Back to the Word of the Week
Prophets, Teachers, and Revelation - The Book of Revelation
Week 24, 2016
To understand biblical prophecy, we need the mentality of a poet rather than that of a mathematician, or that of a prophet more than a teacher. Many theologians and theological schools are mathematicians more than poets. They have trouble understanding, or even giving credibility to, a language for the heart more than the mind. Although necessary when establishing doctrine, this doesn’t work when applied to prophecy. This seems to be a main reason why many who tried to understand, teach, and write on Revelation sometimes get so far from its actual meaning.
We need both prophets and teachers, however. When the prophets and teachers learned to worship the Lord together at Antioch, it resulted in the birth of a new type of missionary apostle. Prophets need teachers to keep them moored to sound biblical doctrine. Teachers need prophets to understand the spiritual realm and the language of the Spirit, which when understood, speaks to both the mind and the heart.
The apostle needs the heart of both a prophet and a teacher, knowing when to use each one separately or together. To the pure prophet or teacher, those unlike them can seem incomprehensible. Yet those with the humility to learn from those different from themselves can experience opened realms of understanding far beyond their previous limits. Teachers can become more prophetic, and prophets can greatly benefit by understanding the more systematic approach.
We also need the pure prophets and teachers to be mature enough to be open to what those unlike themselves see. It takes humility from the teachers to accept insights from prophetically oriented people. It also takes humility from prophetically gifted people to accept insight from the teachers. That is possibly a main reason why the Lord gave the church a leadership team of different but complementary ministries.
A lover of truth won’t accept wild speculation without a clear, biblical basis. Granted, many esteem their witty methods over the Holy Spirit’s place to lead us to the truth, but some methods are consistent with the Scriptures, and we are foolish not to pay attention. Principles for interpreting Scripture, including biblical prophecy, can help, but they cannot replace our dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead us to the truth.
Why am I interjecting this into the study now? We’ve covered enough to see these issues and to have a foundation for understanding them. Both prophets and teachers will be challenged at times. We will all face insights we have never heard before, but in the last two centuries, many of these insights have just been rarely taught. Many perspectives that may be new to us were almost universally accepted by the advancing church before the 1844 Advent Movement.
Of the three (and some say five) schools of eschatology (the study of the end-times prophecies of Scripture) I belong to all of them, but may get kicked out of all of them too when this study is complete. I’ve studied each school of thought and believe there is some merit to each one and also some problems with all. I present here what I believe has merit both by the principles of biblical interpretation and historical verification, and by the belief that the Spirit of truth led me to this conclusion. Going forward, it will help to keep in mind that we will likely become an old wineskin if not challenged at times by new or different perspectives.
Scripture often corroborates the symbolism used in Revelation, but not all of it. John was shown things to come, much of which he had no grid for from his own time. Some believe he used symbolism to veil the message from the Romans, knowing the spiritual would discern what he was talking about. This could have been the case with some of it. The early church fathers shared a wide and amazingly uniform understanding of the meaning of some of this symbolism. Or perhaps they were all in tune with the Holy Spirit enough to have had this revealed to them. After all, “revelation” means “to reveal” and the Lord obviously intended for this to be understood, not hidden.
For all of these reasons, we should expect to be challenged at times. The wise and those still teachable will not only accept this, but be thrilled by it. Above all let us stay in tune with the voice of our Teacher to know what is coming from Him.
next week 25