Today’s Sunday School Lesson

Old Testament Lesson:  Micah 3: 5-7
5-7Here is God’s Message to the prophets, the preachers who lie to my people: “For as long as they’re well paid and well fed, the prophets preach, ‘Isn’t life wonderful! Peace to all!’ But if you don’t pay up and jump on their bandwagon, their ‘God bless you’ turns into ‘God damn you.’ Therefore, you’re going blind. You’ll see nothing. You’ll live in deep shadows and know nothing. The sun has set on the prophets. They’ve had their day; from now on it’s night. Visionaries will be confused, experts will be all mixed up. They’ll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses to cover up their God-ignorance.”

 

New Testament Lesson: Revelation 13

 

 

The Bible consists of many different books, written at many different times.  There are many different kinds of writing in the Bible.

 

There is God’s revealed law as recorded in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  There are the Psalms – the poetry of David and others that became the hymn book of the Second Temple.  There is history – Exodus, Nehemiah, Ezra, Kings, Chronicles, and the Acts of the Apostles.   In one sense, the four Gospels might be considered biography.  There are the writings (oracles) of the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, etc.  There are, of course, letters sent from the Apostles – Paul, Peter, James, Jude – to young churches or to individuals involved in the growth of the church.

 

And there is what is called “apocalyptic writing.”  Scholars agree that the book of Revelation and certain parts of the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and the Gospels are apocalyptic writing.  In our contemporary milieu, we have come to think of Apocalyptic writing as writing pointing to or having to do with the end of time.  But the word “apocalypse” actually means “unveiling.”   An apocalyptic writing, then, is one that pulls the curtain back from the surface of things and allows one insight into what is really going on.  That is, what is the spiritual truth behind the appearances

 

It may be helpful to understand that this genre or type of writing was common in the ancient world and that there are several ancient apocalyptic writings, some of which make great claims about themselves, which are still extant but which were never approved by the church for inclusion in the canon.

In addition to Daniel and Revelation, prominent literary apocalypses include 1 Enoch, 2 and 3 Baruch, 4 Ezra, the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Apocalypse of Peter.

 

Carey, Greg. Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature. St. Louis, MO: Chalice, 2005.

E-mail Citation »

A textbook-level survey of the most important ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. Defines apocalyptic discourse not as a literary genre but as a flexible set of topics and literary devices. Recommends interpreting apocalyptic texts as creative literary and religious responses designed to influence communal beliefs and behaviors.

 

 

When we study the one apocalyptic book in the New Testament, we can be quite certain about what community the writer intended to influence.  Although the book is often mysterious and dense it is very clear to whom it was written and it is also clear, from the text and from other historical sources, what this community was facing at the time the book was written and sent to them.

 

In our day and time the book has often been interpreted as a message that the end is coming soon.  That the world is coming to an end.  What the classic interpreters have said about the book, however, is quite nearly the opposite:  The message of the book is not that the world is coming to an immediate end, but that it is not coming to an immediate end and that the churches will be facing a long trial of persecution for which they must steel themselves.

 

Because the book is canonical, we may assume that it has something to tell us.  That is, its value was not limited to its original audience, but has continued to speak through the ages to every generation of the church.  Nonetheless, the first step in attempting to understand this sometime puzzling book is to consider what it meant to its original audience – the first century churches to which John addressed the book.  We may quickly go astray in our interpretation and application of the book if we ignore its original purpose and forget what it meant to those who heard and read it first.

 

In the last few weeks, we have been considering John’s vision of the woman and the dragon.  There is no room for confusion about what the dragon represents.  John does not hide that at all – he tells us that the dragon is Satan.   There are different interpretations about what the woman in the vision represents.

 

Is the woman of Revelation 12 Mary?

Many will object at this point and deny “the woman” of Revelation 12 is Mary. They will claim it is either the Church, or, as do dispensationalists, they will claim it is the Israel of old.

The Church acknowledges Scripture to have a polyvalent nature. In other words, there can be many levels of meaning to the various texts of Scripture. So, are there many levels of meaning to Rev. 12? Absolutely! Israel is often depicted as the Lord’s bride in the Old Testament (cf. Song of Solomon, Jer. 3:1, etc.). So there is precedent to refer to Israel as “the woman.” And Jesus was born out of Israel.

Moreover, the Book of Revelation depicts the New Covenant Church as “the bride of Christ” and “the New Jerusalem” (cf. Rev. 21:2). “The woman” of Revelation 12 is also depicted as continuing to beget children to this day and these children are revealed to be all “who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (vs. 17). The Church certainly fits this description.

In fact, we argue as Catholics “the woman” to represent the people of God down through the centuries, whether Old Covenant Israel or the New Covenant Church, “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).

 

Eugene Peterson writes that this chapter in Revelation is the Apostle John’s version of the nativity.

 

The woman is hidden away in the desert on earth and the dragon goes after her and in his own power is frustrated:

 

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.

 

Having failed in his own power, the dragon seeks or conjures other creatures to help in persecuting God’s people.

 

The doctrine of Satan.  Contrary to the modern mindset – Freud and Marx and Nietzsche

The sea beast and the land beast as aides to Satan.

Politics as the exercise of power.  Worldly power is exercised through manipulation of force – militarism or police action – or through a kind of seduction – the manipulation of words (propaganda)

The politics of Jesus.  Peterson, Page 118

Politics of Satan, page 122 – confusion and fear.

Worship

Preaching

Holy Living “For not with swords loud clashing

Or roll of stirring drums

With deeds of love and mercy

The heavenly kingdom come

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