SUNDAY SERMON: My unusual take on the book of Revelation

The Revelation, the conclusion of the Bible is attributed to the apostle John was writing in the 90s. Given its trippy imagery, and imminent eschatology, it’s always been a source of unhealthy obsession for my fellow Christians. Not least of which because John *clearly* thought this stuff was happening any day, and yet here we are more than 2000 years later and, well, it hasn’t.

There are many theories to explain this, and apologetic interpretations to explain this. Most of them range from ignorance to outright lunacy, with a layover in con-job somewhere in the middle. This is my take on it, which is far from unique, but is very unusual. It mostly comes from reading Dr. Hugh Schoenfeld in his 1988 book, “The Original New Testament.”

Now, the Apostle John would have lived through the First Jewish War of 66-70 AD, which lasted almost exactly 3 1/2 years. He was talking about prophecy and visions, but he had to do it in a manner that was not immediately obvious to his oppressors, so he used highly elliptical imagery, mostly culled from Daniel. However, it’s important to remember that he was writing for his immediate audience: late 1st Century Christians, and *NOT* 21st Century Christians. Thus he uses allusions and things that THEY would easily understand, but which are befuddling to us because we live in a different time, place, culture, and political reality than they did.

Imagine you’re writing a letter to a friend, and it’s full of coded Simpsons references. Imagine someone in 4200 AD trying to understand it. They can’t without understanding our period. Likewise we cant’ without understanding the period Revelation was written in.

When you take the time to study it from a historical perspective you find that pretty much everything up until “There was silence in heaven for about a half an hour” is a direct (Yet coded) reference to specific instances from the 66-70 war. Wormwood refers to the Roman practice of poisoning wells. The water becoming as blood refers to the Battle of Joppa in which there were so many dead bodies that the water actually did turn red. The locusts are the Roman army with their horsehair helmets. The scorpions are (IIRC, I don’t have my notes right now) the Assyrian cavalry. The number of the beast is *ALSO* the number of the Roman Tax Stamp used during the rein of the Emperor Dominitian, and so on.

All this stuff had already happened. It wasn’t stuff that was yet to happen, it was in the past. John was getting across the idea that the end times were already upon them, and that they’ve lived through a lot of it.

At the “Silence in heaven for about a half an hour” part, this shifts from relating the war to actually talking about The Future. In context, the “Silence” is a kind of time out between the first half of this tribulation (Which has already past) and the second half, which is yet to come. God has extended this time out because He is merciful and wishes as many as possible to be saved before the end, but make no mistake: The end *IS* coming, eventually. Since the war lasted 3.5 years, John assumes the 2nd half will last 3.5 years, hence 7 years of (Active) tribulation.

So there you go: Half of Revelation has already come and gone.

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