The Apocalypse and Fellowship
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy,
and keep those things that are written therein”
With additional thoughts provided.
THIS question is raised by dissensions in some quarters leading to division. An ecclesia tolerates wrong teaching: a few men of understanding cannot bear it, and retire. Those who remain think the matter unimportant, and are inclined to find fault with the others as sticklers. How stands the matter?
When a professed brother avows the belief that the visions of the Apocalypse have no application to the accomplished history of Europe but are of future significance, he raises a question of more serious moment than may at first be apparent.
A man confessing ignorance of the meaning of the Apocalypse is a man who might grow in knowledge, and therefore a man to be borne with and helped; but a man denying its meaning is a man to be antagonized on the following serious grounds:
Over a dozen times, it is written in the Apocalypse – “He that hath ears, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Jesus says – “My sheep hear my voice”. He identifies the Apocalypse with his voice in saying in it – “I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify these things in the churches” Rev. 22:16.
Thus the Apocalypse is an important part of the Shepherd’s voice which Jesus says the sheep will hear. He goes further than this. He says (22:19) – “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” On the other hand, he says (1:3) – “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein.”
Among the “words of the book of this prophecy” is a heavy warning against participation with a system described under the symbol of a beast and his image (14:9-10) – “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark on his forehead or on his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation.”
Now, if these things relate to institutions now current among men, which they undoubtedly do, as can be and has been many times shown, how serious is the doctrine which would say they do not relate to anything now upon earth, but to something in some future age which we have nothing to do. Such a doctrine, where received, would prevent a man from –
“..hearing what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
It would prevent him from –
“..keeping those things which are written in this book.”
And worse than all, it would practically cause him to –
“take away from the words of the book of this prophecy.”
-since to take away the meaning is to take away the words in making them of none effect.
It is impossible, therefore, to agree with those who would make light of the subject, and it is impossible not to sympathize with faithful men who cannot remain in any community where such nullifying doctrines are tolerated.
Due to the fact that in recent times there has been a growing variety of prophetical interpretation developing within the Christadelphian Community we feel it necessary to provide this additional information. In 1986 Christadelphian Publications (Bro. Jim Stanton) put out a reproduction of the “old Birmingham Statement (1877)”. Along with a few corrections and clarifications that Bro Stanton provided, there were additions made to the “Doctrines to be Rejected” section in relation to the interpretation of the Apocalypse. These additions read as follows:
§ #36 – That the book of Revelation refers practically entirely to events which are to occur after Christ returns (futurist theory).
§ #37 – That the book of Revelation refers primarily to events that occurred in 70 A.D. (preterist theory).
§ #38 – That any theory that radically departs from the “continous historical interpretation” as generally elaborated by John Thomas in Eureka is to be received. (This does not require unqualified acceptance of the interpretation of all events and symbols – simply that the events “which must shortly come to pass” began to transpire shortly after the Apocalypse was given to the Apostle John in Patmos and that they have continued to unfold in the nearly 1900 years since that divine revelation.)
Some adjustments in prophetical interpretation have been minor dealing with the order of “latter day” battle scenarios and have not strayed from the “continuous historical” view of the scriptures, while other ideas have completely re-written traditional understandings on how Bible Prophecy (more specifically the books of Daniel and Revelation) is to be understood. The subject of Bible Prophecy is very broad and no doubt there will arise differences of opinion on various specifics. But tolerance for various opinions on “specifics” should not be confused with the importance that the scriptures themselves place on understanding the general framework on how prophecy should be understood. If the proper method is used then we are able to see the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for this earth as it ties into “The Things Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus of Christ”. If we use methods such as the “futurist” or “pretorist” approaches then we end up with a discombobulated mess and tangle of events. For the “futurist” approach one is led to the ideas that characterize the evangelical scene with ideas of a future “Antichrist” that will lead the Jews in an attempt to take over the world. The popular but fictional “Left Behind” book series is an example of “futurist” ideas in relation to latter day events. The “pretorist” view sees much of the events of the Apocalypse as taking place in 70 A.D and that the symbolic language applies to the Jews and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Under the pretorist theory the Jews replace Rome as the Harlot of Revelation.
Though these two approaches deal with opposite ends of the time-line, both views have striking similarities.
§ Both views take away from the continual witness of events that the Apocalypse has shown to us over the course of the last 2,000 years.
§ Both methods deny the “day for a year principle” in interpreting prophetic time periods that has helped Bible students to clearly expect and identify prophetic events as they happen.
§ Both approaches add confusion to prophecy turning it into a guessing game rather then the very methodical and chronological way the prophetic picture actually unfolds.
§ Both modern day “futurist” and “pretorist” views have roots in the development of such ideas within the Catholic System, more specifically due to the efforts of Jesuit Priests in defending the Roman Church from the growing attacks of the Protestant movement during the Reformation.
§ Both views take the Catholic System out of the prophetic picture when in fact the Roman influence is revealed in the scriptures in its various manifestations (political and religious) as the great enemy of Christ and the Saints that is to be destroyed after Christ returns to the earth.
We wish to deal with these and other related issues in greater detail in later articles but by the verses provided by Bro. Roberts in the above excerpt it should be seen that the issue of how we interpret the Apocalypse is very serious indeed. Details are one thing but to adopt prophetic views that take the Catholic System out of the prophetic picture or leave enormous gaps of time where there is no prophetic witness to the believers over the ages has a very serious affect on our comprehension of God’s Truth. Do we wish to understand what God is trying to tell us or do we desire to follow the confusion that plagues the religious world around us?
Lord willing we will continue this matter.