The Key is by the Door: Rev.1:1

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Dec 15, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    The KEY is by the Door
    Revelation 1:1

    I am indebted to William Hendriksen ("More than Conquerors", Commentary on Revelation) for this little gem.

    I have read Rev. 1:1 many times, speeding quickly through this preamble to get to the "good stuff". I never noticed, even after having read it through in Greek, an unusual word in the very first verse. That word is actually a key that helps us unlock much of the book. It is like the key we hide under the mat (hence the title). Many modern translations, and paraphrases especially, either hide the key under the floorboard (as the NIV does) or throw it away altogether (The Message, NLT)!

    Many readers are being cheated of a very valuable clue as to how to approach the book of Revelation.

    Here is the key: The book is filled with SIGNS. The Greek word ESEMASEN can be translated "signified" (NIV), but to do so misses the main thrust of the word, namely that John was writing about actual signs, symbols. Hendriksen wrote this in "More than Conquerors" (p.38):

    "The entire book [of Revelation] consists of changing scenes like these, of moving pictures and active symbols."...

    "N.B. the first verse of the book 'and he made it known by means of signs (or symbols)'."

    If I would have only known this earlier! I would have saved myself much, much time-wasting fascination of trying to flesh out Revelation details that ... were never meant to be fleshed out at all! By the time I read this commentary of Hendriksen's I was already sold on the basic idea, but he stated very succinctly those suspicion already forming in my mind that we are over-literalizing this book.

    What makes it worse for all Bible students of Revelation is the less-than-helpful mantra drilled into us (it least it was into us ministerial students at BJU):

    "If the plain sense of Scripture makes sense seek no other sense ... ".

    Well, the plain sense has steered us wrong. And - more to the point - the plain sense goes against Revelation 1:1. Come to think of it, "plain sense" has often gotten in the way of spiritual understanding. The Jews understood "plainly" that Jesus said He would rebuild the temple in three days. The disciples misunderstood just as "plainly" about the "leaven of the Pharisees". Very often, "plain sense" is another way of saying "spiritual obtuseness". That leaven wasn't food in their bowls, it was wax in their (spiritual) ears!

    What are some other examples worth looking into?

    "Satan is bound". Common sense tells me the plain sense is plain wrong.
    Answer: Satan is not literally bound, but he can no longer delude the nations as he could before. The dog on a long chain is only dangerous to trespassers. This is gist for a whole "nuther" post.

    "The four horsemen". Even Premillennialists, and especially Pretribbers/Prewrathers, don't read these as literal horsemen. Yet they want to stay close to their rule (lest they fall into the pit of liberalism and --- Amillennialism!) so they are forced to think of these horsemen as portending a literal sequence of "chartable" events.
    Answer: Even grouping them together is to miss the point, since the first "horseman" is worlds apart from the ones following Him.

    The first horseman on a white horse is Christ. See the exact same descriptive phrase at Rev. 19:11. The second horseman follows after the first because whenever God moves in this world Satan countermoves. Reading the book of Acts shows this time and again: Blessings, Satanic response, counter-blessings, etc. Acts shows this pattern by sequences of events; Revelation shows it by symbols, in this case four horsemen. Also, Revelation uses colors as symbols: The color white is always good - not Antichrist!

    "The two witnesses". Surely this is Elijah and .. and ... a biblical player to be named later?

    Answer:To be quite frank, I don't believe that they are actually two people. Rev. 1:1 gives me that option to explore whether these two are not in fact two classes of people - or even one class of people, with the "two" itself being a symbol ("two" = "testimony" or "witness"?). Anyhow, I am tending to see these as the redeemed of both the Jews and Christians. I am still studying this. I would love to hear from someone on this.

    But what amuses me... OK, maybe "frustrates" is a better word... is that Dispensationalists are shocked that these two witnesses should be treated symbolically ("Why, your allegorizing away sacred Scripture!") yet they see nothing hermeneutically-wrenching about "allegorizing away" the four horsemen into something more general than their Golden Mantra ("Literality ueber Alles!") insists on!

    <----Compare these: Rev. 1:1 in six versions---->
    The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, (NIV)

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, (NASB)

    A revealing of Jesus, the Messiah. God gave it to make plain to his servants what is about to happen. He published and delivered it by Angel to his servant John. (The - garbled - Message)

    This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him concerning the events that will happen soon. An angel was sent to God's servant John so that John could share the revelation with God's other servants. (NLT)

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, (NKJV)

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (KJV)


    This shows, by the way, the dangers of relying on paraphrases for serious Bible study. The whole concept of "signs" is absent from the two paraphrases ("delivered" - Message, "share" - NLT) and diluted by others ("made it known by sending his angel" NIV). Do you want your understanding of God's Word limited by the "smoothness" of a "translation" that is far from the actual meaning?

    Bottom line: It is not unspiritual, or denying God's Word, to recognize that there are many, many spiritual interpretations to the Bible. In some books, like Revelation, we find this type of interpretation to be the very key of understanding the whole book.
     
  2. OldRegular

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    Philip Edgecumbe Hughes in his commentary The Book of Revelation makes the same point as does Herman Hoeksema in his commentary Behold He Cometh. One commentator I read stated that "things are not always what they seem in the Book of Revelation" but I can't locate it now.
     
  3. kyredneck

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    Hello Tom. Another excellent post, with much to think on. Thanks.

    Amen. In my own words I've described it (or tried to) to others that the book is like a 'big picture story', or a chain of picture stories, with it's roots in the old and the new. This is an excerpt from a post I made on another site (I may have posted it here also) a couple of years ago:
     
  4. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    I appreciate your comments here, Ky (I guess that would be the shortened form : ). I didn't notice this until just now.
     
  5. HankD

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    As a young man, I went to a dispensational Bible College/Seminary and this fact was pointed out both by professors and authors of Bible, theology and koine concerning Revelation 1:1 and the root word semaino.

    The issue is not that The Revelation is a book of symbols but the interpretation of those symbols and their literal fulfilment - each symbol points to an objective reality from our God.

    In addition the root word semaino can carry a different nuance that that of "symbol" but also of direct revelation:

    John 12:33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.​

    John 18:32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.​

    John 21:19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.​

    Acts 11:28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.​

    Acts 25:27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.​


    HankD
     

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