Friday, September 07, 2007

A Christian War

I've been working through the Revelation of John, developing an idea that worship is an act of war in the Apocalypse. When we gather to worship God on the Lord's day, we are declaring war on the world. That's the sequence of the seven visions. Each vision begins with a festal gathering of worshippers around God's throne or in God's temple, then forces are marshalled against the powers of evil on earth. Heaven comes to earth when God is worshipped. And, with his presence, so comes the kingdom of God. It's a breath-taking vision--one that each of the seven churches desperately needed. The letter reveals the challenges/problems each church faced. And, I believe, each vision addresses how each church overcomes them.

Here's my thesis: Revelation is a behind the scenes peak at liturgy. So, each vision reveals what happens during the constitutive parts of worship (adoration, prayer, presenting the word, song, confession, commission). And, each part of worship is the answer to each problem the seven churches were facing. Ephesus needed to recover the adoration of God (vision #1), Smyrna needed to be reminded that prayer works (vision #2), and so on.

So, Revelation is a manual for recovering authentic worship of God and bringing justice to the earth.

A little different read than your "left behind" approach. What do you think?


Joshua Collins said...

So the one who overcomes is the one who comes under the presence and power of God in worship.

In regards to the last section, I always thought the Left Behind scenarios brought about a sense of confusion and paranoia rather than the encouragement to persevere that the Church needs. Nothing like baptizing conspiracy theories to sell books. There have been popular movements (outside of the scholarly world, which by and large does not find Dispensationalism to be an accurate account of the Bible's teaching) to counteract the Left Behind effect. I was glad to see attempts by popular teacher Hank Hannegraff (he hosts the "Bible Answer Man" program) to undo this kind of thinking. However, he holds to a view that Revelation was written in Nero's age, which is kind of weird. All that to say, maybe someone needs to write a work on Revelation that is more accessible than the commentaries but doesn't play around with conspiracy theory and proof-text hermeneutics. wink wink.

JD said...

i love the book of revelation. ever since being in your class and having it actually explained (instead of kirk cameron running around witnessing to people, which i never bought anyway) it has been on the top of my list. i just wish more people understood it and would maybe preach and teach from it. i use it as often as i can with my youth at church and some of them are starting to use it in their own understanding of how things work (something that i don't think our church would encourage).

maybe josh is right. maybe there should some kind of good revelation commentary that is both scholarly and perhaps even presented in a way that can make sense to the real world. it could be called "rediscovering revelation."

jr. said...

i dig this approach. i'm not sold on the seven visions approach - I tend to follow Barr's three major sections (1-3, 4-11, 12-22) but i'm anxious to see where you go with it.

Michael Gilley said...

Although Dr. Witherington's work on Revelation is quite thorough and includes his normal spunk and wit, it's still a bit lofty for the average church-goer and doesn't exactly spark a new-found interest for the book. I agree, we ought to have a newer book on revelation that sneaks the commentary into a different genre that can sell and keep people awake. Perhaps "Read this before the rapture!"

Darryl Schafer said...

I like it. I think the seven visions are apparent, but I see where Barr's coming from.

You had mentioned doing a book on the Revelation after your Paul book. Is this the start of it?

Rodney Reeves said...

Looking for some rhetorical device that signals where one vision ends and the other begins only leads to frustration. Scholars are right about the binary division (Jewish/Roman)--I'm not convinced by Barr's arguments of "performance." But, scholars see other divisions as well (rightfully so).

I'm beginning to think the seven visions are evident when you hear catch phrases/words found in the letter to the seven churches as they reappear throughout the Revelation (the most obvious being Rev. 16:15 [Sardis!]).

Much more work to do.

Darryl, we'll see.


matt gallion said...

To anyone seeking a down to earth analysis of the concept of the rapture, I'd recommend Barbara Rossing's book, "The Rapture Exposed." It's not a commentary, per se, but it's an interesting look at the effects of a Left Behind mentality.

Jon said...

Dr. Reeves,

I am very intrigued at your thesis. In the first 26 years of my life, I have been pondering other topics, leaving Revelation for sometime in the future. Should you put your thoughts in book or article form, I would move up Revelation on the list.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it will come up in my oral examinations for my M.Div in a few years, so if you could have something out by, oh, say the end of next year, that would probably help me out!

Seriously, I don't have too many thoughts about the book, but I would be interested in using your thoughts as a starting point in research.