Thursday, July 27, 2017

Revelation: A Cautionary Tale
24 July 2017
            I read revelation for the first time in July 1969. A high school friend and I spent the better part of that summer on the west coast. My friend’s grandmother lived in a small town outside Portland, Oregon; we stayed with her and worked on his uncle’s blueberry farm/chicken ranch. She had a copy of Good News for Modern Man and that’s where I read revelation. My friend’s family were Baptists, and I am convinced I am a Christian today because of his grandmother’s faithful prayers on my behalf.
            Now, at 18 the only thing I got from revelation was scared. My (miss)understanding of the book has morphed several times over the decades, going from the extreme confidence of my Dispensational days to pretty much total surrendered to unknowing today. I’ve a few books on Revelation over the years; The Late Great planet Earth being the first. There was a scholarly commentary by Dr. John Walvoord I struggled through. Dr. Walvoord was once asked what he would do if his theory on revelation was shown to be incorrected; he replied, ‘write another book’. Then there was a book around, I think, 2003 or 2004 whose author did a detailed study of all the prophetic works in both testaments. I don’t remember much about that one, except he was convinced every household would be required to own some sort of religious statue. These statues would be inhabited by demons who would report the goings on in the household to the beast or false prophet or somebody and there would be hell to pay for misbehavior. This was a serious work complete with a fold-out, poster-sized chart. My favorite is Breaking the Code by Dr. Bruce Metzger, mainly because I can understand it. And let’s not forget the Left Behind series, which I haven’t read but remains extremely popular. The one thing these books have in common is none of them are the Bible; they are interpretations or commentaries or fictional works and, as such, require caution, discernment and critical thinking in the reading.
             I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theory person but there are lots of them out there and Revelation is a favorite, in part, I think, because it is so difficult to properly exegete. Back in the early to mid-90’s I had a friend who was, among many other things, a survivalist. He was determined that, if the apocalypse came, he and his family would survive. Whenever we would talk about apocalyptic survival Revelation 13:9-10 invariably came to mind. Which leads me to my main point.
            My thinking on Revelation today is that the most important chapters, apart from 13:9-10, are 1-3 and 21-22. One to three, because they address our situation today; 20-21 because they confirm God’s plan for total restoration-the new heaven and new earth. Particularly important to me are 1:5-6-He (Christ) has washed us and freed us from our sins so that we would be a kingdom, priests serving His (and our) God and Father, to Him be the glory. I believe this to be one of the best Gospel summaries in the Bible-what Jesus did and why. We have a job to do in the here and now, and it does not involve worrying about who will die and who will be taken captive and who will escape. That is up to God and no one else.
            Regarding our situation today, to be sure there will be problems. They are described in Chs.2 & 3. Issues are addressed, solutions are given. Every church in those two chapters is today’s church; every church issue is our personal issue to some extent or other. This is a clear picture of how Jesus sees His church; this is, in my opinion, where our focus should be. But wait; there’s more. Let’s not forget we know how the story ends.
            God promises total restoration; all things made new. God Himself will dwell with us. Take some time to meditate on this promise. The new creation is described in terms of gold and precious gems-the only things John had to describe an indescribable glory. Chapters 1-3 may be read as instruction; chapters 21-22 need to be read devotionally, with what Dr. Metzger calls a disciplined imagination. I cannot emphasize this point enough-all things new, God with us, creation as it was meant to be. Christ allowed Himself to be judged, rejected and executed for this-this is who our God is, this is what He does. To paraphrase Patton, compared to this all conspiracy theories, all interpretations, pale to insignificance.         
            One more point. If God intends to dwell with us in the future-if that is why Jesus came-why would He not want to dwell with us now? I submit, with the utmost respect and humility, if our theology does not lead us into an ever-deeper relationship with our God working its way out in our relationships with one another, perhaps we need a new theology. If we don’t want Him around now-and it is possible to be a believer and not want God interfering in our lives-why would we ever want to spend eternity with Him? Let us seek His presence now, in this life, and get good and comfortable with Him. It will only get better,

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