As we have been reading through the book of Revelation in our L3 journal, we are encountering a few different types of writing. Some sections, as in the last post, are epistolary (letter format), written to certain recipients with an object in mind. However, the majority of the sections are prophetic, rich with symbols and images that are difficult to understand with absolute certainty.
With all Biblical prophecy, it is important to remember that there was both an immediate fulfillment (one which could be seen by the initial hearers to determine whether the prophecy was valid or not), as well as a future fulfillment, which neither the prophet or the initial hearers would see fulfilled in their lifetime. The Bible has serious words for anyone who would be considered a prophet:
"But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?'--when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him" (Dt. 18:20-22 ESV).
"And if anyone again prophesies, his father an mother who bore him will say to him, 'You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord.' And his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies" (Zech. 13:3 ESV).
From these passages (along with many others in the Bible), we can see two things: 1) God gave people a way to know if someone was a true prophet--seeing if what they said came to pass, and 2) God takes the matter of people speaking in His name very seriously, with false prophets being sentenced to death.
In the case of John, the same criteria applied. Many of John's prophecies in Revelation may have seen their immediate fulfillment in Rome and the evil that came from that empire. However, there is a bigger picture here that allows us to see into the spiritual realm of principalities and powers, and unveils some of the story of the end of this world as we know it. Indeed, the Greek name of the book of Revelation, Apocalypsis, describes it well: it means "a lifting of the veil."
It is a beautiful thing to discuss the prophecies in this book, and to try and envision the return of Christ. If we're not careful, we can go too far, and that's not what anyone wants. My encouragement to you is use grace, humility, and love in your interpretation of prophecy. The Word of God is true, and will be proven so in the end. Our individual interpretations are probably going to be wrong in some areas. Speculation will definitely get us into trouble. Ultimately, may we all say together as the body of Christ, "Lord, come quickly!"
In the Son,
FBC Worship & Arts Pastor
Sun, August 21, 2011
by Bill Horn filed under