Thursday, 2 August 2012

Devoting Through Revelation

How The Book of Revelation Can Deepen our Devotion To God
Written by Dr Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, and author of the popular commentary on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, August 1st 2012
The Book of Revelation as a Devotional
Recently I completed a project for the Bible Society where I wrote a 30 Day Devotional on the Book of Revelation. (This project will be published daily online through October 2012.) If I was to write "Day 31" it would probably sound familiar to this...
"And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass."
Revelation 21:21
I have spent the past decade or so writing about the fascinating details of the Book of Revelation. In my eBook, I have given an explanation of the broad message of Revelation which has prompted thousands of readers around the world to write to me with expressions of gratitude. I have laboured the precise manner in which the prophecies within the Book have been fulfilled and why this gives us the confidence that the remaining prophecies will similarly be fulfilled just as precisely. But not until recently have turned my attention to treating the Book of Revelation as a source of deepening spiritual devotion to Christ.

My extreme hesitancy with embarking on this course has been spurred by my desire to ground my treatment of the Apocalypse in rigorous exegesis rather than merely dismissing it (in the way many do) and resort to reducing it merely to a Biblically disconnected allegory. Any Biblical devotional must be true to the intent of the Sacred writ. One of the errors of the Ante-Nicene Church was their tendency to allegorise the Scriptures rather than exegete the Scriptures. To allegorise a text is to give meaning to words and elements within a story that almost certainly was not intended by the author.

Book of RevelationMany Biblical devotionals do not start with exegeting a text. This is sometimes justified with the fanciful notion that a Biblical passage can legitimately have multiple interpretations. But it is generally acknowledged in the field of Hermeneutics that one of the guiding principles is that the Bible has one intended meaning (which is the goal of interpretation) and multiple applications (which is the goal of devotionalism).

Of all the devotional commentators of the Bible, Matthew Henry is probably the most renowned. He wrote a devotional commentary on nearly every book of the Bible. What makes Matthew Henry's comments so valuable is that he had a better than average exegetical understanding of the text he was sharing his devotional thoughts on. The other value of his commentary is that it reveals how the Puritans approached the Text in the light of Papal apostasies. This is particularly apparent with his comments about the Book of Revelation. For example, his comments on Revelation 17 (which describes the "Harlot of Babylon") contains references to "Papal Rome" and "the Papacy". Matthew Henry the Exegete knew better than this, but Matthew Henry the Puritan Presbyterian Pastor was committed to the established idea that the Bible prophetically warned of the looming evils of the Papacy. (I explain in my eBook how Revelation 17 should be best interpretted exegetically.)
having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
Rev. 21:11
The ApocalypseThus, when I wrote my Devotional on the Book of Revelation, I was not attempting to say this means... but rather: from this text we... By starting with exegesis we have a greater likelihood of capturing the intended applicationof a text - and it strikes me that the Book of Revelation was intended to have some very obvious applications. This method of drawing out a devotional application from a Biblical text is precisely what Pastoral Preachers dedicate their pulpits to. Our job as pastors is not merely to inform (explain what the text says), it is also to illumine (bring to light details not immediately obvious) and inspire (move hearers to apply the text to their walk with Christ through life)...[more]

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