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Revelation revisited


July 15, 2011
-Dave Rogalsky – Eastern Canada Correspondent for Canadian Mennonite

Waterloo, ONT. — John Neufeld was the senior scholar among those expounding Revelation at Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2011, July 4-8 in Waterloo.

Neufeld’s first English Bible was a Scofield  reference volume with all of Cyrus Scofield’s extensive notes, with the dispensational, pre-millennial understandings of the texts laid out. Then he went to Canadian Mennonite Bible College and was taught a different way of understanding, which he in turn took back to the Fraser Valley where he was invited to give evening sessions.

But his new understandings continued into his years as a pastor, giving, with an associate, a series of 30 minute sermons which fully a quarter of the congregation bought as text. During the series attendance at the church increased. More lately he gave a series in German on radio and in English to a group of five churches in Winkler, Manitoba.

In preparation for these later presentations he has come to a new place with the text through personal study by “living with the text” three to four hours a day over six months. He spoke of the “slow cooker versus microwave cooking method,” or driving the “small streets in Europe versus autobahn.”

This, he says, is an approach to Revelation that might not give quick answers. He takes the text of Revelation “seriously but not literally,” that it is “truth but not literal – it is literary truth” which needs to be explored like literature.” In Revelation he finds an inspired literary artist at work, an artist who gives us a non-sequential masterpiece.

Neufeld now sees the book as eight murals in an art gallery, not hung in series, each painted to answer unasked questions. Questions like “what was the actual situation of the churches in Asia Minor?” (Revelation chapters 4-5), or “what will be the eventual outcome for the followers of the Lamb?” (Chapter 21-22).

The senior member of our biblical scholars this week is none-the-less glad to hear the others concur with him and recommends Nelson Kraybill’s Apocalypse and Allegiance, as well as Barbara Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed, which he says begins “the Rapture is a racket ...”