Dr. Brian Blount, the new president of Union-PSCE, spoke in my NT2 class today. As a respected African American New Testament professor, he brought an interesting perspective to Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. He wrote a book called Can I Get a Witness? that connects the struggle of blacks in the USA with the events and imagery covered in Revelation. While I am more interested in pure Biblical exegesis than cultural studies, Blount’s connection of Revelation with modern struggles flushed out some new ways to look at a somewhat familiar and bewildering text.
I have always been suspicious of anyone who has everything in Revelation worked out. When somebody walks toward me with an End Times chart, I want to run. At the same time, I don’t want to be lumped in with scholars who downplay the prophetic nature of the text believing it is merely imagery. I think all sides in this discussion have some valid points. And it seems that all too often the real key issues get lost in disagreements over lesser details or wild goose chases trying to figure out specific pieces of the apocalyptic puzzle. I tend to think that God uses mystery as much or more than specific instruction to get our attention and motivate us to His holy goal.
Dr. Blount made many interesting points during his lecture. Here’s some of the highlights:
- There are many visions in the book but only one Revelation. Blount stated that the key theme of the revelation is that Jesus stands as sovereign Lord over all human history.
- Revelation can be dangerous book for those who don’t heed its warnings or misapply its message. Some people have wrongly taken the text to mean that this world does not matter. But Blount insisted that is completely contrary to what John wanted his reader to think.
- In John’s day, it would have seemed ridiculous to those in the natural world for Jesus to be declared Lord of all. Rome was the ruling power on the earth.
- Blount stated that if more people today understood John’s Revelation, there would be more daring action and transformation in the Church.
- Revelation does not flow in linear progression. It is a series of conic spirals that interweave. There are flashbacks and different spheres going on at the same time. Blount called it a “3-ring apocalyptic circus.”
- John’s visions in Revelation pick up on some important themes and characters from the Hebrew Scriptures, including Jezebel, Balaam, plagues of Egypt, Eden imagery, Ezekiel’s visions, etc.
- Another key concept is that John was calling the early Christians to be “witnesses” of the Gospel. He wanted them to be willing to do things that made them stand out even if it caused them persecution or death. The goal was to live as a witness of Christ not to die as a martyr. John wanted Christians to stop passing as normal Greco/Roman citizens who believed in the emperor cults.
- Even when God is unleasing plagues on the earth, His aim is repentance and restoration not destruction.
- The Lamb is portrayed as both a gentle sacrifice and a warrior.
- Blount said that the imagery in Revelation was meant to frighten its readers into fearing eternal judgment more than any earthly pain imposed by Rome.
- Blount explained the imagery of Satan being released after the millennial reign of Christ as a sign of sins stubborn ability to keep coming back to deceive humanity.
- The restoration of the garden imagery from Eden closes the loop of history from Adam to Eve.
- John doesn’t want the reader to try to calculate or flowchart the last days. It is not about knowledge as much as action, devotion and striving to be a witness to God’s kingdom here and now. It is a call to be radical for the cause of Christ because Jesus said He was coming soon.
- Instead of trying to figure out who the beast is, John would want modern readers to be motivated by the imagery to act in such a way that upholds Jesus as Lord and seeks to bring godly transformation to this world here and now.
- Blount pointed out that the term antichrist is not in the book of Revelation. That is pretty interesting since antichrist is one of the first things that many Evangelicals think about when you mention the book of Revelation.
I may blog on some of those points later. For now, I hope they give you something to chew on.