I’ve become very passionate about preaching the Book of Revelation once I’m ordained as a priest one day. This is often a book used by many as a scare tactic! It is a shame to see the Word of the Lord used to scare people out of hell or used as a beating tool across people’s heads to scare the crap out of them! This stigma I think is the cause of why so many ignore preaching this book. In my young life I can recall just one sermon I have heard on Revelations.
What I love about Koester is that 1) He begins with all the ways of interpretating this book and their positive/negative traits and 2) He spends the rest of the book presenting a Late-Date Preterist/Futurist Amillienial with High Eschatology view of the Book of Revelation, which is the view I hold to as well. This view simply means that we believe the book was written by St. John in the 90s A.D. Preterist means “past”, so we believe most of the book’s events have already been fulfilled or passed, ultimately in the destruction of Rome. Futurist means we hold that the ending chapters of the book, Jesus’ return, have yet to be fulfilled. Amillienial means we do not interpret the 1,000 year reign of Christ as literal, but symbolic just like much of the numbers and that we are in this age right now and have been since Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. And we have a high eschatological view of Revelations meaning that we do find it to be prophetic and apocylyptic.
So in hopes that some of you would become interested in this book and begin to study it on your own I wanted to share with you my paper on it. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts 🙂
“Revelation and the End of All Things”
By Craig R. Koester
“Embarking on a study of Revelation is one of the most engaging ventures in Biblical studies,” says Mr. Koester in the preface of Revelation and the End of All Things. He goes on to write, “Interest in Revelation is perennially high even among those who do not otherwise give much attention to questions of Biblical interpretation. Curiosity is fed by the popular use of Revelation in print, film and other media.” Mr. Koester goes on to write that his book has come out of many years of studying, teaching, and preaching the book of Revelation.
The interest in this book of the Bible stems from all the hype and sensation that surround books like the Left Behind series. “Many of these questions that people ask…are sparked by sensationalistic interpretations of Revelation, but these questions also point to major issues concerning our understanding of God and the future, death and life, judgment, hope.”
From this point Mr. Koester says he does not want to ignore the popular interpretations of Revelation, but wants to discuss each of them and how they work and why they are also problematic. The rest of the book divides Revelation into sections and study each carefully. Mr. Koester writes, “The goal is to present the message of Revelation in a manner that is accessible, engaging, and meaningful to modern readers, while taking account of the best in recent scholarship.
The first chapter of the book is called “Interpreting the Mystery”. Basically Mr. Koester goes throughout history and outlines some of the major interpretations and approaches of interpretation for the book of Revelation. He begins with the Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and moves on up to Jerome and Augustine and Luther. Mr. Koester then goes into many of the different approaches to interpreting the book such as Premilliennialism, Dispensationalism, and Postmillennialism.
Mr. Koester at the end of this chapter then goes on to explain how he will approach interpreting Revelation. He writes, “Reading Revelation as a whole shows that the book moves in a nonlinear way. This insight goes back to the third century, when Victorinus wrote the earliest existing commentary on Revelation, and many recent interpreters have found this approach helpful. An outline of the book looks like a spiral, with each loop consisting of a series of visions: seven messages to the churches (Rev. 1-3), seven seals (Rev. 4-7), seven trumpets (Rev. 8-11), unnumbered visions (Rev. 12-15), seven plagues (Rev. 15-19), and more unnumbered visions (Rev. 19-22). Visions celebrating the triumph of God occur at the end of each cycle (4:1-11; 7:1-17; 11:15-19; 15:1-4; 19:1-10; 21:1-22:5)” (page 39).
The first cycle is the messages to the seven churches. Although in this cycle there does not seem to be a lot of action or drama it is a very important cycle. The key to reading Revelation and gaining a deep grasp on its symbols and meanings is reading it in context and what it meant for 1st Century listeners. Understanding how this cycle works is key to understanding all the visions that come later in the book. Mr. Koester points out for us that John’s visions do not float freely up to heaven, but have a deep meaning for those on earth engaged in a struggle of faith.
It is important to note that Revelation “is not so much designed to dispense information as it is designed to strengthen the readers’ commitments” (page 44). The book was written to stir readers out of their compliancy or comfort those who are in times of persecution. Also, it is highly important to recognize that this book was written to seven specific churches, but in using the number seven to represent wholeness and completeness John intended this to be for the whole church. There is something for us all to take away from the book of Revelation.
The vantage point of the second cycle, which takes place in chapters 4 through 7 is from the throne of God. John wants the readers to look out upon their world and its affairs from that stand point. This cycle speaks of the Sovereign God. This cycle opens with praise and adoration of God and closes with the same.
This cycle continues with the scroll that is sealed and that no one is worthy to open. John is quite disappointed, but then the Lamb is the one worthy to open the scroll. For the Lamb has conquered, the Lamb is Christ. Christ opens each of the seals. The events that follow are not about predictions per se, but about larger visions. The four horsemen would represent conquest, violence, economic hardship, and death. These are all authentic threats for the first century readers and for those after, even us. Mr. Koester writes, “The principal purpose of the visions in Revelation 6 is to awaken a sense of uneasiness in readers by vividly identifying threats to their well-being. The four horsemen are designed to shatter the illusion that people can find true security in the borders of a nation or empire, in a flourishing economy, or in their own health” (pages 81-82).
In this new cycle, we begin with seven trumpets being blown. They interpret the silence that we saw in the seventh seal from the last cycle of visions. John directs us to these seven angels blowing their trumpets bringing in even more chaotic visions then the ones before. “With each successive scene, disaster strikes earth, sea, and sky, until demonic hordes of locusts and cavalry torment humanity amid clouds of fire, smoke, and sulfur,” writes Mr. Koester (page 93).
Mr. Koester writes, “The visions in Revelation 8-9 do not convey information that allows readers to discern how soon the end of time will come, but they do issue warnings that are designed to bring repentance” (page 93). The visions are meant to bring about penitence.
The Beast and the Lamb of Revelation 12-15 are the next cycle for us. This cycle begins to paint the graphic picture of the battle between good and evil, which ends with God and goodness trampling over evil and Satan. This cycle contains a messianic war that extends from the time of Christ’s incarnation up until His Parousia. We all live in the middle of this time frame and while here we have many things competing for our loyalty. I would say that the point of this cycle of visions is that if we are faithful and loyal to our Lord that we will overcome the evil we witness and endure. And in the end we will stand in heaven and sing praises to Him forever and ever.
The next cycle begins with the seven bowls of judgment being poured out upon the earth. This cycle is about the Harlot and the Bride. In this cycle the Harlot is destroyed and all who worshiped her mourn. But God’s people rejoice and praise His name in the end of this cycle.
In the final cycle we witness the binding of Satan and the defeat of the Beast and False Prophet. During the reign of Christ, Satan has been bound, but at the end of this reign Satan is released to once again deceive many and mount an army against God and His people. In this battle evil is conquered and after the New Jerusalem descends and God reigns from earth.
I have gained a lot of insight from both reading this book and attending this class. I came here as someone who grew up in a very fundamentalist area where Dispensationalism is heavily taught and Left Behind is God’s modern word for Revelation. I came here believing that those books pretty much portray how it really will all go down in the end. I have come to find that those are far from the truth and represent a view soaked with sensationalism and emotionalism.
I have come to see from reading this book and taking the class that I do consider myself a Late-Date, High Eschatology, Preterist-Futurist Amillienialist. I have learned a lot about how to view this book and interpret it through the eyes of 1st century Christians, but with 21st century questions as N.T. Wright would say.
Mr. Koester has helped me to place Revelation in the 1st century and to read it as a whole and not as a linear type book. He has also helped me to understand some part I did not fully know how to understand before reading. I have always struggled with the notion of the Beast, the False Prophet and such. Coming from a background that I came from I had a tendency to wonder who those represented. Having learned to read this book in the way 1st century readers would have helps me see how this is Rome and the Imperial Cult.
Another great contribution to my understanding is how much of Revelation can actually apply to us today! There are several applications we can take as part of the American Church. One thing is the extremely close ties we as a Church have with our government. I think we rely on our government to do our job for us and to carry out our duties. I think that Revelation should awaken us from the thinking that the Empire can keep us safe and secure. I also think we can be awakened from our complacent attitudes because of the great wealth we have here. Overall, I think Revelation should be taught and preached through lens such as this book more often!