Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A New Thought on the Word "Church" in Revelation

While challenging a pre-tribber the other day I had an epiphany. I think it’s another piece that helps solve the question that many have had concerning why the word “church” is not used in Revelation chapter four through chapter twenty-one when John wrote of the time period of the Great Tribulation.

I suggest that the reason John used the word “church,” or “churches,” frequently throughout Revelation 1-3 and then abruptly stopped using the word is quite obvious. It’s like so many of the other puzzles I’ve encountered in the book that has been staring me back in the face for years, yet I walked past it one hundred and one times only to be smacked in the back of the head one day by the simplicity of the answer.

The word “church,” or “churches,” is used seventeen times in the NASB through chapter three (18 times in the original Greek), and then in chapter four the usage of the word halts. Pre-tribbers will inform us that it’s because the words said to John, “Come up here,” in Rev. 4:1 are symbolic of the pre-trib rapture, thus the need to use the word “church” from this point on is no longer valid because the Church is gone. They say that the earthly Church no longer exists, and that the term “saints” in Revelation describes what they call the Tribulation saints. This is, of course, very weak, but a topic for another post at another time.

Could it be that the reason that the word “church” is so frequently used but then shifts to the point that it’s never used is because the text, itself, shifts? Does it sound crazy for me to say that John did not stop using the word "church" in chapter four, because in reality he never even used the word in the first three chapters? And if this is the case, why should he use the word in chapters four through twenty-one? I know, I just said a moment ago that the word “church” is used eighteen times up to chapter four, but there’s a hitch.

Notice that in the first three chapters it is Jesus giving John the words to write, and that John wrote exactly what Jesus said.

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write..." etc.

But from chapter four on the text shifts and it is no longer Jesus giving John the exact words to write. The words are straight from John’s pen as he attempts to describe what he’s seeing, and he is no longer writing the words from Jesus’ mouth. Why should John have to use the word “church” to describe the Church? It’s arbitrary to claim he must. They’re his thoughts and he can write in any style he wishes as long as it coincides with the vision he is seeing.

Some would say that John starts his letter by addressing the Church. But is this really the case?

“To the seven churches in the province of Asia:” Rev. 4:4

John is not addressing the Church, as in the universal Church, but is addressing “the seven churches” in Asia. John is addressing seven groups that are segments of the universal Church, and he is simply addressing them in the same manor that Jesus told him to:

“Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches.” (Rev. 1:11)

When John began choosing his own words in chapter four, as in the word “saints,” his message was not limited to the seven churches, or seven segments of the Church—he was writing to the universal Church! So why would the term “saints” somehow, all of a sudden, not mean the universal Church? The word “saints” is used 48 times in the NASB before the book of Revelation. Every time, except maybe three where it refers to angels or Old Testament saints, the word refers to the Church, so why ascribe some new, pre-trib dispensational meaning to a word that we already all know the meaning to?

And guess what? As soon as John’s vision of the end is over, the text shifts again. And it should be no surprise that as soon as the text shifts so that John is no longer writing of the events with words of his own choosing, but is writing the words that are straight from the lips of Jesus, the word “churches” reappears and is used to conclude the book of Revelation!

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches.” (Rev. 22:16)

I bet the true believers within the seven churches listened when they were told that the words were for them. Maybe pre-tribbers should listen, also.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Don't Ignore the Details: Revelation Does NOT Reveal Who Jesus Is

Because of the first five words in the first chapter of Revelation people have concluded that the book was given to us to reveal who Jesus is. Those words are, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This thought process is then built upon to the point where most Christians believe that the book of Revelation cannot be understood, and that we are not supposed to get caught up in the details anyway because, "It’s not a road map,” they say, “It’s about Jesus.”

But somewhere down the road, one step at a time, things have evolved so that many Christians view the book as an alien form of literature that’s not even worth attempting to unlock. My wife’s NIV Study Bible actually says in its introduction to Revelation that we should “resist the temptation to become overly enamored with the details.” Bull.

I don’t believe that the words “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” are referring to the revealing of Jesus. Certainly Revelation displays His qualities, wrath, mercy, justice, grace, forgiveness, sovereignty and more, but these things and His perfect character have already been “revealed” to us in great detail throughout the rest of Scripture, and there is little within the pages of Revelation concerning Jesus and His character that has not been revealed previously.

If we read beyond the first five words the verse actually tells us what the book is about and why it was given to us. And it doesn’t tell us that it’s about Jesus being revealed.

Revelation 1:1 NASB
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place…

Revelation was given to us to show us what must soon take place! The Amplified Bible really brings out the true meaning.

Revelation 1:1 Amplified
[This is] the revelation of Jesus Christ [His unveiling of the divine mysteries]. God gave it to Him to disclose and make known to His bond servants certain things which must shortly and speedily come to pass in their entirety.

I think that a similar correlation to the meaning of, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," would be Joe Diddly writing a book called "The Teaching of Joe Diddly." The title wouldn’t be implying that the teaching is ABOUT Joe Diddly, it would be conveying that the teaching IS Joe Diddly’s, just as The Revelation is Jesus’. And if this is the true meaning of "The Revelation," and if it's true that the book was given to us so that we will know what will soon take place, the box that we keep our end times thoughts in should be broken wide open because there are great implications involved.

Jesus gave us this information so that we will know what must soon take place (but I’m not limiting it to this reason). We, no matter what anyone tells us, should definitely become “enamored” with the details of this awesome book. Even if it’s against the advice from someone so important that their opinions are within the pages of the NIV Study Bible.

Synonyms for the word “enamored” are “infatuated,” “captivated” and “smitten.” These words perfectly describe what we should be when it comes to the details within Revelation, and within the Bible as a whole. I find it very ironic that we have been told by many that we should not be captivated by prophetic details. They are there for a reason.