Revelation and the Congregation Book Study
May 31, 2007
It does seem like a raw deal.
Here is John, the apostle John, he's summoned to heaven to see how things will turn out.
...look! an opened door in heaven, and the first voice that I heard was as of a trumpet, speaking with me, saying: “Come on up here, and I shall show you the things that must take place. Rev 4:1
But no sooner does he get there and the door's slammed shut! Or so it seems. The central figure (God) holds a scroll, and the scroll, we all can see, is important. It is key, but it is also sealed securely and no one's around who can unseal it. John is bummed. And he weeps, no less. He's an emotional guy.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” But neither in heaven nor upon earth nor underneath the earth was there a single one able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I gave way to a great deal of weeping because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Rev 5:2-4
In a sense, Jehovah's Witnesses today are like John. Eager to look into the future....how will God's purpose turn out? What will the next move be? Occasionally, even ready to jump the gun, just like the first century disciples:
While they were listening to these things he [Jesus] spoke in addition an illustration, because he was near Jerusalem and they were imagining that the kingdom of God was going to display itself instantly. Luke 19:11
World conditions have deteriorated beyond what many long-time Witnesses ever thought possible. Routinely, people strap themselves to bombs or stroll into malls with guns and are delighted to die if only they can take a dozen or so with them! And people just adjust! "Oh, well....that's just the way life is," they say. It doesn't cause a spiritual searching, or, if it does, it's only for varieties in which time, effort, and resources remain strictly subservient to the more important things. And, God knows, it can't be anywhere there is any check on doing whatever we want! It is fine to have a faith, we hear, as long as we keep it in it's place. Of course, that means last place.
Does it not call to mind Jesus' words at Matt 24:38-39?
For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.
So Jehovah's Witnesses do look to the future, as mentioned, and there seems no better place to look than in the book of Revelation, since that is the invitation: "Come on up here, and I shall show you the things that must take place." No, John is not smoking something, as potheads charge, but the book is presented in symbols. Not indecipherable symbols, though, and comparing Revelation with pertinent verses elsewhere in the Bible, as well as considering Christian history, allows an ever more detailed understanding of its meaning.
The book Revelation - Its Grand Climax at Hand (1988, Watchtower) is such a verse -by -verse commentary of Revelation. It's presently being considered, for the fourth time, in the Congregation Book study, a weekly meeting of Jehovah's Witnesses.
It is the latest of a series of Watchtower produced books on the Revelation to John. "The Finished Mystery" appeared in 1917, "Light" in 1930, "Babylon the Great has Fallen!" God's Kingdom Rules! in 1963, and "Then is Finished the Mystery of God" in 1969. And now the latest version. Is it wrong in some respects? Probably. The book acknowledges as much on page 9:
It is not claimed that explanations in this publication are infallible. Like Joseph of old, we say "do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8) At the same time, however, we firmly believe that the explanations set forth herein harmonize with the Bible in its entirety, showing how remarkably divine prophesy has been fulfilled in the world events of our catastrophic times.
Might one quibble, even argue, with this or that interpretation of a given verse? Absolutely, and I know just some persons who would do it endlessly. Yet there is a cohesiveness to the explanations offered, and a chronological order that is impressive. With each new publication released, there is a sense of zeroing in closer and closer to the target. And it avoids those asinine literal interpretations we get from fundamentalists....looking for the guy who literally has "666" emblazoned on his forehead, for example, or the former hysteria at Ronald Wilson Reagan (3 names, each with 6 letters! 666!).
Though John starts bawling like a baby, the initial account at Rev 5 has a happy ending. They find someone to open the scroll!
But one of the elders says to me: “Stop weeping. Look! The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so as to open the scroll and its seven seals....And he went and at once took [it] out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne. vs 5,7
to this accompaniment:
You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth. vs 9,10
It's not hard to recognize the recipient as the resurrected Christ. Christ is, for sure, the one qualified to reveal details of God's purpose toward heaven, earth, and mankind. Jehovah's Witnesses recognize that Christ leads the congregation, doing so through an arrangement that the Bible described as the faithful and discreet slave:
Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings. Matt 24:45-47