The Anticipated Closing of the Canon

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Text 11:1-211

(10:1 I saw a mighty angel descending out of heaven, clothed with a cloud, and the rainbow on his head; his face was like the sun and his feet like pillars of fire; 2 and he had a little book open in his hand. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land, 3 and he cried out with a loud voice, just like a lion roars. And when he cried out the seven thunders uttered their voices. 4 Now when the seven thunders spoke I was about to write, but I heard a voice out of heaven saying, “Seal up the things that the seven thunders said,” and “You write after these things.” 5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to the heaven 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created the heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there would be no further delay, 7 but in the days of the blast of the seventh angel, when he is about to trumpet, the mystery of God that He declared to His slaves the prophets would be finished. 8 Now the voice that I heard out of heaven was speaking to me again and saying, “Go, take the little book that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book,” And he says to me, “Take and eat it up; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” 10 So I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it up, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And he said to me, “You must prophesy again over many peoples, even over ethnic nations and languages and kings.”1


In my opinion, this chapter is an absolutely amazing chapter on how we got the Bible, and how the Bible is related to prophecy, and the timing, nature, and sufficiency of Scripture. We covered a lot of territory over the last three sermons, and we saw how the Bible is totally sufficient for everything that we need. It is living and powerful, and we have seen how the attributes of God Himself stand behind His Word. And last week I spent a great deal of time showing how prophecy worked, using the image of the angel and the little book that John ate. We saw that the modern charismatic view of prophecy will not work since all prophecy is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative. I don't deny the legitimacy of some of their experiences - what I call illumination or guidance. Like the Reformed scholar John Murray, I've experienced them, and I value the Spirit's illumination and miracles too - but I don't call them prophecy. God reserves that term for inspired revelation. And all of our experienced must be held captive to the and the Bible alone.

Today I want to demonstrate not only that the canon was closed, but that God ended the need for all new prophetic revelation. And verse 7 is one of several go-to verses when you are arguing with a Mormon, who claims that God gave new books of Scripture in the 1800s, or the Seventh Day Adventists, who believe that Mary Ellen White was a prophetess, and that her writings are authoritative. It is a fantastic answer to so many troubles that plague the modern church. Verse 7 indicates that the mystery of God was finished in AD 70.

Now, that is disappointing news to some people. To me it is exciting news. It all depends on how you interpret the word "finished." Let me illustrate. If your guests are about to arrive and you send your daughter to the food pantry to get some spaghetti to cook for supper, and your daughter comes back saying that the spaghetti is finished - there is no more, then you will be sad, because you need it. That is not the meaning of the Greek word for "finished" here. That is finished in the sense of not having enough; insufficiency. On the other hand, if you have been building a home for a year and the contractor finally announces that the house is finished, that is a joyous word, because it now means that you have everything that you need; you can move in. That is the nature of the word for "finished" in verse 7. It has the idea of perfection and completion. In fact, the noun form of this verb is translated as "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10. You could also translate that as complete. It is completed, perfected, and finished in the sense that we have all that we now need. Now, when verse 7 was spoken, prophecy had not yet ended because John still had more things to write. But this verse anticipates that when the seventh trumpet is about to sound (that's still future), the mystery of God would be finished. And I want to go through this verse word-by-word to demonstrate that this understanding is the most natural one. And then we will look at three practical implications.

The contrast ("but" v. 7) is between the continuing revelation which John will "write after these things" (v. 4 with vv. 1-6 and 8-11) and the ending of prophetic revelation being discussed in verse 7.

First, any interpretation of verse 7 that is worth its salt has to account for the very strong contrast that the Greek word "but" introduces. He says, "but in the days of the blast of the seventh angel." He is contrasting something. It is the Greek word αλλα, which is the strongest kind "but." And most other interpretations just breeze over that word. And we really can't.

On my interpretation, the "but" is critical. The angel has give some prophetic revelation to the apostle John that he is commanded to hold onto for a while, and to write down later. In the Majority Text, verse 4 says,

Now when the seven thunders spoke I was about to write, but I heard a voice out of heaven saying, [And in the Majority Text there two distinct commands from this voice in heaven. First,] “Seal up the things that the seven thunders said,” and [second,] “You write after these things.”

The Ecclesiastical Text (f35) and the majority of Greek manuscripts have it exactly like that. We have seen that John was being given inspired revelation in this chapter, and before he could write it down, he had to go through the same process that Ezekiel went through when Ezekiel wrote Scripture. And I won't repeat what that process was. The only thing I will comment on is that the word "but" contrasts the ongoing revelation mentioned in verses 1-6 with the total cessation of prophetic revelation being anticipated in verse 7. It is a most natural contrast. It takes seriously the central theme of chapter 10. All other interpretations insert something that is not being discussed in this chapter at all.

The timing is AD 70 (v. 7a)

So how do Charismatics handle this verse? I know of only two ways that my conclusion can be avoided. The first is to interpret the word "finished" to mean that Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled (which I will show shortly is an impossible interpretation, though on the surface it may look like a good option). But this is not the Greek word pleroo. This is not the word for fulfilled.

The second group of interpreters admit that this is talking about the cessation of prophecy, but they say that the seventh trumpet is at the end of history. Now, if it is at the end of history, then yes, prophecy must continue until the end of history. Let me give you two quotes from charismatic commentaries who try to rescue prophecy from ceasing. Gordon Fee says, is a signal that “the mystery of God is to be accomplished” before that final moment happens; but in the meantime there must be further prophetic activity.2

So the prophetic activity goes all the way up to the time just before the seventh trumpet. On his eschatology, the seventh trumpet is at the very end of time.

But Tony Warren has given perhaps the best charismatic defense of this verse, so I will read him at length. He starts with 1 Corinthians 13, saying,

...The key to understanding this [cessation of prophecy in 1 Cor. 13:8-13] is in looking at the whole chapter in its proper context, and discerning exactly when "partial knowledge" shall cease. And obviously this can only occur at the consummation or completeness of all things. It occurs when Christ returns on the clouds of Glory. Only then will the mystery of God be complete, and knowledge will no longer be in part.

Revelation 10:7 [says]

"But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets."

And then, continuing to comment on both our passage and 1 Corinthians, Tony Warren says,

Until the second advent, we will always "know in part" or have partial knowledge, because the mystery of God cannot be finished [{Greek word} teleo] or come to the end or completion until that time. While we are on earth looking forward to His second coming, we will always see the things of God indistinctly and imperfectly. In this life we will never know, as we are known of God. Because this verse of Revelation chapter ten tells us that this will not happen until the voice of the seventh Angel sounds. And that is at the end of the world. Likewise, 1st Corinthians 13:9-10 tells us that when the perfect [teleios - {same Greek word}] or completion is come, that which is partial shall be done away with. That happens only with the coming of Christ in the consummation when that seventh trumpet shall sound. Thus it is impossible for these verses to be speaking of anything that occurs before Christ's second advent.3

I quoted him at length because he gives by far the best defense of a charismatic viewpoint on this verse that I have found. He agrees that the Greek word for "finished" here is exactly the same word as "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10, only here it is in a verbal form. He agrees it is a contrast between partial and complete. He agrees that it deals with the cessation of prophecy in both passages. And he agrees that prophecy cannot continue once the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 sounds. So we are in total agreement that just like 1 Corinthians 13, this passage teaches the total cessation of prophecy at the seventh trumpet.

Where the disagreement comes is on timing. That is the only point of disagreement. He believes the seventh trumpet is at the end of time; I believe the seventh trumpet is in AD 70. And the AD 70 interpretation makes the most sense for a number of reasons. First, God is not giving John a nebulous time frame that will be "about to" happen thousands of years in the future that is utterly unrelated to his current prophetic activity. The words "about to" indicate an imminence, and the word "but" indicates a contrast that John needs to be aware of. In other words, this information impacts him. The commands in this section relate to him. And this whole chapter relates to the finishing of the book of Revelation and the closing of the canon, which obviously happened in John's lifetime. The context is the inscripturation of the last book of the Bible, not something thousands of years in the future.

But even if you were to ignore the subject matter of this chapter, which is the closing of the canon, you are still in trouble in terms of the timeframe of the book as a whole. We have been seeing that the first six trumpets come sequentially after the first seven seals. There is an unbreakable chain of events that are perfectly timed from AD 30 to AD 70. None are out of sequence and one follows immediately after the other. The seventh trumpet simply cannot be put off till the end of time without doing violence to the chronology of these chapters.

But even the immediate context of this two-chapter unit of thought militates against putting this off to the end of time. Everybody agrees that chapter 11 occurs right before the seventh trumpet. But we are going to be seeing that all of chapter 11 is clearly pre-AD 70. For one thing, the temple of John's day is clearly still standing in verses 1-2. Otherwise he wouldn't be able to measure or predict its destruction. Second, the three and a half year war followed by a three and a half year occupation of Jerusalem by Roman forces as they trample the temple grounds takes place during that time. Everything about the seven trumpets points to a first century fulfillment.

Now some might want to fudge and say that the plural "days" can stretch the sixth trumpet out for a couple thousand years until the seventh trumpet sounds. But the word "days" is modified by "when he is about to trumpet." The words "about to" indicate sometime right before the seventh trumpet, and can't by any stretch of the imagination be used to refer to the whole period of the sixth trumpet. They refer to literal days leading up to the seventh trumpet and very close to the seventh trumpet. They do not refer to our entire age. If you keep in mind all of the time sequences that we have been carefully following from chapters 5-10, the end of this prophecy has to refer to AD 70, and not a year earlier or later.

Now I could probably just end the sermon with that. I could just say that it clearly deals with cessation of prophecy (that even charismatics agree with that) and the timeframe is clearly AD 70. But nothing is simple when it comes to theological debate. So I do want to ask you once again to put on your thinking caps let me walk you through the debate, and give you ammo to both those who add books to the Bible (like Roman Catholics, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims, and others) as well as those who add authoritative oral prophecies. It is such an important topic, that I think I need to take the time to do so.

The subject matter is New Testament prophecy, not Old Testament prophecy (v. 7)

The Greek word for "mystery" or "mystery of God" always (without exception) points to New Testament prophetic revelation, whether oral or written (1 Cor. 12-14; Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 2-3; cf. Matt. 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10; Rom. 11:25; 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:7; 4:1; 13:2; 15:51; Eph. 1:9; 3:3,9; 5:32; 6:19; Col. 1:26; 2:2; 4:3; 2 Thes. 2:7; 1 Tim. 3:9,16; Rev. 1:20; 10:7; 17:5; 17:7)

I already mentioned that some charismatics try to get around the clear meaning of this passage by saying that the word "finished" simply means that Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled, and not that all prophecy is finished. So they take the word "mystery" to refer to Daniel's prophetic revelation, but not New Testament revelation, and they say that Daniel's revelation was fulfilled in AD 70. Well, that is clever, but it simply does not work. We will see later on that the word "finished" can't be interpreted that way. Nor can the word "mystery." Let's examine the word "mystery" first.

In your outlines I've listed every occurence of the Greek word μυστήριον, from which we get the word "mystery," and without exception, every example refers to either New Testament Scriptures or New Testament oral prophetic revelation. There is not a single exception. And many of these passages emphasize the point that it is a mystery because it wasn't revealed in the Old Testament. Several of those passages explicitly exlude the Old Testament from the definition of the mystery of God. So even though technically it is true that Daniel was given prophetic secrets that had not been revealed prior to him (that's what the word "mystery" means), the New Testament never uses this term to refer to Old Testament revelation (which hadn't been secret for hundreds of years). It was only the new stuff that was being revealed that could wear that label. And I will just go through a few of the verses listed in your outline to illustrate.

The first three: Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11, and Luke 8:10 all speak of the mysteries of the kingdom, and the context makes clear that He is talking about the Mediatorial kingdom of Christ. Everyone agrees with that. There is no controversy on the meaning of the term there. The mystery there deals with New Testament revelation that had previously been secret or unrevealed.

Romans 11:25 speaks of the revealed mystery that Israel must be partially hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles have come into the church, where both Jew and Gentile will be equal partners in the kingdom. Again, this is new revelation.

Romans 16:24-25 makes clear that the New Testament Scriptures are God's "revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations..." So the word "mystery" is dealing with the revealed message given to prophets in New Testament times, and he includes in that definition of mystery, not just the oral prophecies of prophets, but also the New Testament Scriptures. Beale's commentary on Revelation agrees that Romans 16 is clearly calling New Testament Scripture God's mystery.

1 Corinthians 2 calls Paul's spoken prophecies, a mystery. And he makes clear that this was something not revealed in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 21:21 says that what is already revealed is no longer a mystery. Definitionally it can't be. It's a mystery when it is not revealed, but once the mysteries have been revealed for a time, it is revelation, not secret. Anyway, 1 Corinthians 2 says,

But we speak [not simply, "we write," but "we speak"] the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory... But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (vv. 7,8,10)

So he explicitly says that the Jewish rulers didn't know this mystery, and if they had, they wouldn't have crucified Christ. So it can't refer to the Old Testament. He explicitly says that what was not revealed before is a mystery now revealed to us - to the apostles and prophets. And notice that his spoken prophecies are just as authoritative as his written ones.

1 Corinthians 4:1 says, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." The apostles were stewards of the mysteries of God because they were entrusted with infallible New Covenant revelation - revelation that had not been given before the time of Christ. The word mystery wouldn't make sense if it referred to something old. It is new revelation.

1 Corinthians 13:2 says, "though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries...", so you can see that mysteries is once again connected with the gift of New Testament prophecy. And by the way, all of these verses should help you understand what kind of prophecy and what kind of mysteries 1 Corinthians 12-14 is talking about. In chapter 14:2 Paul speaks of a person with the gift of tongues speaking mysteries. In chapter 15:51 Paul reveals something new about the resurrection (that is new doctrine) and says that he is telling us a mystery - a revealed truth hidden from view until now. So Paul is calling both written Scripture and the revelations of the earlier chapters, mysteries. They are on the same level.

Ephesians 1:9 says that God made known to the apostles "the mystery of His will," and he expands upon that in chapter 3. After saying in chapter 2 that the apostles and prophets were laying the once-and-for-all-time revelational foundation, chapter 3 says that what was really revealed to these apostles and prophets was the mystery of God. Chapter 3:3 says,

how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

So again he explicitly rules out the Old Testament Scriptures as being part of the revelation of the mystery of God. Revelation 10:7 simply cannot be referring to prophecies of the prophet Daniel. Definitionally it can't.

People object, "Then why did we need so many prophets if prophecy dealt with the giving of Scripture? There were very few people who wrote Scripture." But you will notice in the outline that I don't see it as only dealing with the giving of Scripture. The word "mystery" refers to any infallible prophetic revelation, whether oral or written. That's the only definition that works with all of these passages.

Others object that the early church wouldn't have needed so many prophets to deal with the problem of Jew and Gentile being in one body. But actually, that is only one of nine issues that the apostles and prophets had to deal with that are labeled as mystery.4 But that one is a big one. The idea that Gentiles could be a part of the new Israel without being circumcised was such a big issue that it almost divided the church and it created great controversy. The Judaizers were constantly causing trouble in every church. So God sent prophets to the churches to settle that mystery once and for all. But until the canon was finished, there were eight additional areas that needed supplementation by the prophets as well. The New Testament prophets were absolutely essential on our view.

Anyway, if you keep reading through all the passages I have listed in your outline that have the word "mystery" in it, it is crystal clear that it refers to New Testament prophetic revelation, whether written or oral. And if you turn back to Revelation 10, you will see that the context supports this understanding. And I am spending this much time on it because it is such a hotly contested issue.

The references to prophets in the immediate context confirms this (10:7,11; 11:3,6,10,18), as does the context of God's infallible revelation in 10:1-11.

So what is the context? What has the whole chapter been dealing with? It's been dealing with new prophecy and prophets and the giving of the book of Revelation. And he will go on to deal with more prophecy and prophets in chapter 11. This whole unit of chapters 10-11 is a parenthesis that is preoccupied with that subject. But certainly in chapter 10 we have God revealing the content of the book of Revelation to John just as He revealed the content of His revelation to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 2-3. And the words prophet, prophecy, and prophesy occur in in the immediate context six times - in chapter 10:7,11 and it flows smoothly into the subject of the two prophets who prophesy in 11:3,6,10,18.

This is confirmed by the exegesis of both charismatic and non-Charismatic commentaries.

Indeed, the evidence for "the mystery of God" being New Covenant prophetic revelation is so overwhelming that many charismatic and non-charismatic commentaries acknowledge that to be the case. And their only defense against cessationism is to put the trumpet at the end of history. I will just give you two short quotes to sum up this interpretation. Beale's highly acclaimed commentary says of verse 7,

God’s prophetic mystery began to be revealed at Christ’s first coming. The striking parallel of 10:6–7, 11 with Rom. 16:25–26 corroborates this conclusion: “Now to him who is able to establish you according to the revelation of the mystery, which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to the nations.…”5

Moses Stuart says,

Μυστήριον means the secret designs of God ... which only the prophets, i.e. inspired men in the Christian church, had been commissioned to make known.6

This New Testament prophecy was about to be definitively completed, finished, ended (the word for "finished" in the MT = τελέσθη - 3rd, sing, aor., pass., subjunctive, which is the same form used in 20:3,5,7 to indicate completion, not fulfillment)

The literal rendering of the Greek shows connections:

Now, let's deal with the whole last clause. In your outlines I give the Greek of the Majority Text and the literal translation with the original word order. It emphasizes the word "finished" by putting it at the front of the clause. The cessation is being highlighted in the Greek. So the last clause literally reads, "perfectly finished will be the mystery of God just as He announced to His servants the prophets."

τελέσθη τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ, perfectly finished will be the mystery of God

ὡς εὐηγγελίσατο τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ τοὺς προφήτας. just as He announced to His servants the prophets

The word "finished" is the same verb used by Jesus when He said on the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30)

The word "finished" is the same word that Jesus declared on the cross when He said, "It is finished." When He said that with regard to redemption, His redemption was 100% completed; nothing more needed to be added. And the same meaning can be seen with the word "finished" here.7 The mystery revealed to all God's prophets would come to an end and be 100% finished in AD 70, with nothing more to be added. Thayer's Dictionary defines this word "finished" as "to perform the last act which completes a process." Rienecker and Rogers define it as, "... to bring to the goal, to complete, to bring to completion."8

And certainly the canon of Scripture would be completed. Moses Stuart says on that verse, "immediately on the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the mystery of the seven-sealed book is brought to a close..."9 Well, what was the seven-sealed book? It was the growing canon. And the canon was clearly closed in AD 70. And I have a book on the Canon of Scripture that goes into that in great detail.10

This is the verbal form of the word for "perfect" in 1 Cor. 13:10.

But for those of you who like to study this in depth, I find it interesting that the noun form of this word for "finished" is actually translated as "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10. And actually, the charismatic commentary that I quoted at length makes that point. 1 Corinthians 13 prophecies that when the perfect is come, the partial of prophetic revelation will end. So this word for "finished" can mean perfectly complete or perfectly finished. If you have something complete (as we do in the Bible), you don't need the partial (as Paul describes prophecy to be in 1 Corinthians 13). If you have something perfect (as we do in the Bible), you don't need the immature or less than perfect (as Paul also describes prophecy in 1 Corinthians 13). Once the seventh trumpet sounds, the partial gives way to the finished.

This ending of prophecy in AD 70 had already been anticipated by previous prophets. Which prophets? Both Old Testament and New Testament prophets. Here is a brief listing of some of the key prophecies of this ending of the mystery of God's prophetic revelation:

But the last phrase of the Greek is "just as He announced to His servants the prophets." "...perfectly finished will be the mystery of God just as He announced to His servants the prophets." Which prophets predicted this cessation of prophecy? If we can identify them, then we can see if our interpretation is correct. Aune's massive commentary says that it refers to Old Testament prophets.11 Bratcher says that it refers to New Testament prophets.12 But the vast majority of commentators say that this last clause refers to both Old Tesament and New Testament prophets. Thomas, Ladd, Lenski, Mounce, Swete, Morris - they all say it was both Old Testament and New Testament prophets.13 And I agree. There were many prophets who anticipated this finishing of the New Covenant mystery of God.

So what I want to do in the remainder of this sermon is take you through some of the key prophetic announcements that prophecy and prophets would cease by AD 70. You need to have these passages in your arsenal. There are actually a lot more than these, but the ones I have listed in your outline are key. If you want to dig into this subject in much more depth, volume one of my book on canon does so, and volume two (which has not come out yet) will deal with every objection. So I am not going to give a thorough analysis of these passages this morning. But let me at least give you a very brief overview.

Isaiah 8-9

Turn first to Isaiah 8. In my book on canon I show how Isaiah 8-9 is quoted over and over again in the New Testament as being a series of prophecies spanning the time between the birth of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The New Testament quotes it so many times that it is crystal clear of when the time period is.

And if you look at chapter 8, I want to point out first of all that all of verses 11-22 describe God casting Israel away in AD 70. But look at what happens at that precise time in verse 16. God says, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples." The first word, "bind," is צ֖וֹר (tsor) and means to bind up, wrap up, or tie up. It refers to everything being contained within one bundle and nothing of what is tied up being outside that bundle. It's a complete package. The second word, "seal," is חוֹתָם (chotam), and is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to sealing in a bag not to be reopened (Job 14:17), shutting up within a house (Job 24:16), closing off a spring of water so that it doesn't flow anymore (Song of Solomon 4:12), or something being ended (Dan. 9:24). So applying that word to revelation, it means that the stream of revelation is sealed up, the receptacle of revelation is closed off, and the giving of revelation is blocked. Those two words are a powerful proof of the ending of the canon of Scripture in AD 70.

But Isaiah points out that once the canon is closed, there is no prophetic revelation outside of Scripture. The two are tied together. This is why God rebukes the Jews in verse 19 for seeking revelation outside the Scripture. After the closing of the canon, any extra-biblical prophecy is considered false and/or demonic. And he is not talking about guidance here; he is talking about authoritative revelation. So look at verses 19-20.

Is. 8:19   And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

After AD 70, there is only one authoritative standard of revelation - the Bible. All commentators acknowledge that the phrase "the law and the testimony" is a synonymn of Scripture. What does Isaiah say? He says that if people claim to have revelation outside of the Bible, they have no light in them. The word "light" is used by Isaiah as a synonymn for prophecy. The next chapter will say that previous to the war against Jerusalem, Jesus would give great light (9:2). He would reveal the Father; there would be a lot of prophecy. But after AD 70 there is no light outside the light of the Bible. That is the key phrase.

There are many other pointers in these two chapters to continuing revelation from the birth of Jesus up until AD 70, but once that target date ends, all revelation is bound up and sealed up and restricted to the Bible. If you need more exegetical proof, I would urge you to download my free book on canon, but I think this is crystal clear.

Daniel 9:24-27

Turn next to Daniel 9. This is the famous passage of the 70 weeks. Among Jews there were weeks of days with a sabbath day at the end of it, and there were weeks of years with a sabbath year at the end of it. So every seven-year period had a sabbath year at the end of it, and those seven years are called a week. So 70 weeks of years is 490 years (70 x 7). And the seventy weeks are divided into three sections, each of which had a forty year gap when the Sabbath years were not being violated. And my book goes into great detail on the specific meaning of each phrase, but I just want you to notice a couple things.

The first thing to notice is that verses 26-27 make the last week equal the last seven-year period of war against Jerusalem where both city and temple are destroyed. I'll go ahead and read verses 26-27 because it is referred to in Revelation 11, which we will look at next time. Beginning to read at verse 26:

26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. [That's when the temple was burned in AD 70. But the war lasts for another three and a half years. Anyway, verse 27 goes on:] And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

So that is the ending point of the 70 weeks. Now look at all the things that have to happen before that ending point - before the war was finished. Verse 24 says,

“Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.

All seven of those things happened by AD 70. And notice the phrase, "to seal up vision and prophecy." The word seal up is exactly the same Hebrew word that is translated earlier, "to make an end of." It refers to a complete closing off and ending and finishing and filling up of prophecy. And interestingly, the Hebrew is literally "to seal up vision and prophet," not prophecy. So if you want to be literal, both the office of prophet and the revelation that comes through the prophet would be sealed up, closed off, or ended. And when would it happen? Before the seventieth week is finished; by AD 70. So here is yet another prophet who says exactly the same thing as Revelation 10:7. It was anticipated by the prophets. It was announced to the prophets.

Zechariah 13

Turn next to Zechariah 13. In my book I give several proofs that chapters 12-13 refer to the time between Pentecost and the destruction of Israel in AD 70. I don't have time to demonstrate that here. But if you have chapter 13 in front of you, I am going to read verses 1-6. But before I do so, I will just point out that verses 7-9 refer to the war against Jerusalem when two thirds of Israel was destroyed. It is in that AD 70 context that God says He will not only cut off idols and unclean spirits, but he will also cause all prophets to depart from the land. Let me read verses 1-6.

Zech. 13:1 “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.>

Zech. 13:2   “It shall be in that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. 3 It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, “You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies.>

Zech. 13:4   “And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. 5 But he will say, “I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.’ 6 And one will say to him, “What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’

Now, granted, there are difficult things in this passage. But there are also some things that are crystal clear, and I want to focus on those. There are eight things I want you to notice: First, the context is the first century. Second, God is the cause of Cessationism (He says, “I will also cause… to depart” – v. 2). Third, true prophetic revelation is contrasted with the demonic revelation (He speaks of “the prophets and the unclean spirit” - those two are contrasting forms of revelation). Fourth, false prophets do continue to exist for a time after God causes the “prophets” to depart from the land. So the ones that haven't departed are false. This can be seen by the words “It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophecies” (v. 3). The word “still” indicates that there are some prophetic claims even after God causes “the prophets ... to depart from the land.” Fifth, this Cessationism (“I will cause… to depart”) makes false prophets reticent and even ashamed to claim to be prophets (it says, “every prophet will be ashamed of his vision”) and it makes God’s people unwilling to receive new prophecies from others (it says, “if anyone still prophecies…[they] will say to him…you have spoken lies”). Sixth, this reluctance to receive new prophecies after the time of cessation is with regard to any prophecy, whether in the name of the Lord or not (it says, “if anyone still prophecies… in the name of the LORD… /[and] every prophet”). So it is a universal prohibition - if anyone still claims to be a prophet, the righteous will say that it is a lie. Seventh, New Testament prophecy is treated just like Old Testament prophecy, and the prophets are judged according to exactly the same standard that Deuteronomy uses with exactly the same penalty - being put to death (v. 3). This last point is a critical one in critiquing Continuationism because Continuationists do not believe New Testament prophets should be judged by the same standard as Old Testament prophets. Well, this is clearly a prophecy of New Covenant history, so it is clearly referring to New Testament prophets, and they are so judged. Finally, this parallels Daniel 9 in making both the vehicle of revelation (“prophet”) and the message of revelation (“prophesies”) to cease. This answers those who claim that there is no office of prophet today, but that there is a manifestation of prophecy. That is false. This passage and the Daniel one discredit that idea.

Now, just in case some people think that this might possibly refer to a cessation of prophecy still future to us, I would point out that it still doesn't fit the charismatic interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. And the reason I say that is that the prophecy in this passage ends during history, not at the end of history. The word “still” in v. 3 and the progress of history in verses 1-6 indicates that the cessation has to be within history. So regardless of one’s interpretation of some of the difficulties in this passage, the standard Continuationist interpretation of 1Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 cannot be true. And again, my book goes into more detail.

Joel 2:28-32

Turn next to Joel 2. This is the passage that Acts 2 quotes as being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Verse 28 begins that passage by saying, "And it shall come to past afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophecy," etc. Notice that the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts are poured out "afterward." After what? After verses 21-27, which is the glorious times of the Maccabees. And the reason I point this out is that it illustrates that there can be God's power, blessing, favor, and presence with His people without any charismatic gifts. Commentators agree that there are no charismatic gifts in verses 21-27. Those only come afterward. So notice the fullness of the true faith is possible without charismatic gifts. Beginning to read at verse 21:

21 Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things! 22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you— The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.

I read that because of the slander of those who say that if you don't have charismatic gifts, you don't have God's presence or blessing. But this is clearly God's presence and blessing.

But then God does something remarkable in verses 28-29. There will be an outpouring of prophetic gifts and miracles. And verse 31 says that all of this will happen during what time period? Look at verse 31 - "Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD" which is clearly a reference to the destruction of Israel, except for the remnant that would be saved in verse 32 - a reference to the 144,000 Jews who were saved in the book of Revelation in the first century. Now Acts interprets that as meaning that the prophetic gifts would come in the last days of the Old Covenant; the last days of Israel, temple, sacrifices, Etc. But this makes it very clear that these things would only happen before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord in AD 70.

So there is yet another prophet who anticipates the finishing of prophecy before the last days of the Old Covenant end. And Hebrews 8:13 says about the Old Covenant, "Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews was written in AD 66, and all of those things he was discussing was ready to vanish away in less than four years. So here is yet another prophet who anticipated that the charismatic gifts would occur before the day of the Lord, or before AD 70.

Acts 2:17-21

The only things that the Acts passage adds to this is that Pentecost was the time of this outpouring of charismatic gifts, that it was only to take place in the last days of the Old Covenant, that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was proof that Jesus was enthroned, and that God was saving a remnant out of an unbelieving Israel. Now, some people try to interpret the last days as covering everything from the cross to the end of history. But Jesus was said to be born in the last days. That's before the Lord's Supper, when He made a new covenant. And the Maccabees (who lived more than two hundred years before Christ) were also said to be in the last days. So that is proof positive that the last days could not be from the cross to the end of history. It covers the time from the Maccabees to AD 70.

Ephesians 2-3

Turn next to Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2-3 is the passage that we read earlier about the apostles and prophets being given the task of telling the church about the mystery of Jew and Gentile being in one body. But notice what he says in Ephesians 2:19-22.

Eph. 2:19   Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Paul is saying that the foundation of the church was being laid in the first century, and that this revelational foundation was made up of three parts, with each part giving inspired revelation: 1) Jesus Christ, who is the chief cornerstone of the foundation, 2) the apostles, who are part of the foundation and 3) the prophets, who also are part of the foundation. Just as you can’t have multiple cornerstones and multiple Christ’s in every century, you can’t have multiple foundations in every century. That’s why Paul said that he was the “last” of the Apostles (1 Cor. 15:7-8) and an apostle “born out of due time” (Gal. 1:16-18). Well, if apostleship didn't cease (as charismatics claim), its illogical to speak of Paul as being the last of the apostles or of being an apostle born out of due time.

This is what has forced charismatic scholar Wayne Grudem to agree that this passage clearly indicates that apostles have ceased. He tries to keep prophecy from ceasing by saying that we should translate this as "apostles who are also prophets." In other words, this is referring to one group of people, not two, and we should translate it as apostolic prophets or apostles who are also prophets. So Grudem claims that prophets haven't ceased - only apostles who are also prophets have ceased. But in my book I quote from Greek grammars that contradict his translation and clearly indicate that two offices of revelation have ceased - both apostles and prophets. Out of close to two hundred English translations out there, I haven't found a single one that agrees with Wayne Grudem's translation. So Paul is yet another prophet who had anticipated the imminent ending of prophecy. My book on canon goes into much more depth on this passage, but hopefully I have given enough where you can clearly see it.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Turn next to 1 Corinthians 13. This is probably the most difficult passage to interpret, but there are certain anchor points that I think are very clear. First, let me read this out of the ESV.

“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I won't deal with every possible objection, but let me give you several reasons why this cannot mean that prophecy continues until the end of time. First, this passage needs to be interpreted in light of the many other passages that say that prophecy will cease in AD 70. Any interpretation that contradicts the other passages should be suspect.

Second, if prophecy continues until the end of time, why does he say that prophecy will cease? It would make more sense to say that prophecy will not cease if it continues to the end of history. Nobody needs to be told that it will cease when history ceases. Everything ceases then. That's not much of an argument. Furthermore, when charismatics say that the three gifts of knowledge, tongues, and prophecy cease at the Second Coming, I need to ask, in what way does knowledge cease in heaven? Isn't that the time when we enter more fully into knowledge of those mysteries?

Third, look at the last verse of chapter 13. It is clear to me that the temporariness of the three gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge is contrasted with the abidingness of the three fruits of the Spirit - faith, hope and love. Paul's argument is that faith, hope, and love abide longer than prophecy and tongues, and love abides longer than faith and hope. That's what makes love greater than faith and hope. When does faith and hope end? At the Second Coming. So if faith and hope abide longer than prophecy and tongues, and if faith and hope cease at the Second Coming, then prophecy and tongues must pass away before the Second Coming. It's just simple logic.

Let me demonstrate that. Verse 13 says, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” This statement would make no sense if knowledge, prophecy, and tongues only ceased at the Second Coming because that is precisely the time when faith will give way to sight, and hope will give way to receiving. No contrast could be sustained between the abidingness of these graces and the non-abidingness of the gifts. Romans 8:24 says, “But hope that is seen is not hope.” Moffat paraphrases: “Now when an object of hope is seen, there is no further need to hope.” Knox paraphrases, “Hope would not be hope at all if its object were in view.” Do you see the logic? 2Corinthians 5:7 and Hebrews 11:1-3 show that faith by its very definition will cease when we receive what we have had faith in. Now “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Now, Hebrews 11 tells us, faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), but once we get to heaven faith will give way to seeing the things we have longed for. Thus, if faith and hope do not abide forever, but if they abide longer than the other gifts mentioned in the chapter, then those other gifts logically must cease before faith and hope cease; they must cease before the Second Coming.

I will be the first to grant that there are interpretive difficulties with this chapter, with several quite different competing interpretations. But that is all the more reason why this passage must be interpreted in light of the other Scriptures that clearly speak of the cessation of prophecy in AD 70. So when verse 8 says, "Love never passes away. But whether there are prophecies, they will pass away; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will pass away," the time of passing cannot be the Second Coming. Verse 10 says, "But when that which is complete (or finished, or perfectly completed) has come, then that which is in part will be done away."

I am not dogmatic on what the perfect or complete is. I believe it is probably the completed canon. Revelation 10:7 does use the verbal form of that word to refer to the finished completed canon. So that does make sense. But there were many other perfected or finished things in AD 70. Exactly the same Greek word refers to the resurrection that happened in AD 70 (Heb. 11:40; 12:23). Paul knew he and most of the church would die before that happened, so 1 Corinthians 13:12 may be a reference to his experience of the resurrection. Or it may refer to his being in the cleansed heaven. Heaven was finally perfected with all sin being cast out of it once Satan was cast out of heaven. And Revelation 12 will be talking about that. Or if you translate it as complete, the emergence of the New Covenant was complete once the Old Covenant temple, city, people, and ceremonies were destroyed. So the word "perfect" could refer to any one of those or all of those together. I am not dogmatic. But I am dogmatic that the passing away of prophecy here had to happen at the same time indicated in all the other cessation passages - AD 70. Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture, and the word "perfect" is associated with AD 70 in several different ways. So that's the meaning of the last clause of Revelation 10:7. When you examine each part of that verse, I think it is a slam dunk argument. But if you have been confused by the detail, just keep in mind that many charismatics interpret Revelation 7:10 in the same way I do - that prophecy must cease when the seventh trumpet sounds. They just get the timing wrong.

Other places in the book of Revelation where this subject is addressed (2:20; 10:7-11; 11:1-14; 16:14; 19:20; 20:10; 22:18-19 and with 1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 22:7,9,12,20; 22:6, 18-19)


I'm going to skip over the verses in Revelation. I deal with those in my book. But let me end with three applications.

First, this verse shows that no more books may be added to the canon. Islam agrees that the Bible is God's revelation, but they claim that the Koran adds to it. Well, since the Koran claims that the Bible is God's revelation, you can point to this passage and say that nothing more can be added. In fact, you can point to chapter 22 which pronounces curses upon anyone who would dare to add to the canon of Scripture once God closed it. Muslims may not add to it. Mormons may not add to it. Seventh Day Adventists may not add to it. Wilkerson may not add his book, The Vision, to the prophecies of this book. Nothing written may be added.

Second, it isn't just books that may not be added. No more prophecy is true prophecy after AD 70. Continuationists say that we thereby despise prophecies, contrary to 1 Thessalonians 5:20. But actually, they are the ones who despise prophecies when they lower the prophetic revelation to a very fallible, errant, "I think so" kind of utterance. It is they who despise the very nature of prophecy by lowering its meaning and value. Secondly, they ignore the context of that verse which commands people to test all things and to stay away from bad trees that produce evil fruit. When we test continuationist claims to prophecy with the 100% inerrancy rule that Jesus gave to us in the Sermon on the amount, we are not despising prophecy. We are elevating it to the authority that Scripture has. And of course, every prophecy God wants us to have has been recorded in this book.

Third, as we have seen, that word "finished" means "finished" in the sense of being completed or perfected. There is nothing lacking in the Bible. Peter tells us that it gives to us "all things pertaining to life and godliness." We don't need more information. Illumination, yes, but authoritative knowledge, no. Paul tells us that it is sufficient to thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work. Jesus says that it is the key to knowledge. It gives us the foundations for every subject. It is a solid foundation for science, politics, econonics, or anything else you face in life. We aren't missing out. I've experienced the same experiences that charismatics have, but they aren't authoritative. The Bible stands so exalted above our experiences that if the Bible contradicts my experience, I throw out my experience, or at least I reinterpret my experience, but I never question the Bible.

I started the sermon with two ideas on the word "finished." The spaghetti is finished, which would be a sad view. The second idea is that the house is finished and ready to move into. That is very exciting. And if we could once get into our heads and hearts the incredibly exalted nature of the Bible that we looked at in the second sermon on this chapter, we wouldn't trade the Bible for anything. For our Psalm of response we will be singing Psalm 138 which is a Psalm of thanksgiving for the incredible riches that we have. But one of those riches is a Bible that is so precious and so exalted that the Psalm says that it is even exalted above God's name. Think of that! His word is exalted above His name. Let's praise Him for His finished revelation. Amen.


  1. Translation based on the Greek text of Wilbur Pickering's The The Greek New Testament According to Family 35.

  2. Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 143–144.


  4. There were many purposes for the New Testament prophets. They were sent to convince the church of 1) The mystery of Jew and Gentile being in one body (Eph. 3:1-6), 2) to bring warning of God’s covenant lawsuit against Israel (Luke 11:49-51; Matt 23:29-38; Rev. 1:3; 10:7,11; 11:3,6,10,18; 16:6; 18:20,24; 22:6,7,9,10,18,19), and 3) to warn of the coming apostasy (2 Thes. 2:1-12; Acts 20:28-29; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; Matt 24:10-14,24-25). But in addition to this, prophets could help to settle the veracity of the new revelations ("mysteries") that were being revealed to the church, first by mouth, and later by writing. Summing up the mysteries revealed, Utley says, Paul uses this term in several different ways:

    1.  A partial hardening of Israel to allow Gentiles to be included. This influx of Gentiles will work as a mechanism for Jews to accept Jesus as the Christ of prophecy (cf. Rom. 11:25–32).
    2.  The gospel made known to the nations, telling them that they are all included in Christ and through Christ (cf. Rom. 16:25–27; Col. 2:2).
    3.  Believers’ new bodies at the Second Coming (cf. 1 Cor. 15:5–57; 1 Thess. 4:13–18).
    4.  The summing up of all things in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:8–11).
    5.  The Gentiles and Jews are fellow-heirs (cf. Eph. 2:11–3:13).
    6.  Intimacy of the relationship between Christ and the Church described in marriage terms (cf. Eph. 5:22–33).
    7.  Gentiles included in the covenant people and indwelt by the Spirit of Christ so as to produce Christlike maturity, that is, restore the marred image of God in man (cf. Gen. 1:26–27; 5:1; 6:5, 11–13; 8:21; 9:6; Col. 1:26–28).
    8.  The end time Anti-Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1–11).
    9.  An early church summary of the mystery found in 1 Tim. 1:16.

    Robert James Utley, Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation, vol. Volume 12, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 80.

  5. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 543.

  6. Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (Andover; New York: Allen, Morrill and Wardwell; M. H. Newman, 1845), 210.

  7. Though Paige Patterson applies the passage differently, he sees the same meaning of the Greek: "To “complete” or “finish” is a translation of the aorist passive indicative of teleō, the same verb the Lord used from the cross when he cried tetelestai or “it is finished.” The aorist tense here is the indication of complete action so that the reader is informed that the mystery known only to God and revealed to man through the revelation given by the apostles and prophets will now be brought to its conclusion." Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 233.

  8. Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, pg. 835.

  9. Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (Andover; New York: Allen, Morrill and Wardwell; M. H. Newman, 1845), 209–210.

  10. For a more detailed treatment of this, see

  11. Aune, David E. Revelation. Word Biblical Commentary, Vols. 52a and 52b, edited by Ralph p. Martin. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997 and 1998.

  12. Bratcher, Robert G. and Howard A. Hatton. A Handbook on The Revelation to John. New York: The United Bible Societies, 1993.

  13. Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1–7. Revelation 8–22. An Exegetical Commentary. 2 vols. Chicago: Moody Press, 1992, 1995. Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary of the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1972. Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963. Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Revised ed. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by F. F. Bruce and Gordon D. Fee. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977. Swete, Henry Barclay. Commentary on Revelation. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977. Morris, Leon. The Book of Revelation, an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

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