Don’t be Left Behind: How to Understand the Book of Revelation

by Richard on July 20, 2006

The Revelation to John, aka Revelation, is notoriously difficult. It is also widely abused. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This simple introduction will get you started with Revelation: don’t be put off by that reputation!

1. Recognize what you’ll be reading: inspired preaching to a church in trouble. You may not be persecuted for your faith, but John’s church most certainly was, and many Christians have been since. A key question as we read Revelation is “How does this speak to a suffering church?”

2. Don’t get too caught up in details. Revelation is full of poetic symbolism. Don’t be afraid of it. Not all of it will be as clear to you as it would have been to those who first heard it. That’s OK. Let the overall drama of the Revelation speak to you.

3. The more of the Old Testament you know, the better you’ll get on with Revelation. Almost 600 OT references have been picked up, most of them probably unconscious. John is just so steeped in the language of scripture that it forms a natural part of his language.

4. Some of the most important symbols of the book are not hard to decode. Rome (and its empire) is represented by Babylon, “the great beast”, “the great whore”, “the scarlet beast”. Jerusalem is Sodom. Satan is the dragon. Israel is a woman. Jesus is “the child” and “the lamb”. (This is, of course, an over-simplification)

5. Numbers always have meaning. 3 stands for heaven, 4 for earth. 7 is the number of completion or perfection. So when John writes letters to 7 churches, he is not merely addressing 7 seperate congregations but is simultaneously speaking to the whole Church. 6 represents evil because it is short of 7. The infamous 666 almost certainly represents the Emperor. It wouldn’t have been safe to mention him by name!

6. Notice how central ‘worship’ is to this book. The heart of Revelation’s message is the victory of Christ and the sovereignty of God over all the powers of the earth. Though this was written for a church facing the might of the Roman Empire, it can still speak to us because those powers have not gone away.

7. When you’ve read Revelation for yourself a few times is the time to read what others have said about it. I found Following the Lamb by Christina Le Moignan (who had the misfortune to be one of my tutors at theological college) very helpful. No doubt others will have recommendations of their own. But if you’ll take my advice, you’ll avoid anything by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Jim 07.20.06 at 6:16 pm

I am curious what you make of the last couple of chapters of Revelation. Are the very specific and detailed descriptions of the destruction of the Earth and the revelation of the New Heaven and New Earth also symbolic or something that will actually come to pass? I tend to lean toward the camp that believes most of the events of the book of Revelation have yet to take place, but I also acknowledge that there is so much metaphor and symbolism that many passages are difficult to decipher. So, if all the points you’ve made are true, that they point to events that have already happened, I am curious what you think the last chapters of hope speak of.

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Tim 07.20.06 at 6:52 pm

Richard, I highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s ‘Reversed Thunder: the Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination’. Also Richard Bewes’ ‘The Lamb Wins’. And, if you can get it and are willing to spend the big bucks, a superb recorded lecture series on Revelation by Gordon Fee, former NT professor at Regent College in Vancouver - it’s available from the Regent College bookstore and is far and away the best thing I’ve ever heard on Revelation (agreeing with the general line of interpretation you’ve set out here).

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DH 07.20.06 at 7:06 pm

“But if you’ll take my advice, you’ll avoid anything by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.” I have taken your advise and I utterly reject your conclusions. I know the OTand I recognize that much of Daniel, Ezekial Jesus’s talk on the last days and Revelation speak to what is going to happen in the future. It is a metaphor of what is going to happen in the future.

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DH 07.20.06 at 7:07 pm

Who are weto say that Revelations doesn’t refer to future events?

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Tim 07.20.06 at 8:06 pm

Who are we to say that it does?

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Kim 07.20.06 at 9:53 pm

Revelation is a document of Comfort and Protest (1987), the title of Alan Boesak’s reflections on the text - protest against the demonic super-power of John’s day and its decadent culture of death, comfort for the church under persecution and encouragement to persevere in bearing counter-cultural witness to its Lamb-Lord.

Boesak, of course, wrote for the church in the context of apartheid South Africa, i.e., like John, in the context of oppression by a demonic state. Oppression is always the background to apocalyptic literature (cf. Daniel) -which is why it is inevitably misinterpreted by Christians in league with the high and mighty - like the Religious Right.

To interpret Revelation predictively is to make an elementary category mistake, to misread its genre. This is radical samizdat literature, not a crystal ball! And if, with DH et. al., you insist on reading it as “a coded allegory of contemporary political events”, you will simply add to the text’s “junkyard of exegetical curiosities” (Richard B. Hays) - and that is a prediction! In the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious, man!” But even as I speak, no doubt some premillenarian idiot, the latest Hal Lindsey, is doing just that over the conflagration in the Middle East.

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Richard 07.20.06 at 10:20 pm

Just what I was going to say, Kim. (Except for samizdat, a word I’d forgotten ;))

Jim - the final chapters are the climax of the book, the “setting to rights”. I don’t read them as predictive of future events, but they are concerned with the future in the sense that the world is not as it should be, but we have confidence that God will “make all things new”

DH - I’d have predicted your disagreement. I believe I can live with it.

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DH 07.21.06 at 2:45 pm

I have no problem with people disagreeing but to call someone a ” premillenarian idiot” or to say that it is theologically “incorrect” I feel is over the top anda disservice to the Body of Christ. I just believe the pooint of Daniel, Ezekial and Revelation isto not over simplify it but to understand past, present and future events. Even the 1st century wasanxiously awaiting the physical Second Comming of Christ and the resurrection from the dead of Believers. To say this isn’t the case is rather odd in relation to historical and Scripture with regard to the 1st century church. I think sometimes the predisposition against something just because it appears “religious right” changes peoples view. At least I can honestly say just because I’m “right” (no pun intended) doesn’t influence my position on this subject. To suggest that as an overgeneralization is a totally incorrect observation of the truth.

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Randy McRoberts 07.21.06 at 3:28 pm

Kim hit it on the head.

I run into DHes all the time. That’s why I have refused to teach about a perfectly good book of the NT. I’m not brave enough.

Question for DH: is your spacebar working properly? Check that out, dude. And do you really think the first century church followed the Scofield - Left Behind model? On what basis?

For the record, I think Tim LeHaye has been misusing the phrase “left behind” anyway. Matthew has it this way:

24:37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.

Those who died in the flood were taken away, or “raptured”. Noah was left behind.

Just a little silliness. The series should be entitled “Not Left Behind”.

10

Kim 07.21.06 at 3:42 pm

Hi Randy.

You are not alone in your hesitancy to teach on Revelation: it is the only book in the Bible on which Calvin didn’t write a commentary; Luther wished to exclude from the German NT because he thought it encouraged idiots (sorry, DJ :)); and Orthodox churches, though they acknowledge it as scripture - just! - never read it at worship.

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DH 07.21.06 at 3:57 pm

Yeah my space bar is messed up but I can’t fix it. Oh well :).

When you read the apostle Paul in 1 Thess. and the like you can see how they were waiting for Christs second comming. In fact that is one of the reasons why they were in the upper room is because Jesus said “He would return” andthey understood that to be physically. Even Jesus referred to the resurrection from the dead and the disciples andthe like understood that as well. As you can see they aren’t Schofield, Left Behind but actually what the 1st century church thought. Even Mary at the story of Lazarus believed in the resurrection (paraphrase) “I know that I will see him (referring to Lazarus) at the resurrection from the dead.”

P.S. people are wrong to lump all premillinialist in with Hal Lindsey. I have heard some of his talks and there are some things I disagree with. I think it is a disservice to lump premillinialists in with Hal Lindsey and even LaHaye.

P.S.S. Not teach on Revelation? I have heard many sermons on (Rev 5) “worthy, worthy, worthy the Lamb that was slain.” While I do believe that this is referring to judgements on the earth the passage is encouraging to read with regard to how wonderful the Glory of God is and how awesome it will be for those who are in heaven being able to worship and take refuge in “…seeing Him as He is.”

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Eugene McKinnon 07.21.06 at 4:19 pm

Hi Everyone,

Just for some further diversity on eschatology, http://www.christreformed.org, is the website of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim California. Rev. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger the pastor has recently published a book on Reformed Amillenialism and another one on the Anti-Christ. On his Riddleblog you can click on a link for a different interpretation on the eschatology. I highly recommend it.

DH your last comment is somewhat worrisome. You should not delight in the judgement of others you should have compassion for them and pray for them. While judgement is inevitable God calls us to have compassion on those who harden their hearts.

Eugene

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DH 07.21.06 at 6:01 pm

I have never delighted in the judgement of others. If I gave you that impression I’m sorry. I just Believe we must not shirk away from what the Bible says. To deny the judgement is just as bad as glorying in the judgement. If I gave a wrong balance that was not the intent. It is just when people don’t believe in eternal life AND eternal death it goes against Scripture. The eternal death I don’t glory in but I pray “that as many who receive to them will be called Sons of God.” I pray for all unbelievers to become believers and escape this final judgement. It is thegood news that we have eternal life made available in the first place. I also pray that as Believers we live for Him and compassionately by the HS lead people to receive the free gift made available to all. The sad thing tho is that not all people will receive and for that denial of reality should not be the case but it should draw all Christians to share the Gospel so people don’t face that particular reality without Christ.

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Randy McRoberts 07.21.06 at 7:35 pm

A little context on my not teaching on Revelation: I am a chemist, not a preacher. I am sometimes called on to lead Bible studies, and when I do so I like to work my way through a book of the Bible without skipping around so as to get it all, not just the parts that have some appeal.

If I did that with Revelation, I would be drawn and quartered. I just don’t see it as most of my fellows do.

If I were a preacher, I’m sure I would have — by now — pulled out a text from Revelation as my jumping off point.

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Eugene McKinnon 07.21.06 at 7:57 pm

Randy,

You are very wise not to begin a Bible study with the Book of Revelation. As for jumping into lay preaching, don’t start out with Revelation. There are plenty of books to begin with, Revelation should be handled as the better you get at exegeting and interpreting.

Eugene

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Andrew 07.21.06 at 8:13 pm

It has always fascinated me that many Christians who believe in a “literal” interpretation of Genesis (among other sections of the Bible) are so quick to switch to a “symbolic” interpretation of Revelation.

AC

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DH 07.21.06 at 8:51 pm

If you are referring to myself that is why I believe in a premillinial eschatolgy. So there is no double standard that you are indirectly implying.

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DH 07.21.06 at 8:56 pm

I too agree with not starting a Bible study right off with Revelation but I would say that there are passages like the ones I mentioned that one can get incredible encouragement from. Also, one must seperate the first part regarding the churches from the rest which is referring to eschatology. So the non-eschatological part CAN be used but I would agree for the sake of argument not to start right off with that even though Rev. 3:20 is a great verse with regard to how one enters or doesn’t enter the Kingdom.

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David 07.24.06 at 7:11 pm

DH, while I recognize that you will never be persuaded from your view, let me assure you that you do not have biblical scholarship on your side — regardless of how much you think the 1st century thought like premillennialists.

The fact of the matter is that genre, as Kim pointed out, makes ALL the difference. Apocalyptic literature, like the second half of Daniel, parts of Zechariah, and Revelation, is a genre that is not about what will happen in the future. They are predictions (”crystal balls”) of what will occur. They do not give veiled clues about the things to come. No, no, no. Apocalyptic literature is a metaphorical-symbolic form of literature that speaks about the present-day situation — present-tense for the writer of the literature, not for us. So the last half of Daniel are visions about Epiphanes, the cruel Greek ruler who desecrated the temple. They are not predictions of his coming, as fundamentalists read it. We assume that symbolic writings clothed with mystery must be oracles of the future, but that is a modern imposition upon the text. Just as prophecy is prophetic about the here and now, so too apocalyptic is about the here and now.

Revelation is not a document about the future; it is about the present-day situation of Christians under the Roman empire. We think it is all mysterious and veiled, but for Christians then, the Book of Revelation was clear as day. It spoke openly and obviously about the powers that be, the evil forces that warred against the kingship of Christ, and the witness of the church as a community of nonviolence in the midst of the chaos. The writer of Revelation compels his audience — the whole church — to stand up as faithful witnesses to God, even submitting themselves to death.

There is a powerful message in this book: the church should embody the the witness of the Lamb who was slain for us. We are to be unambiguous in our loyalty to God over against the state. Our faith is placed in the God who died for us, who submitted to the powers of violence, and not in the nation-state that demands our allegiance. Christians in America would do well to read Revelation with minds unclouded by the power-hungry, oracle-reading, superstitious hermeneutics of fundagelicals.

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David 07.24.06 at 7:12 pm

Correction: They are NOT predictions (”crystal balls”) of what will occur. Oops.

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DH 07.24.06 at 8:02 pm

“…that you do not have biblical scholarship on your side..” Sorry, you are projecting man’s idea rather than God’s on this. That it is not of thingsto come is YOUR idea. Also, to project that I’m a fundamentalist is totally wrong as well. It isn’t “power-hungry,superstitious or what not” but to suggest that is rather strange and odd. I have never made those type of suggestions toward you. The attack by you seems strange and over the top and not indicativeof atrue Christian. All I did was bring out how the 1st century church anxiously awaited the physical return of Christ. That is why they were in the upper room, that is why Mary mentioned that she would see Lazarus at the “resurrection of the dead” and even Paul mentions it in the later part of 1 Thes. 4 andis confirmed when Jesus mentions being “caught away”. I have never got an adequate explaination of the caught away. Also, it isn’t “allegiance to nations-stae, etc. that is the reason I believe what I believe. I see no connection between the two. I also never went against the concept of being willing to die for Christ. I also feel that there have been and will be many “persecutions” before the Tribulation period so your preconceived ideas regaring my belief are totally off. Please treat me with more respect as you have read from my earlier posts. I have never attacked or ridiculed anyone of opposing view. I may disagree strongly but I have never used terms or attacked with words in the same force as yourself using “power-hungry, oracle-reading, superstitious hermeneutics of fundagelicals.” Which all of these terms are uncalled for and not indicative of Christian behavior.

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David 07.25.06 at 2:49 am

DH, I have absolutely no idea if you are “power-hungry,” and that was not what I said. But I know quite a few so-called Christians who think they can use the Bible to decipher current events and use these “prophecies” to garner support for their own ideological position. This is the kind of abuse that people like Pat Robertson inflict on the Scriptures, and it all derives from the fundamentally misguided notion that the apocalyptic passages are speaking about distant future events. So my criticism stands. I grant that there are plenty of people who are premillennialist without trying to exert political control, but the fact of the matter is that all such readings of Scripture originate from the same wrong starting-point. I would start a tirade against dispensationalism, but so many other people have already written books on the matter that I do not feel the need to state what should be obvious.

The resurrection of the dead and the early church’s awaiting of the parousia are entirely extraneous to the discussion of Revelation. They have no bearing whatsoever on how we are supposed to read this book.

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Philippa 07.25.06 at 10:41 am

I beg to differ. Somewhat. OK, quite a lot.

Your post was very good. And I totally take on board the historical context of Revelation and the way it is so closely bound up with OT and inter-testament apocalyptic literature, but I can’t possibly agree that Revelation is not addressing things yet to come, when it is a vision about the Second Coming and the final culmination of God’s salvation plan! :)

And just to put my views in context, I’m a Reader in the Anglican church, a low-key charismatic, and I am certainly not a Young Earth Creationist. :D I believe in the authority of the Bible, but I’m not a strict literalist.

It’s my personal conviction that Scripture points to things getting pretty dark before Christ returns, based on my understanding of what Jesus says in passages like Matthew 24.

Because prophecy always operates on various levels in Scripture: firstly there’s the immediate historical context (Nero’s tyrannical reign and vicious persecution of early believers, for example), secondly there’s the prediction of events in the not-so-distant future (Jesus sombre prophesying of the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, for example) and then thirdly there’s a telescoping effect, which you can trace from the Prophets to the Messiah Himself to the Apostle John, of events in the far distant future … looking forward to the Day of Days when the Author of the play, in CS Lewis’s immortal phrase, walks onto the stage and the play is finally over. And the whole of humanity will have no choice then but to acknowledge Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I wouldn’t swallow all of dispensationalist theology, which certainly has its loony fringe, so no Tim LaHaye fangirl am I. And I do agree with your excellent post. But here in the comments thread I think we’re in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. :)

The resurrection of the dead and the early church’s awaiting of the parousia are entirely extraneous to the discussion of Revelation. They have no bearing whatsoever on how we are supposed to read this book.

This egalitarian Anglican lady, with leanings towards amillenialism, vehemently disagrees! No bearing whatsoever?! I’m all for recognising the poetic, visionary nature of Revelation, but come ON! Not about the resurrection of the dead and the parousia?! You have to be kidding me! :) The whole heartcry of Revelation, from the Bride to the Lamb, is: “Maranatha … come, Lord Jesus, come.”

:)

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Beth 07.25.06 at 11:58 am

DH - “I have never attacked or ridiculed anyone of opposing view.” - hmmm… That isn’t quite right, is it? The immediate incident that comes to mind is you accusing me of being incapable of even “English 101″ when I tried to explain a point of vocabulary.

David - don’t worry too much - dh seems to think that most of us are “not indicativeof atrue Christian” at some point or another.

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DH 07.25.06 at 2:53 pm

It was because you originally accused me of using incorrect English when in fact I did and after I gave a clear concise explaination you continued the attack unnecessarily. Also, the point of so-called vocabulary had no basis interms of clarification of the discussion at hand. However, I have never ridiculed your beliefs. I may disagree strongly but never ridiculed or at least meant to ridicule.

Dave, on what you were saying You mention “…the fact of the matter is that all such readings of Scripture originate from the same wrong starting-point.” Political control is not the basis for belief in these things. I have no idea where that comes from.
Also, the 1st century church “parousia” IS referred to in Revelation and Jesus and 1 Thes. mentions it with the “caught away to meet Him in the clouds”. They were anxiously awaiting the physical return of Christ. To suggest that Revelation has no bearing on this when Revelations mentions the second comming of Christ seems strnage as well. That isn’t to attack the position but it is aposition I don’t understand in light of the direct comments from the passages.

“…so many other people have already written books on the matter…” Also, so many more were written in support of premillinialism. Also, not all dispensationalists are alike. To lump all of them together is a total misnomer.

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Beth 07.25.06 at 4:16 pm

I pointed out that you had said something incorrect. I was right. In response to this, you did not “give a clear concise explanation” - you said “this is basic English 101″. And you weren’t even right in saying so. Sounds like ridicule to me.

If I could be bothered to go back through the archives I’m sure I could find numerous other examples where your reaction to something you disagree with or don’t understand is to call it nonsense rather than asking the person what they mean by it. Sometimes, you have to accept that another person knows more than you do, that they are right and you are wrong - as with the language example.

N.B. This is advice not just for you - it’s something I need to remember myself sometimes, too.

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Ivan the Crank 07.25.06 at 4:29 pm

I hesitate weighing in on this subject, but here here goes. First of all, I offer a two word summary of the Book of Revelation given to me by one wiser than me that can fit all approaches to the book. Whether you see this as interpretation of current events at the time it was written, predictions of the future or both, the outcome is very much the same: “God wins!”

Also, I would recommend another book that approaches the study of Revelation by helping the reader undrestand the background of apocalyptic literature in the Old and New Testaments and other sources before trying to interpret any of the apocalyptic books of the Bible. It is called “Revelation for Today” by James M. Efird, professor of biblical interpretation at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina.

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DH 07.25.06 at 4:43 pm

“give a clear concise explanation” “And you weren’t even right in saying so.” that was your opinion.

“something you disagree with or don’t understand is to call it nonsense rather than asking the person what they mean by it.” Many times I ask for substantiation and I never get it. So I have no choice to go my merry way. At least I make every effort to substantiate or at least I try. When it comes to Scripture I always use Scripture in light of Scripture and try to look at the passages before and after the text in question orat least there is an”implied” understanding of that I try to convey.

When I say something doesn’t makes sense (understood to mean not substantiated) it is not an attack on the person or the nature of the person but it is what it is no more or no less.

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DH 07.25.06 at 4:49 pm

It is amazing that we ignore Ireanus and Justin Martyr who both advocated premillinialism.

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Beth 07.25.06 at 5:56 pm

No, it’s not my “opinion” it’s the way it is.

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David 07.25.06 at 6:46 pm

Philippa,

Okay, I might have overstated my case a bit. My point, in context, was addressing DH’s claim that the expected return of Christ by the apostles meant that the Revelation of John is a vision that shows what will actually occur in the future. That is just not true. Revelation is surely not in contradiction of what will eventually occur, but by that I mean exactly what “Ivan the Crank” said: “God wins!” How that takes place the book of Revelation does not tell us. John’s Apocalypse is not a sneak peak of the future or veiled hints for us to use in deciphering the events of history. What it does affirm, as the gospel should, is that God will reign supreme, that the consummation of creation will come with the “new heavens and new earth,” and evil will be defeated once and for all. So in that sense, of course the resurrection and parousia are involved in the text — but in a theological sense, not in a historical sense (as in, foretelling when Jesus will come again and who the anti-Christ will be).

I agree with you about the layers in prophecy, but I would want to place heavy emphasis on the present-day experiences of the writers. I think the emphasis on future events is something that has become more and more pronounced with the development of the church and doesn’t do full justice to the genre of apocalyptic as a prophetic text in the here and now.

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David 07.25.06 at 6:48 pm

DH,

It’s Revelation, not “Revelations.” There is only one revelation of God.

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Philippa 07.25.06 at 7:32 pm

David,

Ah, OK then. :)

Certainly I am leery of much dispensationalism, having been exposed to a certain amount of Hal Lindsey gubbins in my Brethren youth.

It’s a crying shame that so many Christians seem to be afraid of Revelation, simply because of all the kookiness that has abounded. And it’s dogmatic kookiness, that’s the trouble. Many sincere pre-millenialists are honestly convinced that THEIR interpretations of probably the most difficult book in the Bible are superior to everybody else’s. It’s the dogmatism that can be difficult to stomach, and difficult to debate with because if you argue against it, you are arguing against God. Apparently.

This is not a comment directed at anybody in this thread, I am talking about my experiences in real life.

I think there is value in each other’s eschatalogies, actually, something we could learn from each other’s End Times baggage. Certainly I would want to avoid an interpretation of Revelation that was too earth-bound. Revelation keeps our eyes heavenward. It is the most fantastic book about WORSHIP, certainly. :)

‘God wins!’

Yes. :)

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DH 07.25.06 at 7:32 pm

David nitpicky it is obvious what you are saying and no one would disagree. The Book of Revelation or Book of Revelations are synonomous. One Revelation from God of many Revelations.

P.S. If you read I never referred to the book of Revelations as the plural but as Revelation. You may want to reread my posts.

P.S.S. No one knows the day or hour of God’s second coming or the tribulation, etc. To suggest that that type of prediction is included in the view I have or the majority opinion of those who adhere to my view seems rather strange. Just because some outlier within my view says God is coming back X.Y,Z date doesn’t mean that it is the majority within the view nor does that degrate the future events represented in the Book of Revelation.

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BruceA 07.26.06 at 2:40 am

DH -

and even Paul mentions it in the later part of 1 Thes. 4 andis confirmed when Jesus mentions being “caught away”. I have never got an adequate explaination of the caught away.

As I understand it — and I welcome correction if I am wrong — the early church interpreted that passage in the context of Jesus’ return to earth. That is, the believers — even the dead — would be caught up into the clouds to escort Jesus on his way down to inaugurate his rule over the earth. The idea that the believers would be “caught away” to leave the earth is a modern reinterpretation that contradicts the clear statement in 1 Thess 4:17 that “we will all be together with the Lord forever.” We wouldn’t be together with him if we were going up and away as he was coming back to rule.

It is amazing that we ignore Ireanus and Justin Martyr who both advocated premillinialism.

They did? When? I’ve got a copy of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus on my desk. Please tell me where in their writings I can find this advocacy.

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David 07.26.06 at 12:34 pm

DH,

You mentioned the name of the book twice, once with as Revelations and the other as Revelation (both in the same post). I wanted to make sure you knew the difference. It is a major pet peeve of mine that Christians often make it plural. It is not plural and never has been.

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David 07.26.06 at 12:39 pm

DH,

Up above you wrote: “It is a metaphor of what is going to happen in the future.”

That just is not right. I will even grant to you that it presents the future in certain ways — the end of history, the reign of God, the new creation, etc. — but only if you grant that the book was written primarily to address Christians in that time and place. It is the sign of utter arrogance to ever think the Bible was written for us here and now. When we read the Scriptures, we read the testimonies of a distant era; we are like those who read over another person’s shoulder, trying to get a glimpse of what the story is. It’s not about us. It’s not even about them (meaning the church). It’s about God. And God was working then as God is now and will be in the future. What we must do is pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”

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DH 07.26.06 at 3:09 pm

I totally agree it is about God. It seems to me that your focus in your posts was on “them”.

BruceA it isn’t acontradiction because we will be with the Lord coming back to rule with the Lord during the 1000 year reign. It also never mentions being in heaven the whole time just being with the Lord. After the New Jerusalem (heaven) andall of the judgements have been completed will be in heaven with the Lord forever.

This shows Martyr as a postmillinialist
http://www.conservativeonline.org/journals/06_18_journal/2002v6n18_id06.htm

This shows Martyr as a premillinialist
http://archive.baptistmessenger.com/Issue/030102/3.html

Okay he was postmillinial other than the timing of Christ’s coming He DID have a view similar to mine and he was way before the 1800’s like some attackers of millinialism. Here is another thing to consider from the same post:

“Joseph Mede (1586-1638), commenting on the rapture said this: “The usual interpretations, suppose the rapture of the saints into the clouds, to be for their present translation into heaven. But suppose that be not the meaning of it; for the words, if we weigh them well, seem to imply it to be for another end, namely, to do honor unto their Lord and King, at his return, and to attend upon him when he comes to judge the world.”[28] He goes on to suggest a posttribulation rapture, or more accurately, an intra-tribulational rapture near the end of the tribulation. What could he mean then, by the words “the usual interpretations” etc., but a pretrib rapture? This would not only place the pretrib rapture teaching two centuries before Darby, but also suggest that it was “the usual view.”

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BruceA 07.26.06 at 4:48 pm

DH -

Here are Justin’s own words about Christ’s return:

And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. (Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 81, emphasis mine)

Maybe I’m confused about the meaning of the terms, but it seems to me that if Christ reigns for a thousand years and then occurs the general resurrection, that makes Justin a post-millenialist.

I’m confused, too, about your statement that “it isn’t a contradiction because we will be with the Lord coming back to rule with the Lord during the 1000 year reign.” This clearly contradicts LaHaye and Jenkins idea that believers will be snatched away from the earth and taken to heaven years before Christ’s return. We can’t be both here to meet Christ on his return and away in heaven at the same time.

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DH 07.26.06 at 5:13 pm

Well we meet Christ in the clouds not in heaven and when Christ comes to “catch us away” it is in the clouds not on earth. Just to give you an idea of how I believe I lean toward pre or midtrib rapture but I don’t reject outright the post tribulational rapture. A post tribulational rapture has Christ coming for the 1000 year reign and the resurrection before thatat the same time. “We can’t be both here to meet Christ on his return and away in heaven at the same time.” If they are two different events at two different times. I think the in the clouds and being with God and ultimately with Christ forever during the 1000 year reign and thereafter explains it for me.

Also, Justin Martyr is referring to the 1000 year reign and thereafter. The things mentioned before he didn’t address. His statements are correct that Christ will reign 1000 years and the recurrection of all men for the Great White Throne of Judgement are thereafter. No contradiction there with the view I have. I think you missed the meanings of the terms of Justin Martyr.

If you would likefurther clarification I will begladto give it.

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BruceA 07.26.06 at 5:42 pm

DH -

I still don’t understand your view.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

I don’t see how you get two different events out of this. Christ returns, the dead are resurrected, and all believers are “caught up” to meet Christ at his return. I don’t see any room for separate events.

And if Justin Martyr says this all happens after the reign of Christ, why doesn’t that make him a post-millennialist?

I don’t want to start a debate, I’m just trying to get a handle on what pre-millennialists believe. So far, it’s not clear at all.

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DH 07.26.06 at 7:18 pm

The key is “in the air” the fact that it doesn’t go into detail of thenew Jerusalem and the final return to physical earth as compared with theair doesn’t mean that it is contradictary. Does that make sense?

So hear is my clarification and “Christ returns, the dead are resurrected, and all believers are “caught up” to meet Christ at his return.” ispretty close. The key point is dead “in Christ” the physically dead Believers first thenthose who are Believers that aren’t dead are caught away to meet Christ in the air before the millinial reign. After the Tribulation the 1000 year reign on earth of Jesus with the Believers occurs,Satan is loosed for a season and after that is the explaination from Justin martyr of the resurrectionof all of the dead some for eternal death others for eternal life depending on whether or not their names are written in the Lambs Book of Life. As you can see Martyrs view doesn’t contradict what I said he focused on only one part of the whole focusing on the 1000 year reign andnot mentioning what he believed before the millinial reign. There are two resurrection he only mentioned the final one.

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David 07.27.06 at 5:23 am

This is off-topic, but it’s been bothering me. DH, is English a second language? I am just wondering because you seem incapable of forming complete sentences. Is this just your internet-speak?

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DH 07.27.06 at 2:29 pm

It is my internet speak. I think if you read my posts before you can see that is not the case the majority of the time. Also, if you able to understand what I’m saying then what is the point? If you need clarification or have specific questions about any of my responses just ask and I’ll clarify but to overgeneralize me is a little much. (Not being harsh just helping to put your response in perspective.)

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BruceA 07.27.06 at 4:53 pm

Okay, DH. I think I see where you are coming from. I don’t agree with you; from my POV it looks like you are simply assuming premillennialism and wrapping the texts around that assumption. But I can see that a strict reading of the text does not contradict that POV. (It doesn’t necessarily support it, but that’s a discussion I’m not interested in at this time.)

Regarding Justin Martyr, it seems to me that you are using the same approach. His viewpoint does not necessarily preclude premillennialism, and can even be shown to be compatible with it. But that’s a far cry from the claim that he himself held a premillennial view.

You say there are two resurrections; I don’t see Justin saying that. He only mentions one resurrection. Furthermore, Justin does not say Christ’s rule is a physical rule on the earth. Finally, if Matthew 25 is correct, then the general resurrection and judgment occurs at Christ’s return, so Justin’s placing this after the thousand years seems to me, once again, to indicate that he was a postmillennialist.

I’m not trying to argue for postmillennialism over premillennialism; I’m just questioning the classification of Justin Martyr as a premillennialist. I don’t see any evidence to support such a claim.

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Randy McRoberts 07.27.06 at 5:31 pm

Maybe we need a chart so we can really understand the timetable. I picture is worth a thousand words.

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DH 07.27.06 at 5:54 pm

BruceA Justin never contradicted or stated that the premillinial concept I described he disagreed with and his statements don’t contradict my view as well. I’m not assuming premillinialism and wrapping the text around them I believe the view IS supported.

You say “Finally, if Matthew 25 is correct, then the general resurrection and judgment occurs at Christ’s return..” I agree but that is different from the pretribulational event as I have described. The first being into the clouds the last one being at the Great White Throne of Judgement with heaven being synonomous with the New Jerusalem thereafter.
With regard to Justin Martyr there seems to be some evidence as evident of the controversy here:
http://archive.baptistmessenger.com/Issue/030102/3.html

Randy I totally agree with the “timeline” concept. I wish I was a good artist to show the timetable. I also would be interested in the opposing views represented with exaplainations as well within the timetables. Randy if your an artist I think we could work together on something. :)

Randy and Bruce I have enjoyed this discussion and while we have our differences I hope this put to rest some of the preconceived ideas, misconceptions and overgeneralizations of the side. I hope you can see the honesty of my position as a premillinialist and how that not all of those within that camp have the attitudes as many have described (not yourself).

If you guys need additional explaination or insight to better understand my view I’m always welcome and vice versa.:)

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Beth 07.27.06 at 8:19 pm

DH, I’m with David on the language thing - “Also, if you able to understand what I’m saying then what is the point?” Well, a lot of the time it is very difficult to understand what you’re saying. Either you write incomplete sentences, or sentences which are far too long and complex; they lose the point of what you’re saying. Spelling mistakes are not particularly relevant, although they won’t serve you well in formal situations outside the internet. But if you tried to get to grips with grammar, and stopped using long words that you don’t understand, then your posts would be easier to read and might gain a more positive response.

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DH 07.27.06 at 8:53 pm

Beth, your suggestions have been taken to heart. However, I do understand the long words I use but I do agree with what you are saying and the heart behind it as well. It is just that many times the corrections you and David give out are on things that are nitpicky and have no bearing on the clarity of my statements. Hense, my defensive response. With this response from you I agree and will do my best to adhere to your suggestions. :)

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Beth 07.28.06 at 1:16 am

Hey, dh. I’m glad you’re not offended - while we may disagree vehemently and (on my side) violently about religious issues, the mentions I have made of linguistic matters have all been in the spirit of helpfulness. Forgive me if I sometimes seem nitpicky, but the points don’t usually seem so to me - if I give you some context, I’m a doctoral student in English literature, and I work freelance for one of the major dictionaries, so sometimes I’m perhaps too keen to seek precision in language! The English language is one of God’s most beautiful creations. It’s also one of the most powerful tools on the planet for education and change, so I’m passionate about seeing it used properly.

Take care,

B

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Wonders For Oyarsa 07.29.06 at 5:36 am

Richard -

Thanks for this. I will be using all your advice when my Bible Blogging Project gets that far - assuming the eschaton doesn’t arrive first!

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Dan 10.21.09 at 3:38 pm

For all who believe Revelation has not mostly already been fulfilled, i.e. that all of the book except for maybe 21 and 22 did not apply to first century saints, I would turn your attention to the book itself.
Rev. 1:1, 3 - this is soon to take place, the time is near!
And as if to say, just in case you missed it, this same message is found at the end of the book (serving as bookends) in Ch. 22:6, 10. The time is near, soon to take place. John is told not to “seal up the words of this book, for the time is near.” This is the opposite of Daniel’s book where Daniel to told to “seal up the words of the prophesy.”
I firmly believe the majority of this book has already taken place with God’s judgment on Rome (Domitian) but the message/applications are timeless!
Just my two cents.

Dan

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dh 10.21.09 at 7:00 pm

Dan I agree that there was prophesy for the time of Rome for Revelation but that doesn’t take away from the clear last day prophesy of Revelations and Daniel. The prophesies and the book apply to the judgement on Rome AND the Last days. Some of what Daniel and Revelation state has never been fulfilled and seem to have no direct connection to the 1st Century Rome timeframe. Others have the multiple timeframe with one prophesy implication. Emperor Nero could be the AntiChrist and that doesn’t take away from THE Antichrist that will take place at the last days. Multiple fulfillments to one prophesy mentioned. Therefore no contradiction for the Antichrist of the last days do not contradict the antichrist in Emeperor Nero.

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