Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Book of Revelation: Strategies for Seeing

In his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation, entitled Triumph of the Lamb, Dennis Johnson provides principles of interpretation, "a strategy for seeing," John's apocalypse.

  1. Revelation is given to reveal. It makes its central message so clear that even those who hear it can take it to heart and receive the blessing it promises.
  2. Revelation is a book to be seen, a book of symobls in motion. Because the appearance of individuals and institutions in everyday experience often masks their true identity, Revelation is given in visions full of symbols that paradoxically picture the true identity of the church, its enemies, and its Champion.
  3. Revelation makes sense only in the light of the Old Testament. Not only the visions of such prophets as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah but also historical events such as creation, the fall, and the exodus provide the symbolic vocabulary for John's visions.
  4. Numbers count in Revelation. Since numbers are used symbolically in Revelation, we must discern the meaning that they convey rather than trying to pull them as numbers directly into our experience, measured by calendars and odometers.
  5. Revelation is for a church under attack. Its purpose is to awaken us to the dimensions of the battle and the strategies of the enemy, so that we will respond to the attacks with faithful perseverance and purity, overcoming by the blood of the Lamb.
  6. Revelation concerns "what must soon take place." We must seek an understanding that touches the experience of our brothers and sisters in the seven first-century congregations scattered in the cities of western Asia Minor. Revelation is not about events and hostile forces remote from their struggle.
  7. The victory belongs to God and to Christ. Revelation is pervaded with worship songs and scenes because its pervasive theme--despite its gruesome portrait of evil's powers--is the triumph of God through the Lamb. We read this book to hear the King's call to courage and to fall down in adoring worship before him.