Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 4, 1999
Apocalypse provides moral guidance - Collins
By GLEN ARGAN
WCR Staff Writer
The Apocalypse doesn't predict the date of the end of the world, but it does provide moral guidance for the Christian community, says the archbishop of Edmonton.
"There are two ways - the heavenly city Jerusalem or Babylon," Archbishop Thomas Collins told more than 500 people who packed St. Andrew's Church Sept. 28.
The last book of the Bible was written to lead us to focus on the direction of our lives, rather than to help us speculate on future events, Collins said.
The archbishop made his comments during the first of three Tuesday evening talks on the Book of Revelation. The others will be on Oct. 5 and 12 at 7 p.m.
"There is an enormous amount of moral teaching" in the Apocalypse, he said.
Spread throughout the book are seven beatitudes "which are like a chain on which the whole book is hung," he said.
The book also emphasizes the importance of being a Christian in community, he said. It is important to have a personal relationship with Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. But by itself that relationship is incomplete.
"We are never Christians all alone."
The book also points out, he said, that it is important for Christians not to be part of a culture of death. "If I am nicely fitting into this world of ours, it is probably a sign that my values are out of whack."
Collins said he decided to write his doctoral dissertation on the last few verses of that book in 1984 because he saw the coming of the year 2000 and knew there would be a need for sound teaching on the Apocalypse.
The archbishop said he has no special mystical knowledge of the Apocalypse - he has just studied information available to everyone about the history and background of the book.
Problems arise, he said, when people claim to have special insight into the meaning of the vivid symbols contained in the book. Usually, they are reading their own political opinions into the text and then concluding that those opinions are endorsed by God.
Cults and other groups, such as the one at Waco, Texas, "have misused the Apocalypse to the detriment of the people," he said. They take "a pre-existent idea and find a symbol for it somewhere in the text."
For example, the book's reference to the 144,000 who will be saved is a symbolic number which points to the joyful union of the Old and New Testaments, he said.
"If I said there are a million and one reasons why I like Edmonton, you would know what I mean. You wouldn't expect me to go on and say the first reason is . . .".
The archbishop compared the powerful, poetic language of the Apocalypse with the boring style of Leviticus. In Leviticus, God wanted to clearly describe a way of life to his people.
"At other times, God wanted to set people's hearts on fire so that they would be willing to die for him," he said.
The power of the Book of Revelation comes not from focusing on the meaning of any particular verse. "Reading the Apocalypse is like skating on thin ice; you've got to move quickly across it."
The archbishop recommended that people read the book aloud at one sitting - it takes about two hours - because that is how the early Christians heard it.
The Gospels, not the Apocalypse, said Collins, are the centre of the Bible. "We stand in adoration for the Gospels, but for everything else we sit."
"The Book of Revelation is sort of like the chili sauce of the Bible," he said. It is tasty, but it's not our main diet.