I had promised a friend at church I would start writing about my Book of Revelation class when it started, so here's the first class summary. The class seems like it will be a good one, which is exciting.
Here are a few things I learned in the first class session:
Victorinus wrote the earliest commentary on Revelation in the late 3rd century. He said Revelation is not a linear progression, but repeats its message over and over, like a series of loops, similar to the way Jesus told many parables. Jerome edited this commentary in the 5th century and brought it to mainstream reading. Origen, also in the 3rd century, was fascinated by Christ on the white horse, and said it was a question of how, not when, and the power of the Word to conquer sin (this is the battle of Armageddon).
Augustine said Jesus bound Satan (1000 year binding of Satan) when he appeared, casting out spirits and healing. "Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?" (Matt. 12:29). In the Middle Ages, though, 1000 years had passed and people began to wonder if they'd missed something. Joachim of Fiore (12th century) came up with a new interpretation, saying Revelation is a map of all time. He named the 7 heads of the dragon (Herod, Nero, Constantius, Mohammad, Mesemoth, Saladin, Antichrist). Since then people have been naming the Antichrist.
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is the creator of the theological system that has taken hold in many Christian spheres most recently. He started the Plymouth Brethren, created the idea of the rapture from I Thess. 4 rather than the previous image of the final resurrection, and said the world is only getting worse and salvation is one's only hope from the destruction the world is facing. Dwight Moody (1837-1899) was a former salesman who became an evangelist and took Darby's work and spread it to many people, saying the earth is a wrecked vessel but there are souls to save. Darby's notes were put in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), and then in 1970 Hal Lindsey came out with The Late Great Planet Earth, combining newspaper headlines and Darby's framework. Most recently, the Left Behind series has continued this work (1995-2004).
Dispensationalism measures the blocks of time (dispensations) we have left before the end of the world (from Daniel 9), and we are on pause, waiting for the prophecy fulfillment clock to be restarted.
Is this a good way to read Scripture, piecing stuff together like a jigsaw puzzle? (probably not)
It has been said that Revelation was written about the persecution of Domitian against the Christians (81-96), but more discoveries have shown us that the persecution during this time seems no worse than persecution at other times. Revelation was written by John, but the author does not claim to be the apostle, so many say he wasn't (why give him the title if he didn't claim it?). Revelation does not work well as code, and is actually not even very good Greek (the prof said it would be as if a skater style dude wrote it-Greek slang). Better questions to ask are: what do the word pictures mean? what does it reveal about God, us, and the world?
...to be continued...