Monday, May 22, 2017

A Case for Revelation's Canonicity

In a Christian Facebook group a Christian said he was starting to doubt the book of Revelation's canonicity. I responded off the top of my head with these 7 reasons to be hesitant to reject Revelation. I could have added more, but I thought 7 was a good number (especially in light of Revelation's own fixation on sevens). I might eventually add to this list based on other people's comments.

1. There's no good ***positive*** case against its canonicity.

2. While its canonicity was in question for a time in the early church, by God's providence it was included and recognized by most Christian denominations as belonging in the canon. Therefore, we should be hesitant to reject its canonicity.

3. Rejecting it would eliminate many arguments that can be made from it for important doctrines like the Trinity, the full deity of Christ and the personality and full deity of the Holy Spirit, hell as eternal conscious torment, aspects of angelogy et cetera.

4. Its Jewish character and reliance on the OT, along with its similarities with the Gospel of John suggests it really is from the Apostle John. Among the many similarities, here are just some. Both gJohn and Revelation refer to Jesus as the "Word of God", liken Him to a "lamb", as the light and glory of God, strongly affirm and emphasize Christ's full deity, both alone specifically identify Zech. 12:10 as fulfilled at the cross, refer to Christ as the Shepherd et cetera.

4. Among all NT books, Revelation quotes or alludes to the OT the most. See my blogpost where I quote E.W. Bullinger:

This suggests it's from a Christian community that respects the Jewish origins of Christianity, and therefore further suggesting its historical connection with the original followers of Christ. For example, "maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22) is considered to be a very early Christian phrase because it's Aramaic. Revelation's "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20) seems to allude to that.

5. Revelation has MANY, MANY connections with the book of Genesis. It alludes to themes and concepts in Genesis in a way that demonstrates their fulfillment in Redemptive history in the person and work of Christ. It does so in a way that, to me and many others, strongly suggests its inspiration. Genesis as the first book and Revelation as the last book makes a beautiful inclusio that smacks of inspiration and providential design.

6. The OT does have clearly prophetic, apocalyptic and echatological literature (e.g. Daniel). It would make sense that God would inspire at least one book in the NT to be in that genre. Revelation seems to be that book. No other NT book really fulfills that. It tells us about the ultimate and final victory of Christ and the Kingdom of God against all other kingdoms and kings.

7. For nearly 2 millennia it has provided all Christians (especially, those persecuted) great comfort, assurance of future rewards, future rest from labors (cf. Rev. 14:13) and ultimate vindication in the face of inevitable death and sorrow (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). It's power to do so and to encourage perseverance in faith suggests its genuine inspiration.

These are just 7 reasons off the top of my head why we should seriously hesitate rejecting the canonicity of Revelation.

Below are some Comments by others in the Facebook thread. My further comments are in blue:

-And somehow you become the litmus test to determine this... Remember the warning at the end of the book. If you add to or take away... pretty dangerous stuff.
Great point. IF Revelation really is from God, then we might face harsh judgment for rejecting it. Though, it's warning, if genuinely from God, applies to us secondarily. It's primarily for those in the 1st century who were in a greater position to know its source as being that of a true Apostle. Our uncertainty slightly mitigates our responsibility. But only slightly. Since, if it's truly inspired and belongs in the canon, then by God's design it has the secondary application to itself in relation to the rest of Scripture, along with the tertiary sense in which the warnings of Revelation applies to ANY part of the canon (i.e. including passages outside of the book itself).

-Have you examined and compared the Greek vocabulary with the books of John, 1st 2nd and 3rd John? How does the Bible look without the end story?

-Since we acknowledge that we believe in an absolutely sovereign God who rules by decree, and that the Canon of Scripture has been widely accepted by Christians for many centuries to include the Revelation of John, it is unreasonable to conclude that God would permit it to be included as part of divine, God breathed inspiration.
It would be negligent or even deceptive for God to allow a counterfeit book of this importance to be included in what we widely accept as the Conon.
While the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of professing Christian communities accept Revelation, apparently not all do. The Wikipedia article on Revelation claims (rightly or wrongly) "Revelation was the last book accepted into the Christian biblical canon, and to the present day some "Nestorian" churches[citation needed] such as the Church of the East reject it.[23][24] It was considered[by whom?] tainted because the heretical sect of the Montanists relied on it[25] and doubts were raised over its Jewishness and authorship."

- Plus, I may add; this is not John's revelation-it's the revelation of Jesus Christ...tread lightly 

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