IVP - Online Pulpit - November 2009 Archives

November 1, 2009

Preach Revelation... I Dare You!

Do you remember that last line from the opening of Star Trek? “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” For preachers, this mantra would be appropriate for preaching through the book of Revelation. The sentence could be modified this way: “To boldly go where few preachers have gone before.”

The book of Revelation is one of the least preached books in the entire canon of Scripture. When I began the current series on Revelation, I conducted a nonscientific poll and asked for a show of hands to the question, How many of you have ever heard a series of sermons through the entire book of Revelation? The dearth of hands was proof enough. Senior adults made statements like: “I’ve been in church my whole life and I’ve never heard sermons from the entire book of Revelation.” To further illustrate the church’s ignorance concerning the last book of the canon, numbers of Christians refer to it as “Revelations”—emphasizing the plural.

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too. Wait a minute, I’ve often preached about the seven churches in John’s vision. I actually have several sermons on Revelation 3:20. I also have at least one funeral sermon from Revelation 21. Don’t those count? Well they count, like preaching the Sermon on the Mount and neglecting the rest of the book of Matthew.

What about a sermon dealing with the 144,000 in chapter seven? Or a sermon identifying the two witnesses of Revelation 11? How about a sermon covering the beast from the land and the beast from the sea in Revelation 13?

Why do preachers shy away from the book of Revelation? I think there are several reasons. It’s tough preaching apocalyptic material wherever it’s found—Daniel, Matthew 24 and 25, Revelation—because it is so hard to interpret. Another reason is that the book of Revelation doesn’t present material that appears immediately helpful for the year 2007. In the milieu where sermons are expected to meet specific needs, preachers typically turn to other parts of the canon.

Perhaps the greatest deterrent to preaching the book of Revelation is that the preacher is going to have to stake some solid ground on his or her approach to biblical prophecy. Ah, there’s the sticky wicket. We can nearly preach the entire New Testament and never have to divulge whether we’re pre-, post- or a-millennial. We can preach the entire Pauline corpus and never have to stake out a position on the rapture. (We’ve found ways of skirting 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15.) But get into the book of Revelation, and the emperor is naked again. You can’t preach the book of Revelation and not come clean on how you understand biblical prophecy. That’s the reason so few of us ever tackle the entire book!

About five years ago I decided to seriously study biblical prophecy in order to preach Revelation. After studying a plethora of writers, my conclusion is that the dispensational, premillennial approach to biblical prophecy is the best hermeneutic to explain the biblical texts found in the prophetic and apocalyptic material. Of course, you’ll have to draw your own conclusion.

Beginning with the New Year, we began our journey on Sunday mornings through Revelation. The series lasted into September. Every verse of the entire book was covered.

I have found that people are hungry for an understanding of this enigmatic book. I’m glad I jumped into the water. Now they’re saying they want me to preach the Song of Solomon. Yeah, right!

Posted by Craig Loscalzo at 10:31 AM