Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand. (Rev. 1:3, ESV)
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show show to his servants the things that must soon take place. (Revelation 1:1, ESV)
The Things that Must Soon Come to Pass
The opening verse of this book undermines all interpretations that try to make John’s Revelation a coded history of current events. As Craig Koester helpfully recounts in the first part of his concise commentary Revelation and the End of All Things, there is a long history of misinterpreting Revelation in this way. All such interpretations have one thing in common, the predictions they make never come to pass. Modern dispensationalists now avoid making predictions and so resort to probabilities. This kind of thinking leads to ridiculous concepts like the Rapture Index. So, when John writes that God wished to show his servants “the things that must soon take place”, the “soon” refers to those things that the intended recipients of John’s letter were experiencing and about to experience.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2, ESV)
“Revelation”, the common english translation of the greek word “apocalypsis” (αποκαλυψις) which opens this text, is such a familiar term that its basic meaning is almost lost to our ears and eyes. Similarly, the term “apocalypse” has come to refer to any large-scale catastrophic event that threatens the extinction of humankind and life as we know it i.e. zombie apocalypse. (Pace Rick Grimes et al.)
But slow down and listen to the text. John’s first readers did not have this linguistic and cultural baggage hanging on these terms. They were not dispensationalists. There was no such thing as guns or atomic bombs. They had not heard of global warming. John and his early readers had their own linguistic and cultural milieu which shaped their understanding of the term “apocalypse” and the other terms, allusions, and images John uses throughout this prophetic letter to the Christian communities in first century Asia Minor. Like learning a new language, it takes some mental effort and yes some reading and research to understand and interpret an ancient text, including those included in our Scriptures.
Learning to Hear What John has Written
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3, ESV)
In my recycled posts about aliens in the Bible, I poke fun at some popular Christian authors who argue that UFOs are real, aliens are really demons in disguise, and therefore suggest that the Bible tells us we will be deceived by these demon-aliens. Often UFO and alien abduction enthusiasts read alien visitation into ancient texts, ancient artifacts, and structures. Who really built the pyramids? Why are gods from the heavens?
New Jerusalem or the Borg?*
When Star Trek: First Contact was in theatres, my friends at Regent College noticed the similarity between the design of the Borg ship and the shape of the Revelation‘s New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27). We came up with our own Christian Borg slogan, “Resistance is futile. You will be resurrected.”
We laughed but maybe we were not so far off. For a quick Google search will reveal that indeed there are aliens in our Bibles! Continue reading “How Little Grey Men Got into My Bible or Extra-Terrestrial Eisegesis”
As I write this post, in my Sunday School class, we will be finishing up our study of the The Book of Revelation. Without question, for the modern reader this book is one of the most difficult books for us to comprehend. So, below, I have compiled a list of good books that will help you read Revelation well beginning with its historical context. I list them in order of their relative difficulty. They are all linked to Amazon. So, you can read the descriptions and reviews there. Continue reading “How To Read REVELATION For All Its Worth”