Follow The Lamb, Part 1: Why Revelation

http://renewedheartministries.com/presentation/Follow-the-Lamb I’m paraphrasing (and analyzing in part) this series of lectures on Revelation by Herb Montgomery because it relates to the kingdom of God. I am going do this for parts 1-11 and 17 as I have already covered the others. Herb argues that there is a change in teaching in the new testament to pacifism–from the Tanahk (or Old Testament)–and argues that Revelation supports this. This also interests me because our paper “Unless He Gives up All His Possessions” argues for a change in teaching in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) with regards to possessions but only due to a different situation arising after Christ. The TNIV translation is used unless otherwise noted. Below are links to the paraphrased material:
Lecture:  https://renewedheartministries.com/sermons/followthelamb/01whyrevelation.mp3
handout: https://renewedheartministries.com/sermons/followthelamb/outlines/01whyrevelation.pdf

There has been significant damage done using this book. Herb’s particular knee-jerk response hearing something about Revelation is for his eyes to roll. The book of Revelation Herb argues is not about winning people to following theLamb but to current followers of the Lamb to enable them to be more faithful.

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw . . . John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: (Rev 1:1-4)

Hence, Herb notes that this was written to God’s “servants.”

The chronology of transmission is God gave the revelation to his angle who gave it to John. Did Christ give this to John to predict the future or did Christ give this in order to encourage people who already believe? Herb argues the latter. Christianity in this time period meant to give up your life and face persecution. Nero was the first persecutor of Christianity with others to follow.

Today Christianity is presented as a way to improve your life. However, this was not how it was in the first century. If making a decision to follow Jesus meant giving up your life, would that make things different for you? Andrew gave a powerful testimony of what it means to follow Jesus, it was such a powerful argument that when he went to the chopping block where he would be executed a Roman soldier saw his faith and the Roman soldier said to the judge something like: “if you are going to execute him for following Jesus execute me too because I have become a follower of Jesus.”

There are several options when attacked with persecution 1 to fight 2 to flee or 3 to follow the lamb. Revelation was written to encourage the third option.

The book of revelation was not given to make wild predictions about the future. The book of Revelation was given to help those who heard its words to become more faithful followers of Jesus.

What did it mean to follow Jesus? To follow his example and teachings.

Matthew 4.23—Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their syna-gogues, proclaiming the good news [euangelion] of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

What does “the good news” mean? In society at that time it had a different meaning than for us today. A messenger would carry “the good news” or the eungaleon which meant that a new kingdom was victorious. It is a military term but be careful because the warfare of the lamb is not of this world but is spiritual.

John 18:36
New Revised Standard Version
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

STRONGS NT 3340: μετανοέω “repent” is also a military term in that day–when an officer yelled “repent” they would change direction. “repent” did not mean to “feel sorry” for the direction they were walking to begin with but to change directions.

Luke 4.43—But he said, “I must pro-
claim the good news [euangelion] of the
kingdom of God to the other towns also,
because that is why I was sent.”

This means “a new kingdom has come to town” you were walking in one direction now walk in another. This is a new way of doing life. And what you are going to find is this new way of doing life is based on a radically different way of seeing God. Jesus hung out with sinners–which meant something different in that day. Today everyone is a sinner but that makes it lose its strength. However, the term “sinner” had been coined by the religious people of that day for people who were living in opposition to the Torah–they were excommunicated or disfellowshipped from the covenant community. Jesus was accused of being friends with the tax collectors and other sinners who were in cohorts with Rome.

Jesus was living radically differently by hanging out with these people. This is what Jesus gives to us–a radical way of seeing God and ourselves through mercy. This idea threatened the religious leaders so much that they ended up crucifying him.

We have a more housebroken Jesus in a our churches today that is more comfortable to us–but this is not what we find in the first century.

Matthew 10.7-8—As you go, proclaim this
message: ‘The KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the
dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,
drive out demons. Freely you have re-
ceived, freely give.

The kingdom of heaven is not a kingdom in heaven but rather a kingdom of heaven to earth through Jesus and his followers. We do not see Jesus going around getting people to say a special prayer so that they can go to heaven when they die. He is not trying to promote a plan of getting people to heaven, rather he was bringing heaven to earth. There was not a lot of time spent on talking about people’s eternal destiny but rather he spent time with people making a difference in their lives.

Luke 10.9—Heal the sick who are there
and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has
come near to you.’

Luke 9.6—So they set out and went from
village to village, proclaiming the good
news [euangelion] and healing people
everywhere.

I am convinced that Jesus has given us a way to heal the world around us. If Jesus went out telling people to heal the sick there is an emphasis difference between that and many churches today. If we got back to the ethical teachings of Jesus we might have an empowerment to proclaim those ethics. Many people do not feel it is important to get involved in matters of social justice. However, this is different than Jesus who said to go out and bring healing. Jesus used the metaphors of watching seeds sprout and doe rise. The kingdom conquering will not be exciting–it comes gradually.

Matthew 13.31-32—He told them another
parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like
a mustard seed, which a man took and
planted in his field. Though it is the small-
est of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the
largest of garden plants and becomes a
tree, so that the birds come and perch in
its branches.”

It is something that would remain underground until it surfaces and gradually takes over. How Jesus said to heal our world was through coming under people not through going over people or trying to overpower people but by coming under and doing things subversively–not through force or compulsion but through humble servant love. Kind of like a yeast that causes a lump of doe to gradually rise.

Acts 8.12—But when they believed Philip
as he proclaimed the good news of THE
KINGDOM OF GOD and the name of
Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men
and women.

Acts 19.8—Paul entered the synagogue and
spoke boldly there for three months, argu-
ing persuasively about THE KINGDOM
OF GOD.

Acts 20.25— Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching THE KINGDOM will ever see me again.

Practically overnight during the time of constantine, Christianity went from a persecuted minority to a persecuting majority. We eventually found those bearing the name of Jesus executing heretics, Muslims, Jews, and witches.

Augustine has a lot of good in it but Herb is not a fan. What is in Augustine that is wrong is wrong to such a degree that it radically changed the course of Christianity. Who became marginalized during this? Jesus. The heroes of the church during the fourth century were warriors and there was such a difference that some secular historians like Rodney Stark say that the pre-Constantine and post-Constantine Christianity is a totally different religion.

Emphasis in Christianity changed from the ethical teachings of Jesus to belief in the virgin birth or Resurrection and other doctrines. In the apostles creed it goes from “born of a virgin” to “crucified by Pontius Pilate” with a comma. Is there anything that they skipped over?–The entire life of Jesus and his teachings. Out of the four versions of the Jesus story that we have only two of them mention the virgin birth. What does that say to you? Two of the authors of the Jesus story we have say that you could be a follower of Jesus and not even know about the virgin birth.

People never attack the teachings of Jesus when they attack Christianity–they attack doctrines like the Resurrection because you can’t just have these unique teachings come out of first century without there being a teacher. Herb does not care about the details but about the transformative power of these teachings, the wisdom of them, and that these are the way that the world will be healed. Rather than coming about believing in Jesus through doctrines Herb believes in Jesus through an affinity for his teachings–following Jesus means following his teachings not believing the doctrines. This is context that we will be looking at the book of Revelation in.

Luke 6.20-26—Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are
poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult
you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in
that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that
is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed
now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will
mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that
is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Blessed are those who weep now–not in general–because you will laugh. This is about a radical rearrangement. It is taking society and turning it on its head. Those who would receive the blessing of what Jesus was coming to accomplish are what we would call the underdogs. The people who are benefiting from society at this time–Jesus is saying “woe” to them–not a cry a condemnation–but a cry of lament.

Luke 6.27-36—But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do
good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those
who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also.
If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone
who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand
it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those
who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love
them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is
that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom
you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to
sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good
to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then
your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your
Father is merciful.

The reason Herb believes that most people grossly misunderstand the book of Revelation is because they come from the post Constantine school of Christianity. However, if we actually return to the ethical teachings of Jesus as a backdrop to the book of Revelation and what it says you get a radical new understanding of the book and a flavor of what it meant to the very first audience who heard the book.

We have to start with this question: How did the very first audience take the message of John and how did it inspire them to be more faithful followers of Christ and his kingdom? After that other theories will be able to be made of double meanings and allusion to future events–but you have to first understand Revelation in its original context to know how to build off of it.

The lamb is mentioned 28 times in the book of revelation which is a significant number that we will learn about soon. However, for now know that the Lamb is the centerpiece of this book.


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