I have recently held several conversations concerning the book of Revelation – no problem btw – I am always happy to discuss Scripture and Revelation is a perennial concern to most Christians. I am going to pass on here what I believe to be the single most powerful tool for interpreting the Revelation. The official name of this interpretive tool is ‘historicism’ I know – everyone’s eyes start glassing over as soon as an ‘ism’ appears but bear with me as I attempt to simplify the basic list of competing ‘isms’.
Futurism contends that prophecy is always oriented toward the future (some prophecies concerned what was future for the prophet is question but is now our past) and that much of the end time prophecies of the Bible describe events still in our future.
Preterism contends that almost all Biblical prophecy and especially end time prophecy describes events that have already happened or at best, were in the midst of happening at the time the prophecy was given. In this view, almost all the book of Revelation describes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Idealism contends that the imagery of Revelation does not describe concrete persons or events at all. Rather, they describe spiritual concepts. Idealists do not look for real world events to fulfill the prophecies at any time – the prophecies metaphorically describe sets of ideas common to the world and the kingdom respectively.
The position I recommend is historicism – tinged with just a dab of idealism. The book of Revelation describes the cosmic war in which Jesus Christ is central. That war was going on in the days of the Old Testament, at the time of Jesus’ ministry, at the time the book of Revelation was written, is still going on today and will be going on for as long as the present creation lasts. The events described in the book, then, occur over and over in passing generations – with one final cataclysmic repetition which will bring the historical process to a halt.
Read Revelation chapter twelve with this in mind and see what you think. Then try this: Read Revelation chapter 13 and consider the beast. Then read Daniel chapter seven and consider the beasts. It is made clear that at least the first of the beasts is in active operation at the time Daniel gave the prophecy. It seems equally clear that the operations of the beasts continue beyond Daniel’s time – passing up the Babylonians, Meads and Persians and entering into the ages of the Greek and Roman empires. Other visions in Daniel tell the same story. And if you think the beast of Revelation 13 is the same as the beasts of Daniel 7 – Gold Star! The Beast(s) are human governments opposed to the will of God and following the program of Satan in the great cosmic war. The beast was operating in the time of Daniel – and in the time of John – and today – and into the future – and, I believe, the rabid beast will finally be put down in one final cataclysmic clash.
Try one more. Consider the horsemen of Revelation 6:1-7. Then read Zechariah 1:7-12 and 6:1-9 – horsemen who patrol the earth, acting in the midst of the wars of men (The horsemen in Zechariah were impatient at first because the war which would contain their coming ministry seemed to them to be slow in getting started!) to achieve the purposes of God. You see, the question is not – When will the horsemen ride? But When will they stop? I, of course, believe they have been riding for ages, are riding today, and will have a last ride one of these days.
Keep going – the four living creatures of Revelation chapter 4. Where have you seen them before and what were they doing and how do we know they are Cherubim? Hint – read Ezekiel chapters one and ten.
So, when will the events of the book of Revelation - you know – apostate governments, apostate religions, (the false prophet) apostate nations, apostate economic systems (Babylon) and charismatic but apostate leaders (antichrists) of all the above all working to bring about Satan’s will on our sad fallen planet – happen? Well, of course they happened in AD 70. But check out today’s newspaper too. And count on it all continuing to happen – until God brings these events to a final end.
We have been in the End Times since the ascension of Christ and have been surrounded by the events described in the book of Revelation the whole time.
Music of God
I am learning a bit of Greek folk music on the mandolin for an upcoming duet – don’t set your expectations too high! The nature of the music complicates my usual process which is – listen to the tune a few times and start picking it out. No matter how many times I listened to the tune, my ear could not translate it for my fingers. I acquired a copy of the printed music which included the mandolin intro. I read music the same way a turtle covers ground – very slowly. But slow is ok when you’re working with pen and paper – converting the classical notes to mandolin tablature* - one note at a time. Once converted to tablature I can do a passable job of playing from paper until my fingers learn what they’re doing.
But – what’s the deal? If you can hear one tune with your ears and find it with your fingers – why should another tune be different. The notes are the same. Right? The answer is that the intervals (the spaces between the notes) are different. Backing up a step – the mandolin is fairly easy to get along with because it’s tuned in even fifths -G D A E. If you are not a musician, shorten the alphabet to 7 letters – A B C D E F G repeating in endless succession. When you pass G you end up at A again and so on. Touch your thumb and say ‘G’ then keep counting off letters till you touch your pinkie. You should be on ‘D’ – the same will happen for D-A and A-E. The notes the mandolin strings are tuned to are separated by even fifths. This means, among other things, that every major scale on the mandolin is, in terms of finger placement, the same. It shortens the learning curve a lot compared to say, the guitar. And, being an American Heartlander, I’m pretty used to hearing music that proceeds in even thirds and fifths. It’s what we do! It’s almost fair to say that, like the mandolin, I have been tuned that way.
Greek music is based on intervals of even fourths. The ancient Greeks heard in fourths and tuned their original stringed instruments to even fourths (the modern mandolin has undergone some evolution). To make a long story short - I can’t hear the Greek music right and my fingers are frustrated, being forced to deviate from familiar patterns.
It makes me think – What was wrong with those ancient Greeks! Well, no, it makes me think that being ‘tuned’ to the world makes it very difficult to hear properly what I shall call – The Music of God. But we can be realigned. Personally, I find The Music of the World more discordant and unpleasing all the time.**
*Tablature is a form of written music designed for string instruments. For mandolin the musical staff has only four lines – one for each string. (Guitar Tablature has six lines) instead of notes you write numbers on the lines. The numbers represent the frets on the mandolin neck. A ‘5’ on the first line means the note produced by pressing the first string at the fifth fret, etc.
**I’m being metaphorical here. This is not a diatribe against any musical genre – though I never did catch the disco vibe!
I don’t usually plug TV shows and that’s not my main goal here. But I did stand amazed after watching Season 2, Episode 12 of New Amsterdam. I generally enjoy the program though the values it promotes are a mixed lot for me. But the main theme of this episode concerned faith and prayer. As I perceived this, I prepared myself to be disappointed with the handling of an issue critically important to me and mine. But I was pleasantly surprised.
The main character (Max) is such an obviously goodhearted, kind and caring individual and brings those qualities to bear as chief of medicine at New Amsterdam hospital. But he is also deeply scarred by shattering disappointments and carries a burden of bitterness that can be difficult to watch.
In this episode, a pastor leads a prayer group on a rotating tour of hospitals where they station themselves in the lobby and – pray. The group works to remain unobtrusive but lives on the edge of being escorted out by security. Max is tolerant but dismissive. He won’t have them removed unless they REALLY become a problem - but they are plainly a nuisance – taking up space in the lobby for no good reason, slightly in the way and accomplishing nothing of value. There is also that uncommunicated bitter edge in Max that seems to take some measure of personal offense at the prayer group’s presence.
The tragedies De Jour include a man in his fourteenth year of a vegetative state and his struggling family, a dangerous but difficult to diagnose problem in the ER (where the computers are on the fritz due to a software update), a woman depressed by skin flaps after massive weight loss (and her inability to afford corrective plastic surgery and the rigid position of the insurance company on the matter) and a teenaged boy who is probably going to die from ‘vaping sickness’. Max’s irritation grows as his community of doctors, nurses, and orderlies converse on even the most casual connections between events in these cases and the presence of the prayer group. The crux of the matter is reached when the boy with vaping illness – who has been holding stable while they plan a course of treatment – suddenly crashes – minutes after the departure of the prayer group from the hospital.
Max chases the pastor down and asks for – well, he clearly knows not what. Growing impatient with the pastor’s explanation – ‘That’s not the way it works…’ Max protests ‘Well, then why do you do it – if not to ask some higher power to do – something – to make changes, improve situations?!’
The pastor patiently explains that the main change we seek in prayer is to ourselves, we want to be drawn into God’s purposes and come to understand them – at which point – the chaos begins to make sense. Not everyone is healed but God is in the ‘not healings’ too. When prayer becomes that to you, miracles are possible and recognizable.
Max returns to the hospital and watches the dying boy – the single remaining unresolved situation. He prays. ‘Hello – up there? I’m not really into the whole praying thing. I know my parents did a lot of it when my sister was sick and it didn’t seem to do a lot of good. (The childhood death of Max’s sister remains one of his burdens) But I could really use a miracle down here and surely, in all the chaos and terrible things that happen – can’t one be good? I realize I don’t have anything to bargain with or offer but this empty space inside me which I’m willing to fill with – something. Jackson (the teen) could really use Your help and the worst of it is he needs specifics.’ Camera changes scenes.
Jackson has, miraculously it seems, recovered. Never mind further treatments. And after all, other doctors muse, we know almost nothing about vaping illness yet so who knows why. But it’s great, right. Max looks ever so slightly up and replies – ‘Amen’.
This so nearly describes my own thought on and experience with prayer I thought I should pass it on. Glad to hear what anyone else thinks.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Pastor of Indian Run Christian Church