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June 8, 2020 12:01 am
With chapter after chapter of visions and symbols, the book of Revelation can be daunting to read. Today, W. Robert Godfrey begins his study of the final book of the Bible by showing how its structure helps us interpret it rightly.
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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind. How are we to understand the book of Revelation begins, not by say I'm going to give you a difficult and veiled truth that begins by citing the truth, I'm going to give you is an unveiling of truth, so it ought to be understandable. Right now, there's certainly some mysterious aspects to revelation trumpets. Lease rising out of the sea of thousand year reign. What is it all mean today Dr. W. Robert Gottfried helps us to see that the last book of the Bible isn't meant to be an unsolvable puzzle, but a source of blessing here and now. Welcome to our teaching series on the book of the Revelation.
I think it's an exciting book to look into it some fascinating book. It's a book that has attracted through the centuries are great deal of interest in study and reflection.
And as we know. Also, brachial silliness, so were going to try to avoid the silliness and find the truth and find the blessing. Let me read the opening verses of the book of the Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it for the time is near. That's fascinating is that Blessed is the one who reads this prophecy aloud what were going to do some about as we study this book together, and that I hope will be the effect of our study together that will be blessed. That would be blessed to understand God's truth. God's purpose in this book, and that we will be blessed to be encouraged to live faithfully for him. So I want to suggest that this book should not be approached as a puzzle book as a secret code book as a book that is closed and sealed and not capable of being understood the lot of relationships between the book of the Revelation and the prophecy of Daniel.
But Daniel was told to seal up his book for future generations. The book of the Revelation is unsealed for us so we shouldn't see it as a book that's incomprehensible or a book that is so obscure that we can't get close to it at all. Our approach is going to be to try to see how God is speaking to his people in every generation, and how that book is given to us to be a blessing. So some people approach the book of the Revelation as if the only interesting questions are who is the beast whose 666.
What exactly does the thousand year reign of Christ mean now will talk about those things as we get there and go real try to figure out what is meant by those things. But the book is really given to us as a whole. It's not given to us just to lift verses out and ask questions of those verses in isolation from what's all around it. So our approach will be very much to try to see the book as a whole with the conviction that it has a message as a whole that it seems together and the more that we can see how it holds together the better will be able to interpret it so we won't look at the big picture of the book is part of what we will do were going to look at plenty of details. I hope not too many, but so were going to look very carefully as we go along but were not going to try to be exhaustive. I'm not can it interact with all the various interpretations along the way.
I'm going to pursue positively nice way to put it.
In other words, I just meditate what I think were to pursue positively how I think the book should be understood, rather than constantly interacting with all the other approaches.
There are lots of books out there.
You're probably aware of that but some were going to try to see how the book is speaking to us now in approaching that we ought to bear in mind that in the history of the church. There have been four major approaches to this book now under each of those for their been lots of variations but there are four basic approaches to this book on one of those approaches is called the predator list approach and predator risk is derived from a Latin word right ear which means beyond work before so the predator risk view of the book is that most of it is already fulfilled the radical predators in science all fulfilled so that approach to the book says.
The book is about what has already taken place and got most of the predator is so want to say very passionately. The book was written before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and that a lot of what's described here is about the destruction of the temple. So that's one whole approach one important historical approach to the book and under that predator supports a lot of subdivisions but that's one large approach another large approach to store quickly is called the church historical approach and the church historical approach thinks that the book of the Revelation is a prophecy about the whole history of the church from the ascension of Christ to his second coming in sort of fascinating in the 16th century at the time of the Reformation.
Almost all Protestants were church historical interpreters of the book of the Revelation and that meant that the question always was. What chapter we. If this prophesies the whole history of the church then where I am today is somewhere in the book of Revelation are we in chapter 17 are in chapter 18 oh.
In chapter 19. It usually pretty far along because every age thinks there near the end. So that church historical approach was very popular.
Almost all Protestants held to it in the 16th century and ironically today it's almost disappeared altogether.
I don't know offhand anyone who still holds to the church historical approach to the book of the Revelation, but since I'm a historian, I have to tell you about this important historical approach to the book. Thirdly, there is what we might call what we do, called the futurist approach and the futurist approach is that almost the whole book from chapter 4 on is about the future is yet to be fulfilled is yet to come, and are the most influential. The best known representation of the futurist approach in our time has been dispensationalism.
Now there are other forms of futurism. Dispensationalism is not the only one, but dispensationalism late 19th century. On of the 20th century in America became very widespread amongst conservative Protestants and so it's probably the best known futurist approach. Now we know even amongst dispensational's, there are significant differences as to the tribulation. Are you pretrip and post-trip mid trim. If you don't know what that means. So your salvation can still be secure and many points that took under the heading of these big schools of interpretation are all sorts of subdivisions and and differences. The problem I think one of the problems with the futurists approach is the futurists always tell us that they're the ones who really take the book of the Revelation literally that the rest of us take it spiritual, but if you're a futurist and you take the book of the Revelation literally what do you do when writing in the very first verse were told that the things here must take place soon.
Well, if 2000 years have gone by since John's time and these things were still waiting for.
It's a little hard to take. Soon, literally, and make that mean 2000+ years battling the mean-spirited about that but it is a point to ponder. Now the soon is a bit of a problem for everybody except the prioress and the prioress. Not surprisingly, rest a lot on that statement and it's appropriate. So anyway, futurism is a the third major school before school and has you probably can imagine I've saved the best for last, before school is sometimes called the idealist school for the spiritualist school.
Neither of them the happiest labels. Perhaps to put a more positive spin on it. We might call it the present blessing school that may prejudice the approach to that idea but the idea is this book is given for a spiritual blessing to the church to describe indeed what is going to happen, but what is going to happen to the home.
Of the church not century by century by talking generally about the life of the church so that in every century we can be encouraged by this book and waiting for the coming of Christ again, and that's the basic approach that will take care of so it's not all in the past, it's not all in the future. It's not revealing century by century. What's going to happen in the life of the church, but it is given as pictures to loss of what the Lord is doing in history for his people, and how that history will culminate in the glorious return of Christ. So will see that more as we go along.
Now, in terms of this basic approach what I'm going to pursue their been a number of books that have done that approach and the amongst the better known of them is some of you will know William Hendrickson's book more than conquerors that was published way back in 1962 and that was one of the more effective promoters of this general approach to the book of Revelation and the it's a very fine and useful book.
More recently, we have the GK Beals large impressive commentary, the book of Revelation was published in 1999. If you want to know everything about the book of Revelation. That's the book for you. It is really a testimony to fantastic scholarship. He talks so much about the background of the book others kinds of books that may have influenced the book. It's amazing. It's written by a very fine conservative reformed scholar and the just has a huge amount of detail in their in 2001 Dennis Johnson published a much more accessible and popular book.
But again, taking the same basic view entitled the triumph of the Lamb like that title. It's a great way of thinking about the book the plan for the Lamb. So those are our free very useful books to keep in mind if you want to do more study on hoping to exhaustion so you never will look at the book and no not really but there's always more to study is in there, there's always more to learn.
So were going to take a look at the book and but there are other these these other resources that can continue to help Hendrickson Biel and Johnson. Now you may ask if we have these three books with with which I generally agree and think are really very good books.
Why am I doing this. Why am I doing my own thing. Help. I was so encouraged a number of years ago to study the book.
I didn't even really want to do it and as I studied it I realized I was coming up, not with the a different general approach or a lot of different specific interpretations, but I was coming up with a different outline of the book a different notion of the structure of the book and Dennis Johnson is actually a good friend of mine we talk together for decades and so I went to him and I said Dennis I'm really worried about me that he so far you worried and I said because I've come up with my own outline of the book of Revelation. And surely I must be wrong and Dennis smiled his wise and pastoral. Simone said everybody has her own outline of the book of Revelation. Why shouldn't you be able to have yours. So with that encouragement. I plunged forward. Now I'm a church historian and not a New Testament scholar, but I believe in the course every crazy who interprets the book of Revelation believes he or she has found a unique key.
I don't think I found a unique key. But what I did was to just listen to how the book of the Revelation presents itself and what is the very first thing that strikes you as you begin to read the book of the Revelation. Well, one of the things that strikes you early on is that there are sevens everywhere you start right out the seven churches but your blessed by the seven spirits that are before his throne. There seven seals and seven playing some in the 70s go on and on throughout the book. Major sevens minor sevens. Just lots of sevens in the book, and so as I approach this question of the structure of the book I thought to myself. Let's look for sevens as we go along. And so we start right out with seven churches, and then you move right on to seven seals and I begin to say is this the controlling structure of the book as a whole. Discover father actually sections of the book were there partial sevens you start out with 1 to 3 and then they start numbering. This is appearances of angels, and then you have sections of the book that are numbered in all five chapters 12 and 14 in the last chapters of the book 17 to the end.
There are specific sevens but I asked myself if seven is so explicitly present in so much of the book.
Is it possible that these sections that aren't explicitly numbered might still be divided into sevens and as I pursued God and of the said I convince myself as I pursued that I concluded this book really does have seven sections or seven cycles as I've been calling so the structure of the book I'm arguing is seven sections and in each of those seven cycles. There are seven sub points and I thought to myself, well, if that's true, why aren't those sevens always explicitly labeled.
Well, one of the things I discovered from my study of Psalms is that in Eastern thought near Eastern thought they like new variation will want everything to repetitive and too much the same, so it wouldn't be surprising if there were slightly different approaches to labeling sections and then I thought to myself, you know were told there are seven letters to seven churches, and we're certainly obviously able to count that there are, in fact, seven letters were not told, here's whether one hears letter to hears letter for either not explicitly numbered for us so I concluded that maybe this approach of seven sections with seven subsections to each one actually is arising from the text and not being imposed on the text. If you look a lot of other outlines they go along. And then they have to have parentheses and things because things don't quite fit in the way they been approaching it and I don't have any parentheses know those minimum right foot.
I think I'll be able to convince you this is a helpful approach that others one other little variation of what I discovered is that although I think it's pretty clear there seven sections and seven subsections.
Some of the cycles have an introduction and some don't. For have an introduction and freedom.
Again, I think that's just artistic variation but will see what I can spend a lot of time talking about structure don't get too nervous about this, but I really do believe the more I study the Bible that structure is a huge help to the understanding of meaning if you understand how a book is put together is going to help you see what the particular parts you need. One of the great problems of biblical interpretation in the history of the church has been people who pull a verse out of context and then make something of it.
Without enough relating it to its immediate context and the broader context of the Bible, so I hope our approach to structure will help us see more deeply into the meaning of this book and that will be our aim as we go along, so we'll look at that outline as we move along will look at the various ways in which fats are shown to us. But as we move forward.
What were going to do is first of all, look at the brief introduction to the whole book, which is really just three verses the first three verses of the book that I read and are beginning here and then will move into the first cycle which begins at 14 with the introduction to that cycle. I think a lot of interpreters see those verses after chapter 1 verse four as an election. The book as a whole and whether we see it as an introduction of the cycle or the book as a whole doesn't matter's usually but I really think I'll be able to convince you this is an introduction to this letter to the churches and when we see this introduction as prefacing the letter to the churches specifically will help us see what those letters mean a little more so were going to look at this and begin to try to understand what the spirit is saying to the churches so that introduction of the book as a whole are there several elements there that are important that we ought to note and that we ought to take very seriously in the first part of that is what it tells us about the nature of the book and it says this is a revelation.
This is not Revelation out what is a revelation in Greek that were his apocalypses from which we get our English word apocalyptic or apocalypse, and what that word really means is an unveiling a lifting of the veil so we can see and understand. And I think that's very important that this is the way that book begins and begins not by saying I'm going to give you a difficult and veiled truth for begins by saying the truth I'm going to give you is an unveiling of truth. So don't be understandable.
Right. We ought to be able to maybe not understand every word, but understand. Generally what's happening in this book. So this is the revelation of Jesus Christ. And I think what it means there is not so much that it's a revelation from Jesus Christ, although it certainly is, but what this means primarily as this is a revelation that tells us about Jesus Christ soluble things really this is a revelation that is from Jesus and about Jesus and will see that set a little later to this is the testimony of Jesus Christ there. I think it's more functionally, this is the testimony Jesus Christ is bearing to us.
This is his word to us.
This is his speaking to us and it's interesting how that's given to us in God speaks to Jesus. Jesus speaks to the angel. The angel speaks to John and John speaks to us all in just this one or two versus this picture of revelation coming to us and reminding us that when we hear the word of God we hear it through ministers who borne it. John ministered the word in writing this book. The angel remember the word angel in Greek means messenger. The messenger of God bore witness to John and the angel saw the eternal word of God, who bore witness to him.
And Jesus has a says in John's Gospel over and over again. Jesus came bearing the word of his father. So here we have this invitation to enter in to this revelation God is giving to his people.
The father through the sun and the sun through the angel of the angel from John John Thomas, and the purpose is that we would know what Jesus Christ has been doing what Jesus Christ has for us.
What glassy he has for us and that's the thing I want to keep at the center of what were doing that we look for the way in which this word comes to bless us to encourage us to draw us closer to Christ to make us more faithful. This is the very heart of what the book is about and what we want to try to see their I think we will. So thank you for being here for this first lecture and the mill next time begin to look more fully the way in which this is difficult and uncertain times. What an encouragement.
The book of Revelation provides Christ our King is sovereign and he continues to care for us through the reading of his word. We just heard the first lesson then a new series titled blessed hope. The book of Revelation is by looking her teaching fellow Dr. W.
Robert Godfrey was president emeritus at Westminster seminary, California is also Wegener's Board Chairman as we are today the book of Revelation is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible, as we are portions of the series this week. It's our prayer that will help clear away some of the mystery and provide some practical insights and were offering the entire series to you for your gift of any amount again. It's titled blessed hope. The book of Revelation. You can make your request and give your gift online when you go to Renewing Your Mind.org work when you call us at 800-435-4343. Another tool to help you grow in your understanding of God's word is linear, connect private online classrooms allow you to invite friends and family members to take any course in our library together, currently featuring more than a thousand lessons from trusted teachers including Dr. Godfrey and other teaching fellows and of course our filter. Dr. RC Sproul, you can begin a course at any time by going to connect the applicant here.org. Let me repeat that it's connect.linear.or other many books we can turn to when were experiencing suffering that certainly Psalms the book of Job Romans, but Revelation is another source of encouragement and hope. What John is saying to us here implicitly is the fact that I'm suffering doesn't mean that I'm not the mother and the real message of that to all the readers of this book is and so whatever your suffering doesn't mean you're not beloved. We hope to join us for the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind