January 4, 2012
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Yesterday I wrote in Part I about preaching apocalyptic literature, and today’s post, Part II, is about preaching specifically on Revelation. PART II: When considering whether to preach Revelation in a congregation, you have to bear in mind the passionate feelings that some have towards certain interpretations of the millennium as well as the overall scheme of the book. There are many aspects of the book of Revelation about which frontline scholars disagree too, “Does Revelation expect the nations to be won from satanic deception and converted to the worship of God, or does it expect them to persist under rebellion until they perish under God’s final judgment?” “…the evidence seems to point both ways and commentators seem unable to give equal weight to all of it,” RJ Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation(Cambridge, 1993), pages 103, and 241-242. So, for instance, it’s helpful to begin by distancing yourself and the Bible from clearly unhelpful and ungodly interpretations of Revelation while at the same time also laying out a range of options which different well meaning godly Christians have adopted and may adopt. You can say something like, “There are very broadly speaking two different approaches to Revelation, one right and the other wrong. The wrong approach is to view Revelation as holding some esoteric meaning that is not revealed anywhere else in the Bible. That’s wrong because Revelation is really saying the same thing as the rest of the Bible but it is saying it in some interesting and very different ways. You need to have this sense of the genre of Revelation to be able to interpret it right. Reading Revelation the same way you read Romans is like interpreting ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ as about someone called Lucy flying in the sky which had literal diamonds. The right approach, then, is to view Revelation as preaching Christ and the gospel but doing so in a more poetic, colorful way, like a surrealist painting or a piece of poetry not in the form of a systematic theology. Now, within this very broadly speaking right approach there are various options, and these may include…” That said, even with such a generally helpful pastoral approach as that you may find that in certain situations discretion is the better part of valor and it is simply unhelpful to preach through Revelation because a particular congregation would not be able to take the cognitive dissonance of accepting that there are legitimate different approaches to the book. For instance, you might want to say that within the broadly speaking right way of looking at the book of Revelation there are at least four different kinds of approaches but then give pros and cons for each of them. You could say something like, “One is to say that everything in this book has already happened. The trouble with that is that some of it clearly hasn’t – like the final triumph of Jesus Christ and the new heaven and earth. The second is to say that everything in this book is still to happen. The trouble with that is that some of it clearly has happened, like some of these letters we are about to get into to will show you. The third is to say that Revelation maps out in detail all the events from then until now and the second coming of Jesus. The trouble with that is no two people agree over what the metaphors refer to, it’s a highly subjective approach to the book, and tends to be biased towards the western culture and history from which the interpreters hail. The fourth approach is to say that the whole book is symbolic; this approach is loved by those who don’t think that Jesus is literally going to return again. As we’ll see some of this book is extremely literal, while other parts are highly symbolic.” I’ve never preached through Revelation as a whole book in a congregation, though I have preached Revelation 2-3 and will do so again beginning Sunday, January 8, 2012.]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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