A Revelation to the ChurchBy Stephen Popp on September 12, 2016
Editor's Note: We are always excited to highlight new publications from GRTS and CU staff and faculty. This week, we've asked Stephen Popp to share a piece from his new book on Revelation. Stephen serves in the Finance and Accounting office at Cornerstone University.
The book of Revelation offers a blessing to those who read and obey its message. This blessing appears not once, but twice, in the book. It appears the first time in the opening paragraph, where we read, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near" (Rev. 1:3 ESV). And it appears a second time at the head of the epilogue, where we read "Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev. 22:7).
In fact, Revelation is the only book of the Bible that explicitly offers a blessing to those read and obey its message.
We often overlook—and even avoid—the book of Revelation, though. Why? There are a variety of reasons. For some, we think it is too difficult to understand. There are so many different opinions and approaches, and it is impossible to know anything with certainty. For others, we think that we have it all figured out. We already have our eschatological framework, and we know how the book of Revelation fits into that framework. For others, we think it only stirs up controversy and strife. We would rather focus on topics that nurture unity than approach a difficult subject. And for others, we simply don't care. We flippantly say, "I am not pre-, post- or a-millennial. I'm pan-millennial. It will all 'pan-out' in the end."
In my recently published book, "A Revelation to the Church," I seek to reclaim the book of Revelation for the Church by taking seriously the blessing found in the book of Revelation and showing how the book of Revelation relates to the Church. I accomplish this objective in four parts.
The first part establishes the foundational premise that the book of Revelation was written to, for, and about the church. Rather than approaching the text with a pre-manufactured eschatological framework, "A Revelation to the Church" builds a framework for understanding the book of Revelation from the text itself. It points out that the book of Revelation was explicitly addressed to the church ["to the seven churches that are in Asia" (Rev. 1:4)]. In addition, the book of Revelation was implicitly written for the benefit of the church ["Blessed is the one who reads…for the time is near"; (Rev 1:3)]. And, finally, the book of Revelation talks about the membership of the church ("apostles," "prophets," "priests," "saints," "brothers," "servants," etc.) throughout its pages.
The second part provides a brief, thematic commentary on the book of Revelation that fleshes out the premise that Revelation was written to, for and about the church. This section does not, nor will it, answer every question; however, it will provide a starting point for further study and reflection. It recognizes that the book of Revelation was written to prepare the church for a period of unprecedented persecution, and it was written to encourage the church through a period of persecution. Eternal life is presented both as a gift to those who hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ and as a reward to those who endure to the end. More than at any point in history, the Western Church needs to hear the message of Revelation.
The third part challenges the pretribulational view of the rapture, with which I grew up and in which circles I continue to serve. This view, which seemingly dominates evangelical Christian culture, asserts that the bulk of Revelation, specifically Revelation 4-18, pertains to the nation of Israel, not the Church. By so doing, it has effectively taken the book of Revelation away from the Church. The assumption of this approach has blinded us to the fact that the book was written to, for, and about the Church; and it has prevented us from hearing the prophetic voice of Revelation. We need to acknowledge the weakness of this approach and consider another approach that better aligns with Scripture.
The final part of the book focuses on the heart of the matter. It specifies how we, as members of the church, may receive the blessing promised to those who read and obey the message of Revelation. If we are to receive the blessing of Revelation, then we must obey the message of Revelation, which begs the question, "What is the book of Revelation telling us to do?" Short of quitting our jobs, climbing some mountain, facing east toward Jerusalem, and singing "Kum ba yah," this final section tells as concretely and simply as possible what we must do to receive God's blessing.
As a whole, "A Revelation to the Church" provides a fresh paradigm for reading the book of Revelation built on solid exegesis rather than speculative theology. Church members, ministry leaders, and pastors will all appreciate this accessible, practical approach to the book of Revelation. For more information, or to buy a copy of the book, visit www.revelationtothechurch.com.