April 2015

Knocking down faulty foundations

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Before building a house on an old developed site one needs to knock down the existing faulty structures and clear the ground of rubble. That’s what I need to do first, so this post will deal with the interpretive schemes for the book of Revelation which constitute the largest and most obstinate faulty foundation stones. One of the characteristics of the 20th century was the bias towards reductionism (the tendency to break everything down into simpler parts in order to understand it). However the elements of life are complex and interwoven and so attempts to reduce it to its component parts usually confuse and add even more complexity. The same applies to the complex and mysterious book of Revelation.

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Over the centuries scholars have devised many systems of interpreting Revelation. Some have attracted many adherents over the centuries and they in turn have added to the detail and depth of the system. Today, these interpretive schemes are often presented as exclusively ‘correct’ ways of understanding the book. Believers grow up in churches that adhere exclusively to one or other of these schemes and soon come to the mistaken belief that their way is the only correct way of understanding Revelation. This is a huge stumbling block.

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There are four main interpretive schemes, each having a few variations and sub-systems.

The PRETERIST scheme holds that the book of Revelation was applicable to John’s day only. The word ‘preterist’ means ‘past’. For sake of clarity I will oversimplify, but the essential view here is that all of Revelation, with the possible exception of chapters 20 to 22, were descriptions of the 1st century Roman oppression of the church and that any prophetic content was fulfilled in the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in AD 70.

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The HISTORICIST scheme holds that Revelation covers the whole of the church age from John’s day till the end of the age. It presents Revelation as a sort of 2,000 year calendar and claims that we can locate the pivotal events of (European) history within its pages.

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A third scheme is called the FUTURUST view which holds that chapters 4 to 22 are all descriptions of the end-days and are located some time in our future. A key tenet of this scheme is that everything in Revelation should be taken literally (the text means just what it describes and no more) unless the text itself indicates otherwise. So, the description of demon locusts are John’s attempt to describe 20th century helicopter gunships in 1st century language and imagery, and so on.

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The IDEALIST/SPIRITUAL scheme contends that the symbols, numbers and narratives of Revelation simply represent the ongoing struggle between darkness and light, the devil and the church. This scheme uses an allegorical approach to biblical interpretation.

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Now here are some questions for you to consider:
Q If a book of the Bible only applies to believers living in John’s day, then of what real value is it to us today, and what does this say about the value of the Bible in general?
Q If, on the other hand, the book deals only with events of the end-times and in 20th century terms then how were earlier generations supposed to understand it and what does this say about the Bible?

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Here’s a thought – perhaps all four schemes contain elements of truth and if embraced holistically may yield a fuller and more valuable understanding for believers both past and present. If this is indeed so then we need to knock down the neat little interpretive ‘boxes’ and rebuild one big box, don’t you think?

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In my next post I want to describe two keys – one unlocks only one of the small boxes I have described in this post, but the other unlocks the big box. You will find them both in Revelation 1:19-20. Why not read these verses and see if you can spot the keys, and as always I welcome your comments.

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It’s all about Jesus

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Next week I start the extended series on the book of Revelation and by then many people will have had the opportunity of registering for email notifications and so will be able to follow the series from the very start. If you haven’t yet, please click on the little green plus button at the top to sign up for the series.

The book of Revelation (in the NIV) begins with the words ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ …’. The word ‘revelation’ is a translation of the Greek Apokalipsis, which means a disclosure, an unveiling of Jesus Christ, from Jesus, and about Jesus. If taken as a subjective genitive or genitive of source (excuse the technical jargon) it means ‘given by or from Jesus’; if read as an objective genitive it means ‘about Jesus’. So, verse 1 of chapter 1 can be expanded to read ‘The revelation of, from and about Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.’

This first verse reveals much about what is to follow:

It identifies the book as a form of prophecy; it is God speaking to His people. It is conveyed from The Father, to Jesus the Son, who transmitted it via an angel to the apostle John, who then wrote it and sent it to the church.

It centres the book on Jesus – The Lord Jesus presented then, over time, now, and at the end of all things as we know them. This is a vitally important ‘revelation’ – it’s all about Jesus. If we fail to see this then we will misinterpret much of what follows in this complex and often mysterious last book of the Bible.

It alerts us to the fact that the action and events depicted will ‘soon’ take place in that the events prophesied will start to occur in John’s own time. Some Bible teachers have taken the ‘soon’ to mean that everything revealed must happen in a very short space of time and therefore at the very end of the age, but by teaching this, they effectively push almost all of the contents of the book into the 21st century or beyond. If this were indeed so then most of Revelation would be of little value to believers from John’s day right through to our time. This cannot be so if we accept that the Bible is the inspired written Word of God for all of the church age.

The mention of an angel also alerts us to how the book is formulated and it soon becomes obvious that angels are consistently featured as the narrators, or at least conveyers, of the revelation. In fact, as you will see later, they are the only characters in the book not depicted by symbols and stylised pictures – instead, they are the ones who deliver and help interpret the mysterious pictorial language of revelation.

Verse two defines the content of the book as ‘the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ’. This seems to indicate two separate but joined sources, but it is better to understand the phrases as parallel to one another: In other words the Word of God is the testimony of Jesus Christ. This is confirmed near the end of the book where it states that ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Rev 19:10 NIV). The Amplified Bible makes matters even clearer when it translates this verse as; ‘for the substance of the truth revealed by Jesus is the spirit of all prophecy’.

Now, prophecy is God communicating with us and so we can be encouraged that God is saying something important to us in and through the book of Revelation. It is not a sealed up mystery awaiting some future interpreter, it is for us, just as it was for all believers who came before us. So, if it is prophecy, and it is all about Jesus, then it is both important and relevant, and you and I need to comprehend it. This excites me and I am looking forward to experiencing more of the Lord Jesus as we discover Him together through this series of posts.

Remember Rev 1:3; ‘Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy…’. I recommend that you read through the book of Revelation before and while we embark on this journey together.

To encourage you further I include here a testimonial from someone who attended the recent series that I presented at the Lonehill Village Church.

“It was an immense privilege attending Dr Christopher Peppler’s six-week course on the book of Revelations. Dr Peppler’s wisdom, insight and in depth study of provided me with an eye-opening experience. I used to be a little fearful of the end of days; now, I realise Revelations and the Bible are indeed the ‘Greatest Love Story’ ever penned. I am filled with hope, faith and excitement at what the future holds.

Dr Peppler has the most wonderful manner – his words are reassuring; his wisdom is astounding and his ability to share knowledge is unsurpassed. Thanks to Dr Peppler’s gift of teaching, my love for Jesus has grown. Thanks to this incredible short course, my relationship with God Almighty has been enriched.
All I can say is that if people have the opportunity of joining a course given by Dr Peppler, they are to quite literally jump at it!” SAM

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New Revelation Series about to start

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The book of Revelation has fascinated so many yet been misunderstood by most. Thousands of earnest scholars have written weighty tomes about it and far too many unlearned men and women have also tried to explain it. Current titles include “Revelation explained’, ‘Revelation make clear’, and ‘The book of Revelation Unveiled’. They generally promise much but deliver little more than the theories, systems and presumptions that have been around for hundreds of years.

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Yet, despite all this, I too have chosen to make a contribution to the body of knowledge that has built up around this last book of the Bible. Will some people class me among those who promise but don’t deliver? Well, that could only be the case if I promised something, which I don’t, other than to assure you that I treat the subject with serious respect yet strive to make it as intelligible as I can.

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Some time ago I wrote a book titled ‘Revelation in the Stars – The Sidereal and Written Word’. You can find it by following the hyperlink to the site where you can either order a printed copy or even download a free .pdf document. I recently completed a six session overview of Revelation keyed to both the Bible and my book. The series Revelation Revisited is based on these presentations and I have included below a couple of testimonials from folk who attended my sessions.

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If you have been reticent to tackle Revelation, or if you are disillusioned by what you have previously read, then I urge you to give this series a try. Revelation 1:3 reads, ‘Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy…’ so be blessed and read it.

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If you have a friend or family member that you believe would like to follow this series then please send them the following link and suggest that they register to get regular updates from my site.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/TruthIsTheWord

 

“The series on Revelation is probably one of the most enlightening and most beneficial studies I have done on any book of the bible. I too had the general Christian perception of staying away from the book because it’s just too hard to fathom and interpret. The overview on the book of Revelation was far more than just gaining head knowledge or a better understanding of the book. What I realized was that there was so much I had been missing out in not knowing and comprehending how absolutely awesome our God is. We were taught the principles in how we need to read the book and we were reminded of these which truly helped with its interpretation. I was amazed to see the golden thread of Jesus being thread not only through the book but from the beginning of creation until the second coming. What an encouragement it was”.  JUSTIN

“From finding the book of Revelation somewhat daunting and confusing I walked away from the studies enlightened and encouraged. Filled with awe for the awesome God we serve, filled with hope which we find in Christ Jesus and a heart joining with the closing verses saying “Come, Lord Jesus, Amen”  NATALIE

 

 

 

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Revelation Revisited

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Although I grew up in a Christian home, I only met Jesus in a personal and radical way when I was thirty. Many things changed progressively from that day, but one thing that was immediately different was the love for the scriptures which suddenly gripped my heart. I couldn’t read the Bible fast enough, and it didn’t take me long to get around to studying its last book, Revelation. I remember with great clarity the day when I sat down at my desk at home with paper, pen, the Bible, and a book on Revelation by one of the several popular and sensationalistic authors. As I was about to read the opening verses, and then see what my chosen author had to say about them, a strange thought entered my consciousness. “Have you asked the Lord if he wants you to study this book at this time?” What a strange question to ask! Surely God would be delighted for me to be studying any part of his Word, at any time? But the thought persisted, and so I closed my eyes and dutifully asked the question. There was nobody in the room with me, at least nobody I could see, but I am sure I heard a voice. A strong voice of absolute authority reverberated in my mind and seemed to fill the space of the room in which I sat. One word… “No!” It was an awesome experience, in the proper sense of the word, and it galvanized me into action. I snapped the book shut, and, in one swift action, swept it, together with my notepad and pen, into my desk drawer. Then I sat there trembling and trying to make sense of the experience.

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I studied most of the other books of the Bible with great joy and a sense of divine approval, and I also completed a two-year programme of training as a preacher. Then the time came again when I felt I was ready to study the book of Revelation. Surely now I would be allowed to tackle it? It seems strange, even to me, but I experienced an almost exact replay of the event of years before, and again I received a one-word answer … “No!”

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Many years and much study later, I was finally given release to interpret this wonderful book. Looking back now, I can see why God had previously prevented me.

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Some time ago I did in fact write a book titled ‘Revelation in the Stars – The Sidereal and Written Word’. You can find it by following the hyperlink to the site where you can either order a printed copy, buy an e-version, or even download a free .pdf document.

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In a couple of weeks’ time I am starting an extended series of blog posts called Revelation Revisited. If you have been reticent to tackle Revelation, or if you are disillusioned by what you have previously read, then I urge you to give this series a try. Revelation 1:3 reads, ‘Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy…’ so be blessed and read it.

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If you have friends or family members you believe would also like to follow this series then please send them the following link and suggest that they subscribe… http://feeds.feedburner.com/TruthIsTheWord

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.