The Revelation: As Political Witness, Part 1

lion-dove-lamb-yeshua

Gorman explains the ethical background that is likely behind much of the
Revelation–

As Christian individuals and communities in Asia Minor interacted with family members, friends, business associates, and public officials who did not share their conviction that “Jesus is Lord,” the basic early Christian confession (Rom 10:9), these believers were faced with hard questions and decisions.

Should they continue to participate in social activities that have a pagan (non-Jewish, non-Christian) religious character? This would include most activities: watching or participating in athletic and rhetorical contests; buying and eating meat in the precincts of pagan temples; and frequenting trade guilds, clubs, and events in private homes, each with their meetings, drinking parties, and banquets. They would even have wondered, “Should we or can we go to pagan temples to do our banking or purchase meat? Should we acknowledge the sovereignty of the emperor when asked to do so at a public event in the precincts of his temple, or at another of the many events in his honor?”

Some believers continued to participate in such activities, while others did not. It was the latter group that created serious social conflict. Their confession of Jesus’ lordship and their separation from normal Greco-Roman religious, social, and political activity was seen by pagan non-believers—that is, by most people in their cities—as unpatriotic and atheistic.

Some of them were harassed unofficially, but some were likely excluded from guilds and others investigated by government officials. At least one of them (John) was exiled as punishment for his behavior. He says that his experience was not isolated, but part of a larger event of testimony and persecution. At least one of the faithful was actually killed, either by mob or by official action: Antipas of Pergamum (2:13). There may have been others.

Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation. (Kindle Locations 904-916). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Continue reading

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The Revelation: As Resistance Literature and a Pastoral Letter

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaGorman explains that the Revelation is a form of resistance literature, that is, an encouragement to resist the efforts of Rome to defeat Christianity, either through persecution or by corrupting the gospel with pagan teachings. That is, you cannot be a Christian and also participate in Emperor worship or other demands of the Roman pagan religions.

Calling Revelation “resistance literature” is appropriate because one of the primary prophetic purposes of Revelation is to remind the church, both then and now, not to give in to the demands or practices of a system that is already judged by God and is about to come to its demise. But Revelation is not just a document that stands against something. Like all biblical prophecy, it promotes true worship of the one true God, expressed not merely in formal liturgy but also in faithful living, the practice of having no gods besides God. Put more positively, then, Revelation is a summons to first-commandment faithfulness, a call to faithful witness and worship in word and deed. In other words, its character as resistance literature is actually secondary to, and derivative of, its more fundamental character as worship literature, as a liturgical text.

Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation. (Kindle Locations 716-723). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s easy to see the Revelation as resistance literature. Once that idea is voiced, it becomes obvious. Continue reading

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The Revelation: As Prophecy

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaThe Revelation repeatedly refers to itself as “prophecy.”

Many people assume that Revelation is a prophetic book in the sense of predicting, in rather explicit detail, “the way the world will end.” The most popular approach to Revelation, dispensationalism, both creates and reinforces this assumption.

A theological movement that began in the 19th century, dispensationalism holds that history is divided into various ages, or dispensations, each characterized by different ways in which God deals with humanity. With respect to eschatology, it includes the doctrine of the rapture, or the removal of true believers to heaven before the return of Christ, an idea unknown in Christian teaching before the 19th century.

Popular dispensationalism, disseminated by such best-selling sources as the Scofield Reference Bible, Hal Lindsey’s writings (e.g., The Late, Great Planet Earth), and most recently the “Left Behind” series of books and movies by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, interprets Revelation as portraying, in literal and linear fashion, the course of historical events.

Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 666-675). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Continue reading

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The Revelation: Revelation as Apocalyptic literature

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaGorman suggests that the correct, over-arching perspective on the Revelation is
that —

… Revelation is (primarily) good news about Christ, the Lamb of God—who shares God’s throne and who is the key to the past, present, and future—and therefore also about uncompromising faithfulness leading to undying hope, even in the midst of unrelenting evil and oppressive empire.

Gorman, Michael J. (2011-01-01). Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation (Kindle Locations 456-457). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Rather than treating the book as though we are reading tea leaves or animal entrails, we should take it as serious theology, with lessons about how the work of Jesus affects the lives of his followers — how we should live and also how we should understand God’s movement in the world and his purposes. Continue reading

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The Revelation: “Reading Revelation Responsibly”

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaStudying the Revelation is like picking a college football team. I mean, no matter which team you pick, you’ve picked against everyone who supports a different team. And people are very loyal to their teams — more loyal to their teams than to me, I’m sure.

In the land of Revelation, the “teams” largely line up in terms of when you think the Rapture occurs with respect to the Millennial reign of Jesus. Now, I grew up in the Churches of Christ in north Alabama, where we take our Revelation theories very seriously — so seriously, in fact, that we refuse to have one — which is, of course, the only safe choice that gets you into heaven. Foy Wallace, Jr. taught us all to be Amillennialists, that is, to deny a Rapture or a thousand-year reign of Jesus.

Moreover, Wallace taught us that the Premillennialists (Rapture first, Millennium second) are all going to hell, because some Premillennialists believe in the doctrine of a second chance. Some might even be closet Universalists. Therefore, hell. (If you disagree with Foy Wallace, Jr. on anything …) Continue reading

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The Revelation: Apocalypse Now

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaSo, in a weak moment, I agreed to teach a summer series at church on heaven, hell, and the afterlife. And I’ve covered heaven and hell several times here — so I thought preparation would be a cinch. Then I realized that someone might expect me to know something about the Revelation.

And I’ve never seriously studied the book — not in full. I’ve studied parts of it. But I’ve never actually worked my way through it. And, of course, people will have questions. And opinions. Lots of opinions. And so I figure I should work my way through the Apocalypse.

Now, I do know a few things about it. For example, it’s “Revelation” not “Revelations.” Singular. Every time.

And “apocalypse” doesn’t mean “the disaster that ends the world.” It means “revelation.” That is, it refers to something previously unknown being revealed.  Continue reading

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Church Leadership: Recent Study on Megachurches

megachurchChristianity Today recently published the results of a broadly based study on megachurches (churches with attendance over 2,000) by Leadership Network and Hartford Institute, including comparisons with smaller churches.

Even though there are very few megachurches within the Churches of Christ, the study is filled with helpful information.

Attendance

In 2005, almost all (96%) of the people attending megachurches came every week, according to the researchers’ previous survey. By 2015, that figure dropped to 82 percent.

Don’t tell me you  haven’t notice the same trend in your non-megachurch. This is surely a nationwide phenomenon. Why? The study doesn’t say, but that won’t keep me from speculating. Continue reading

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The Pope, the Salvation of the Jews, and Calvinism, Part 15 (A Theory)

abraham god calling him

(Rom. 11:25-26 ESV)  25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon [ethnic] Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

It’s a mistake, I think, to assume that the fullness of the Gentiles’ salvation (Rom 11:25) is the Second Coming. It’s far more likely that it happened fairly early in the church’s history. After all, if Paul is right, God only needed enough time to make the Jews jealous of the Gentiles’ salvation (Rom 10:19-21). And why delay the entry of the Jews until the end of the age? This wouldn’t do much good for most Jews.

The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is a possible time, and may be exactly when this happened. It’s possible that many Jews converted to Christianity in the wake of God’s obvious rejection of the Jews when the Temple was pulled down by Roman grappling hooks. But history doesn’t speak either way. It’s a good possibility and would fit well with Paul’s anticipation that it could happen as quickly as during his own life.

But there’s another possibility that interesting to consider. Little studied in American history classes, much less in Sunday school, and even not in most theological courses, is the very important Bar Kochba (or Kokhba) rebellion. Around 132 AD, the Jews rebelled a second time, this time under Emperor Hadrian. Continue reading

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The Pope, the Salvation of the Jews, and Calvinism, Part 14 (Conclusion; Rom 10:30-36)

abraham god calling himRom 11:30-32

(Rom. 11:30-32 ESV) 30 For just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,  31 so they [the Jews] too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they [the Jews] also may now receive mercy.  32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Paul’s riddles just keep on coming. After contrasting God’s view of the unbelieving Jews as enemies of God who are beloved by God, he now speaks of the Gentiles’ being saved “because of their disobedience.” This doesn’t fit Calvinism very well, because they were supposedly elect long before they disobeyed. But it’s also hardly what you’d expect to hear from an Arminian pulpit! Saved because of disobedience? not despite their disobedience?

Absolutely. Both the Gentiles and the Jews are saved after a period of disobedience — which both are guilty of even at the time of Paul’s writing. The difference is that the Gentiles are repenting of their disobedience in much greater proportions.

God doesn’t save us because we’re good. God saves us because we need saving. And both Jews and Gentiles desperately needed God’s salvation. Continue reading

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The Pope, the Salvation of the Jews, and Calvinism, Part 13 (all Israel will be saved; Rom 10:26b-29)

abraham god calling himRom 11:26b-29

(Rom. 11:26-27 ESV)  26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;  27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

As tempting as it is to skip Paul’s OT quotations, by now we’ve learned that we must consider his references in their own context to understand Paul’s meaning most fully. He quotes a portion of a passage to refer to its larger context. Continue reading

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