Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reblog: Fear, Flight, Fight, and Fancy--A Revelation

I saw this blog piece today. It echoes the method of study I’ve been using here, and unsurprisingly, the truths that are listed in the piece overlap quite a bit with what we’ve found in our study.

Fear, Flight, Fight, and Fancy--A Revelation

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Millennium

Outline: The Millennium
Passage: Revelation 20
Discussion audio (1h11m)

The Millennium, found only in Revelation, is another one of those concepts where multiple, mutually exclusive interpretations have been given. I was surprised (because the version of premillennialism I learned was supposed to be the only right one) at the conclusion I drew, amillennialism, after examining the historical, literary, and religious contexts that John probably would have had in utilizing this symbolic reference in Revelation.

There is really no point in arguing whether or not any of the three major schools of millennial interpretation are right or wrong as each claims biblical basis and are considered orthodox positions. Each person will need to (re-)examine their own assumptions in light of what is written about the millennium (very little, in fact).

Assumptions that each person brings to their reading of Revelation provides the basic framework in which it is interpreted. We have been reading the book as a literary drama of the apocalyptic genre, common to the period, whose sole intended audience was the Christians of the seven churches to which the book is addressed. We read it in a way that we think made sense to them. We assume that the entire book made sense to them.

On the other hand if we come to Revelation with the a priori that it is primarily futuristic prophecy, how we interpret and understand the reading will necessarily be vastly different. If, on top of that, we bring to it the assumption that it is intended to be a companion book to the Old Testament book of Daniel, the interpretations will have further influences that likely was not intended.

There is more than one way for 21st century Christians to read and interpret Revelation. There are probably multiple “right ways”. Some may be better than others. I believe the Holy Spirit can bring out vital messages for us through each of the readings. God’s Word is not the text of the Bible, but how its reading together with individual experiences, brings Christ alive in the reader.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Outline: Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Passage: Revelation 19:6-21
Discussion audio (1h49m)

The demise of oppressive forces, systems, and entities continues as Revelation moves towards its conclusion. John employs much imagery from earlier in the book to emphasize a singular process and event that is being described throughout the book.

Chapter 19 is mostly narrative and description. There is little to nothing in the way of warnings, exhortations, or commands that are given. As such there is nothing explicit that is given for Christians to follow. It is mostly about assurance that evil and oppression will fall and be destroyed.

There are a couple of parenthetical commentaries that John inserts that indirectly addresses concerns he may have in regards to Christians and the Church. One has to do with the explanation of “fine linen” as “righteous deeds”. The other has to do with “testimony” as the “spirit of prophecy”. Our discussion touches on these items.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fall of Babylon, Part 3

Outline: Fall of Babylon, Part 3
Passage: Revelation 18:20-19:5
Discussion audio (1h44m)

Babylon is no more and the saints rejoice. Do they rejoice because evil people finally receive what they deserve? No. Revelation’s concern isn’t with peoples but with systems of power and authority. The saints rejoice because God’s power is shown to be good and just and eternal, and that the power structures on which the world’s systems are based have been shown to have no foundation. The saints rejoice because the deception that maintained the world’s power structures for so long are finally destroyed, never to return again.

I personally found this study to be the most difficult thus far. It goes against so much of what I (apparently, wrongly) value, but which is the norm for life in the world I inhabit. The ways of the world are so deeply ingrained that I can’t even see how Jesus’ ways of conducting life are possible. A life of faith shouldn’t be based on presumption, yet is it possible to live a life where conventional pragmatism, particularly in the economic arena, is thrown out?

The message I’m seeing in Revelation is that the Church, and consequently her members, must get rid of the idolatries of safety, security, stability, and comfort that we so often dearly seek. That sounds completely absurd and impractical. It sounds so risky. It appears to foolish, dumb, stupid.

“I’ve got to plan for the future.”

“I’ve got to take care of my family.”

Very sensible objections. But they sound an awful lot like what some of the individuals seeking to follow Jesus said; the ones he turned away. Not that they’re not of value, but if they are merely excuses…

I don’t think there is a single, universal answer that God expects out of everyone. I do think he wants us to stretch out of our comfort zones and trust his ability to meet our needs.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fall of Babylon, Part 2

Outline: Fall of Babylon, Part 2
Passage: Revelation 18:9-19
Discussion audio (1h28m)

What do the funeral dirges found in Revelation 18 reveal about the sins of Babylon? John borrows heavily from the language of the oracle against Tyre found in Ezekiel 26-28. By examining this judgment oracle, we are able to better understand John’s purpose and message in including the dirges triggered by the fall of Babylon. Each dirge follows a literary pattern that can also help us determine John’s intent of today’s passage.

These dirges emphasize the socioeconomic system that temps the Church to accommodate and adopt it. It is a system based on power and acquisition of wealth, both as a means to establish and maintain security and stability. It is a system that works all too well, but at the expense of turning people into resources to be used, controlled, and abused. Thus the Church must be warned to not succumb to that temptation.