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The place and importance of Revelation

As I have been preparing the sermon series on Revelation, the book: 'The theology of the book of Revelation' by Richard Bauckham has been very helpful.  Here is an excerpt from chapter 7 that underlines the point that I have been making that we need to read revelation with revelation in one hand and the old testament in the other (not a newspaper).

Revelation has a unique place in the Christian canon of Scripture.  It is the only work of Christian prophecy that forms part of the canon.  Moreover, it is a work of Christian prophecy which understands itself to be the culmination of the whole biblical prophetic tradition.  Its continuity with Old Testament prophecy is deliberate and impressively comprehensive.


John is steeped in it (the OT), not just as a medium in which he thinks, but as the Word of God which he is interpreting afresh for an age in which God's eschatological purpose has begun to be fulfilled.  He gathers up all those strands of Old Testament expectation which he understood to point to the eschatological future and focuses them in a fresh vision of the way they are to be fulfilled.

He sees the unity of Old Testament prophecy in its hope for the coming of God's universal kingdom on earth.  He reads it in the light of the beginning of the fulfilment of that hope in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and in the consequent transformation of the people of God into a people drawn from all nations.  He reads the Old Testament in the light of Jesus and his church, but he also interprets Jesus and his church by means of Old Testament prophecy.  The latter gives him the expectation that God's universal kingdom must come.  His Christian faith gives him the conviction that it is through Jesus' life, death and resurrection that it will come.  But he is also a prophet himself, with a fresh revelation to communicate.  This is that the church is called to participate in Jesus' victory over evil by following the same path that he trod; the path of faithful witness to the truth even to the point of death.  This will be the final conflict of God's people against the powers of this world that oppose God's rule.  By this means truth will prevail over the lies by which evil rules.  In this way the nations may be won to the worship of the one true God.  In this way Jesus will prove to be the one who fulfils all the promises of God.  In this way the universal kingdom of God, to which the whole biblical prophetic tradition finally points, will come on earth.


Given its character and its relation to the rest of the Christian canon of Scripture, the place which Revelation now occupies at the close of the whole canon could not be more appropriate.  No other biblical book gathers up so comprehensively the whole biblical tradition in its direction towards the eschatological future.  It draws out the sense in which the biblical history, not least its climax in the Christ event, points towards the universal kingdom of God, and it gives the whole canon the character of the book whcih enables us to live towards that future.


David Wanstall, 15/03/2012