Revelation

I was reading the other day a new survey of pastors. The results suggested that the overwhelming majority of pastors who answered the survey did not hold the same beliefs or interpretation of the book of Revelation as their churches do. They also did not preach or teach their understanding to the local church of which they were a part.

Revelation is the last book in the New Testament and it’s been the source of scary movies, church splits, best-selling fiction and non-fiction books as well as the stuff of nightmares. Maybe “source” isn’t the right word, more like the subject matter. It’s a graphic book full of violent images, fantastic descriptions and words of warning as well as comfort. The prevalent take on the book within many evangelical churches is the one that’s only been around for the last few decades and made popular most recently by the Jenkins/LaHaye novels, “Left Behind”.

Most pastors on the survey don’t believe the Jenkins/Lahaye/Lindsey version of Revelation. Most Bible scholars utterly reject the interpretation as well. The book of Revelation has great significance and meaning, but not as a countdown to Armageddon or as scary bedtime stories for little Christians. There are some big questions the survey didn’t answer but I’d love to ask.

Why are pastors preaching & teaching an interpretation of Revelation that they don’t agree with? Why don’t pastors feel free to preach and teach their best understanding of Revelation? What other things do pastors believe differently than the church they serve and what happens when/if the church ever finds out?

Why, in a community that is supposed to be about truth, do we find honesty so hard to find?

p.s. you can see the full painting at rikberry.com, check out all his stuff!

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, hermenuetics, Life, Meaning, ministry, pastor, preaching, questions, Reflective, religion, theology. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Revelation

  1. Nathan says:

    About a year and a half ago, I started a teaching series, along with my Dad, through Revelation. I wanted to both dismantle folklore and (much more so) to tap into the incredible message of the book that often gets lost in the folklore. We did about 30 messages on it. We went through it in quite a bit of detail. We used several commentaries and other reputable resources as guides.

    Long story short, it was a great experience for our whole church. It really opened up a lot of eyes to that book with the great side benefit of helping people understand the whole process of biblical interpretation better. The book has one of, if not the most clear and powerful presentations of the gospel message in the New Testament. It’s also very heavy on the theme of discipleship.

    Of all the resources we used, if I had to pick only one of them to recommend, I’d suggest Darrell W Johnson’s book, “Discipleship on the Edge.” He’s a professor at Regent in Vancouver. His book is well researched and I’d say I’d agree with 90+% of his conclusions based on my own research. It’s also written in a way that makes it an invaluable resource for preaching / teaching.

  2. Don Rousu says:

    I see Nathan has already responded to this post. If anyone would care to see what we did with the series on The Revelation, here’s the link where the entire series is posted: http://www.advancedministry.com/sites/index.cfm?i=3081&mid=12&id=7794&m=12#TheRevelation

    By the way, that Rik Berry painting is one of my all-time favorites!

  3. Michelle says:

    Well, that’s interesting. Now I want to know what most pastors preach about Revelation and what they really believe. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon on it. When is the last time you covered this topic?

    I have no idea what to do with Revelation so I don’t read it. I mean, I have read it a few times but it’s not something I jump into without making a conscious decision to go there. My personal opinion? It’s the most likely book in the NT to be an actual message from God. I believe the Bible is mostly a collection of stories from people trying to translate the experiences they’ve had with God -not God taking over somebody’s body and making them write, word for word, what He wants them to say. The gospels tell the story of Jesus, the epistles are amazing records that reveal issues that the early church faced, but Revelation… well that’s on a whole other level.

    • brianmpei says:

      We did a small group about a year ago on Revelation and I did it with the College / Young Adults a year or so before that. Check out the link that Don put up, we were using different material but pretty much spot on message wise with what I was teaching.

  4. I trend toward a partial preteristerism and have a great book to send to anyone interested.. Email me agaperoad@gmail.com. The whole rapture doctrine has only been around for about 150 years and because of Darby and Scholfield adopting it into their bibles, it became a standard in many mainline churches in the early 1900’s. It has done paralyzing damage to the church.

    • Rein Vented says:

      Darby did not adopt it into any of his bible translation, though Scofield did in his note bible. Darby’s translations are grammer and translation notes unlike Scofield’s commentary.

  5. brianmpei says:

    The big thing for me with this post is the revelation that a bunch of us are afraid to preach what we believe because it’s contrary to the general opinion of the masses. That really blows my mind given the dogmatic way we preach and teach so much else. Are we collectively just continually recycling what everyone already believes despite those called to preach and teach knowing that those aren’t the right lyrics?

    • Nathan says:

      I think you bring up a key and crucial discussion point regarding the ‘fear factor.’ In fact, borrowing from Revelation the problem is that of compromise (which as we read does not fare well in the judgment). We give in to the fear and in turn compromise.

      I see teaching the message and theology of Revelation to be some of the lesser areas where pastors are afraid to teach what they believe / solid biblical theology. I look at other current hot social dilemmas like sexuality or finances for example and see so much fear to speak. In fact, I believe that in many cases, we’re so afraid that it’s the fear that’s changed our theology, rather than scriptural argument and/or the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  6. I think sometimes it is Wisdom that says not to speak on peripheral’s and certainties that are not certain. We know John had a dream and we know it was the revelation of Jesus Christ, and so if we stick to certainties (Jesus) rather than, who is the beast, when does the end happen, blah, blah blah , then we can bring people into the deeper truth’s and not get caught up on the peripherals and in some case non-important messages that divide or make us right and someone else wrong. The key is obedience. What is Father wanting you to share…

    • brianmpei says:

      I agree that we don’t want to make majors out of the minors. At the same time, when there’s a clear message in the text and the only thing that keeps us from preaching that important message is that the people sitting in front of us think Obama is the beast (or whomever), we’ve got a problem. Wisdom is definitely required!

  7. oh yes, Brian, we must have courage to preach against B.S. doctrine every time and of course wisdom for the moment to bring truth on any inquiry on the written Word. I did not go through the audio file’s of the brother’s work on revelation, but did he put a name for the beast? 🙂

    • Nathan says:

      I did not give a specific name to the beast. Archetypal symbols are a common feature of the apocalyptic genre, and the beast is another archetypal symbol.

      I stand in agreement with a large consensus of scholars that identify archetypal symbol of the beast as both Rome (in the original context) and every system of socio-political power in other contexts.

      Even though ‘the beast’ is a controversial subject, I don’t think we should shy away from researching the evidence credible scholars present as well as teaching on these subjects. The beast is a major character and omitting it would be to miss part of the message of faithful discipleship to Jesus.

      That said, I do agree that too often doctrines have been formed on a number of symbols and vague references where there is insufficient evidence to come to a strong conclusion.

      But even looking at it that way can miss the point. I like what NT scholar Eugene Boring has to say – “[Revelation’s images] are not mere illustrations of something that can be said more directly. A picture makes its own statement; it is its own text. It does not communicate what it has to say by being reduced to discursive, propositional language. Just as in the case of visiting an art gallery, while commentary and explantation may help one to ‘get the picture,’ language about the picture can never replace the message communicated in and through the picture itself… It would be a violation of Revelation’s mode of communication to attempt to summarize its message in a manner that would make the image itself unnecessary.”

  8. Nathan, I agree with you on what you stated, and that even if some of revelation has been completed, the lessons continue and the challenges of prior history repeat themselves in various ways in nearly every generation. So we MUST not discount the revelation the Lord desires. I also agree the beast can represent more than one system, but every Babylonian type system that comes against the things of God. Also anti-Christ spirit is a continuum on earth until the fullness of Christ appears and eradicates all darkness on earth. Our presuppositions can be misleading so we should always be like a child towards discovery and understanding..

  9. Michelle says:

    Interesting discussion. I’ve started to listen to the audio files by Nathan and Don; they’re excellent.

  10. vanessa says:

    I don’t see the advantage of trying to understand the Book of Revelation if the other 65 books have been for the most part, ignored. Revelation is the culmination of the entire Bible starting with Genesis. There can only be one interpretation of the Bible or the book of Revelation. Yahshuah Himself says of Revelation 1) Blessed is he that reads and hears it…Rev 1
    2) adding to the words of the prophecy results in the plagues being added to them, and to take away from the words results in your being removed from the book of life…Rev 22

    Perhaps this is why Pastors avoid it. Notice Yahshuah says blessed is he that READS and HEARS it and keeps those things that are written in it… It does not say blessed is he that interprets it. It’s reading and hearing that is blessed. Isn’t that interesting? Maybe the problem is we’ve had so many interpreters adding or taking away– but few readers and listeners.

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