Saturday, March 4, 2017

"Revisiting Revelation" What are You Really Trying to Say?

A friend I like and respect recently posted a video from an outfit called "Revelation Revisited".
This group presents itself as a small group of Seventh-day Adventist laymen that have been studying the prophecies of the Book of Revelation for many years. Apparently in doing so they found the need to create a website from which to share their findings. There were only two names I could find on the website - one a Gary Parker who introduces one of their videos and a David C. whose email we may contact.

The point of this article is not to debunk the findings of this group of apparently loyal SDA laymen, but to simply state my reaction to the video's claims and its preconceived notions about SDA belief about prophecy.  The video quite frankly seems to seek to discredit the historicist's view of prophecy, whose beasts, horsemen, trumpets and churches have long been a fixture of SDA evangelists' prophetic repertoires. If you grew up among Adventists, you know about the Huns and Vandals and Visigoths, Berthea's capture of the pope in 1798 and the 2300 day prophecy and when it ended.

My trouble with RR's presentation is that it appears to throw out the baby with the bath. These lay students appear to believe that if the 7 seals, 7 trumpets and other things coming in groups of 7 in Revelation are post Time of Trouble (TofT), then the historical view of prophecy is incorrect.  They make an effective case that Ellen White even placed some of these symbolic events occurring during the events of the last days. I agree. I think she believed they were literal events that take place immediately prior to Christ's coming. However, the assumption by the narrator (I never heard him say who he was) seems to be that these prophecies must therefore be "eschatological" (a word which means related to the end times) and that the historical traditional SDA view of prophecy is wrong and should be discarded.  He gives several good reasons for this.

  1. He believes that the eschatological view, if accepted, will reduce fear of the time of trouble. He takes a Calvinist-flavored view that God has everything laid out and that what will be will be and we ought not worry about it. It's all covered. This he deems to be necessary since so many of us were frightened of the TofT by SDA evangelists when we were little. He does have a point about that, because before the late 60s/early 70s righteousness by faith revival in the church, far too many SDA preachers, lacking the handy ever-burning hell whip for frightening the saints into their seats enjoyed by their Baptist brothers in the pulpit, used scary stories of the Time of Trouble to frighten the saints into the baptistry. It was a mistake to do that and drove more kids out of the church than it kept in. That said, it does not follow that the historical view of prophecy is wrong.
  2. He believes that the eschatological view, if accepted, will reduce feelings of guilt for not having done enough to usher in Christ's coming. After all, God has set things so they will happen when He says so and there's nothing we can do about it. Given he is quoting Ellen White and charting how many times she mentions each verse in Revelation, I'm surprised he missed where she said if we'd done the work as we should have, Jesus would already have come. So some of this presentation offers an assumption not in evidence; namely that we cannot have a role in prophetic events or affect the course of history by our own choices and efforts.
  3. RR seems to believe adopting an eschatological view of prophecy will bring us more into line with other Christian thinkers and with some maverick SDA theologians leading us to "New Light". A few of these Adventist intellectuals have stepped off the ranch a little and some are offering their findings as "New Light", something RR thinks Sister White would have approved of. He claims that there is much problematic evidence showing that the historical events don't line up with the prophecies like SDAs say they do. That may well be. I can't say as I haven't heard detailed arguments that they don't. When I studied the historical interpretation of prophecy, I thought things lined up pretty well. If it doesn't seem to, well, history has never been entirely accurate, anyway, most of it having been written by those who won the wars and wore the crowns. So, this doesn't trouble me much.
Three things do trouble me about this presentation and bring up three questions I want to ask, just as a way to slow down this big rush to New Lightville.
  1. Question:  Why do we have to toss out the historical prophetic model in order to accept the eschatological (events all happen in the future and are literal)?  I was always taught that the prophecies pointed at past events and at future events around the Second Coming. I was taught the prophecies were parallel applying to both. I learned by reading the book of Daniel that prophetic scripture DOES use symbolic images like the image with the head of gold, the Lion, the Leopard, the Dragon and the toes. Remember, the prophecies were about the future when they were written down. It would seem to me that God might have had two parallel purposes for the same prophetic symbolism. 
  2. Question:  Doesn't declaring Revelation "eschatological" move all of this sort of prophecy safely to the end of times and avoid all that messy guilt over behaviors the church engaged in over the centuries from then to now?  Does it not fall in with the counter-reformation teaching that the anti-christ was someone at the end of time (and not the pope) and the Jesuit fiction that parts of prophecy were cut off and safely shifted to the end times like our good friends over at the "Left Behind" ministries believe?
  3. Question:  Could it be possible that God intended Revelation to be read and understood as it was by the historical interpreters of the Protestant Reformation and the Great Awakening and also by us at the end of time?  What if they did read it right as a message for their time and not something to be put aside? It certainly accomplished that purpose. I mean would there have been a worldwide revival had not people had the assurance that events were proceeding throughout history as God said they would? Perhaps God intended for the groups-of-7 prophecies to light a fire under Christendom at that time in preparation for the post-1844 run up to Jesus' Coming and the founding of the Adventist church with its special message to the world. Is there any reason the Great Lisbon Earthquake and the massive New England meteor shower, for instance, could not have been correct for that time AND be predictive of some future massive quake and meteor shower occurring around the time of the Second Coming itself. 
I suspect God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent enough to pull that off. To assume God could not have accomplished two purposes with a single symbolic prophecy is, I think, a dangerous under-estimation of His power.

Just one man's opinion.

© 2017 by Tom King

No comments:

Post a Comment