Let's look at some specifics regarding what I posted yesterday. First off, this book was written for first-century Christians in Asia Minor first and foremost. They were the audience and therefore, when we interpet the book of Revelation, we need to know that whatever the text could not have possibly meant for them back then and there, it cannot possibly mean now. For example, as Ben Witherington points out, if no first-century Christian could have understood a coded reference to a particular late Western bad guy named Osama bin Laden in the reference to Mr. 666, then neither should we. What it meant then, to the original audience in the first century, it still means today. While it's meaning hasn't changed, the application of the meaning may change. I like what Witherington says here, so I'll quote him in full:
"To suggest that the original audiences of this document who lived in that culture, spoke Greek, and read apocalyptic prophecy, couldn't possibly have made sense of this material, but modern persons with no historical, linguistic, or rhetorical training or knowledge can, is the height of arrogance."
I'll end this post with one final point that I'll elaborate on further tomorrow. What the book of Revelation does not say anything about is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the faithful. In fact, the message the book of Revelation conveys to its audience is to prepare to suffer, even to the point of death. This is a far cry from the escape clause that serves as the backbone of any rapture theology and should further remind us that maybe we should leave behind any notion of being left behind.
As a side note, the book of Revelation was so puzzling to both Calvin and Wesley that they regarded it as too complex to write a whole lot about it and still writers in our time think they've uncovered some code or key that unlocks the ancient mystery that is the Book of Revelation.
This is taking longer to explain than I first thought but I'd rather keep the posts short. Until tomorrow...