What’s the first thing you see when you get to heaven?
Thank you for your recent post. Being reminded that our awesome God is in control during these turbulent times is comforting and encouraging. I strive daily never to forget it. I may have misunderstood, but I detect a note of skepticism regarding the value of the chapters beyond 4 and 5. May I offer a few observations?
Those among us who purport to be teachers should never avoid those passages in scripture which present significant challenges. It is our job to shed light on the “hard stuff,” and to the degree we fail in this, we fail in our task. We should also humbly set aside any theological traditions or biases that might alter an honest understanding of the biblical data. Most importantly, pride must be confessed and expunged. “Interpretations” offered in pride account for most of the division and controversy that exists within the church regarding eschatology.
Chapters 6-22 cannot simply be dismissed as “too confusing,” “too complex,” “too controversial,” “too symbolic,” “too divisive,” etc. That they are all these things is true, but they are so because of pride (cf. above). God is sovereign in the affairs of men and he is not the author of confusion. Having asked John to record “things that will happen after this,” it is clear that God wants us to know the actions he will take as the final denouement approaches. What other motive could the Lord possibly have for chapters 6-22?
As for John’s “limited Jewish vocabulary,” Certainly, he was unable to exhaustively describe what he witnessed, but that he was able to describe in enough detail and with enough clarity that we can understand what he wrote is simply undeniable. His descriptions are filled with meaning and significance and he communicates in language we can and do understand. There are no grounds for skepticism. His language is clear, denotive and unambiguous. We cannot understand everything about the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments, but that they will occur and what they will entail is not hidden from us by the limitations of John’s vocabulary. If it is hidden, it is likely due to our unwillingness to accept what is written. Even at a superficial level, anyone who reads Revelation will know and understand more than they knew before reading, and they will be blessed.
As to how Revelation should be interpreted, here are four fundamental principles (not found in any seminary textbook on hermeneutics) that apply to all of scripture:
“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
“No prophecy is a matter of private interpretation”
“Do not go beyond what is written.”
“To whom will I have regard? To him who is humble, contrite and who trembles at my word.”
Thank you for listening.