Lately I have been thinking and reading about the “aim of scripture.” Not the point behind scripture, but the overall view of what it tells us. The aim takes in the entire book, from Genesis to Revelation, and inside of the idea we are consistently looking at scripture to explain itself through scripture.
That sounds kinda complicated....doesn’t it?
What this means is that the places that are really confusing should be interpreted in light of the whole text. This isn’t just jumping around the Bible and trying to find something similar (this is pretty dangerous actually), but instead working out a view and reading of the Bible as the overarching story of God in this world.
I am writing a paper right now that of why the aim of scripture is important, directed at how the early Church Fathers had to use scripture in defense against the gnostics...who were particularly good at sculpting scripture to say what they wanted it to say. This practice didn’t die in the 3rd century. To them, the aim of scripture and the act of a right reading, is what defined what was Christian and what wasn't.
In books like Revelation, the aim of scripture become extremely important, because many people will separate Revelation from the greater sense of the biblical text, especially the New Testament. For a book that is considered part of the community of John (G.of John, 1-3 John and Revelation), these fantastical interpretations really pull it out of the greater characteristics of it’s literary family.
The best place to start off this idea is the word apocalypse (in greek Ἀποκάλυψις). At the beginning the book is identified as an apocalypse of Jesus (Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) given to John (Rev 1:1). Often, we think of apocalypse as a word describing a dramatic and violent ending. A simply lexical study will prove this false. The BDAG gives us a major definition as follows
1. Making Fully Known
a. of the revelation of truth (Romans 16:25, Eph 1:7), a light of revelation to the gentiles (lk 2:32)
b. of revelations of particular kinds, through visions etc..(Gal 1:12, Rev 1:1, 2 Cor 2:1), the secret was made known by revelations (Eph 3:3, 2 Cor 12:7)
c. of the disclosure of secrets belonging to the last days (1 Pt 4:13)
2. As part of the book title-
So we see that apocalypse, defined as revealing, has meanings listed higher than the one that we usually ascribe to it (c). But even the references behind c gives us a picture.
1Pet. 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
Even in the supposed “doom and gloom” definition, we see a distinct idea of the term Ἀποκάλυψις through the witness of scripture (also see 1 Pet 1:7, 13, 1 Cor 1:7, 2 Th 1:7) . Even in 1st Peter’s usage, we don’t see a cataclysmic reading, but the idea that the glory of Jesus will be revealed. So it is in the defining of the “glory being revealed” that a view of the end is formed, not a view of destruction. In the finality of our knowledge of Christ, our adoption will be revealed in its full sense of power. This revelation is part of our inheritance as part of the family of God.
Yes, the vision given to John is a revealing message. The first word of the book is heavily loaded, instantly painting a picture across scripture of the glory of God being revealed...and many of the references are specifically directed to his people. How will we handle this knowledge placed to us? In Revelation we don’t read the theological treatise of Paul regarding the exalted Christ, but we see him living as the risen Lord Jesus. This is BIG knowledge. I also do not want to discount judgement, because it is going to happen, but it should be placed in the proper context. Allowing judgement to be the defining theme of Revelation as well as defining the word apocalypse simply isn’t a good use of scripture.
So how do Christians understand Revelation to be about God and His glory incarnated in the Son of Jesus Christ? That is the contemporary question that exists within Revelation today. Just as the 7 churches struggled with distinguishing themselves from the world, we today have the same call. By us better understanding Jesus Christ we better interpret our place in this world. We are what we worship!!!
Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be