Interpretation Gone Awry

Introduction

The other day I overheard some students talking about the book of Revelation. While I listened to the entire conversation and thus am aware of the context, I will pull out just one statement that was made. The statement spoken by one of the students is as follows:

“…and anyway, the book of Revelation was not written for us to know about the end, but rather to give us hope.”

If you know me at all, then you know that I was about to jump out of my skin. I will admit that I was eavesdropping (in my defense they were talking right next to me during a class break), so I did not attempt to interrupt the discussion. Yet I am flabbergasted that some believe this about Revelation.

The book of Revelation, yes, gives us great hope, but so does Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 and the two books of Thessalonians just to name a few passages. If Revelation was solely based upon the idea of filling us with hope, then it would not have been written or would at least be considerably shorter!

Why? Because the hope that most of us are referring to is not expressed until the last four chapters of the book and, to be honest, much of that information is spoken of elsewhere in the Bible. This means that, supposing this student was correct, he interprets the first eighteen chapters of apostasy, satanic influence, demonic opposition and martyrdom as our future “hope.”

Do you hope for the plagues which struck Egypt to come against you and your family? Do you hope to watch your loved ones receive the mark of the beast which secures for them an eternal ticket to Hell? Most of us would say no.

The return of Christ at the end of the Revelation account should fill us with great hope and expectation, but we must never dismiss the rest of the book as simply an allegory. This is a real account of a real future which is really headed our way. It may be in our lifetime or may not, but these events will unfold in the exact way John described.

Revelation 1:1 says,

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known…”

The verse does not say “the hope,” but rather “the things.” The book of Revelation is a book which is meant to be understood. John tells us from the very beginning that this book is meant to show us future events, even detailed ones at that. Some argue against fitting the events of Revelation into a timeline, but right here is an example of John the Apostle encouraging you to go crazy on your timetables.

Another Instance of Poor Biblical Treatment

I was reading a book the other day regarding the historical background of the nation of Israel. In it, the author stated that he does not think that it is realistic to say that Israel came out of Egypt with so many hundreds of thousands of fighting men, so he claimed that the word “thousand,” which is mentioned in Numbers, is merely symbolic.

Honestly, this is embarrassing. If students, even scholars, of the Word do not believe what is written, then why do we expect others to ever come to faith in Christ? Treating God’s Word in this way is shameful. We have all at one time or another treated God’s Word irreverently, but to dismiss it is an entirely different matter. Whether that be regarding end times prophecy or the various instances Israel took a census, none of us have the right to interject our own interpretation onto the Bible. God’s Word is simple to understand. I am not saying that it is easy, but it is simple if we take it at its face value instead of reading in all this symbolism (one day = millions of years; a thousand fighting men in numerical value is just “a lot” of people; and so on). We decide to treat portions of God’s Word symbolically when we decide its improbable.

Conclusion

We must be active in our pursuit to know God in the way God has revealed Himself to be in His Word. The only objective way for any one of us to come to know God is by getting into His Truth. There is no other way because there is no other truth.

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