Reading for Monday, Nov 12: Revelation Introduction
So we’re finally ready to approach the NT book that confounds us the most: Revelation. It’s important to say up front that we won’t be able to answer every question that comes up as we read Revelation; our space simply won’t allow it and, moreover, I’m not claiming to be an expert in the interpretation of this book. However, I do think it’s important to be familiar with some of the suggested ways of reading Revelation. As you’ll see as we go, I have a particular way of interpreting what’s going on here and it’s the one that makes the most sense to me. I like Eugene Peterson’s comment about Revelation: “I do not read Revelation to get additional information about the life of faith in Christ. There is nothing said here that isn’t said in the other 65 books. But there is a new way to say it.” Revelation, as we’ll see, is a completely different literary genre compared to the rest of the NT. In my opinion, this means we read it differently, respecting its literary features as we move forward in our reading.
I also think it’s important to note that Revelation is a sequence of visions, not necessarily a sequence of events. I think it’s best to read Revelation spirally, not linearly. That is to say, John has several different ways of saying the same thing. What changes often times are the images, the portraits that John paints. A linear reading understands these visions as a sequence of events; I’m suggesting that Revelation works more like a Quentin Tarantino film or an episode of LOST — with flashbacks and flashforwards and multiple tellings / visions of the same event. I’m wary of any reading of Revelation that tries to tie in particular historical events (usually present day circumstances) with the visions of this book as a means of “cracking the code” in order to figure out when Jesus is going to come back. First of all, John says in 1:1 that these things must take place “soon”. But more importantly, Jesus himself said that no one knows the day or the hour. There is no decoder ring needed to read Revelation. The primary point isn’t about the timing of Jesus’ return, but rather it’s certainty.
Finally, this text or “apocalyspe” is Christo-centric. It’s ABOUT Jesus. Not only that, but the message actually comes THROUGH Jesus. John talks with Christ, who gives him this vision. The word “apocalypse” simply means “unveiling, revealing.” So we read Revelation to see more fully the character of Jesus Christ.
These are some of the ways I read Revelation. You’re certainly under no obligation to agree with me here. Well…except maybe for that last part about it being all about Jesus! 🙂
I hope this reading is a blessing to you.