One of the most talked about and polarizing texts in all of the canon of Scripture is the book of Revelation. This book has been the subject of fiery debates, discussions, theological stances, studies and TV programs on TBN.
At first glance the book of Revelation doesn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the New Testament. It’s style and language are different than anything else in the Bible. Reformer Martin Luther (as well as others) wanted the book to be removed from the Bible.
When it comes to interpretation of this book there are several camps of thought but I will highlight two of them:
- Dispensationalism– a literal understanding of the book; the book portrays events in the future that marks the Second Coming of Christ into the world. The book is a coded message that the faithful need to understand so they can be on the look out of the signs of the return of Jesus Christ. This method of understanding the book of Revelation was first postulated by John Darby in the late 19th Century.
- A message or story of hope and support for a persecuted community– The message of Revelation is one that encapsulates the pain and struggles of a community trying to live and survive in a society that did not like them.
The Rapture Exposed puts forth the thesis that the book of Revelation has been misunderstood for many years. The author claims that the book was not meant to be a future predicting, dispensational text,where people are trying to connect events in the world to the ancient text. The author believes that the message of Revelation is really a hopeful one.
The book looks into the nature of Dispensational theology and how the text does not support this idea; one of the most popular modern versions of the this theology is the Left Behind series. This series has sold millions of books world wide and even spun off into three films (with a reported reboot coming soon starring Nicolas Cage). The Left Behind series follows the life of people who have been left behind after the “rapture” of all Christians on the earth. They have to battle the evil Anti Christ and try to get the message out about the salvation of God in Christ before God destroys the world and starts anew.
The author, Barbara Rossing, writes:
To understand the biblical basis for much of today’s end-times thinking we have to begin our story further back than the book of Revelation. In the view of Darby and other dispensationalists, God’s whole biblical plan for the end-times is already mapped out in the Old Testament. The entire end-times framework of Darby’s dispensationalist system is based on just three verses at the end of chapter 9 of Daniel! (page 25)
The problem according to Rossing is that the Book of Revelation has been distorted to fit the model of theology instead of the Book itself shaping a model of theology. She points out that no where in the text does the word “Anti Christ” appear as well as there is no mention of the Anti Christ establishing a covenant with Israel and then breaking that covenant. These items have been read into the pages of scripture and made to fit.
Rossing lays out well reasoned arguments on why the message of Revelation is one of hope and not World War III. The message of Revelation is one that is centered in the notion of God’s revealing and redemptive power now, not in some predetermined future date. She writes,
Like the visionary journeys of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Revelation’s vision of seals, trumpets, bowls, and other manifestations are meant to be a wake-up call. They unveil the urgency of God’s justice and judgment by taking us on terrifying journey, all with the goals of persuading us to ally ourselves with God’s vision for our world. The journeys are not intended as literal predictions of events that must; they are nightmarish warnings of what may happen– if we do not follow God’s nonviolent Lamb. (page 91)
The Book of Revelation has been used as a tool for right action and orthodoxy (correct belief). The mode of thinking is: one does not know when the end of the world will be so you better get right with God or you will witness the destruction of the world. The faithful of God, however, according to dispensational theology, will have a front row view of the end of the world and humanity from Heaven.
Revelation is not a book written to inspire fear or terror. But it is definitely written to increase a sense of urgency for our world. It is an apocalyptic wake-up call for each of us, precisely because there is hope for us and for our world. … Revelation teaches us a fierce, urgent, and wonderful hope– not an easy comfort, but a hope that knows the reality of terror and evil and still can testify to God’s love in the face of that terror. (page 170)
Overall I thought this text was a good overview of the pitfalls of a literal interpretation of Revelation and I believe that the message of hope as laid out in this text is a refreshing one, one that the church needs to hear more of. This type of hopeful theology is one that is not being promoted and propagated in the church today; if it is for may it is falling on deaf ears.
4 out of 5 stars