I have been engaged in a conversation about “who is Babylon” in the book of Revelation here: http://bit.ly/babylon2012
Here is one of my responses:
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Hello again Chris!
Thanks for your reply.
I am not sure how to respond to what you have said about the dating of the book not mattering. Understanding the context is one of the key and most basic elements of interpreting any scripture. I noticed that you said “It seems to me that what John wrote about were future, end-times events.” Are you sure you want to base your interpretation based on “it seems” which is basically an impression?
In case there is confusion about what I meant by “dating” I am referring to WHEN the book was written. I am pretty sure that if you go to any Bible College or read any book on scripture interpretation there will be an almost universal support in all of Christendom for considering the context (include To Whom a book is written and WHEN) when finding an interpretation!
I am guessing that somehow there is a misunderstanding of what I mean by “dating” here. I doubt that you actually mean that when the book was written doesn’t effect it’s interpretation!
On another topic: I’m not sure that what-people-want-to-talk-about (i.e. “people are interested in the end of the world”) has any bearing on what is or is not true. One of the great things about the Bible is that it starts out with a clear defining of “what is the basic nature of reality” which could also be stated as “what is truth.” Genesis begins by describing a world that is real and comes from a source external to our perception (“In the beginning, GOD created!”). In other words, what is true is REALLY true whether or not you or I or anybody else believes it or wants to know about it or not!
I bring this up because “this is what people want to know about” may have some relevance to evangelism strategy, but it has no relevance to “what is truth” and can be a very slippery slope into making truth fuzzy for the purpose of “reaching” people. The problem is, if you reach people with “what they are looking for” instead of with what actually IS you end up with people converted to a false view of God!
Having said that, I have actually observed that many of the people that I talk to and interact with are not very interested in the end-of-the-world Christianity that has been so popular in the United States. Human beings seem to intuitively know that there is a right way to live and a right way to order life and society. They don’t know what it is and come up with some pretty scary counterfeits, but even atheists try to claim an “ethic” in life!
The end-of-the-world obsessed brand of Christianity has happened to result in a Christianity that doesn’t offer enough principle to guide us in how to live our lives and order our societies. As the saying goes “you don’t polish the brass on a sinking ship!”
Of course, if an apocalyptic focused Christianity is what God intended than it doesn’t really matter. We must believe, live, and preach the truth whether or not it is what people want or not!
Fortunately, the end-of-the-world obsessed version of Christianity is not really what the Bible presents. The Bible presents a comprehensive view of how to live all of life (including everything from eternal salvation to marriage to economics and to civil government)!
God created people to live all-of-life. This fact, ironically, seems to make it so that a comprehensive all-of-life “Gospel of the Kingdom of God” seems to have a much more powerful converting effect than a “get ready for the end of the world” focus. It produces better results in the long term development of Christian Society as well.