Gordon Fee on The Book of Revelation

Dr. Gordon Fee directs us in a completely different and unpopular direction. He largely believes that all of Revelation except for chapters 21 and 22 is about ancient believers  during Roman rule.

…it’s about the first century church that is headed for a terrible two century holocaust.

You can view Dr. Fee’s talk here.

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10 Replies to “Gordon Fee on The Book of Revelation”

  1. Dispensationalism is a box. I know boxes keep society all nice and organized for many, but I don’t think (or worship) in boxes.

    Dr. Fee’s statements clearly contradict God’s word, as he portrays John as the full author (not observer and passive scribe) of God’s (not John’s) divine revelation.

    He repeatedly asserts that early 1st century readers of Revelation fully understood the symbols when (in fact) Revelation clearly describes John as being so confused about what they meant, that they had to be explained to him by an angelic being in chap. 17. I guess everyone understood but John, in those days.

    What will Dr. Fee write next? That Jesus Christ was just one of the many “Messiahs” that dotted the 1st century landscape, and that scripture concerning his death and resurrection is just “prophetic language” or “apocalyptic prose”?

    1. Is God the author of the Bible or are the humans the authors? This is an age old question. The answer is verbal plenary. That is, God used the experiences and point of view of the human writer to write something that is 100% God and 100% man at the same time. This sounds alot like Jesus’ divinity/humanity. In verbal plenary inspiritation, God’s world view is very important but so is the human world view. In fact, as far as interpretation is concerened, the two world views are equally important. Human historical world view prevents (or should prevent) the modern reader from mangling God’s world view.

  2. Does he take into account two fold prophecy? or even cyclical events? The whole context of the Messiah’s ministry focuses around two fold prophecy, it’s the only way the Jewish people knew that what they were seeing and hearing was actually from God. Christianity has never understood this because antisemitism rules the root.

    Men rose from the grave when he ascended, men will rise from the grave when he returns. It confirmed what the Jewish people had been looking for. Why is this so hard to understand in Christianity?

  3. Well,

    This is such an involved topic. It’s nearly impossible to make any kind of coherent statement concerning this topic using only a few paragraphs. This is not simply a case of- The Bible Says So.
    The root of the disagreements over Dr. Fee’s approach is one that is not specifically tied to Revelation. The root issue here is one of hermeneutics. Context should be the anchor for all interpretation. Context is made up of author, audience, purpose, genre, etc. The problem for most Christians is that we are fairly good about using context to interpret most of the Bible (though it is often an afterthought), but when it comes to Revelation the mere mention of the word ‘context’ is judged as heresy.
    So, for the sake of discussion, I have one basic thought. The futurist approach to Revelation runs into one major interprational nightmare. When a reader pushes all of Revelation into the future, one large piece of context is lost. Author and audience are two of the biggest players when it comes to context. When Revelation is pushed into the future, no one knows who the audience is. If the audience isn’t first century Christians, then who is the audience? If the audience is some future generation, then what future generation is it? It is naive and arrogant of us to automatically assume that the future events in Revelation are intended to refer to our reletively immediate future. If a totally future meaning is intended, why not 3000 years into our future? Because of this lack of audience in the futurist approach, the modern reader can insert any kind of meaning and assert that it is intended as part of the future rendering; the modern reader is not bound by the rule of audience or context.
    By rule, it is better to reserve a future prophetic meaning for passages that are obviously intended to be so… of course the obviousness of the prophetic nature of a passage could vary from person to person. That is why it is good to put together a list of characteristics which would qualify a particular verse for a prophetic meaning. Here is a short list of possible characteristics: multiple colorful symbols, references to the future, use of symbolic numbers, overall apocalyptic/prophetic literary genre.
    The anchor for a futurist approach, indeed for any approach, should be context. Regardless of approach, the anchor should be context. Here is an example of how this would work in cooperation with the futurist view.
    The book of Revelation describes a scenario in which Christians are not allowed to buy or sell unless they have a mark. Due to the apocalyptic genre of Revelation, this mark may by physical or symbolic. No one intereprets the dragon as a real dragon; it is symbolic of Satan. So, the mark may or may not be an actual mark. However, debating the mark is to miss the point entirely. This is sadly what happens with much of Revelation; we debate the details and miss the point. The point in the passage concerning the mark is that Christians are being forced to choose between Jesus and physical servival. This choice was something that 1st century Christians were facing on a daily basis. In the 1st century, shoppers were expected to contribute a liabation or offering to the local deity before being allowed to participate in trade.
    Now that context has been established, a future meaning can be deduced. In the future, it is safe to assume that governments may turn a hostile eye upon Christians. We must decide if we want Jesus or if we want physical survival.
    Is it possible that a government may employ a computer chip to ocntrol its citizens? It’s possible. But this passage of Scripture is not necessarily endorsing that idea.
    Context and the futurist view should not be incompatible.

  4. Dear Jeremy

    I do agree with what you said, I remember when I was born again the Spirit of truth entered my heart and because of my desire to search for the truth in scripture many leaders had alienated themselves from me. After 28 years in Christ nothing has changed. Revelation is a book that many teachers and pastors I know of say that they have most of it sewn up, I thought I understood parts of it but because the Word must be treated with the utmost respect and not having the time to study it properly I put it aside for another day. I have 4 or 5 of Dr Gordon Fee comentaries, Revelation is one of them. After viewing the youtube clip and hearing of his new book on Revelation excitment gripped me like those little spikey things that stick to your socks when you walk through tall grass.
    Of course I bought it and with great enthusiasim begun to read with my eyes glued to the pages. All was going great untill John was asked to come up to heaven. I was looking for an interpretation to all that was going on, I didn’t find it and slowly became unsatisfied with the comentary and eventually put it down. But in my spirit something was going on, I could’nt stop thinking about what brother Gordon was saying. Rather what was his purpose in writing this book. Like anything you read you can’t come close to understanding it’s pupose unless you put yourself in the writers shoes. Well understanding his calibre as a theologian I began to excersise the right course. I trusted in his skill and experience as a theologian and begun to ask God our father for help. He did. Understanding the books purpose was the key to understand the rest. It led me to once again read the Foxe’s Book of martyrs. It was like I was reading the fulfilment of the prophecy of Revelation. The Christians being compelled to take the mark of the beast or die, the beheadings and tortures, the victory over the beast and then the peace. It was all there! What I’m trying to do now is slowly understand what the rest of the imagery represents and I belive God has given me the key. St George and the dragon is the imagery of George, a commander in the army of the emperor Diocletian, during the persecution St George threw up his command, went boldlly to the senate house and avowed his being a Christian, taking occasion at the same time to remonstrate against paganisim, and point out the absurdidy of worshipping idols, this freedom provoked the senate and was ordered to be tortured. He was dragged through the streets and beheaded. (3rd Century) The imagery? St George seated on his charching horse defeating the dragon with his spear. Now there is third century imagery, as common as they come. I’m going to try and prayerfully attempt to understand the early churches understand of this imagery.

    Thank you Mr Fee for what I belive is your great contribution to the five fold ministry.

    God Bless
    Rob

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