A paradigm shift occurs when truth clears up past misconceptions and answers many mysteries! It happened when Galileo discovered the earth revolved around the sun rather than the sun revolving around us.
Together, in this wonderful group, we have experienced paradigm shifts: as we just did during Lent, with the help of the Puritans and Reformers, realizing that God runs toward us when we are sinning, rather than backing away, the way a Father runs toward a child with a loathsome disease.
I truly believe many of us may be in for another paradigm shift with this study.
I’m so excited to tell you how God led me, and why I hope He will lead you as well into this study of Revelation. The purpose of this week is to endeavor to persuade you to plunge in with your whole heart — and then, next week, we will plunge!
Do you need this study? Find out with this test:
Revelation doesn’t comfort and calm me, it confuses and scares me.
Revelation is so hard to understand that I’ve avoided it. It’s enough for me to know God wins in the end.
I read The Late Great Planet Earth or The Left Behind series.
I have studied Revelation and the view was that it was primarily about the end times. We studied the rapture and how current events fit in.
If you answered “yes” to even one of the above, you need this study. Frankly, I think every believer, even those who answered “no” to all of the above needs this study. For me, it’s been a paradigm changer, much like what I went through when I started applying the Reformers principle to let “Scripture interpret Scripture” to that mysterious “Song of Songs.” That changed my mind and life! I clearly saw that The Song of Songs was not primarily about marriage with a wink to Jesus and His Bride, but primarily about Jesus and His Bride, with a wink to marriage. Many of you traveled with me on that journey, and your hearts melted to discover that Jesus was actually talking to us, applying the gospel to His own, both as individuals and corporate believers when He said:
I truly believe many of us are in for another paradigm-changing study. I am one who avoided Revelation for most of my life and was taken in by what I now believe was primarily an erroneous view of it. Long ago, I was intrigued by Hal Lindsey’s bestseller:
I encouraged our older sons to read it. At that time we had just one daughter, Sally, and she decided to read it too since her big brothers were reading it. She became very anxious and couldn’t sleep at night. Would her family be there when she woke up — or would we have been raptured?
Hal Lindsey had the view that Revelation was meant primarily to teach us about the end times, which were coming “soon” and felt that newspaper headlines and events at that time in the Middle East were evidence that he was on the right track hermeneutically.
As an older Christian, I became more skeptical of this “futuristic” interpretation which was confirmed by courses I took through Covenant Seminary. They said the “Left Behind” series, which also took the “futuristic” interpretation, left the truth behind. Yet, still, Revelation wasn’t a book I was drawn to, sensing it was so hard, Who could really know what it meant? When a friend joked that he was a pan-millennialist (meaning it will all pan out in the end) I thought, Sounds good to me. I don’t need to study this scary and challenging book.
How wrong I was!
We should not interpret Scripture by what is current and popular, but by Scripture. God clearly tells us in the opening of Revelation that its purpose is to bless, so if it is not blessing us, but scaring us, we are not getting it.
The enormous AHA for me was to find out that when John said these events would happen “soon.” He wasn’t talking about the end times, but the time that began at the ascension of Christ and will continue until He returns. God gave John this book, not for the few believers that would be alive just before Christ returned, but for all the believers down through the centuries to apply to their present lives. There is a small part that speaks of the end, but most of the book is for now. You will see how Scripture makes this clear. As our guide through this book (Dr. David Campbell) says:
Revelation is not a handbook for end-time events.
For the last year, God has been drawing me into Revelation in various ways — enough so that I dared to do a 5-week overview of Revelation with you right after Christmas this year. We have a new couple in our church who told us how they’d been greatly impacted by an Acts 29 church with the Gospel Coalition while they were living in Vancouver, Canada. (West Side Community Church) They started attending when they were in the middle of a series on Revelation. Kathy, the wife, told me, “We were so moved the first time that we just sat there when everyone else was leaving. I hadn’t realized I was dead, but I knew I was coming alive.” Please watch this 4 minute clip from different theologians of the Reformed perspective (beginning with the late J. I. Packer) that this church compiled for their series on the 7 letters. Click here and scroll down to the first clip:
I have listened to many of the sermons from their series on Revelation and found them sound and illuminating. (I’ll make some of these available as well as other Reformed sermons as optional resources.)
I began to plumb Revelation with the help of Reformed Scholars like G. K. Beale and David Campbell. They did a commentary together, and then David Campbell, at the suggestion of his wife, did an even simpler commentary, the one I’d like you to get.
One of you on my e-mail list wrote and asked “What do you mean by the Reformed perspective?” That’s a big question, but as it pertains to this study, I told her: “Think Martin Luther and “sola scriptura.” It was Scripture that made a paradigm change for Luther that led to the Reformation.
We want to interpret Revelation on the basis of other scriptures, for it is absolutely true that the book is integrally tied to all that God has revealed before.
Early this month when I was stumped with a Revelation question, I was cheeky enough to reach out to one of the authors of a commentary I particularly liked by G. K. Beale and David Campbell. I found an email for Dr. Campbell and sent him a question. Within 5 minutes he responded in a way that brought me to tears. He was so kind, so clear, and so eager to help. His answer to my question absolutely turned the light on for me. That then led to a wonderful and prolonged e-mail exchange. I knew that was God, surprising his unlovely yet lovely Bride in the way He delights to do and still brings me to tears. Though I am so unworthy, the One who made the universe and came to earth is mindful of me! Every single one of His children is precious in His sight — not one is forgotten.
David Campbell is also from Canada. You can learn more about him here:
Dr. Campbell’s wife suggested he write a shorter and simpler commentary on Revelation, and that is the book we are going to use. We will not only have his help that way, but he is going to be in the background. He asked me to have the blog sent to his mailbox, and he could even jump in with an answer to a question. Or if I can’t answer something, I know he will help me help you. That’s the kind of heart Dr. Campbell has.
Here is what Dr. Andrew Fountain said about Dr. Campbell’s commentary:
There are few commentaries, in my experience, that have such a depth of scholarly underpinning as this one, and yet can be read almost as easily as a novel.
This will be a longer journey than we usually do because I am committed to not overwhelm you. Many of you are balancing families, a career, and ministries. But we will study the whole book verse by verse. I will take it in sections so that new people can enter in, or if we feel we need a break, we can take a short one, but, God willing, we are going to do the whole book, and those who start at the beginning and stay the course till the end will be the most blessed. You can do it on your own time, pacing yourself to finish by the time I post a new study each Sunday. I know in my case I have heard many sermons on the 7 churches, but then they stop — and the 7 churches are integrally related to the rest of the book. The 7 churches, as you will see, represent the Church from Pentecost to the Return of Christ. They are us! He still walks among us. He still removes lampstands.
Truly, I’m so excited to do it with YOU, for the Lord has blessed us with a most unusual fellowship here.
I hope you will join me, for this is a GRAND ADVENTURE, and all the sweeter TOGETHER!
We begin officially next week. If you get it on kindle, this is what to look for on Amazon:
If you get the hard copy, this is what to look for on Amazon:
The hard copy has some additions in the introduction and in the beginning of one later chapter, but Dr. Campbell assures me it will be easy to work with them simultaneously — so get what works best for you. I will also provide a downloadable word document for those of you who want to print the week’s questions off and put them in a notebook. (I will skip any pictures or videos so you aren’t running up your printer bills!) Some of you do this study not here but in small live or zoom groups. But feel free to pop in here sometimes too and tell us what you’ve learned! For those of you who want to start with a shorter study, you can invite people to stay initially through the seven churches, which I am estimating will take us six lessons after this one. Then I’ll give another invite for those who want to jump on after that.
Word Document for Printing:
1. What stands out to you from the above and why? What is your experience with Revelation?
Monday: Why We Should Do This
In a short article on The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Campbell made me laugh when he said that if reading Revelation makes you feel like the horsemen of the apocalypse are chasing you, you aren’t reading it right!
2. Read the following article. What are some reasons Dr. Campbell said we should study Revelation? Thoughts?
Tuesday: A Paradigm Shift
The biggest changes in my life have involved paradigm shifts: understanding who Jesus really was and why He came; understanding that the Bible was not a series of rules or moral stories, but one great story about Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. Understanding that the root of my sin was idolatry was HUGE and I began to have success in overcoming the sins that so easily beset me. These were all paradigm shifts, but oh, how they have brought me to a better place, to higher ground. I believe you are about to experience the same in Revelation.
3. If you can, share a paradigm shift in your life that brought you to a wonderful new place.
4. The people below sincerely believed they were right — then God gave them a paradigm shift. What was it and how did it bring good to their lives?
A. John 20:24-28
B. Acts 9:1-6
C. Acts 10:9-23
In Paige Benton Brown’s study that so blessed me this year, she made me smile as she described Peter’s reaction to this paradigm shift. “Oh no, Lord — I know this is a test. I am not going to fail! You are not going to get me to eat those unclean animals.” But by the third time… (And God understood Peter’s skepticism so confirmed it again through Cornelius. I believe He will do the same for you if you are skeptical about something that is true. He looks on the heart.)
Wednesday: Interpret Scripture with Scripture
There are 500 scriptural references in the 402 verses of Revelation — compared to 200 in all of Paul’s letters. We here have grown to respect the Reformers. Their principle was scripture scripturae interpres, a Latin phrase that means Scripture interprets itself. When Jonathan Edwards applied this principle to The Song of Songs, he found the key to interpreting the book correctly.
5. For those of you who have traveled with us, here’s a challenge question. How did the puritan Jonathan Edwards become convinced, on the basis of comparing Psalm 45 to the Song of Songs to say, with confidence, that “the Song of Songs is no common love song or epithalamium?”
6. Revelation 3:20 seems to allude to Song of Songs 5:2-8. How does putting these two passages side by side help bring light to each?
I am so tempted to get into Revelation 1:1 and show you how Scripture gives light to the phrase “what must soon take place” — but I will wait until next week when you have your books! I want us all to start together on this adventure.
Thursday: Interpret Scripture According to Genre
Knowing the genre of a passage is vital to interpreting it correctly. I often remember a debate I had with someone I love who had been taught that the Bible says the world is flat. When I asked her to show me the verse, she said, the psalmist says “His eyes go to the end of the earth.”
But that’s poetry! That’s a figure of speech. Revelation is both pastoral, in that it is for us right now, like Paul’s letters, but it is also apocalyptic literature — the word “revelation” comes from the Greek Word apokalypsis which Strong’s defines as a revealing of truth, of mysteries. God is peeling back the unseen world for us to see, and He uses pictures or symbols to reveal. Why? Why doesn’t he just spell it out? Two main reasons.
Pictures move past the left brain and drop straight into the heart. Think about the advertisements Hallmark puts out at Christmas. They could just have written: “Send a Hallmark card — it will mean a lot to someone.” Instead, they painted a picture.
7. Share just one picture from Scripture that has moved your heart profoundly and tell why.
But there is another, probably bigger reason. Just as Jesus turned to parables to reveal truth to those whose hearts were tender and hide truth from those whose hearts were hard, as they would have trampled on it as pigs trample on pearls, now He does it again in His final book. Read this from Dr. Campbell:
Those who want to understand will pursue God for that understanding, while the rest will scoff and turn away from what they consider incomprehensible. Such, indeed, is the reaction of many to the symbolism of Revelation. Only those with a heart for God and for truth will go beyond the outward symbols to discover the true meaning in its Biblical context.
The way we react to symbols will either soften or harden our hearts. I want to be among those who pursue and persist, and truly I want you with me, for we see better together than any of us see alone. I want the blessing Revelation promises. Our own Diane said she wanted to go on this journey for she wondered if she had missed the blessing. I think many of us have!
8. For those of you who went through the Song of Songs with me, share a picture about Christ and His Bride that unbelievers might scoff at, but that has revealed a wonderful mystery to you.
Friday: Ask God To Help You Understand
9. What promise does 1 John 5:14 give us? What is the condition mentioned?
10. What could be more in the center of God’s will than asking Him to show you the truth and to walk in His ways? Use Psalm 119:17-19 as a springboard for prayer for this study on Revelation. Pray your prayer here. And pray now, that you will persist during the times you don’t feel like persisting!
11. What’s your take-a-way and why? Will you join us? Might you invite a friend?