Diving into Revelation (Part 1): Difficult Passages

Alright, so this was suggested a while back, and I’ve avoided it until now, but I’m going to go ahead and dive into the book of Revelation, one of the most confusing, argued about, misunderstood, misread, questioned books of the bible. Today I’m going to offer something of an introduction to what I intend to do with the series (which I suspect will be long running), and, if this doesn’t get too long, a brief introduction to the book.

First, the disclaimer. It seems pretty arrogant at the outset to give what is the interpretation of the book of Revelation. John Calvin was so bothered by the possibility of grossly divergent readings of the book that he thought that while it is good for Christians to read the entire bible, it might be better if they read everything except the book of Revelation, leaving that for trained scholars and elders to teach them (incidentally, he wrote a full commentary on every biblical book except revelation). So let me get one thing out there. I am not purporting to give the possible reading. Instead, what I will hope and try to do is give some of the general possibilities for looking at Revelation before following my own guide.

I should also note that I am not a New Testament Scholar. While I am familiar with the bible and have taken a lot of Greek, my graduate studies have not focused on Greek nor on the New Testament in the same way that a degree in “Bible” or “New Testament” would. Instead, I am trained as a theologian. Therefore, when I do get to my own commentary, it will be a (biblically informed and grounded) theological commentary on Revelation.

Let me also list some other disclaimers:

  1. I really don’t like Tim LaHay’s Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain (Published in the mid-70s). I’ll try to hold my bias in check, but LaHay assumes quite a bit of superior knowledge about the book that he has no place to assume. The bible

    Hagee at Christians United for Israel [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons (Where are the giant posters?)

    should always, and Revelation in particular, be approached with a certain level of humility and a genuine acknowledgment that not only could I be wrong, but on some non-essential points, I probably am wrong (or at least have failed to grasp the full meaning).
  2. I will not be doing any John Hagee style Midrash. I’m not one for giant billboards or TV cameras. Plus see point 1). If youwant John Hagee, go find John Hagee, I’m sure there’s something online right now.
  3. When I talk about the variety of views that one can take for reading the book of Revelation, I will certainly give and try to explain some views I do not hold nor agree with in any sense. Still, I want to be fair to those with whom I disagree and so I will try to remain impartial when I explain those views. If I fail to do so in future posts, please call me out on it.
  4. There is a lot of Old Testament imagery and references in Revelation. I will go back into the Old Testament in an effort to see how the images are being used in the book of Revelation.
  5. If you comment (and please feel free to comment), please don’t call it “Revelations”. There is no “s” on the end of the book. I know it’s silly, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. This is the record of a single vision of John, it was one revelation by one person. (I realize I may have just invited lots of comments composed entirely of “Revelations”, but oh well).
  6. Let me preface this point by saying I don’t have a vendetta against Christian fiction (at least not all Christian fiction). I think C. S. Lewis has some great stuff (Space Trilogy anyone?). I think Francine Rivers is an exceptionally gifted writer (I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit reading some of her books). Max Lucado’s children’s books are great. But, forgive me, I cannot stand the Left Behind series. I know it’s one of the best selling fictions books of my lifetime, and yes I read the first three, but I just don’t like it. I even saw the Kirk Cameron movies on it (yes that’s movies, plural), but didn’t like them. So, if you are wanting Christian apocalyptic fiction to feature in this blog. I’m

    Sorry Hal Lindsey, you’re playing second fiddle now in the hot Christian-Apocalyptic-but-what-happens-to-those-still-on-earth-after-the-rapture sub-sub-sub genre of books

    sorry to disappoint you. Maybe I’ll change my mind once the Nicholas Cage remakes come out (yes that’s really a thing).

  7. Let’s always keep in mind that, regardless of your view of Revelations ( ;D ), it is independent of your status before God. Unless you get really crazy (like saying Jesus is actually one of the beasts), having differing views of Revelation does not make you a heretic. This a book whose interpretation is one of the most disagreed things that there is. So let’s have a conversation about it (seriously in the comments), but let’s keep it a civil one.
  8. If you join the conversation (which, really, please do), remember the words of Martin Luther: “Sin boldly!”
  9. As will often be the case, and is here, I will likely go on for too long with one section. If the pace gets too plodding, I may leave the series for a while and do something else before coming back, but I’m only posting things in this series on Mondays, so I don’t think variety will be an issue.

  8 comments for “Diving into Revelation (Part 1): Difficult Passages

  1. January 28, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I’m sure you’d like actual discussion, but I’m pressed for time/lazy, so at least at present I would like to affirm your “Revelations” peeve. “Psalms” is in a similar (though not identical) situation; it’s the book of Psalms, but when referencing just one Psalm, it’s Psalm 23, not Psalms 23. Ugh!

    (I know YOU know this. I’m just venting peeves along with you.)

    • January 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Yeah I understand that. Though the Psalms one doesn’t bother me as much because I can see it as a shortening of “Book of Psalms, chapter 23,” but I can see how it might be annoying.

      • January 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm

        Yeah, true. I guess I just never think of it that way.

  2. January 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I think your point about Revelation being singular, one revelation to John, is key to a basic understanding of the book. Putting all prophecy and differing ways of interpreting the book aside, John states that it is “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” (Rev. 1:1). So, it’s really a revelation of Jesus more than anything else, Jesus who sits on the Throne in Heaven and will one day return for His redeemed.

  3. January 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    What I meant by it being a revelation of Jesus is that in John’s book is that, not only was it a vision He gave John, we also see in it Christ’s greatness and majesty, as the victor over sin and Satan. I think this is the main point of the book, more so than its prophecies. Though the prophecies are important, too.

    • January 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Absolutely. The ultimate revelation of God is found in Jesus Christ who lived, was crucified and is resurrected from the dead seated at the hand of the Father

  4. January 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Have you read Jim Jordan’s “The Vindication of Jesus Christ”? Very short read, and agree or disagree, a good resource to have, especially concerning the symbolism/imagery/typology.

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