During the first quarter of 2019 the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world will be studying the Book of Revelation. The study guide for the Sabbath School for the January-March period has been written by Dr. Ranko Stevanović, one of the church’s experts on this topic, After an author has submitted his/her manuscript it is evaluated by two committees before it receives its final edit and is sent to the publishing houses that prepare translations in many different languages. This process was also followed after Professor Stevanović had finished his work. But then something surprising happened. The publishing houses were informed that substantial changes were needed, since the manuscript contained serious errors, and then, at a very late stage, another version of the text for the study guide was sent with “major revisions to correct numerous errors throughout the manuscript”.
This process has caused serious concerns on the part of many of the people who have been involved in the preparations of the editions in the various languages. They wonder what is happening here. Apparently, one of our foremost scholars on the Book of Revelation is trusted enough to write a study guide and, apparently, the committees that have been carefully selected to evaluate the script were happy with what they received. But then the church’s administration stepped in and made sure that alleged “errors throughout the manuscript” would be “corrected”, so that it would fully conform to the traditional interpretations and no new ideas would be allowed to circulate. The main objections seem to have focused on ensuring that only a strict historicist interpretation would be followed and that the traditional adversity toward Roman Catholicism would be maintained in full vigor.
Concerned about this development, a friend of mine, Werner Lange, has initiated a very important project. Werner is the retired book-editor of the German Adventist Publishing House. He has edited several books by Jon Paulien about the Revelation. More recently he translated Paulien’s comments on Revelation 12–14, which appeared on Facebook and were also put into book format (German title: Der letzte Kampf).
Now he has started a project called Revelation DIY (Do it yourself). His aim is to make as many church members as possible aware of the fact that the interpretation of the Book of Revelation should not be frozen in time. The pioneers of the church have done a great work in making this Bible book relevant for the people in their time, and much of what they said and wrote remains valuable. But over time new insights have emerged, and it is important that these insights are allowed to augment and enrich the study that is provided by the official quarterly, from which many of these insights have, unfortunately, be excised. Werner Lange has agreed with the leaders of the Hansa Conference in Germany that the weekly contributions that he will provide during the coming quarter will be published in German and English on the conference website (see signet on https://hansa.adventisten.de). Adventist Todayhas enthusiastically welcomed the possibility to also publish abstracts of these weekly articles on their website.
Werner will not present his own verse-by-verse interpretation of Revelation or produce a parallel study guide, but rather wants to show church members the approach whereby they can themselves discover the meaning of the visions of John the Revelator, and are able to judge whether a given interpretation does justice to the text and its context. He will also discuss dead-ends in interpretation and give some explanations to the text. His aim is that church members should no longer simply depend on pastors or evangelists, books or study guides, which present a ready explanation. He contends that the Revelation is easier to understand than many people think—provided that we approach it with the appropriate tools for its interpretation.
The first article already published is the text of a sermon, which would be well suited for church services on January 5 (pastors and other speakers can get the manuscript and the presentation in English from Werner; you can contact him per e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Another article is a lecture on specific principles of interpretation for the Revelation, focusing especially on how to detect and apply the allusions to the Old Testament. The PDF’s may be downloaded from https://1drv.ms/f/s!Agfvhk0oak34jZBoDxAbbPJKmCC2JQ.
From December 30 onwards, Adventist Today will publish each Sunday a short article by Werner in which he gives some hints on the interpretational approach for the chapters in Revelation which are the theme of the Sabbath School lesson for that week, and discusses current Adventist interpretations. You can get each week a more thorough elaboration of the subject as a PDF.
I will assist Werner with the editing of the English text. I hope his work (and his considerable expertise with regard of the Book of Revelation), will be a blessing to many Adventists during the first quarter of 2019. I call upon the readers of this blog to spread the news about the availability of this material through their use of the social media and by word-of-mouth. And maybe someone may be interested to translate the text into their own language. Werner welcomes this; he only asks to be informed so that the news about it can be spread on the website and otherwise.
PS. Readers who know the Dutch language may be interested in a correspondence course I wrote some years ago that deals with the Book of Revelation. It is available in digital form through the ESDA institute for Bible correspondence courses. See: http://www.esda-instituut.nl/lessen/?frontAction=singleCursus&cursusID=6