Some more thoughts on Revelation, the church and the bigger picture

people holding globeI remember that day back in Spring of 2006 almost like it was yesterday. I was pacing in bedroom while reading Romans 4 and then that moment came. I stopped dead in my tracks reading 4:17, “He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” You see for many of my Christian years, I cited that phrase as if it is something we can do, calling those things that be not as though they were.  It’s not like I didn’t read the Bible. I read it diligently. But I imposed the philosophy of “speaking things into existence” unto the text.  Because it was so popularly taught in my circles, I sincerely believed that words contain power and we can use them to wield that God would move according to the words we spoke, as if our words had some kind of power over circumstances. So when reading Scripture, I brought that presupposition in to whatever I read (such as Mark 11:24).

But during this particular time, I was already being challenged on the fragmented way I had read Scripture and the frequency of ripping verses out of their context. So when I read that verse in it’s context, it really brought to life my propensity to bring presuppositions into the text. That one verse sent ripples through considering elsewhere in the Bible where that did not validate this concept. It struck me so powerfully that I had imposed this thought unto the biblical text and presumed it was the way it was.

In some sense, I think I’ve had one of the moments as I’ve been studying the book of Revelation and eschatology, in general. As I wrote about here, I’ve been reading Revelation with fresh eyes because of certain assumptions that I’ve made for many years when approaching this book. Presumptions included that 1) it tells a story of what will happen in the order; 2) that it describes literal events that will take place in the future and 3) that it involves bringing Israel to salvation as the church has been moved out of the way. In other words, as I wrote about in my last post, I presumed a dispensational premillennial position. Funny thing was that I’ve long had some tensions with some components of this position that I just took for granted because of the presuppositions that I held regarding the futurist chronological literalism of the book. Continue reading

Reading Revelation with fresh eyes: why I’m excited about my latest book arrival

Beale_Revelation commentary coverI just received this commentary in the mail having ordered it about a week ago. I normally wouldn’t write a post about how excited I am about my latest book purchase. But this one is a bit special because it fits with the particularly trajectory I’ve been on regarding how I understand the 66 books of the Bible fit together in terms of God’s outworking of his redemptive history.

In a separate post, I’m writing about my departure from dispensationalism a couple of years ago. Now, if you’re not familiar with the term but have spent a significant amount of time in non-denominational churches with baptistic, pentacostal or charismatic leanings, my guess is that you are a dispensationalist and probably don’t realize it. Dispensationalism is a system of seeing the Bible as segmented into separate and distinct dispensations in which God is outworking his purpose with his creation. Dispensationalism considers that Bible prophecies are fulfilled in a literal, historic way such there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. A natural consequence of this distinction is viewing the book of Revelation in exclusively futurist terms in which God will bring certain events to pass in order to save Israel before Jesus’ final return but not before taking the church out of the way through the Rapture. If that is how you read the book of Revelation and believe that God is bringing about a separate plan for Israel than the church, congratulations, you are a dispensationalist.

Now this is a very brief and generalized sketch since dispensational theology has evolved since it’s formal articulation with John Nelson Darby in the latter 19th century. Following Darby’s work, earlier articulations treated God’s distinct treatment of the Israel vs the church in such disparate ways that it left Bible students and scholars thereafter to continually pursue how these distinctions related to God’s redemptive plan through Christ. Earlier articulations, such as under C.I. Schofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) considered the church as an interruption (or intercalation as Chafer proclaimed) of God’s plan for Israel such that the kingdom of God was deferred until the millennium reign from Jerusalem since it was at that time Jesus would fulfill the Davidic covenant (Rev. 20–interpreting of course that Rev. 20 refers to a literal 1,000 earthly reign). It’s easy to see the charged of two-ways of salvation, especially with Chafer’s dual covenantalism (the reference of new covenant in the NT as something different than the reference in the OT). Revised dispensationalists, such as Charles Ryrie brought some correction to the unnatural dualistic nature of God’s outworking but still considered a future for the millennial kingdom in which God would bring salvation for Israel. Continue reading