Hermeneutics - Lesson 3

Description of Revelation

In this lesson, you delve into the book of Revelation, exploring its nature as an apocalyptic literature and discussing its authorship and date. You gain an understanding of the structure and content of Revelation, including its major themes and imagery. Various interpretive approaches to Revelation are examined, such as the preterist, historicist, futurist, and idealist approaches. Finally, you uncover the message and significance of Revelation, focusing on the encouragement it provides to believers and the ultimate triumph of God.

Todd Miles
Lesson 3
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Description of Revelation

NT310-03: Description of Revelation

I. Introduction to Revelation

A. The Nature of Apocalyptic Literature

B. The Book's Authorship and Date

II. Structure and Content of Revelation

A. Outline and Literary Features

B. Major Themes and Imagery

III. Interpretive Approaches to Revelation

A. Preterist Approach

B. Historicist Approach

C. Futurist Approach

D. Idealist Approach

IV. The Message and Significance of Revelation

A. Encouragement for Believers

B. The Ultimate Triumph of God

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Class Resources
Hermeneutics is the science and art of the interpretation of the Bible. It's a science because it is an orderly process based on rules you can apply. It is an art because of the nuances in communication and translation.


I want to talk for a little bit now about what Revelation is we've we've looked at the need for it. I said God doesn't owe Revelation to anyone but God graciously and generously gives revelation of himself of his plans tells us who we are is able to do that as our creator. So but how does he do that? And and the scriptures describe two different categories of Revelation? They don't give them these names. So what I'm about to tell you is something that we lay on top of the Bible, but we do that to help us make some sense when about whenever we talk about revelation. One of the categories of Revelation is what we'll call General Revelation and general Revelation is General in scope and General in substance. General in scope and that it goes out to a broad audience. It goes out to virtually everyone as long as their faculties are working correctly. They have access to this Revelation. They don't just have access to it, but they have read they have received this Revelation and and the Revelation that they get is very general in substance. It's big truths about God. the most obvious way manner of General Revelation is through creation. Listen to Psalm 19 verses 1 through 3, the heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands day after day. They pour out speech night after night. They communicate knowledge. There is no speech. There are no words their voice is not heard. So creation testifies to the glory of God. We learn that God is Creator and that he is big and awesome. Intelligent brilliant all these things. These are truths and these truths are known Romans chapter 1 verses 19 through 21 tells us this listen to what Paul writes to the Romans. He says since what can be known about God is evident among them among the people the Gentiles because God has shown it to them. Notice the language of known it was known. For his invisible attributes that is his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world being understood through what he has made as a result people are without excuse for those they knew God. They did not glorify him as God or show gratitude instead. They're thinking became worthless and their senseless Hearts were darkened. There is true knowledge of God for which we will be held accountable. There there are other Pathways of General Revelation that we find described in the Bible. Our conscience is one where the the work of the law is written on our hearts the Providence of God as he directs Affairs of humans in history. We learn things about who God is about Justice and such Romans one at the end tells us that the people know the law of God to the point where they know that the evil things they do are deservant of death. And so so God, they know God to be judged. They know God to be holy. They know God to be lawgiver. But then that judgment doesn't come and Romans Chapter 2 tells us that that's supposed to lead people to repentance that God is merciful. Apparently that that's a general Revelation because the Judgment that we all know we deserve it doesn't actually come. But what do people do with this these truths of General Revelation Paul describes in Romans that we suppress these truths in unrighteousness? And and we will be held accountable for that. now, let me give a little shout out to General Revelation because I I hear some things now and then to where it I I think it gets a bit of a bummer app. We often hear kind of what I just described that General Revelation is is sufficient to condemn but it's not sufficient to save. I just said that that we're accountable for this General Revelation that we suppress it and unrighteousness that that's a moral act for which we are guilty. But the truths of Salvation are not found in general Revelation. So it it is the case. I suppose that it's sufficient to condemn, but but not to save. However, I I think in asking the question we're placing a burden upon General Revelation that it was never meant to bear. General Revelation and special Revelation. We're always supposed to go together and special Revelations will find out is particular truths about God including the The Plan of Salvation. It's it's it's because of human sin that General Revelation is separated from these more particular truths that will call special Revelation here in a moment. That's that's our fault. It's not the fault of General Revelation. General Revelation was never meant to Bear a salvific burden. And so General Revelation is is a generous revelation of who God is and we should be grateful for it. God did not Grant General Revelation in some like Divine gotcha mode where he's gonna say. Wow. I've nailed you with General Revelation. You're responsible for it. I haven't given you a path to Salvation. So now I can just condemn you. That's not the heart of God at all. God is Holy and God is just but he didn't give General Revelation so he can get us in the end. He gave us General Revelation as the book of Acts chapter 17 tells us so that we might reach out to him. General Revelation is an invitation to know God. Now I've I've spoken about special Revelation. So what exactly is it? Well if General Revelation is General in scope and General in substance and special Revelation is special in scope and special in substance. I don't really like that terminology even though I just used it. I used it because that's what everyone uses but I think particular would be a better word. Special Revelation in contrast with General makes us think that there's some Revelation that's special and the other resident the rest of it's kind of mundane. It's just general that that's not the case. All revelation of God is is wonderful and great. I like to say all revelation of God is special some of it's just especially special and the rest of it is generally special but so we ought not to think that General Revelation is mundane or boring or or like second or third rate. I know particular in scope special in scope particular in scope. It goes out to a very narrow audience individual people and it is particular or special in substance. It is very unique information about who God is and and the best way to explain this is to describe it from a narrative. Everyone's familiar with Moses at the Burning Bush Moses is hiding out in the desert. He's tending sheep. He sees a bush that is on fire but it's not being consumed. He says it's kind of funny as you read it. I think I will go over there and and look at this thing and so he goes over and looks and and is confronted by by the Lord and and the Lord then reveals to him that God is going to save his people Israel through Moses. and at that point in time how many people on the face of the Earth knew God's plan to save Israel? I would say one as far as we know Moses that's particular in scope. Only one person was privy to this information at that moment. And it's a pretty particular in substance as well. It's God's plan to save a particular people out of slavery in a particular place the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. So particular in scope. particular in substance Now what are the Avenues of this special Revelation? Well, the Bible actually describes many different kinds of special Revelation. One of those is personal encounter. We see that with Moses at the burning bush. He personally encounters God there are individuals who encountered God a manifestation of God or a messenger of God over and over again. And it seems that God can do this as he wants a lot of times. We're nervous about that as as Christians because we think it might you know, replace the Bible or something but the Bible describes these things and and and any Revelation from God is not going to go contrary to the scriptures because the scriptures are also the revelation of God. I I dream or a vision would be this kind of personal encounter as well. The Bible is full of those kinds of things again. I don't think that we need to be concerned about those. It appears around the world that God still communicates with people that way and if he does that's particular Revelation to a particular people. Mighty Act is another form of special Revelation I think a good example of this would be the Egyptians crossing the Red Sea where the the waters fall down on them now even before they entered the the dry land of the Red Sea they knew that God was fighting for Israel. This is special Revelation that God is fighting for Israel the Egyptians new and understood this not everyone else in the world did but the Egyptians did and then when the waters closed down upon them they got more information about who this God was again. This is particular Revelation to a particular people. Most of the time when we think about special Revelation, we're thinking about propositional Revelation that or maybe a better term for that would be verbal revelation. Revelation that comes to us in languages that we can understand. and now there's lots of truth about God that is not contained in the Bible. The Bible doesn't contain exhaustively everything that is true about God, but I would argue that everything in the Bible is is true and is propositional revelation or this this linguistic revelation. We for example Jesus was I I suppose he was a fairly long-winded preacher because there were times where his disciples were nervous for the crowds. They had been there so long listening to Jesus that they were hungry and Martin can be able to get home on time and yet as you read the longest sermon of Jesus in the Bible It's like three chapters. You can read it out loud in 20 minutes. People aren't gonna grow faint from Hunger in 20 minutes. It's probably not a stretch to think that what we have say in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's chapter 5 through 7. That's a summary It's an accurate summary of what Jesus said but it's not an exhaustive transcript of everything that he said, so there's lots of linguistic Revelation about God from God that we don't have in the Bible. But everything that we have in scripture is the word of God. And then of course Jesus himself is special revelation of God, all three of the previous things personal encounter Mighty act propositional Revelation our found in Jesus. Wondrously. But we have a special category for him Hebrews chapter 1 marks off. The Incarnation is something that must be seen as special and unique John chapter 1 verse 14 Grace and truths are used twice Jesus manifests the glory of the father through many ways, but John wants us to see this pair of items in particular in John 1. They're not not everything about God is fully manifest in Jesus in the sense that Jesus was also a man. So there's more to God than what we see in Jesus, but there's not less. There's not less there. Jesus was God In the Flesh and when people saw him they saw God. Now is special revelation. Is that efficacious is that effective to save and the answer there would be that the just the Revelation itself isn't necessarily it's not necessarily going to save you. It has to be responded to in Phase. But the gospel is special Revelation. The path of Salvation is a particular Revelation from God and and I don't think there's any hope of being saved apart from this special Revelation which raises the stakes for us. This is why it's so important that we read and understand the Bible well, Now, let's think more about the process of how we get special Revelation and I want us to think in particular about the Bible here. And in your handout there is a a diagram of a bridge that as I said earlier. There's there's a separation between the human mind and God's mind. Or if you will because it Rhymes the mind of Todd and the mind of God. They those are not synonymous things. There's an enormous gap between those two. It's probably evident to you as you're trying to make sense of the things that I'm saying here. How is God going to bridge that Gap? We can't do it. Again. God is Sovereign over revelation of himself. He has to initiate it he does he does the work and in how we get the scriptures, there's five pillars if you will Five Steps along the way and the first one is inspiration. So let's take a deeper dive into the some text that we just mentioned earlier second Timothy 3:16. All scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching for reproof for correction training in righteousness. That word breathed out is sometimes translated inspired. It comes from the Greek word theap newsstas. And this this is a bit of a mind Bender of a word because it only appears one time in Paul's writing and for Bible translators. It's always helpful to be able to go to other portions of an author's writing to see how they used to words. They can maybe figure out how it we can best translate here. So if you go to all Paul's writings, no, it's not it's not in any of his letters Timothy. It's not in any of his letters at all. Okay. Well, maybe it's in the rest of the New Testament somewhere in the New Testament Oh shoot. No, it's not anywhere else in the New Testament. Well, maybe in the Greek translation of the Old Testament right? There was certainly prophecy going on there. Maybe they up new stocks was used there. Nope. Nope. No where nowhere in even the Greek translation? Okay. Well, maybe we have during the time period that the scriptures were written in. When they were written in coin a Greek, maybe we've dug out of the ground someone who used this word somewhere and we have it. It's it's extant. We have it in our hands and the answer that is no it's it seems like Paul made up a word. and so a lot of times Bible translators will just Punt and they'll very woodenly just Translate the word by giving to you the parts of it they op new stuff. They asked God new stuff and adjective having to do with the spirit or when did or breathed. So let's say God breathed. All scripture is breathed out by God. Sometimes they'll say all scripture is inspired. But but of course to to inspire something that's like your spirating something inward. It's like all all scriptures. Inspired spirated inward by God and of course, that's not the case because God is breathing it out. It is it is spirated outward or expired but we don't want to say that in our translation. All scripture is expired by God that makes it sound like it's like milk lift too long in the refrigerator. And so we say inspired or again, they'll just Punt and they'll say God breathed or breathed out by God. Even though we don't know exactly how to translate it. And maybe that's the best we can do. It does tell us an awful lot about what the scriptures are. All scripture is breathed out by God. The the Holy Spirit apparently worked in a human in such a way that that the scriptures are literally like breathed out by God. The the message comes out of God. And therefore it would partake of the character from which it flows the character of God. The scriptures come to us because God breathed them out. Now it doesn't tell us everything about inspiration. There's a lot more that could be said. And for us to go there, let's let's think about First Corinthians chapter 2 verses 12 and 13. Paul is defending his Apostolic Ministry with the Corinthians which he had to do all the time. It appears and he writes to them this he says now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God that we might understand the things freely given us by God and we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the spirit interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. Notice that these are words taught to humans not dictated. The Holy Spirit takes the thoughts of God and combines them with the words of humans so that we could receive it and that's why we find differing vocabularies and styles amongst the different biblical authors. But all of it is consistently the truth that comes from God. There there are those who would say that Christians believe that the Bible was dictated by God, but that's actually not the case. We don't really believe that some of it is dictated but not near as much as we might think. No, we don't have a doctrine of dictation like Muslims do with the Koran. They would argue that their scriptures are dictated. That's the Koran allegedly was put together because an angel appeared to Muhammad and recited to Muhammad over and over again the what eventually became the Quran Mohammed was illiterate had to have it recite him over and over and over and over again until he memorized and then he went out found someone who could write and recited it to them. And then they wrote it down. That's why it's called the Koran which I believe is Arabic for recitation. That's that's what they say about their text Christians. Don't say the same thing about ours. We say that the scriptures are inspired inspired. These are words taught to humans not dictated and implication of that is that the human author is well aware of what he is writing when he's writing the scriptures. Paul for example didn't shift into a hypnotic trance was catatonic. His hand was moved the stylus on whatever it was. He was writing and then he wakes up and goes. Wow. I just wrote a letter to the Romans. I probably should read that right? No, that's that's not how it happened. Paul thought hard about what he was writing because these are words that are taught to him by the spirit not dictated. That raises the stakes for us when it comes to biblical interpretation because we want to try to understand what did Paul mean by what he said if we're writing a letter if we're reading a letter of Paul. For reading something by Peter. We want to ask what did Peter mean by what he said? What did Moses mean by what he said? What did Isaiah mean by what he said? Because they knew what they were writing and they're good good enough writers to to communicate that well. Another passage that contributes to our doctrine of inspiration is second Peter chapter 1 verses 20 and 21. Here Peter is talking about the scriptures and how we got them and he says this knowing this first of all that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man but men spoke from God as they were carried Along by the Holy Spirit. That that word that I in the translation I read someone's own interpretation. He's really talking about where it originates from. Scripture never originated with humans. It came from God but men spoke from God as they were carried Along by the Holy Spirit. They were moved by the Holy Spirit. Now probably not not everything a prophet said was inspired. But what was inspired was brought about in unison between the human author and the spirit. so we put all that together I would argue that a good definition of inspiration is this inspiration is a concurrent work of a holy God. And a human author now God is Holy. The humans are falling, right? Concurrent work of this holy God and and a human author, whereby the human the the holy spirit. So moved the human author. That God got exactly what he wanted. That is his perfect word. And he did so without compromising or destroying the personality of the human author. Probably all of you have have read through the scriptures and and you realize that that different authors sound different. That no one sounds exact same that there is no like biblical writing style. John sounds like John. Peter sounds like Peter. Paul sounds like Paul. James sounds like James the author to Hebrews sounds radically different than all that group, right? Each author has a unique style a unique personality and all of that is brought to bear as they're writing the scriptures because they're thinking they know the things that they're writing but they're being guided and moved by the holy spirit that what they write is every word of it. the word of God there's there's no sense in trying to say now. What's human and What's divine? No, all of it is simultaneously human and all of it is simultaneously Divine. It's not human here and divine there. Every word a human word every word a Divine word. all of scripture is Inspired sometimes we'll call that verbal plenary inspiration. Every word is inspired by God and God is not embarrassed by any of those words. They're all his there. He's not cringing as Paul is writing Paul. Why did you write that? Oh, well, I guess we got to make the best of it and wish you wouldn't have said that stuff about baptism for the dead. That's just gonna confuse people. No every single word God owns, Every single word God owns, this is my word and he Delights in his word because it is his word. and if that's the case then I think we should Delight. In every word as well. Doesn't mean that everything in the Bible is easy doesn't mean that everything in the Bible is on the surface delightful, but when we dig into it a bit we find that it is. I or at least we should. There's times where I'm reading the scriptures and it's like man, I I don't like that. I I wish I wish that wasn't in there. But because it's the word of God, I really only have one legitimate response at that point. I have to repent I have to change my mind God. This is your word. It is good and true. It's authoritative because it is your word. And so all of it is good. Even the parts that chafe my my sensibilities. I think we should Delight in every single word that God has written and and when it gets hard, I think we should repent. I think we should repent if we're interpreting it rightly. So this process? Has two agents and the product is perfect. Maybe a good example of this would be the Virgin conception of of Jesus. You have sinful Mary. He's a human who's sinful the Holy Spirit comes upon her. She conceives. And she gives birth to someone who is perfect. Jesus knew no sin committed. No sin in him was no sin. But I bet Jesus looked a lot like his mom. Who else is gonna look like right? And so just like the human authors of scripture. They write and it's a it is the word of God, but it still sounds like them. I think we have a parallel. And and an analogy of that in Jesus. In order to be biblical in our interpretation and our theology we have to take seriously what the Bible claims to be the Bible claims to be inspired by God it acclaims to be the word of God. And the scriptures make this claim about themselves. And if the Bible is the word of God, then there's going to be implications in implications for the Divine part of it aspect of it and implications for the human aspect and all of these implications are going to guide what we do in this class. So what I'd like you to do is I'd like you to pause just from and think what are some implications of the Divine aspect that the Bible is the word of God. think about those implications And then I want you to think about implications for the humanity of the scriptures. What are some implications that the Bible is simultaneously Divine and human. And then we'll come back and we'll think a bit about what those are.