The class I’m taking on Revelation is quite a study.
This week’s lecture was about five different ways that the Book of Revelation has been understood by various theologians throughout history, with examples of each:
- two “Preterist” ways of reading it, and
- Idealist, and
My brain already hurt by that point. Fortunately the distinguished professor of theology knew when it was time to stop lecturing and tell a story.
He told of a time when the seminary decided to have a men’s basketball team. The only problem was, they didn’t have a gym where the men could practice. So they arranged to practice at a local high school, after 6 p.m., when all the high school students had already gone home.
He said they’d go there to practice once or twice a week, and every time they were there practicing the school janitor would be sitting in the bleachers reading, waiting for them to finish so he could clean up after them and lock the building. One of the seminary professors who also coached the basketball team noticed the guy reading in the stands and saw that he was reading the Bible.
So one day he wandered over and asked the janitor what he was reading.
The janitor answered, “The Bible.”
The seminary professor said, “Yes, I can see that. Any particular parts of the Bible?” and the janitor answered that he was reading the Book of Revelation.
“Really!” exclaimed the professor. “Do you understand it?” he asked, knowing full well that not only his own students, but he himself struggled quite a bit to understand the book of Revelation.
“Sure,” answered the janitor confidently.
Truly curious, the professor respectfully asked if the janitor woud mind sharing what he understood Revelation to be saying.
Without even looking up, the janitor told the professor, “Jesus wins.”
I liked that story, regardless of whether it was literal or allegorical.
When I start getting lost in Biblical hermaneutics it really helps to remember that God wants us to understand His Word. He’s really not trying to give us all an Eternal Headache struggling to sort out structural clues and 2000 year old cultural references that only about 3 people alive today actually understand.
He wants us to understand what He has revealed of Himself to us. And (as promised elsewhere) He provides us with what we need in order to do that.