Yesterday I began teaching a Sunday school class on the Book of Revelation. Over the next weeks I will be posting some reflections on portions of our class discussions.
One of the things we talked about yesterday is the importance of reading texts in their context. Now, this might seem like an obvious observation, but it not at all clear when it concerns the last book of the Bible. In fact, popular interpretation of Revelation in the United States basically rejects the significance of the context in which the book was written and instead preferences the current context of the twenty-first century. So, instead of asking what the various visions and symbols might have meant to the first hearers, people today ask what the visions and symbols reveal about the divine unfolding of current events. It is the present world that determines the meaning of the passage, not the world in which the passage was written.
It is this greatly flawed hermeneutical approach that has made the Book of Revelation one of the most misused and abused books of the New Testament. While the document is definitely a word from the Lord to us today, that word cannot be understood if it is separated from the word it was to the original audience. Moreover, when we approach Revelation as a way to map the present and the future in reference to what visions refer to contemporary events, we miss the message that the book has for Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century. In other words, the eschatological weather forecasting approach to the Book of Revelation is a misreading of the document that hinders the church from understanding the powerful message that emerges from between its pages to us today.
More to follow... stay tuned...