Posted by: Terry | January 26, 2014

Revelation is like a watercolor painting

I can not get away from the idea that Revelation does not fit any of the common modes of interpretation. It seems that a person picks their view of the book then works to make the book fit. Three considerations:

1)The book was written with the expectation that the readers would be able to understand it, be blessed by it and act on it. They did not have concordances and commentaries, in fact they would for the most part be able to do that by listening to it read. God was revealing, making clear, not attempting to confuse, thus any interpretation that causes confusion, frustration, or conflict is suspicious.

2) Those listening would first of all place what they heard in their immediate context, they were told it dealt with what would soon take place, so they must have had at least some expectation that it meant “now.” In addition they would hear allusions to language they were familiar with from hearing the First Testament, so they would make connections from that in forming their understanding.

3) The whole Bible is God revealing himself to the world through the person of Jesus. Jesus is the messenger listed in chapter one, he is the one that will open the scroll that holds the message. Thus anything we get out of the book must be in harmony with the rest of the First and Second Testaments.

Even a cursory review of the commentators from Victorinus (500AD) to Walvoord and Lindsay of today makes it clear that there has never been consensus regarding the symbols that John used to describe what he saw. John saw amazing visions, he used precious stones, weather, and beasts to describe what was beyond his vocabularies’ imagination. For us to adamantly attach theological meanings to jasper, ruby, or locusts is tenuous at best, and to then argue vociferously that we are right is illogical, and a bit arrogant.

In Revelation 4 John saw the wonder and glory of the throne room in heaven, he was dazzled. The important part of the first few verses is not to parse each stone, person, etc. but to be moved by “Holy, holy, holy is The Lord God Almighty.”

There is so much that we do not and have never had consensus on. There has never been agreement on what the “tribulation” even is. Is it the last seven years before the end, is it what happened between the time John wrote and the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD, is it the persecution that the church has and does experience from Pentecost until the consummation of all things in Revelation 21 and 22.

The seven-years-at-the-end view is based for the most part on the passage in Daniel, there never has been unanimous acceptance of it’s meaning, yet that is what the entire Left Behind series is based on. Once we pick a viewpoint, then we see all of Revelation through that lens and are forced to fit, often with a lot of bending and tweaking, the whole vision into our mold.

There are four major views of how to look at Revelation.
1) That most all of the book dealt with what happened before the fall of Jerusalem
2) That it deals with the history from the time of Acts until the second coming
3) That it, from chapter 4 on, deals with the future
4) That it gives insight and explanation to what God is doing in the world, how he will usher in the new world.

Most people pick one of the 4 then defend their position against the others. But why is that necessary? Could it be that all are true, that they are not exclusive? John was told that the message would deal with what would come next, soon. So there are messages here that apply to those living in the persecution of those days. Yet the book has much to say about the persecution and tribulations of the church these last 2000 years. And of course there are lessons that can only apply to he future. Finally, reading Revelation gives us insight into how God works and is working.

Revelation is like a watercolor painting, the completed picture is achieved by painting layers upon layers, each layer enhances the previous ones while adding depth of color. So we see in the book how God encouraged the early church, how he sustains the present church, and what he will do in the future. Along the way we have our understanding expanded regarding the conflict between God and Satan, the perseverance of the saints, the ultimate hope of living on a restored earth that is filled with the presence and glory of God.

We need a fresh view, a new look that seeks more to see all 4, for they each will bring the promised blessing.

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