Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Revelation: Disclosure, Not Concealment

The Book of Revelation is intimidating to many. There have been so many various and strange views that one has to sort through even if one wishes to find a commentary to assist them in studying the book, that many set Revelation aside -- effectively, many Bibles end with the Book of Jude, not the Apocalypse.

The 1835 American edition of Richard Baxter's Jesuit Juggling: Forty Popish Frauds Detected and Disclosed (original 1659 title: A Key for the Catholics, to open the Juggling of the Jesuits, and satisfy all that are but truly willing to understand, whether the cause of the Roman or Reformed Churches is of God), includes an address to the American Church which makes the following observation (p. ix):

It is also not a little perplexing, that the Apocalypse, to the reading and hearing of the words of which book alone of the sacred canon, a unique blessing is attached by the "Faithful Witness, and prince of the kings of the earth"—the Apocalypse, or the revelation of John is far less studied in its connection with the past annals of the Christian church, than any other portion of "the oracles of God." Hence, there is an almost universal ignorance or misconception of the genuine attributes and ungodly proceedings of the Romish "seducing spirits, and false teachers, who speak lies in hypocrisy."

My pastor, Steven Dilday, has been translating the Synopsis Criticorum of Baxter's friend, Matthew Poole, including Synopsis of the Book of Revelation. One volume thus far has been published, and two more are forthcoming, Lord willing. Pastor Dilday is also preaching through the Book of Revelation to our congregation. One point made by him in his preaching which impressed me and that I have considered in my own studies of this book, which have been deeply enriched by the labors of Matthew Poole and Steven Dilday, is that there is a fundamental principle that emerges from the very first verse: "revelation is a disclosure, not a concealment." If students of the Bible would keep this principle in mind and apply it to the Book of Revelation particularly, then -- while acknowledging that this is a difficult book to understand and requires exegetical labor to do so -- we would benefit greatly in the appreciation that God did not make a mistake in making this book part of the canon. No matter how much the book has been abused, God has not given it to us to confound his people, but to reveal, to disclose words of great importance for our edification, makes all the difference, I think, in how we relate to the book. If it can be understood, then there is hope that it may be understood. With this principle in mind, the diligent student of God's Word will not throw up his hands in despair when he finishes reading Jude but will press forward in the hope of entering into God's promise that "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein" (Rev. 1.3).

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