Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How Things Really Are

As I slowly plow through Dennis Johnson's Triumph of the Lamb, I found his comments in chapter 3 quite helpful in how we approach and interpret the book of Revelation. In Revelation chapter 1 the apostle John gives us a picture of Jesus Christ, to which Johnson writes,
Other aspects of the speaker's description exhibit the impact of Old Testament imagery on John's visionary experience, but also the newness of the revelation that he receives. Images drawn from different Scriptures or, even more confusing, different figures in the same prophetic vision are brought together to describe the Son of Man.
Johnson then offers an example of how Jesus is described.
He wears a robe that reaches His feet and a sash, like the ancient high priest in the tabernacle.
As Johnson says on page 60,
Revelation's visions show us how things are, not how they look to the physical eye.
Keeping this interpretive method before us will cause us to see that John was not merely describing futuristic things in terms his generation could understand. He was in fact telling us about the nature of things. Therefore, when we read of scorpions or locusts, the author is not describing war craft helicopters. He is using Old Testament language to describe the realities around us for every generation. As Johnson wrote on page 16,
Revelation is addressed to a church that is under attack. Its purpose, to reveal "things which must soon take place," is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity or feed a hunger for revenge but to fortify Jesus' followers in steadfast hope and holy living.
Again, why use symbols? Since "One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem", the church of Jesus Christ must view the world from a viewpoint that God has given to us. The kingdoms of man are truly at war with God's Kingdom. The Dragon, Beast and False Prophet wage war against God's people. Although there may be periods of peace (something which we should pray for), natural man is anything but morally neutral.

Therefore God's revelation to us about ourselves should be considered as we consider the choices we make in this present evil age. How we do evangelism or how we interact with governments or even how we seek to glorify God in our daily living.
But the symbols show us something about the church, the great city, the bride, and the Enemy, revealing what does not appear to the naked eye.
We could even ask, "Do we agree with what God has to say about ourselves and the world around us?"

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