The other week I had the opportunity of preaching from the book of Revelation, the last in the current morning series at LBC based on the Community Bible Experience readings. I chose as my text Chapter 5. I couldn’t wait to get into the study to start work; sleeves rolled up, brow furrowed.
I recalled, as I have done on a few occasions, how Revd Glen Marshall’s preaching on Revelation at the Baptist Assembly in 2002 had knocked me off my feet. He had presented Christ to me in such a vivid and compelling way it was etched in my mind. In particular I had been gripped by his introduction to the book itself and, amazingly, I managed to find his notes on this introduction online. As I read his opening remarks about how we should approach this particular book I was again transfixed by the very nature of the text God had given to us in John’s Apocalypse.
I read this introduction at the beginning of my sermon as I could find no better way of being able to capture people’s hearts and imaginations for the message that would follow from Rev. 5 I’ve pasted in Glen’s notes below and also the link to the sermon itself. I have to say I was blown away by it. That’s sounds kind of inappropriate doesn’t it but I’m not referring to my own preaching but what the experience of announcing this particular section of God’s Word to the congregation (including myself!) did to me. It was a rare thing I can say. Heralding the truth that despite all manner of horrendous circumstances “the lamb still wins” was an incredible privilege.
An Introduction to Revelation by Glen Marshall
Revelation is a virtuoso performance. John is the Salvador Dali of the prophetic image, the Lewis Carol of biblical literature and the Tim Burton of scriptural story telling.
He breaks all the rules – the Greek is a nightmare, he is radically creative with the conventions of apocalyptic and daringly innovative with the prophetic tradition.
Why? Because what he is dealing with, what he has seen, what he has been charged to share is so huge, so profound, so fundamental, so gob-smacking that he has to find a way to assail our senses and our sensibilities in the hope that we might see it too – and be changed as a result.
It’s worth remembering that Revelation was designed to be read out loud in church (“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it …1:3). It’s a spoken drama – imagine it – in Ephesus, eyes closed, transported to another world – not an imaginary world but a heavenly world, not a dream world but our world viewed from the perspective of the eternal purposes of the creator redeemer God. It is designed to break open our world to transcendence.
John wants us to see what he’s seen so that the vision will invade our hearts, infect our dreams and so transform our living.
That’s why the last thing that you must do to Revelation is turn into a doctrinal textbook or still less a futurist timetable like some eschatological equivalent of the national rail enquiry service.
John did not use his images to conceal what could have been said more straightforwardly, but to communicate that which could not be expressed in any other way.
This is a Pink Floyd Video not a government information film. This is Moulin Rouge, not a documentary on the Parisian entertainment industry.
We evangelicals need to repent of the violence we have done to scripture – Like some insane cook we have spent our time extracting the individual ingredients from the stew in order to analyse their taste; we’ve been so busy dissecting the body of scripture in order to extract precise and consistent doctrinal formulations that we’ve been left with a corpse, not a living word.
So let’s get on and see what he saw – and don’t just bring your reason with you bring your imagination as well.