December 14, 2012

Three Keys to Reading Revelation in the Church

To say the book of Revelation intimidates many readers of Christian Scripture is probably an understatement. The difficulty of understanding its ancient Jewish apocalyptic symbolism and imagery is only compounded by the complexity of its structure. Beyond the challenges of the text itself, there are almost as many different interpretations of John's Apocalypse as there are interpreters. We want to understand this important book of scripture, but it's difficult to sort through which guides and commentaries are more helpful and which are less. How are we to overcome all these roadblocks to reading Revelation? Where do we begin if we are interested in leading a Bible study or preaching a series of sermons on this dense book? Well, there is good news. It is possible to hear what Revelation says to the church in both the ancient and the modern world. 

Click through to read the rest of this article at Seedbed for three tips to get you started reading Revelation in your local church.

1 comment:

ἐκκλησία said...

If someone writes a letter to your brother full of advice - there'd be difficulty in reading it yourself trying to gauge how its advice might apply to you.

Intent matter.

The book of Matthew, a gospel recognized to have Hebrew character and intent cites the OT 298 times. The book of Hebrew, a book written expressly to Hebrews, cites the OT 263 times.
The book of Revelation cites the OT 436 times, nearly always in reference to OT prophecy ABOUT ISRAEL.

Starting with [Rev 1:1] the identification of 'δοῦλος' (doulos, bond servant) references [Isa 41:8] and [Isa 55:1], just as [Rev 1:7] carries on its reference to [Isa 40:5] (and [Dan 7:13] and [Zech 12:10-14]), all references to Israel. [Rev 1:8] doesn't stray far either, referencing [Isa 41:4] and [Isa 44:6]. This pattern repeats.

Clearly, this raises the question of whom the prophecy was intended for. Contextually, Revelation's complementation and amplification to all of these OT citations shows it to be completing the picture OT prophecy establishes foundation for. Only by ignoring this fact, and by ignoring what Revelation does with the OT can we conclude it has anything to do with the church, and even then - where after chapter 3 is it possible to exegete anything to do with the church (and I'd argue very weakly).

Even when John identifies himself, he does so to those related by blood [Rev 1:9] as does the prophecy [Rev 12:10]. These references are not figurative. This is also why much of the imagery itself is Israelitish:

[Rev 5:10] -> [Exo 19:6]
[Rev 12:1-2] -> [Isa 66:7][Mic 4:9-10]
[Rev 12:3] -> [Dan 7:7]
[Rev 12:4] -> [Dan 8:10]

Etc.

I think it's well intentioned, but still an error for Christian's to read Revelation and see itself. It's more discerning to read Revelation and to see firstly the complete and utter glory of Christ's return, and secondly His relationship (and redemption) to Israel.

Finally, about your comment there's many interpretations of Jesus' Revelation (which you call John's Apocalypse) - which is true. However these many can be greatly narrowed if we treat Revelation's treatment of OT prophecy in context, and see it for who it was written. Then with an accurate and clear recognition of the true Israel of God [Gal 6:16] throughout history it might even narrow to one.