Friday, June 24, 2011

A superb opening to a summary of Revelation

‘Angels blowing trumpets! Monsters rising from the deep! Lakes of fire and rivers of blood! Ah, yes – the book of Revelation. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the New testament. It certainly is the only book to feature dragons (12:3-13:10), giant bugs (9:3-11), and airborne horses (6:2-8; 10:11-12).

Revelation is a book to excite the senses. The Bible does not often tell us what color things are, but here everything is red, purple, yellow, blue, green, gold! It is also a noisy book, rumbling with the din of battle and the crash of thunder. Earth echoes with the wailing of the damned; heaven rings with the songs and shouts of the saved. And those trumpets! There is hardly a moment’s peace. No, wait – there are a thousand years of peace, but that’s just three verses (20:4-6), and then all hell breaks loose (literally). The imagery is fantastic: buildings and furniture made of gems, and a menagerie of creatures like something Dr. Suess might have thought up after a sleepless night reading Stephen King: the locusts wear armor like horses (9:7-9), and the horses have serpents for tails (9:19). And what’s this thing that’s part leopard, part bear, and part lion but lives in the sea (13:1-2)?

In a sense, to “interpret” this book is to misinterpret it, for often the appeal is to the imagination; it’s a book to be experienced, not explained. Could the impact of its visual imagery ever be captured in literal illustrations? Imagine the questions that would arise at some film studio determined to bring Revelation to the big screen: Why do the beasts have ten horns but only seven heads (13:1; 17:3)? How, exactly, does a lion look like a lamb (5:5-6)?

Just as jokes are seldom funny when they have to be explained, so Revelation may lose some of its power when it has to be interpreted’

From Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey by Mark Allan Powell


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