Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jul 21, 2020.
Do we have a teaching or at least different schools on how it is interpreted?
Bishop Wordsworth wrote a commentary on the book which took an amillenial eclectic approach. It is one of my favorites on the subject.
Wordsworth, C. (1875). The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, In the Original Greek: With Introduction and Notes, Vol. II. London, U.K.: Rivingtons.
The Pulpit Commentary series, though not all authored by Anglicans, had as chief editor an Anglican scholar. Though I don't think I've ever had a look at the Revelation volume. My grandfather has the full set in the original box and perhaps one of these days he will give them to me.
N.T. Wright is a partial preterist. I am also fond of R.C. Sproul on the Revelation, who was a partial preterist in his own way. If you want a good lay oriented book get this one:
Sproul, R. (1998). The Last Days According to Jesus. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Austin Farrer, a 20th century CoE scholar of some stature wrote a commentary on the book which Rowan Williams is fond of.
You will find someone here and there advocating most every school of interpretation in the Anglican world. My rector is a post-millenialist.
The traditional view, following St. Augustine, has been amillenialism.
The first thing that Anglicans teach is that it is part of the canon of the New Testament.
I think scholars would in the main be agreed that it is part of the apocalyptic sections of scripture.
Apocalyptic text is marked by a number of things, including some sense of history and some sense of future, a notion that things are bad and likely to get worse before good ultimately triumphs, the use of deliberately coded messaging obscure to those on the outside and known or understood by those on the inside. Dating is often possible in determining where it moves from the clearly identified to the less clearly identified.
Parts of Revelation are about the future of creation, and parts of revelation may well be more temporal and political, either ecclesial or civil.
There is no doubt that Augustine of Hippo has contributed much to Anglican Spirituality, Theology, and understanding. I don't think that there is an absolute and defined Anglican understanding of the book, beyond affirming its place in the canon.
The reason I gave you a 'like' on this is because I think Anglicans have rather sensibly avoided rash speculations concerning what the future may hold. In the interests of avoiding the obvious dangers of divination and the obvious foolisness of making illconceived predictions which later fail to materialise, Anglicans prefer to wait and see what eventually transpires and just follow Jesus Christ's advice. Luke 21:28, John 4:35, Mark 8:25.
We should: (1) Take note and not be discouraged. (2) Get on with the work we have been given. (3) Use the healing WE have received to 'see others clearly', as did our Master. Luke 5:22. Matt.10:24-26.
So do we interpret it as future events or events tha already happened? Also what is a preterist?
A preterist believes that the events of the book were fulfilled in the downfall of the Jewish nation during the 1st century. A partial preterist believes that the majority of the book was fulfilled at that time but there are some significant events which have not yet taken place.
Amillenialism requires that the plain words of Rev. 20 & 21 be 'spiritualized' or somehow regarded as symbolic. Count how many times the Scripture says "a thousand years" or "the thousand years," and tell me with a straight face that this thousand year period won't actually happen. When it says that the martyrs will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years, those words are true. When it says that the rest of the dead are resurrected and judged after the thousand years, those words are true and faithful. When the word of God says that Satan will be bound during the thousand years, then let loose to deceive and cause a massive battle, His words are faithful and true.
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
I am glad that the amillenialist interpretation is not an official doctrinal stance of the church.
I thought it might be interesting to see how often the Revelation was read in the one year lectionary for Holy Communion. The Propers changed very little from the first BCP to the 1970s when the 3 year cycles began to see implementation. It is read from 4 times.
Holy Innocents (Rev. 14.1-5)
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Trinity Sunday (Rev. 4)
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Michael and All Angels (Rev. 12.7-12)
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
All Saints (Rev. 7.2-4, 9-17)
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Has it occurred to you though that, "these words are true and faithful" refers to the words spoken by 'a great voice out of heaven', and it was these words that John the Divine was told to write, and which are 'true and faithful words', (not necessarily with reference to his own comments and perceptions that we get in the previous preamble in Chapter 20, and through the rest of this book). Those are all covered by the blessing and the curse at Rev.22:18-20.
The period of time during which Satan is bound may be symbolical of the period of the church's life on earth. More probably the idea of the millenium is behind this, which is taken over in its entirity from Jewish apocalyptic. It is not clear why Satan should be bound for this long time, rather than that he should be immediately disposed of in the fiery lake but Isa.24:22-23 may throw some light.
The idea that saints would reign with Christ 1000 years, like the two resurrections, is found nowhere else in the New Testament but it has had a considerable influence on subesquent Christian thought and its presence in the text is one reason why Revelation was so tardily accepted in some branches of the Church.
The doctrine is that when he comes again, Christ will reign in bodily form on the earth for one thousand years. The closest approach to this expectation in the New Testament is perhaps 1 Cor.15:23-28. This presupposes a temporary reign of Christ upon earth and that was no new idea in Jewish apocalyptic hope. (1 Enoch 91-104, Psalms of Solomon 11, 17 etc.) Sometimes the length was thought of as 400 years or even shorter, and sometimes as a 1000. Behind the latter number is the idea that in the life of the world, as at its creation there are six days, (millenna) of work, to be followed by one day (millennium), of rest under Messiah, one day with God being as a thousand years. These beliefs were probably not very old, no more than 200 years when Revelation was written. Before that, and certainly in the teaching of the greater Prophets of the Old Testament, the Kingdom of Christ was an eternal kingdom on earth.
Later Jewish thought was that this world is too intrinsically evil to provide a permanent setting for The Kingdom; there would therefore be a temporary reign and after that the righteous would be translated to an eternal inheritance in heaven, beyond this earth entirely. Thus the Apocalypse of John, together with other apacalypses such as 2 Baruch 30, 4 Ezra 7:28f. reflect this comparatively recent development in Judaism of the teaching of Jeremiah, Deutero-Isaiah, Ezekiel, Johnah, Malachi, Haggai, Zechariah and Joel. Later books which refer to the 1000 years include 2 Enoch (known also as the Slavonic Enoch or the Secrets of Enoch 33:2, which in its present form can hardly be as early as the first century), and the Epistle of Barnabas 15:2-8.
So you can see why I am reluctant to hang doctrine on verses of Revelation and why it took so long to get recognised as worthy of inclusion in canon.
Of course doctrine can not be hung on a single source.
XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
The issue with Revelation is that you have to accept that part of the genre of apocalyptic writing is that it is not to be understood as plain language and can not be understood with any credibility without reference to context and purpose.
When people start expounding Revelation as meaning things that clearly don't line up with the rest of scripture - beware. There are other passages in the genre (including slabs of Daniel), and a fascination with these is normally scarry. Revelation is rightly part of the canon, however it is part of the canon. It is probably doubtful theology on my part, but I tend to give greater weight to the 4 canonical gospels ahead of Revelation, though I acknowledge our faith christian life and tradition are enriched because it is part of the canon.
I suppose it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the instruction in 21:5 to write the words could apply only to the words of verses 5 through 8. At the same time it seems reasonable to think that God could have been telling John to write the words which comprise the Book of Revelation, all of which are essentially God's words to us. John certainly indicated that every word he wrote was from God and was not to be trifled with (Rev. 22:18-19).
I have some questions regarding the amillenialist view. As I understand it, the amillenialist interprets the 1,000 years as figurative or symbolic, and says that it represents the entire span of the church age from the Day of Pentecost onward. If that is so, how does the amillenialist treat Rev. 20:4-5?
Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Rev 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
If the ones who "live and reign with Christ a thousand years" are the living saints of God who are called 'kings and priests', how is it that they've been "beheaded" (martyred)?
On the other hand, if those who "live and reign with Christ a thousand years" are the deceased martyrs and they are in heaven, how can they be said to "live"? How can they be "reigning" when they are not on earth but in heaven (what do they reign over)? Have they already received their immortal (resurrected) bodies in the spiritual (heavenly) realm, or do they exist as spirit beings in heaven?
Elsewhere the New Testament does not envisage two resurrections, which are an invention of this author. It is not sound exegesis to spiritualise the first resurrection and yet to take the second literally. That is not what the author means.
John tells us "These souls lived, (ezesan). Not the usual word for resurrection. It may mean that the martyrs, though slain in ignominy, live on in heaven with Christ but not only do they live but also reign, having gained royalty and triumph. A careful reading of the text reveals that their reign is not specifically placed upon earth. That would be just an assumption.
Presumably it is perfectly possible to "reign" on earth from heaven. God does, (Ps 47:8, Ps.99:1, Rev.19:6), so we could assume Christ does, and therefore these saints can too, along with Christ.
It is a strong point of the premillennialist argument that a first resurrection implies a second. Other views make the two resurrections of different types, but the pre-millennial view does not. On the other hand it is also the case that John speaks only of one resurrection. He never speaks of 'the second resurrection' to correspond with the first.
To have a part in the first resurrection is a significantly blessed and holy experience. One negative blessing and two positive ones singled out. The second death has no power over such people. Positively they are to be priests of God and of Christ, (Isa 61:6). These are either the saints of the Most High (Dan.7:22, Dan.7:9, Dan.7:26) or The Apostles (Matt.19:28).
John "invented" the two resurrections he wrote of? That's a strong allegation.
Even though we don't see mention of two resurrections elsewhere in the Bible, my impression is that this passage merely conveys more detail about the resurrection than any other book of the Bible. Jesus spoke about the end times and the 'signs of His coming' in Matthew, but in a brief and sketchy way; this book from John's hand is far more detailed and takes many chapters to cover events that Jesus covered in a mere half chapter in Matthew's gospel. I would be loath to discount some statement of the Bible on the mere grounds that the statement only appears one time. (For illustration, John is the only one who records Jesus' statement that He is "the way, the truth and the life." Would we doubt the veracity because this statement appears only one time in the entire Bible?)
Compare with John 5.24-29:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Some scholars have identified two resurrections in this passage.
I was not discounting anything. I was merely pointing out that this particular fact is attributable only to John and is nowhere else hinted at in any New Testament books in the canon. Thus the invention, (introduction if you prefer), of it is entirely due to his authorship.
We are skating on thin ice if we 'doubt the veracity' of any statement in scripture, regardless of how many times it appears. How do you feel about 1 Cor.15:29? Would it help explain it if it appeared 3 or 4 more times instead of just the once? I don't think so.
We are on very thin ice in my opinion if we start discounting John because he makes statements that appear no where else in the Bible.
I thought that was what I had implied. Here. The early church did not agree though for quite some time, and only let Revelation into the canon almost last of all.
Still it's there now and that's that.
Some scholars see in this same passage an explanation for 1 Cor.15:29 too, but there are also those who disagree about it. Which are you? Or are you, like me, open minded about it and unwilling to commit to one or other until further proof is available.
An excerpt from a paper I wrote for my NT survey class a few years ago:
Jesus spoke of the first resurrection, the conversion of individuals, when he said, “The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live”. In this place he is referring to those who are spiritually dead and those who “hear” (convert) will live – notice he does not yet speak of the body. So he has limited the first resurrection, parallel to the Apocalypse. Then he speaks of “all who are in the graves”, thus referring to the second, bodily resurrection. This resurrection is general, encompassing the righteous and wicked. Here, 'judgment' should be understood as condemnation.
The John 5 passage is a recasting, of sorts, of the 'born again' discourse with Nikodemos in John 3. The Revelation passage is a further development of these earlier Johannine ideas. I also think it does the reader service to back up and begin at Rev. 19.11 when thinking about the passage Rexlion has put before us.