Ears to Hear: Re-engaging John’s Apocalypse in 21st Century Doxological Communities

Statement of Thesis A liturgical reading of Revelation, rejoined with the proper hypothesis of scripture will begin to form apocalyptic and apostolic Christian communities in 21st century post-Christian environments. In taking on the task of a Master’s Thesis, I have decided this will be a “treatment” of Revelation. It will not be an in-depth look at observations and components turned over time and time again, but a theological exegesis directed at bringing a forgotten book back into the minds and hearts of the Church. I have selected key texts I believe serve as a great primer for Revelation letting the average Christian read the text apart from highly figurative elements usually associated with the book. This is not done out from disregard, but from the conviction the selected texts are the most basic to the eschatological vision of eternity orthodox Christianity has stood on for thousands of years. In the spirit of Thomas Oden1, I understand many of the quests to name rather fantastical elements of the book are complicated and decisive, so for this introductory work I will limit my scope. In his sermon The Law Established Through Faith, John Wesley begins his discourse with the idea the easiest way for a preacher to make void a doctrine is to not preach it. Going further in this assessment, by not preaching it, the doctrine and understanding of the law is made void in both the life of the believer and in the doctrine of the church. Following this model, by not teaching Revelation the pastor effectively separates it from the Biblical canon. If separated from the Holy Scriptures, Revelation no longer abides in the mind of the Christian, exists in

Oden writes of the hazards of founding strong doctrine in a symbolic passage in volume 3 of his Systematic Theology: Life in the Spirit pg 421. What is likewise highly influential are his statements regarding the ideological tendencies in millennialism on pgs 429-430
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prayer or actions in the world. We are left with a faith devoid of eschatology, and separated from the theological boundaries of orthodoxy. While this seems slight, what happens to our views on creation, ethics, heaven, salvation, worship, social engagement and spiritual development when we take eschatology out of the mix? In the words of Wesley, we become “unskilled in the word of righteousness”, lacking the necessary dimensions of the Christian faith. Is a Christianity without Eschatology still Christianity? Diving into Revelation immerses oneself in the grandiose tradition of mystical apocalyptic writings but also invites the random hordes of homespun exegetes to invade the mind. For this reason, I believe the apocalypse given to St. John has metaphorically separated itself from the Bibles of the average Church go-er. It is the domain of either the scholar tucked away in the ivory tower or the ruddy and loud television preacher. In the minds of many, it simply isn’t a book for church folk and rarely becomes part of the devotional reading forming the believer in the path of sanctification. The Holy Spirit isn’t allowed to form us as an eschatological people. Instead, we just stay away from discussion needing to happen. This failure belongs to the clergy as well. In the quest to distance ourselves from the various fear tactics espoused by fundamentalists, we neglect the preaching and teaching of Revelation and the wider category of Eschatology. By the clergy allowing the individual member to form their own individual opinions, this decision makes Revelation the most thoroughly postmodern book in the canon. If it is appropriate and allowable for this book to be ripe for individual interpretation, we must be prepared for a Church which has forgotten where it is going and will slowly forget why it is traveling.

The task at hand presents Revelation to those terrified of the book. I want make a crack in the wall which has been built up by countless abuses and misgivings. I hope my work will aid in developing a radically new eschatological vocabulary absent from the Church in the last generation and will be exercised both formationally as well as liturgically. In choosing the texts, I ultimately decided on the six lectionary readings present in Year C during EasterTide.2 Those in the Roman Catholic and Mainline traditions will recognize them, and for the free church tradition, they are a great primer towards a non-fantastical reading of Revelation. They will be amended at times to greater serve the pericope, but will be the foundational passages of this thesis. The basic structure of these five passages will be three parts; Exegetical, Theological, and Formational. Through this structure, I believe it possible to give serious attention to the text, but at the same time have a view directed at local congregations. The final reading will hopefully connect these passages in the day to day worshipping life of a congregation; showing both Orthodox realities as well as a comfort directed at the last book of the Bible.

The final piece of this study will be an entrance into the Apocalypse as a Wesleyan in the 21st century. The popularity of Revelation, especially among younger scholars, is growing. However, many fail in their reading, get bogged down in deep textual data, the language of apocalyptic studies and an avoidance of a theological interpretation. Another segment of modern scholarship avoids the complicated eschatological dimensions of our times by simply viewing Revelation as a piece of historical data to be mined. By divorcing it from any spiritual reality,

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These are Revelation 1:4-8, 5:11-14, 7-9-17, 21:1-6, 21:10 with 22-22:5 and 22:12-14,16-17 and 20-21

the book instead turns solely into an example of subversive data to a burgeoning community. It takes the aspect of vision, eschaton and Christian time out of the text altogether. With these observations, I wonder what it means to read Revelation as a Wesleyan? How do we take our rich theological heritage and allow it to inform our reading of the Apocalypse? How do we understand Revelation canonically? The revealing characteristic of Revelation shows a God of finality and perfect communion. This should be a veritable theological playground for a Wesleyan. To think of the story of New Jerusalem in chapter 21 and an exploration of can only be fully explored by understanding John Wesley and his view of the Godhead as a family relationship is a textbook example of a Wesleyan hermeneutic. I want to read Revelation as a young Wesleyan living in the 21st century. The conviction of this thesis is to begin a lifelong study devoted to putting Revelation back in the hands of the Church. As stated earlier, the interpretation strategy of Revelation is thoroughly postmodern for the majority of the Church, and I aim to offer an approachable reading of Revelation only available within the community of the Christian Church.

Thesis Outline

I. Introduction A. Statement of Thesis B. Cultural Significance C. Pastoral Concerns D. Necessity for Revelation and the Church E. Congregational Reading F. The Reason for a Liturgical Reading II. 1:4-8 III. 5:11-14 IV. 7:9-17 V. 21:1-6 VI. 21:10,22-22:5 VII. 22:12-14,16-17 and 20-21 VIII Conclusion A. Vision of a New Reading B. An Eschatological People C. Integration with Secular Eschatology D. Conclusion

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The main body of the thesis (sections II through VII) will be formatted similarly under the three major readings of Exegetical, Theological, and Doxological.

Tentative Bibliography Aune, Kenneth E. 1971. God, History, and the End of the World. 1st ed. Invictus Enterprise Co.   Bauckham, Richard. 2000. Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. T & T Clark International, November 10.   Beale, G. K. 1998. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, October.   ———. 2008. We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. IVP Academic, October 8.   Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson. 2007. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, November 1.   Boyett, Jason. 2005. Pocket Guide To The Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual For The End Of The World. Relevant Books, April 30.   Braaten, Mr. Carl E., and Mr. Robert W. Jenson. 2002. The Last Things: Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Eschatology. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., May 1.   Bratcher, Robert G., and Howard A. Hatton. 1993. A Handbook on the Revelation to John. American Bible Society, April.   Brooks, Max. 2007. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Three Rivers Press, October 16.   Chapman, Charles T. 1995. The Message of the Book of Revelation. Liturgical Press, February.   Collins, John Joseph. 1998. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, April.   Cory, Catherine A. 2006. The Book of Revelation (New Collegeville Bible Commentary. New Testament). Liturgical Press, April.   Daly, Robert S.J. 2009. Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity. Baker Academic, June 1.   deSilva, David. 2009. Seeing Things John's Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation. Westminster John Knox Press, July 13.   E, Glabach Wilfried. 2007. Reclaiming the Book of Revelation. Peter Lang, March 5.   Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1998. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Rev Sub. Fortress Press, January 6.   Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler. 1981. Invitation to the Book of Revelation: A commentary on the Apocalypse with complete text from the Jerusalem Bible. 1st ed. Image Books.  

Franke, William. 2008. Poetry and Apocalypse: Theological Disclosures of Poetic Language. Stanford University Press, October 10.   Geoffrey, of Auxerre, and Joseph Gibbons. 2000. Geoffrey of Auxerre: On the Apocalypse, No. 42. Cistercian Publications, March.   Gladding, Sean. 2010. The Story of God, the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible. IVP Books, August 27.   Goheen, Michael W., and Craig G. Bartholomew. 2004. Drama of Scripture, The: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Baker Academic, November 1.   Harrington, Wilfrid J. 2008. Revelation. Liturgical Press, April 15.   Harvey, A. D., and Barry A. Harvey. 1999. Another City: An Ecclesiological Primer for a PostChristian World. 1st ed. Trinity Press International, May 1.   Harvey, Barry. 2008. Can These Bones Live?: A Catholic Baptist Engagement with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Social Theory. Brazos Press, August 1.   Hurtado, Larry W. 2005. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Pbk. Ed. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, September 15.   III, Ben Witherington. 2003. Revelation. annotated edition. Cambridge University Press, September 15.   Kelly, Anthony. 2006. Eschatology And Hope. Orbis Books, June 7.   Koester, Craig R. 2001. Revelation and the End of All Things. illustrated edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, May.   Kutner, Rob. 2008a. Apocalypse How: Turn the End-Times into the Best of Times! Running Press, May 13.   ———. 2008b. Apocalypse How: Turn the End-Times into the Best of Times! Running Press, May 13.   Lindsey, Hal. 1970. The Late Great Planet Earth. twenty-fifth printing december. Zondervan, May 23.   Lupieri, Edmondo, Maria Poggi Johnson, and Adam Kamesar. 2006. A Commentary on the Apocalypse of John. Tra. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, October 30.   Mouw, Richard J. 2002. When the Kings Come Marching in: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem. Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, May.  

Mulholland, M. Robert, Jr. 1990. Revelation: Holy Living in an Unholy World. Zondervan, April.   Oden, Thomas C. 2006. Systematic Theology, Vol. Three: Life in the Spirit. Hendrickson Publishers, April 30.   Peterson, Eugene H. 1991. Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination. HarperOne, April 26.   ———. 1993. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, November.   Resseguie, James L. 2009. Revelation of John, The: A Narrative Commentary. Baker Academic, April 1.   Richter, Sandra L. 2008. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament. IVP Academic, October 20.   Smith, James K.A. 2006. Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church. 2nd ed. Baker Academic, April 1.   ———. 2009. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Baker Academic, August 1.   Swedish, Margaret. 2008. Living Beyond The "End Of The World": A Spirituality of Hope. Orbis Books, April 30.   Wainwright, Geoffrey. 2002. Eucharist and Eschatology. Order of Saint Luke Pub, January.   Walls, Jerry. 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology. Oxford University Press, USA, April 16.   Weinrich, William C. 2005. Revelation. 1st ed. IVP Academic, December 9.   Witherington, Dr Ben III. 2010. Revelation and the End Times Participant's Guide: Unraveling Gods Message of Hope. Abingdon Press, October.   Wright, Christopher J. H. 2008. Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible's Central Story. IVP Academic, May 2.   Young, Frances M. 2002. Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture. Hendrickson Publishers, May.  

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