The Book of Revelation and Its Apocalyptic Implications for the 21st Century (V.1 no.2)

The Jewish expectation foresaw the future kingdom as a place of peace and plenty. John makes it unmistakably clear that God’s restoration of the kingdom, His fulfillment of the covenant, does not follow the lines of these expectations. John states the deep context of the lives of Christians that are members of God’s kingdom, His priestly people, but live in a world whose destructive and dehumanizing values, John sees as Fallen Babylon, a realm of being in rebellion against God. There is no other book of the Bible except the book of Daniel that has been subjected to the vagaries of interpreters as Revelation. The truths in the book of Revelation have their foundation in the prophecy in Daniel. There are two extreme cases, the futurists and the history, but the original method of interpretation must be independent of dogmatic presuppositions. Hastings Dictionary (Note 3) says: “Revelation must be interpreted by the general principles applicable to apocalypses as a form of literary expression.” The literary and critical analyses of Revelation do not coincide. The analysis does not differ fundamentally from that of other writers. A book on the New Testament theology written by George Eldon Ladd (Note 4) says the interpretation of Revelation has been the most challenging and confusing of all the books of the New Testament. Several distinct approaches emerged from the history of interpretation.

Revelation’s genre is apocalyptic though it has both epistolary and prophetic features. Ladd suggested in 1957 that Revelation be labeled “Prophetic – Apocalyptic.” It may be due to the centrality of prophetic material; both the prophecy and the apocalyptic center on future Salvation for the faithful and sure judgment for the unfaithful. While we may recognize the shadows of contemporary events in the Revelation, we must conclude that the elaborate symbolism of Jewish apocalyptic literature was employed in the interests of a prophetic forecast of the consummation of God’s redemptive purpose. (Note 5). There are four schools of interpretation of the Revelation. This paper examines the four: Preterist, Historicist, Idealist, and Futurist.

Keys to Understanding Revelation

 The symbolism of Revelation lies with the knowledge of Hebrew theology, the Law and the Prophets (Isaiah 8:20), and the ancient Jewish culture. Moses’ vision saw the purpose from beginning to end with the coming of the Messiah and John’s vision on the purpose of God (Elohim) from the end back to the beginning. Some future events that have been prophesied in Revelation are repeats of past events. For example, the seven plagues that will be poured out on Mystery Babylon correspond with the seven last plagues that Moses and Aaron poured out on Egypt (Exodus 8 -12). Many Biblical scholars have tried to interpret the vision of John with various methods, such as the contemporary historical method and the literary-critical method. Scholars cannot use philosophical methods to interpret a divine vision and Revelation given to the Apostle John. These methods will not honestly explain the interpretation of Revelation because this comes from the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The contemporary historical method believes that the Jewish apocalypses refer primarily to the time or era of the writer. This method also believes in the literal interpretation of prophecy and that no spiritual or symbolical method should be used. The literary-critical method believes that Revelation was a series of visions, written at different times and places before and after the temple’s destruction at Jerusalem.

Two great scholars: George Ladd and Dennis Bratcher, describe the Bible as follows:

Ladd’s postulation – “The Bible is the word of God given in the words of men in history.” 

Bratcher’s postulation– The Bible is God’s word in human words.” Revelation exhibits the conjecture of these scholars.

Based on the postulation of Ladd and Bratcher, one can assume that:

  1. Because it is God’s word, the Bible has: (a) ongoing relevance, (b) authority, and (c) testimony to the nature of God. These cannot be investigated or proven; they are accepted by faith as given, so we cannot study the Revelation from any of these perspectives.
  2. Because it is in human words, the Bible has:

(a) historical and cultural particularity, (b) human creativity and expression features, and (c) concerns familiar with human existence today. These can be investigated with various tools; this is the study’s starting point. The process of doing so is described in two terms: exegesis and hermeneutics.

***to continue tomorrow


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