Sunday, January 4, 2009

Principles for Interpreting the Book of Revelation, Part 4

This post completes the summary of Rev. Joe Morecraft's introductory sermon to the book of Revelation. In this post, I will summarize the last 10 minutes of the sermon that deal with the content, theme, and purpose of the book of Revelation. Again, I will repost the previously summarized material in red.

Joe Morecraft III -- Interpreting Revelation -- July 2, 1978

Principles of Interpretation:

1. Nature of the Book of Revelation

a. Revelation: Rev. 1:1, 11 (God given through Holy Spirit)

--Thus every thing in this book is relevant through all time.
--To understand, all we need is Scripture (Scripture interprets Scripture) and Holy Spirit
--To neglect study of Revelation, is to be inadequately equipped.
--Revelation means "unveiling"; not an "obscuring".

b. Prophecy: Rev. 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18 (God's word to His people)

--Apocalyptic literature of the time outside of New Testament was characterized by a catastrophic breaking in of eternity at the end of history when evil reigns and the only hope is rapturous escape.

First, over-against that view comes divinely revealed prophecy characterized by an inseparable connection between the flow of history and the consumation of history: i.e., Christ came to rescue human history (not to discard it), to perfect it, and make it more glorious. Thus, what we do now counts and matters: it has consequences (a theme of the Old Testament is God's calling His people to faithfulness and promising them resulting blessing).

Secondly, biblical prophecy is characterized by a presentation of an accomplished, continual, progressive triumph of God over evil, until that triumph is complete and total (Is. 2, 9, 11, 40, 66, etc.).

Thirdly, biblical prophecy is not irrelevant theologizing about what will take place at the end of the world, but it has instead, great ethical value (Rev. 1:5, 16, etc.).

c. Symbolic in Form: The revelation to John was "sign"-ified (written in signs and symbols and figures), Rev. 1:1. It should be taken "truly", but "not literally". Read Revelation with two questions in mind: (1) What is the picture? and (2) What does this picture mean? For the meaning, check the context of other Bible passages where the same picture (symbols, figures, etc.) is used. Other times, John actually stops and explains the meaning of the picture, Rev. 1:20, 12:1-9.2. Time FrameWhen are the things written in the book of Revelation going to come to pass? This question is answered in the text of the book of Revelation itself: Things which must shortly take place (Rev. 1:1); the time is near (Rev. 1:3); must shortly take place (Rev. 22:6); the time is near (Rev. 22:10). Thus, the text tells John and us that "these things" will take place in the immediate future. John lived in the first century. The letter is addressed to the seven asian churches then in existence -- thus "these things" will take place during the life time of these seven first century churches. To be honest with the text, "shortly" actually means "shortly", and "near" means "near", i.e., on the immediate horizon, the latter half of the first century. So, what did the symbols in the book of Revelation mean to the first century readership? Knowing what the text was communicating to the original readers and hearers is vital to a right understanding of the text. Having done this, we can then consider how the message of Revelation applies to us today. Therefore, interpretations pointing to far off distant future events must be rejected. Further, interpretations consisting of only great principles and ideals (ambiguous spiritual ideals and principles), but not specific real historical events must be rejected. We must therefore consider the setting of the seven asian churches that are addressed. They lived in an area of the world where people (non-Christians) were zealous about giving lip service to the doctrine that Caesar is god. The Christian church had grown in this part of the world and was having influence, but these seven churches are having problems. The ideas of the world are creeping into these churches and the Christians are facing pressures to compromise in the midst of tribulation and persecution. Christians in this region are being accused of being atheists because they refuse to worship Caesar. Some are dying the death of martyrs for this reason. Christians in this area of the world also faced mockery, ridicule, and persecution from a blind, hard, stubborn, apostate Judaism, which strongly opposed and attacked the followers of Christ. An understanding of this context is essential prior to any considerations about what all this means for us today.

3. Content, Theme, Purpose

a. Content: Rev. Morecraft covered this with an outline handout that he asked the listeners to memorize. Click on this link to view or download the outline:

b. Theme: The dominion and triumph of the sovereign enthroned Christ and His church over all opposition.

This note of victory and triumph is found throughout the book of Revelation. This note of victory extends throughout all history as well as at the end of history (for example, Rev. 1:5, 6). Also note Rev. 1:7, He's coming (that is, He keeps coming) in judgment over His enemies and in deliverance for His saints.

In Rev. 1:9-20 notice the figure of Christ as a great King Who holds the church safely in His hands, etc.

In Rev. 2 and 3 He promises blessings and victory to those who overcome in His name.

In Rev. 4 and 5 He presents the vision of a throne at the center of the universe and sitting upon that throne is a lamb, and before that throne is a sea symbolizing all the nations of the world which are under God's control.

In Rev. 5-18, we see a series of visions that tell us that Christ shall destroy all of His enemies, and overturn all "isms" through His faithful people (in time as well as at the end of time).

In Rev. 19 we are presented with Christ as the mighty Conqueror Who marches victoriously over His enemies.

In Rev. 20 we have a picture God restraining Satan and God's people reigning with Him; and God will ultimately vindicate Himself upon all His enemies.

In Rev. 21 and 22 the kingdom shall be consumated throughout the heavens and the earth.

There is no gloom or pessimism anywhere in the book of Revelation. It is all about the victory of Christ and His church over all opposition.

c. Purpose: To comfort, encourage, uplift, and motivate the people of God who are being oppressed, abused, mistreated, and persecuted at the hands of a hostile world (Rev. 1:9) to perseverance and hope. This book is for us now. Blessing is promised to those who read, believe, and obey this book of Revelation.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent information. The new info sounds very amillennial to me.


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