"First of all allow me to say that I am really grateful for your website! But now I have a question for you: Your approach to Genesis is obviously literalistic. You accept the Creation record as it is written there and you also accept all the patriarchs as literal figures of history, just as I do. But in Revelation you appear to reject the literalistic approach; but surely Genesis and Revelation have a lot in common (the tree of life etc). Can you clarify your position for me?"
The major problem which
those who insist that Revelation should only be considered
literalistically have is that much of this book just
cannot be interpreted this way unless one suspends all
logic! The sect which I belonged to many years ago were typical
of this approach. They would take Revelation 11, for instance,
and insist that some parts were literal and other parts were not:
that is confusion. They would, for example, insist that
Revelation 11:1-2 was symbolic but that 11:3 (which mentions the
'two witnesses' and '1,260 days') was literal - except that the
1,260 days were 1,260 years! Then they insisted that 11:4 was,
again, symbolic! This patchy and inconsistent approach was
applied throughout both Daniel and Revelation. Then they had the
problem that a literalistic approach to the book of Revelation
requires about 7 Second Comings of Christ!!
Okay. We have to understand that different forms of writing occur in the Holy Bible. There is proverb, poetry, parable, letters, historical narratives, prophecy and apocalyptic writing too. We must seek to understand what these different forms of writing set out to accomplish if we are going to be conscientious and honest biblical interpreters before God!
Now first of all to take the Book of Genesis. Most everything in this book is written as a historical narrative. Right the way through from such comments as 'the evening and the morning were the first day' to a quite detailed account of certain incidents in the lives of such people as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the whole thing is not written as an allegory or as something symbolic but as real life occurrences of real people. Now, of course, I say 'occurrences' because not every detail could conceivably be recorded in a book of only fifty chapters which covers a period of over a thousand years. But the 'highspots' are there - the things we really need to know and would not otherwise be able to discover! By the way, the very reason that genealogies (family lines) are recorded is because the intention is to show us that these were literal people living in literal time and space! Genealogies reappear in the Gospels, again, because the intention is to leave us in no doubt that Jesus was a real, literal figure who lived, breathed and walked upon this earth!
Today people who like to think of themselves as "enlightened" or "sophisticated" or "scientifically-minded" laugh at Genesis - they prefer the claims of evolution about the origin if Mankind. People who prefer the claims of Genesis over evolution and who see Genesis as historical narrative are considered naive, ignorant and, frankly, stupid. Oh well, according to that measure, I am stupid! But the truth is that it is people who have swallowed evolutionary teaching and its big myth that there is no God and that everything around us is an accident which slowly evolved over millions or billions of years who are naive - no, I won't call them stupid, because they have been duped by some pretty persuasive influences which have arrogantly claimed to have "higher scientific knowledge." One day this world will discover that they have been duped and had the 'wool pulled over their eyes' on a massive scale. They will discover that it is "higher scientific knowledge" which is the real myth and that true science (unlike bragging 'scientism') understands very little (the truly great scientists have always admitted this), but while it struggles to learn more, it meanwhile works through a framework of theories. Evolution is a theory - there have been other scientific theories in the past, most of them no longer accepted.
Evolution is a bit like a large rambling house. On the outside it looks sophisticated and respectable - "posh" as we Brits say. People respect it. But when you get really close and decide to peep in through the windows you get a shock - the inside is falling apart with the upper floor already collapsed. It is a mess, really ramshackle! The truth is that what passes for a grand and sophisticated house looking from the outside, is close to being condemned and within a very few years will have to be pulled down!! When you get real close to evolution you see that the theory is close to collapse - many scientists now reject it - but they usually do this privately because to publically reject it could cost them their jobs and careers. Much of what Darwin included within evolution is now a dead duck - it truly no longer stands - I am not exaggerating here. 'Natural Selection' is not and never has been evolution. Natural Selection is allowed for within the Genesis record. Today's Neo-Darwinism clings to mutations as its 'last stand' but mutations cannot save evolution. Other scientific theories have died but evolution is being kept artificially "alive" - it is truly on 'life support'! - because if this theory dies millions will have to admit they were wrong and millions of text books would have to be re-written but - even worse - when the theory of evolution "house" finally collapses (which will happen within a just a few more years in my opinion), people will have to acknowledge a Creator God! Do you now see why so many are working so frantically to keep evolution on 'life support'? Other scientific theories have been jettisoned in the past, but the problem with this one is that it set out to replace belief in God and in divinity, so we begin to see why it will be kept alive on 'life support' a while longer yet.
Despite this crisis within evolution's 'house', the public continue to blithely believe and accept evolution (especially in Europe, not in north America), thinking that it is now more or less proven - to be frank, they have been duped. They have no conception of the mess which evolution is now in. Young college students continue to be taught evolutionary dogma, their lecturers themselves often not even aware of the arguments among evolutionists, or of the work of Michael Behe on 'Irreducible Complexity,' or of the presence of the increasing number of books by scientists which challenge it. That part of the outwardly respectable 'house of evolution' which still has people at work inside has continual stormy arguments - intellectual riffs and tiffs. There is little harmony there. But most of the Darwinian house is long since abandoned! Yet despite this, books continue to come off the printing press each year which teach evolutionary dogma, mainly the work of young science graduates who want to make a name for themselves, plus the books of older atheists who use evolution because its the best they've got.
In the 19th century liberals scoffed at many of the people and places mentioned in the biblical accounts, but no longer. For about 70 years the books of the Old Testament have been slowly but steadily gaining credibility as archaeology has repeatedly corroborated places and events recorded in the Old Testament books. So, you bet I accept Genesis! You bet I accept the veracity of the entire Holy Bible, including Genesis.
Now, what about the Book of Revelation over in the New Testament?
Now my correspondent was absolutely correct to point out that many things from Genesis reappear in the Book of Revelation. However, Revelation is a vastly different sort of book to the Old Testament narrative accounts. It is written in the Apocalyptic form. The book of Daniel appears to be the starting point for apocalyptic writing; it is the first such book we know of, but it launched a multitude of books written in apocalyptic form. Of course, these were not all divinely-inspired and most did not claim to be - it was just a style which became the vogue. The book of Revelation is just about the last such book in this style. Apocalyptic writing was not historical narrative. It set out to paint great truths in symbolic, poetic and, oftentimes, quite scary form. So this form of writing was replete with symbolism. To take just one example, a beast with seven heads and ten horns is a very quick example of numerous things in Revelation which have great teaching value but which are obviously not intended purely literally. There are too many additional examples of this to even begin including them here, but one might just consider the continual play on numbers, especially on the numbers '7' and '12' - 7 is the perfect number, and '12' is the number of perfect organisation. These numbers are used in various forms in this book of poetic symbolism. '1,000' too occurs as symbolic of a very long period of time by human standards during which God can accomplish everything which is essential (actually '1,000' is only ever used symbolically in the Bible - the same thing happens in the Psalms). 144,000 (a multiple of 12), is used as being symbolic of an imagination-defying number from a human perspective but perfect and ideal to God; it reveals that those finally saved will be an imagination-defying number. We should note that no number is placed on the lost! (this should not surprise us since, as I have pointed out elsewhere, only the Predestination of the Saints is biblical, 'double predestination' is unbiblical). The numbers are, of course, symbolic and not literal. Of course, it is all true and all divinely-inspired but care must be taken to correctly understand this great book. The book contains prophecies of certain future events (mainly the 'parousia' - Christ's Second Coming), even while it is not actually a book of prophecy - a fact which causes many would-be interpreters to err.
So what is this great book's purpose?
Revelation reveals to God's true people that they are saved and that their salvation is absolutely secure even while they will undoubtedly suffer persecution and possibly other hardships too in this present evil world. The book contains seven parallel sections each culminating in the Second Coming of Christ; these sections are right at the heart and centre of this book. This is showing the Church the utter certainty of Christ's triumph and of the Judgment which will follow. It is saying to God's true people: Yes, you will suffer in this present evil world but focus on the restoration of all things which will be accomplished in Jesus Christ - your future is secure! Yet the book would be closed to those rejecting God. The truth is that Revelation was written as an apocalyptic book - I mean it was written in an actual style which was intended to deliver great truths to one group of people (Christians in this case), while being left perplexing to most other people.
So the Book of Revelation was not written to be simple historical narrative as Genesis is! And it is addressed to Christian believers alone (Revelation 1:1), while being closed to those who reject Christ even though the latter group may come up with all kinds of fanciful theories about it.
So I hope that this explains the great differences between Genesis, and the fact that that book makes itself plain as a narrative of actual events, and Revelation, and the fact that this book also makes itself plain - not as a narrative of events in the Genesis manner - but as a document delivered to those in Christ alone, and only capable of being fully understood by those in Christ. In a time of great persecution, its structure purposely confuses those who would persecute Christians even while clearly showing God's true people that their future is absolutely secure within His plans and that they should meanwhile steadfastly endure and look forward to the Second Coming - yet also reassuring them that, in the meantime, they have a continual home in Heaven! This is what Revelation is all about.
Robin A. Brace, 2006.
The Symbolical Numbers of the Book of Revelation
(Including a full explanation of the 144,000).
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