Tag Archives: book of revelation

Who Are the 144,000? — A Case Study in Understanding the Book of Revelation

From a 12th century commentary on Revelation 7, by Saint John of Lorvao, Portugal, depicting the 144,000. The variety of existing interpretations that attempt to decipher the 144,000 are legion. Which is the “correct one?”

Have you ever tried to read the Book of Revelation, and wondered to yourself, “Huh? What is this all about?

Despite its early reception in many quarters, Revelation was one of the last books to be accepted into the New Testament canon of Scripture. Eastern Orthodox Christians, even today, do not publicly read Revelation in their worship services. The early church fathers were reticent about Revelation, not because they did not value it, but because they were concerned that overly-enthusiastic, misguided readers might misuse it, and read all sorts of crazy stuff into it.

History has proven this reticence to be 100% correct. Remember Family Radio’s Harold Camping? Or David Koresh in Waco, Texas? All of the crazies have looked to Revelation, believing that they, and they alone, have figured out the true message of this book. Yet, they were all 100% wrong.

Still, Revelation simply fascinates people.

I once had a friend in college who supposedly “knew” all about Revelation, what the bowls and trumpets all mean, and those spooky, multi-headed beasts. My friend knew very little about what the rest of the Bible talked about, such as the basics about sin, our need for a Savior, and what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But he sure knew all about the Antichrist!

It seems like there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to the Book of Revelation. First, you have folks, who are simply curious about understanding Revelation. Most folks are at least mildly interested, but more than a few are sort of like my college friend, simply obsessed with all things “End Times.” Many of them watch late night cable TV channels devoted to figuring out “Last Days” prophecies, reading New York Times bestsellers all claiming to reveal the “true secrets” about Bible prophecy, while others love to go to various, church-sponsored Revelation seminars. It is fine to take an initial interest in these things, I suppose, but only if it gets people to read the rest of the Bible.

The second group are those who just get really fed up with all things “End Times,” or at least the cacophony of voices that surround the discussion. They are bothered by the fact that there seems to be endless theories as to how to interpret the Book of Revelation. Even the great Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, observed that “everyone thinks of the book whatever his spirit imparts.” For Luther, at one point, he went so far as saying that Revelation is “neither apostolic nor prophetic, for Christ is neither taught nor recognized in it.” Nevertheless, despite discouraging its use, Luther recognized that the church historically did view Revelation as part of the New Testament canon, so he did include it in his 16th century translation of the Bible into German.

So that is where we are at: Some feel absolutely compelled to defend their own pet theory about Revelation, and demonizing others, while others simply just want to skip that book of the Bible all together! Well, that is all quite understandable, but both of those attitudes, too, are wrong-headed.

In this “deep-dive” blog post, I want to do a case study in Revelation, by explaining why this book is so difficult to understand, just by examining one, short passage, comparing different approaches, and then draw some positive lessons from the study of Revelation. The bottom line: We should not neglect the Book of Revelation, but neither should we cling too tightly to a particular interpretive tradition of the book. But before I start, I must issue this disclaimer: If you are new to Revelation, I would strongly encourage you to stop reading this blog post, and then click through to first read my introductory post on the Book of Revelation from a few years ago here on Veracity. Otherwise, this will get too confusing way too fast. 

So, who are the 144,000 spoken of in Revelation 7:1-8? Let us walk through this very intriguing question. This is not a short blog post, so you may want to pour yourself a beverage before we move on. Continue reading

Revelation … (and the Rapture Reboot)

Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), a Baptist pastor, produced this intricately detailed chart showing the structure of the events described in the Book of Revelation according to a dispensationalist system of Bible interpretation. Note how Larkin splits the event of the Second Coming, into two parts: the first where Christ "raptures" the church and the second where the Christ comes in glory with his Church to begin the millennial reign. In between the two parts of the Second Coming is the "seventieth week of Daniel," which forms the basic narrative of the last book of the Bible.

Clarence Larkin (1850–1924), a Baptist pastor, produced this marvelously intricate and detailed chart showing the structure of events described in the Book of Revelation according to a dispensationalist system of Bible interpretation (Click to enlarge). Note how Larkin splits the event of the Second Coming, into two parts: the first where Christ “raptures” the church out of the world and the second where Christ comes in glory with his Church to begin the millennial reign. In between the two parts of the Second Coming is the “seventieth week of Daniel,” which forms the basic, if not sometimes terrifying, narrative of the last book of the Bible… You really need a chart to keep track of everything! (Source: clarencelarkincharts.com)

The subject of the End Times can be very daunting. Various places in the New Testament address the topic, but by far the most fascinating discussion in the Holy Scriptures that digs into End Times issues can be found in the very last book of the Bible: The Revelation.

As I was nearly completing this blog post on the Book of Revelation, I read about a new Christian movie coming out this year, Left Behind. What? Nicholas Cage in a Christian movie?

Yep. That’s right. What a great lead in on a blog post about the Book of Revelation! How did this all come about?

Well, the story is that some years ago, best selling Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote a series of popular books of the same name. The only book series that has topped Left Behind in sales in recent years is Harry Potter.

In 2000, Cloud Ten Pictures released a theatrical version of the book, starring Christian actor Kirk Cameron. Left Behind: The Movie was a total bust at the box office. Unlike the Harry Potter films, Left Behind: The Movie never went very far.

In response to the poor sales and lackluster quality, author Tim LaHaye sued the film company claiming a breach of contract. LaHaye was expecting a much better movie and wanted Cloud Ten to make amends. Cloud Ten eventually settled with the author and agreed to remake the movie. As the subject of the film is “the Rapture,” you can call it a “Rapture Reboot.”

Well, here is the trailer. Does this look like your idea of a Christian film?

I am still working on the concept of Nicholas Cage being in this film…. Anyway… Undoubtedly, the film will be controversial, particularly among Christians. Fans of the book series might flock to the theatre, just to see if the “Rapture Reboot” with Nicholas Cage was really that much of an improvement over Kirk Cameron. Nevertheless, the film does raise a lot of questions about the Bible, the type of issues you simply will not be able to resolve just by going to a movie theater, or viewing later on Netflix.
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