Posted by: cghearn | 09/07/2014 | 12:00 pm
Download: Revealing Revelation – Rev. 1:1-3
Why should we attempt to interpret Revelation?
Revelation in Greek is named, “ApokaluyiV Iwannou” or “Revelation of John.” Apocalypse is derived from this word which simply means “to reveal” or “unveiling.”
I can remember when we were looking at renting a facility about a year or more ago and there was one building that we looked at that had a martial arts studio in it called “Apocalypse Martial Arts.” I think that the person who named it that thought of the end of the world, just as many in our culture would. But I couldn’t help thinking, knowing the proper understanding of this word, of how non-threatening or non-intimidating, “Unveiling Martial Arts” truly sounded.
When we look at the book of Revelation, we see in it the church of today many of the same issues that each generation faces with this book. For example:
Every generation has forced its histories into the apocalyptic symbols in order to predict Christ’s coming; everyone has been wrong so far. Every generation has said “we’re in the last days” or “it’s a sign of the times” and the last day still hasn’t happened.
Whenever heavy persecution has happened to the church at a certain place or time, they interpret Revelation in such a way to say that the church will be present for the tribulation because it means that they are enduring because Christ is returning soon. (Other countries such as Iraq with the issues they’re facing from ISIS right now is probably thinking that Christ must certainly be coming soon).
Whenever the tide turns and the church is flourishing, people interpret Revelation in such a way to say that the church won’t be present for the tribulation and that many are being saved because Christ is returning soon.
So which view of Revelation is correct? In truth, there’s probably some mix of the views which lead us to proper interpretation of Revelation. But I’m going to talk to about the four views and tell you which way I’ll mostly be leaning:
Spiritual view or Idealist view: This view says that the book of Revelation is dealing predominantly with spiritual warfare and not actual events. I do not adhere to this view because I think that it makes the texts of Revelation subject to the reader rather than making the reader subject to the text. This view is very old and its adherents would include Origen and St. Augustine.
Preterist view: This view says that the book of Revelation starts after the resurrection of Christ and ends at the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. The weakness of this view is that most scholars (myself included) would say that the book of Revelation was written sometime around 90 A.D. and a full Preterist may not acknowledge a second coming of Christ. It was difficult for me to find some prominent figure that adhered to this view.
Futurist view (among them are Dispensationalists): These are the people that say that the book of Revelation has not been fulfilled yet and we are still waiting for the events to start. The problem with this view is that there are some passages of Scripture that I think go explicitly against this view. Such adherents include Charles Ryrie, Tim LaHaye, and John Hagee.
Historicist view: I myself adhere predominantly to this view and so has the church historically as a whole. This view has been how most of the church through history has viewed the book of Revelation and it is the idea that the book has started to be fulfilled since it was written and is still being fulfilled as we speak. The problems facing this view are that it does rely partially on historical developments in order to interpret Revelation. Adherents include Martin Luther, John Calvin, and even Sir Isaac Newton.
So all of these views have flaws and strengths. Doctrine of sermon: We must do our best to interpret Revelation because it is breathed by God.
We must do our best to interpret Revelation because it is Jesus Christ’s revelation.
This book accredits itself, not to John, as the title would suggest; rather to Christ himself. Wouldn’t we spend the time necessary and consider carefully the parables of Christ? Wouldn’t we consider carefully the way that Christ tells us that we can be saved from the wrath and judgment of God and be delivered to eternal life? Why? Because we recognize its authority and recognize it as Scripture; even if it was hard to understand or interpret.
About 4 years ago, my wife was in the bedroom of our home relaxing when my youngest son, Isaac, handed her a bottle of children’s Tylenol. This same bottle had been full the night before, so you can imagine my wife’s concern. In fact Isaac had drunk the whole bottle and therefore went to the E.R. to make sure that it wouldn’t kill him. But the interesting part was that the bottle had been inside of a hallway closet, on the top shelf. This means that Isaac, at not even 2 years old had opened the door, climbed the shelves, selected the Tylenol out of all the other things in the closet, and had proceeded to get past the childproof lock on the lid in order to get to what he desired. I wish people were as adamant about Scripture as my son was about children’s Tylenol.
If Christ took steps in order to make sure that this book of Scripture was revealed to us, shouldn’t we take steps to ensure that we understand it or is God a vain God? I see many people taking great pains in order to understand the first few chapters of Genesis, yet I see much fewer who are willing to take their time to even understand the first verse of Revelation. I believe that most of this is due to the high level of controversy and fear surrounding eschatology (study of end times).
Many of us remember early in 2011 when these billboards started popping up all over the state and indeed, the country (show picture of billboard). Harold Camping, who died last year in December at the age of 92, predicted that Jesus Christ would come again on May 21st, 2011. When this didn’t happen, he then tried to change the date to October of the same year. When this still didn’t happen, Camping gave up and stopped trying to predict the second coming of Christ. (Thank God that he did!)
One of the reasons that we don’t want to truly dive into Revelation is because we don’t want to be affiliated with guys like Harold Camping! If we try to talk to someone about Revelation, maybe they’ll think we’re crazy just like Camping. But what happens if we let Scripture interpret Scripture like we all should?
Turn to Matthew 24:16 (What if Harold Camping had listened to Scripture?)
Redemption: We must allow the Scriptures and plain reason lead us through the text…
We must do our best to interpret Revelation because of its immanence and authorship
According to this passage, the events of this book will happen soon. We can also deduce, with a high degree of certainty, that the author is the apostle, John. We already are facing some interpretive issues, aren’t we? First, if we take the words of this book to mean what it appears that they mean, then the events of this book are immanent.
Now, a futurist or someone would bring up the passage 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Now, when they say this, they mean that God’s been using the thousand year to day ratio and not that He’s been using the day into thousand year ratio because God can either convert 1,000 years into a day or a day into 1,000 years. Can you sense my sarcasm here? The Second issue is can we rely on the authorship of this book?
A pastor told his congregation that he was going to be teaching on lying next week and that in order to prepare for this, he wanted his congregation to read Mark 17. The next week, the pastor asked who read Mark 17 and all of the congregants raised their hands. The pastor then said that the book of Mark only had 16 chapters…then began preaching about lying.
The Scriptures aren’t trying to trick you like the pastor in this joke was doing. Also, Peter was using a little literary tool called “hyperbole” in 2 Peter 3:8, meaning that he was over-exaggerating; so don’t apply that passage to this passage. Let’s just say that these things which were prophesied were coming soon.
Finally, the earliest extra-biblical sources credit this book to John the apostle including Irenaeus and Justin Martyr. Also, the author says that he “bore witness” to the Word which is the Lord Jesus Christ. So more than likely, it would have been the apostle John.
Redemption: If we properly interpret Revelation, then it can be a blessing to our spiritual lives…
We must do our best to interpret Revelation because there’s a blessing for the reader and the hearers
What kind of blessing comes by reading and hearing the book of Revelation? We don’t know because the text doesn’t elaborate on it. We know that the Greek word here used is “makarioV” which is simply translated as “blessed.” Now, in the secular Greek usage of the word, this word indicated outward prosperity and could be used synonymously with rich. It was used to describe the gods in regards to both their power and dignity. It can also just be translated as “happy.” While more could be said of this passage, I think that it could be just as simple as having the wisdom that is given in this text.
It was a few years ago and for the first time in my life, I was introduced to the language known as “Koine Greek.” I can remember feeling as though my head was going to split in two most days. There’s even a term for people learning Greek known as, “The Fog” which is not a clever name. You literally feel as though you can’t think of anything else. One time, after a Greek class, a person who I knew fairly well said hello to me and I couldn’t even remember his name. In Seminary, the women who are married to Greek students have become known as “Greek widows” because of how much time it takes to learn. However, in our class, there were some guys who had taken Greek in the undergrad who were able to breeze through the class. Which ones do you think are more, “blessed?” Literally, what they were saying to our professor at the outset was all Greek to me.
At the bare minimum, you will have the understanding and knowledge to approach eschatology (remember, the study of the last things) from a different perspective. The reason that I chose Revelation to teach in the first place was because of one very popular fiction that has become the basis for most of the church (show slide of Left Behind).
Redemption: Whatever the blessing is, we will not receive it unless we devote ourselves to both understanding and following the precepts set forth in this book.
Doctrine of sermon: We must do our best to interpret Revelation because it is breathed by God
Illustration: Have men and women punctuate this sentence: A woman without her man is nothing.
Men: A woman, without her man, is nothing.
Women: A woman: without her, man is nothing.
Application: Psychologists and English professors have been using that trick for years to show people that all of us have a bias. Each one of you in this room has a bent one way or another whether you like it or not. However, as we go through this journey of interpreting and understanding Revelation, I’d ask you to please try and keep out as many bias views as possible because we’re all struggling to understand.