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Earl Marshall

Preaching the Big Idea from Revelation

I am in the middle of writing a thesis-project on how to preach Revelation to a multiple end time view audience and it is becoming abundantly clear to me that no matter your interpretive scheme to this apocalyptic book (futuristic, preterits, idealistic, eclecticist) there is a common foundational truth to the visions of Revelations that weaves itself through these pictures that John sees no matter what your interpretive scheme.  It is the task then of the preacher who is preaching to a multiple end time view audience to capture this foundational truth and emphasize this in their preaching and not their particular interpretation of the symbolism of Revelation.

For example this week I am preaching from Revelation 11.  In a text like this it is so easy to get lost in the details of the text and not see the foundational truth in the vision of a temple, two witnesses, a beast, etc.  For certain there is much of this passage that needs to be understood before you can preach the passage and to some extent explained to the audience (although you need to be careful with that – more on this in another post).  At every turn there seems to be interpretive battles over the extent to which this vision finds its fulfillment in the future versus the past or present.  Is the measuring of the temple to be understood as a vision of the restored Jewish people of God (Israel) in Jerusalem?  Is the 3 1/2 years a literal 3 1/2 years of tribulation in the future?  The questions go on and on.  But when we are preaching the meaning of this text one can move away from the danger of promoting or even debating a particular interpretive view by capturing and emphasizing the big idea of the text.  I would suggest that the big idea of the vision must be able to be equally applied to numerous interpretive schemes – i.e. whether this is a future fulfillment, present fulfillment, or even both there is a point that weaves itself through each of these.  So instead of being concerned about all the interpretive conclusions of each of the details the preacher should present the idea behind the conclusions.

For Revelation 11 one such big idea could be “God uses a faithful witness to impact/change a hardened heart”.  The interlude of Revelation 10 – 11 in the context of the trumpets would support such an idea.  This is equally true if the witnesses are actually two people who show up in the future during a time period known as the Tribulation as much as saying that there is no future aspect to this text.

Try this on at text like Revelation 20 and the concept of a Millennium.  What is the idea that is common to an a, post, or pre, millennial understanding of this text?  Perhaps preaching this big idea will promote unity amidst all the diversity.

1 Comment

  1. You are changing the definition of the traditional big idea aren’t you? It seems like you’ve redefined the big idea by employing interpretation general enough to minimize offense for controversial passages rather than following the authorial intent of the Apostle John in your given passage of the book of Revelation. John was addressing the early churches with meaning that was concrete, and time-related. It feels like you need courage to take an exegetical stand, justify it, and preach it.

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