like to ask in Bible studies is: “Did Christ die for the whole world?” or “Did he die only for those he chose to be saved?”
Christ died for the whole world. “No language, people group, or nation is excluded” (Walvoord, Revelation, 114). It is my personal belief that God died for the whole world (*2 Peter 2:1; *1 John 2:2; *Cor 5:14-15, 19; Isa 53:6; John 1:29; 3:16-18, 36; 4:42; 1 Tim 2:3-6; 4:10; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:14.

C. Kings and Priest of God (v. 10)

καὶ ἐποίησας αὐτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν βασιλείαν καὶ ἱερεῖς,
καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

“’and he made you all kings and priests of our God and they will reign on earth.’” (Rev 5:10)

There are some variations about the time of the “reigning” on earth in this verse. The two variations simplify into saying the saints reign right now on earth while the other variant says that the saints will reign at some time in the future on earth.

Support for the future tense of the reign on earth is the word βασιλευσουσιν. This future tense verb is seen in the following Greek manuscripts: א P 1854. 2050. 2053. 2344. 2351 𝕸A lat co; Hipp Cyp. Metzger, Breaking the Code; the NET translators; Walvoord, Revelation, 114;

Support for the present tense of the reign on earth is the word βασιλευουσιν. This present tense verb is seen in the following Greek manuscripts: A 046. 1006. 1611. 1841. 2329 𝕸K. Mulholland believes this is original (Revelation [2011], 467).

Metzger states that Rev 20:6 in the codex Alexandrinus “mistakenly reads βασιλεουσιν for the future tense, preferred βασιλευσουσιν here, as more suited to the meaning of the context” (Metzger, NT Textual Commentary, 667). With that said, Metzger gives the future tense reading an “A” reading.

The translation notes for the NET Bible state that this textual issue is a difficult one because both readings have excellent support. However, the lunar sigma that was used in uncial script could have been overlooked by some scribes, resulting in the present tense verb. “All things considered, there is a slight preference for the future” (NET Bible).
Because this is a future event of when the saints, priests, and kings will reign, this likely will be in the millennial kingdom (Rev 20:1-10).

III. ANGELIC CHORUS (5:11-12)

A. A Loud Noise from the Myriads (v. 11)

Καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν ἀγγέλων πολλῶν κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῶν ζῴων καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, καὶ ἦν ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτῶν μυριάδες μυριάδων καὶ χιλιάδες χιλιάδων

“Then I looked and I heard noise from many angels around the throne, from the living beings, and from the elders. The number of those around the throne were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (Rev 5:11)

1. The Fourth Circle

This verse gives us the four circles around the throne. The first circle includes the Father, the Lamb (which is Jesus) and the seven torches with burring flames (the Holy Spirit) (Rev 4:5; 5:6) The second circle includes the four living beings (Rev 4:6). The third circle includes the twenty-four elders (Rev 4:4). This fourth circle is outside of the first three.

2. Those Around the Throne

Some translations say “ten thousand times ten thousand” and “a thousand times a thousand.” Mulholland says that the exact math here would be 10,000 x 10,000 x 1,000 x 1,000 = 100, 000, 000, 000, 000 (100 trillion). However, the exact number here is not the point of the statement. Instead, it is intended to describe a vast crowd that is around the throne, probably an innumerable (Metzger, Breaking the Code, 54). While there might be believers in heaven that are around the throne, an innumerable host of angels is often mentioned throughout the Bible (Deut 33:2; Job 25:3; Pss 68:17; 89:7; Dan 7:10).

B. Qualities of the Slaughtered Lamb (v. 12)

λέγοντες φωνῇ μεγάλῃ·
ἄξιόν ἐστιν τὸ ἀρνίον τὸ ἐσφαγμένον λαβεῖν
τὴν δύναμιν καὶ πλοῦτον καὶ σοφίαν
καὶ ἰσχὺν καὶ τιμὴν καὶ δόξαν καὶ εὐλογίαν.

“The loud voice was singing:
‘The Lamb which was slaughtered is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise.’” (Rev 5:12)

1. Worthy Is He

I have shared in other lessons that John originally wrote the book of Revelation in Koine Greek which did not depend on word order for subject, verb, object, etc. Instead, Koine Greek used what is called “case” to determine the different grammatical elements of sentences. Here, John writes about how the Lamb is “worthy” first. The Greek word “worthy” is placed first in the sentence in order to emphasize that this Lamb truly is worthy.

2. Seven Attributes of the Lamb

Here’s a quick list of the attributes listed here for the Lamb, an explanation of each, and other biblical support.

  • “δύναμιν, power” – This is the power that the sacrificial death of the Lamb has to conquer Satan (Rev 5:5; 12:11; 17:14).
  • “πλουτον, wealth” – Christ is the only source of our riches (Rev 18:17).
  • “σοφιαν, wisdom” – This is a frequent term used to describe God in the OT (Job 12:13, 16; Pss 104:24; Prov 2:6-7; 3:19; Isa 31:2; Jer 10:12) and in the NT (Rev 7:12). Also see Christ’s wisdom (1 Cor 1:24, 30; Col 2:3).
  • “ἰσχυν, strength” – Christ is the Father’s administer of justice on earth in the end times and Christ is worthy to have the strength it takes to do that (Rev 7:12; Eph 1:19-20).
  • “τιμη, honor” –
  • “δοξα, glory” –
  • “εὐλογιαν, praise” – David uses this to praise God in 1 Cor 29:11-13. Jesus is greeted with this word Matt 21:9; Mark 11:9; John 12:13.

3. What Christ Did on the Cross

a) SUBSTITUTION

Christ died in our place and took the sinners’ just punishment.

(1) Old Testament Backgrounds

  • God provides “animal skin” to provide coverings for Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21)
  • Abraham’s sacrifice (Gen 22:1-14; see the use of the preposition here תַּ֥חַת “below,” “under,” “instead of”)
  • Passover (Ex 12:12-13, 21-23; John 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7)
  • Identification of sinner with sacrificial animal (Lev *1:1-5; 3:2; Day of Atonement, Lev 16 1-34; Isa 53:3-10)
  • Sacrifices were a gift, a pleasing aroma to God (Lev 1:9, 13; 2:2, 9). These were “sin” offerings meant to pay the penalty for the sins of the people. The death of the animal was a penalty for the sin against God.

(2) New Testament Basis

  • ἀντι “for, in place of, instead of; in behalf of” (Luke 11:11; *Mat 20:28; Mark 10:45)
  • λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν in Matt 20:28
  • ὑπέρ “on behalf of” (John 11:50-51; *Rom 5:6-8; 2 Cor 5:15, 21; Gal 3:13; 1 Tim 2:6; Titus 2:14 1 Pet 3:18)

(3) The Meaning of Substitution

Punishment of sin is removed by substitution. Our sins and punishment are transferred to another-Jesus. Christ died in our place. Our sin is paid for by Christ. “Christ suffered as a substitute for us, that is, instead of us, resulting in the advantage of us paying for our sins” (Ryrie, Basic Theology, 329).

b) REDEMPTION

Christ paid the price to free sinners from the power, consequences, and condemnation of their sins.

(1) Old Testament Backgrounds

  • Israel is purchased and set free from Egypt (Ex 11-12)
  • Boaz, kinsman redeemer of Ruth (Ruth 3-4)
  • God & Israel (God as “redeemer” Isa *41:14; *43:14; or 43:3, 10-14; *44:6)
  • Hosea & Gomer (Hosea 3:1-5)

(2) New Testament Basis

  • λύτρον “means or cost of release, redemption” (*Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45)
  • λυτρόομαι “redeem, set free, liberate” (Tit 2:14; 1 Pet 1:18-19)
  • ἀπολυτρωσις “setting free, deliverance; redemption, release, acquittal” (Rom 3:24; 8:23; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:15 [used in future in Rom 8:23; Eph 4:30; Heb 9:13])
  • ἀγοράζω “to buy, purchase” (1 Cor 6:19-20; Rev 5:9; 2 Pet 2:1; Col 7:23)
  • ἐξαγοραζω “to buy in order to possess” (Gal 3:13; Eph 5:16; Col 4:5)
  • περιποιέω “redeem, acquire, purchase” (Acts 20:28)

(3) Meaning

  • We are all in a state of slavery because of sin (John 8:34; 2 Cor 4:3)
  • Christ (the one who is free from sin) pays the ransom price (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 2:1)
  • Christ removes us from slavery and secures our freedom (Matt 20:28; Gal 3:13)
  • Now, as a result we belong to God and He is our new master (1 Cor 6:20; Rom 6:14)

c) PROPITIATION

God’s holy wrath against our sin is satisfied through Christ’s death.

(1) Old Testament Backgrounds

  • God’s divine wrath against sin is spoken about 585 times (580 times according to Ryrie in “Basic Theology” (p. 339).
  • Day of the Atonement (Lev 16:1-34)
  • Isa *1:21-26; 2:12
  • Jer *4:27-28; *6:19
  • Results of God’s wrath (general affliction [Pss 88:7], pestilence [Ezek 14:19], being delivered to enemies [2 Chron 28:9], drought [Deut 11:17], plagues [2 Sam 24:1], leprosy [Num 12:10], exile [2 Kings 23:26-27; Ezek 19:12].

(2) New Testament Basis

  • Divine wrath (*John 3:36; Rom 1:18; Eph 5:6; 2 Thess 1:7-9; Heb 10:25; 12:29)
  • Passionate wrath (Rom 9:22; Rev 14:10, 19; 19:15)
  • Other examples of God’s wrath (Rom 1:18ff; 9:22; 2 Thess 1:7-9; Heb 10:27; 12:29

(3) Meaning

  • Generally, “the satisfaction of God’s holy wrath against sin through the blood [death] of Christ.”
  • Because sin is contrary to the nature and being of God, sin must be eliminated in His presence.
  • Specifically, “an actual meeting (fulfilling) of the wrath of God; and this satisfaction of righteousness is not only that of God the Father, but that of the entire Trinity” (J. Scott Horrell, “What Christ Did on the Cross,” 10.)

d) RECONCILIATION

Christ’s death allows for forgiveness of man’s sins and restoration of our relationship with God in love.

(1) Old Testament Backgrounds

  • 5 Divisions of the Fall (Gen 3)
  • God guards the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:22-24)
  • God limits the lifespan of humans to 120 years (Gen 6:1-3)

(2) New Testament Basis

  • We are “enemies” to God (Rom 5:10; Matt 5:24)
  • καταλλάσσω & ἀποκαταλλάσσω “reconcile” (Eph 1:9-10; *2:16; Col 1:20-22; 2 Cor 5:18-21)

(3) Meaning

  • Christ’s death satisfied God’s anger with the world and that frees Him to love the world, extend his grace, and love to all (*2 Cor 5:19, 21)
  • Man can receive forgiveness and respond in love to God (*2 Cor 5:20)
  • Those already reconciled to God become his ambassadors to tell everyone “be reconciled with God” (*2 Cor 5:18-20)

e) JUSTIFICATION

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.

(1) Old Testament Backgrounds

Abraham’s faith caused him to be counted as righteous (Gen 22:5, 8; 15:6)

(2) New Testament Basis

  • δικαιοω “to justify; vindicate; treat as just/righteous” (Acts 13:38-39; Rom 3:19-26, 28; 4:1-5; 8:29-30; Gal 2:16; Tit 3:4-7)
  • δικαιος / δικαιως “just, righteous, right” (Luke 18:9-14; Rom 1:17; 3:19-26; 5:19)
  • δικαιοσύνη “righteousness” (Rom 1:17; 3:19-26; 4:1-5; 2 Cor 5:21; Tit 3:4-7)

(3) Meaning

  • Being “right” in God eyes was by “faith” from start to finish (*Rom 1:17)
  • No one was made right by the Law; people are right by faith (*Rom 3:19-26)
  • People are counted as righteous because of their faith in God (*Rom 4:1-5)
  • Not just “brought back to zero”
  • Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer.
  • This is a free gift, it is based on our confession and union with Christ, nothing else.
  • “The gift of righteousness that God gives is not innate to us; it is not based on our personal holiness, nor necessarily always reflected by our practice and works (although it should be). It is in one sense a juridical (forensic) gift of God received by faith that declares Christ’s righteousness to be applied to the believer. Thus we are clothed in Christ himself before the judgment seat of God. Ac 13:39, Lk 18:9-14 (the justified publican); Ro 5:1; Gal 2:16-17; 3:11, 24. Nevertheless, while a free gift of grace, justification carries a second sense that the believer is made righteous in union with Christ. Justification is the promise to the believer as she enters covenant community of the eschatological hope of full justification. Justification declares now what will be” (J. Scott Horrell, “What Christ Did on the Cross,” 14).
  • In other words, believers have always been saved by faith.

IV. CREATURE CHORUS (5:13-14)

A. Qualities of the One on the Throne and the Lamb (v. 13)

καὶ πᾶν κτίσμα ὃ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα ἤκουσα λέγοντας·
τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ
ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.

“I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea singing: ‘Praise, value, honor, and power to the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’” (Rev 5:13)

Osborne points out that intelligent creatures are not the only ones included here. The entire animal kingdom is included in the singing to the Lord (Osborne, Revelation, 264).

  • “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, NLT, emphasis added)
  • “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, NLT)

B. A Final Word from the Living Beings and Elders (v. 14)

καὶ τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα ἔλεγον· ἀμήν. καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ἔπεσαν καὶ προσεκύνησαν.

“Next the four living beings said ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Rev 5:14)

The worship seen of Rev 4-5 is concluded with this “amen.” Next, John begins to see the judgements as the seven seals are opened starting in Rev 6.

IV. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

A. Faith is my appropriate response to Jesus.

One of the best things about Christianity is that God is the one who took initiative to reconcile us to him. In other religions the human is responsible to get right with god and to appease god. However, in Christianity is was God who took the initiative to die in our place (substitution), free us from sin (redemption), satisfy wraith (propitiation), forgive our sins (reconciliation), and make us right (justification).

B. Even Satan and his demons know about Jesus and Jesus’s work.

Perhaps it is just me, but I have had the idea that if you know about Jesus you are saved. However, two passages in the Bible make it clear that simply knowing about Jesus is not enough to receive salvation.

  • “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19, NLT)
  • “Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, ‘Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’ Jesus cut him short. ‘Be quiet! Come out of the man,’ he ordered.” (Mark 1:23–25, NLT)

These two passages indicate that knowing about Jesus is not enough for salvation. We also acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and commit to follow him.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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