March 8, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XXXIII: Revelation: 30,000 ft Flyover-A Prologue

The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God announced by Jesus is multidimensional & all-encompassing. It is both a present and future reality with a focus both on the individual creature & with the whole society. The “already but not yet” idea or concept of the Kingdom of God. It embraces all aspects of human life: physical, spiritual, personal & interpersonal, communal & societal, historical & eternal. It encompasses all human relationships vertical and horizontal – with our neighbor, with nature, and with God. 

Book of Revelation was written between the 60s to mid-90s by John on the Island of Patmos. It is written to the seven churches in Asia (Minor). While in the Spirit John is directed to write to the seven churches the vision which he subsequently sees and hears. The Christians in these churches are reminded prophetically that Jesus Christ is coming again soon. They are encouraged to persevere in their faith in the face of persecution, false teaching, Jewish opposition, and spiritual discontent.

As can be expected in a book named the Revelation of Jesus Christ the main subject of the Revelation is the God-man Himself: Jesus. Those that read and hear the book are bestowed a blessing or a beatitude, "Blessed is the one who reads or ears…takes to heart (1:3). Revelation contains more prophetic material than any other NT Book. It contains the eschatological (end time) victory of Christ over evil, sin, the Antichrist & the world system itself.

It contains information on a tribulation or coming hardship, the Parousia or second coming of Jesus Christ and along with him will come the Kingdom of God. Revelation provides a great source of encouragement to an embattled Church. It is clear that Revelation was divinely designed to prepare Christians for persecution. It is clear John borrows phraseology, wordage and semantics from OT (Daniel, Ezekiel – Isaiah)

Theology of John's Apocalypse

John’s book is a prophetic work which concerns the imminent and inaugurated fulfillment of the  Old Testament prophecies about the Kingdom in Jesus Christ. The Apocalypse was revealed so that believers would be blessed by having a heavenly perspective on redemptive history and consequently obeying the commands of the LORD of history. John greets the churches on behalf of the Father, the Spirit (seven spirits before the throne), and the Son, whose redemptive work results in the churches’ new status, all to God’s glory (v.4-8). In verse 5 the description is a summary of Christ’s role:  He persevered as a faithful witness to the Father in the face of persecution even to death, which He conquered, and then became the cosmic ruler. We then see Christ’s death and resurrection (v5) established a twofold office – not only for Himself (v. 13-18) but also for believers. Believers are clearly identified with His resurrection and kingship by following His model especially by being faithful witnesses by mediating Christ’s priestly and royal authority to the world. The high point of vv1-6 and all of chapter 1 is this: The achievement of God’s glory through Christ’s work and service of His people as kings and priest.

The Son’s kingship and the Father’s sovereignty over history are emphasized as the basis of the church’s grace and peace and the Father’s glory. In verse 1:7 we see our first Old Testament reference to Daniel 7:13, “enthronement of the Son of man over all the nations”. We also see Zechariah 12:10 in “God will defeat all enemies and Israel will be redeemed after repenting of their sinful rejection of God and His messenger”…“the one they have pierced”

Tribulation, Perseverance & the Kingdom

We see right off the bat that there is a blessing resulting from reading and obeying the Revelation. In the letters to the 7 churches, Christ encourages the churches to witness, warns them against compromise, and exhorts them to hear and to overcome compromise in order to inherit eternal life.

John is commissioned to write to the churches because their confidence is grounded in Christ’s installation as judge, priest, and ruler of the church as a result of His victory over death. In verse 9 there are three datives cases in the Greek: θλίψει/tribulation or suffering, kingdom/ βασιλείᾳ, and perseverance/ὑπομονῇ with only one indirect article. This clues me into the fact that John meant them to be seen together as a unit in some fashion. These ideas frame the entire book of Revelation. It is no accident they are mentioned in the introduction to temper the reader’s mindset. A mindset that was under persecution in the original audience and later readers. We are later told that when believers ‘endure’ in their faith, they are said to have ‘kept the word of Christ’s endurance” Revelation 3:10.

The Apocalypse reveals that their reign, like Jesus’ initial kingdom, consists in enduring and conquering not by compromising their faithful witness in the face of trials from the power of evil (6:8) in this world. Believers gain victory in defeating sin in their lives, and in beginning to rule over death and Satan by identification with Jesus and Jesus’ reign in our lives. It is the very act of enduring and persevering the allows the believer to conquer.

The “tribulation” is a present reality (2:9) and will continue among the churches (The Church) in the near future (2:10 “you are about to suffer”). As we all know from our own experiences, difficult times call for faith and perseverance to face our trials. It is this type of resolute and uncompromising faith that is necessary to fight off false teachings, and to persevere in steadfast faith.

It is my belief that the symbols that appear in the letters should be interpreted primarily in the context of the chapter 1. In other words, I believe there is a reciprocal relationship between chapter 1’s vision and the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. Therefore, the historical background of the churches and the OT literary background mutually interpret one another. This historical context has the priority of our initial focus, since the selection of Old Testament allusions are sparked by ideas from the historical situation of the author and the readers. This of course does not mean there isn’t something more here intended by the Spirit. As it appears to be my experience reading apocalyptic works there is a “chain reaction” experience that takes place that ends up setting off a series of other mental associations with similar OT phrases or ideas which produces deeper insight.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...