Thursday, January 15, 2015

So You Want to Study the Book of Revelation

It seems that if you put ask any number of Christians in a room and ask which book of the Bible they want to study, one of the top answers will invariably be the book of Revelation.  We have a curiosity for things not yet fully revealed.  A mystery is presented and remains unsolvable, but we are unsatisfied with the texts and scenarios surrounding Jesus’ return and seek for more or better knowledge.  This aspect of human nature—to know the unknown—is a gift of God as the Solomon has said:
It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out.  (Pr 25:2)
But there is a point at which we are to stop looking because it is unknowable and just appreciate the thing for what it is:
He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  (Ec 3:11)
The lack of knowability never stops us, however.  Like Eve, who was tempted with the promise “that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Ge 3:5), we press to gain more understanding of the deep mysteries, even though they are never revealed.

In an effort to help keep Christians from hitching their carts to the wrong end of their horses, I determined the best response to the above request is something like this:
Okay, fair enough.  How well do you know Genesis?
What am I getting at?  Know the beginning before jumping to the end.  You may say, “But I’m a Christian.  I don’t need to know that Old Testament stuff.”  Oh, really?  That would be like picking up a P. D. James mystery, opening to the ultimate chapter, and trying to understand what this Adam Dalgliesh character is uncovering.  You need the back story.  So, in relation to the study of end things, do you understand what happened in Genesis that needs to be wrapped up in Revelation?

Is an adequate knowledge of Genesis or any part of the OT necessary if we understand that Jesus came once to die for sin and will come again to right all wrong?  Genesis establishes the groundwork and lays the basis for everything that happens through the rest of Scripture, and Revelation gives the culmination.  We can look at the Bible as structured this way:

The Covenantal Arrangement of the Christian Bible  © 2005 Miles V. Van Pelt
Covenant Prologue Law Prophets Writings Covenant Epilogue
Genesis Exodus
12 Minor
S of Songs
Acts of the Apostles Paul’s Epistles
1, 2 Peter
1, 2, 3 John
   Covenant Covenant History Covenant Life   

OT order is that found in the Hebrew Bible.  By using this we can see how the major sections of all Scripture is united theologically with Jesus at the center as He spoke on the road to Emmaus:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  (Lu 24:44)
By giving short shrift to the beginning (and even the middle), the end is treated more as a curiosity than the comfort of promises ultimately fulfilled.  Study the things concerning the end but in its proper place and time, having a foundation of where redemption history has been, so we might appreciate where and to Whom it goes.

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