Summary: A sermon designed to help the congregation understand The Book of Revelation.
Prophecy and the Book of Revelation
We have now entered the time of the year following Epiphany Sunday which we as United Methodists sometimes refer to as the season of Epiphany. Other denominations roll their eyes at this, there really being only one Sunday of Epiphany, but they let us get by with it. One of the scripture passages associated with Epiphany is the story of the wise men from the East who interpreted the signs and prophecies which revealed the birth of King Jesus. Revelation, the revealing of hidden things, might well be a theme of for Epiphany Sunday, and, if we are going to refer to those Sundays following Epiphany as a “season”, then it is, perhaps, an appropriate thing for us to consider prophecy and revelation at this time of the year as well. Actually, I’ve been looking for an excuse to speak on prophecy in general and The Book of Revelation in particular, and the time has come. I understand that the Bible Study Group has recently discussed prophecy and revelation. Some of what I say today may be “old hat”, a review of what you have been studying. If so, again I ask that you bear with me. There will be some new examples illustrating various interpretations of The Book of Revelation.
There are two aspects of prophecy in the bible, one of which is associated with the “revealing”, or one could say the “epiphany”, of the Creator’s purposes. Much of the prophecy in the Old Testament, however, is simply speaking out against evil and injustice and calling for a change in direction. Other prophecies, however, predict or reveal something of the future.
During the season of Advent leading up to Christmas we read various prophecies foretelling the birth of Christ. This aspect of prophecy, the revealing of something about things to come, is as much a part of our Christian tradition as the other aspect, the challenge to injustice and iniquity. If prophecy in the Old Testament foretold the birth of Christ many years before the actual event, surely it is reasonable to conclude that certain of the New Testament prophecies also foreshadow or perhaps even foretell things which lie ahead in the future. And because this is of such great interest, I’d like to focus on that today.
First off, let me say that what I’m going to say isn’t going to be like the overly simplified and sensationalized version of what many a TV preacher might have told you about the coming end of the world. Some of what they say may well be on target, but much of it is not.
Historically, there have been six approaches to understanding the New Testament’s foreshadowing or foretelling of future events. These various interpretations include—
1) Interpretations of the New Testament prophecies as metaphorical or allegorical in nature neither predicting nor pertaining to any particular historical time frame, specifics, or particular sequence of events.