Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Getting Scripture Completely Backwards: The Tragic Abuse of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is often quoted to "prove" that there can be no further scripture. That famous passage about not adding or subtracting to the word of God in Rev. 22 is cited as if it means that there can be no more scripture, when, in fact, John is plainly speaking about his own book, the Book of Revelation, and urging the world not to tinker with the text. In no way is he saying that God can't keep speaking and revealing truth. In fact, John's text clearly teaches that revelation HAS NOT ENDED. It teaches that there will yet be words of God spoken by future prophets (Rev. 11), future angels (Rev. 14, etc.), and by Christ. How dare we presume that these words can't be written down and used by future generations of scripture? Revelation, if anything, points to an open canon, not a closed one. How tragic that so many ministers get this completely backwards.

Dealing with Rev. 22:18-19 itself is quite easy, yet it continues to be cited as if it were a legitimate slam-dunk against the Book of Mormon. The prohibition against adding or subtracting from the word of God actually goes all the way back to the time of Moses, who wrote the following in Deuteronomy 4:2:
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it....
In Rev. 22:18-19, John echoed the words of Moses as he concluded writing the Book of Revelation:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Moses and John were absolutely correct: no man has authority to add or subtract from the word of God. But Deut. 4:2 did not keep Moses from writing additional chapters, nor did it prohibit Isaiah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Paul, and even John from writing later scripture as directed by God. It did not mean that God could give no more revelation or scripture, but that the inspired words of God given to his apostles and prophets should not be altered by men.

Read the text carefully of Revelation 22:18-19 and ponder what John is talking about. At the time, there was no Bible as we know it. The new Christians had the Septuagint (which included the Apocrypha) and scattered writings of some of the apostles, but there had not yet been any known attempt to establish a New Testament canon or to bring the Gospels and epistles into a single volume. John, who was in exile on the Isle of Patmos, is obviously referring to the newly written text before him when he speaks of "this book," the Book of Revelation. He refers to the unique contents of his book: its prophecies, its descriptions of plagues, its discussion of the holy city, and urges that no one change what he has written. Even though the Book of Revelation has been placed last in our Bible, it was not necessarily the last book written, but may have preceded other writings of John himself by a couple of years. In fact, many Christian canons over the centuries did not include the Book of Revelation at all, and even Martin Luther questioned its status. The first church council that listed most of the canonical books in our present Old and New Testaments, the Council of Laodicea that met in A.D. 363, still did not include the Apocalypse of Saint John [Bernstein, p.5]. The common idea that this was the last book added to an existing canon of New Testament scripture by John is erroneous, as is the idea that John meant that there could never be any more scripture.

Latter-day Saints fully agree with John: no man should change what God has spoken. However, God has the authority to speak what and when He wants. God spoke to other prophets after Moses and many of their divinely commissioned writings have been preserved in the Bible. God also speaks today to living apostles and prophets in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we should be willing to accept those whom God has sent and hear their inspired words.

When God speaks to prophets, they write words that become scripture. Moses, Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, John, and many others all added scripture. One of the surest signs that the Church of Jesus Christ has really been restored is that new scripture has been added! The Jews at the time of Christ claimed to revere dead prophets but rejected living ones and rejected newly added scripture. They were in apostasy. Those who reject new prophets and new scripture from God in our day are likewise in apostasy and need to repent and come unto Christ more fully.

Now back to Revelation. Can you read it without seeing that God will yet do and speak many things in the future? Two prophets of the last days will prophecy in the streets of Jerusalem and be killed (Rev. 11). Angels will declare messages (Rev. 14:6 could even be a reference to the angelic ministry of Moroni and others that helped bring forth the Restoration). Christ and God will speak. Amazing works of God will take place. And saints (members of God's church) will not only work day and night in the restored Temple during the great Millennium (Rev. 7:15), but they will surely study and ponder the records of God's great dealings with man in the past. How dare we presume that God won't allow His obviously ongoing words and deeds to be recorded and studied as sacred writings?

The idea that the current Bible is the end of God's record, that the canon is closed, and that prophets can no longer speak, is a MOST UNBIBLICAL heresy. That doesn't prove that the LDS Church has authority and true revelation, but after a careful reading of Revelation, there should be no question that those who claim there can be no more revelation have Revelation completely backwards. Tragically so, IMHO.

14 comments:

Dan said...

don't forget to kindly remind them that John wrote his Gospel of John AFTER he wrote the Book of Revelation. So if those ministers want to be technical and exact, well then, the Gospel of John MUST be excluded from the Bible, because it was written AFTER John wrote the book of Revelation.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, is there a reference that one can use when using the argument that the books of John were written after the book of Revelation, or is it just something that is generally accepted? Apologies if this is a dumb question... I just like to have sources behind my arguments :)

Gene said...

Wasn't the same type of thing written in deuteronomy?

How could John have been talking about a book that did not yet exist? Namely, the new testament. While it is debateable of the time frame compared to his own gospel, it seems some all of Christianity is based off something that came much later, and is not debateable.
Other Christians say no new revelation could come, yet they all believe in the creeds of the 4th and 5th century as it were canonized scripture!

Where they guided by the holy spirit? Was it just simply a form of democracy? Is the gospel about majority rule?

Gene

Christian said...

I'd go the next step further and say that those who compiled the NT, were intentionally deceptive, in that they placed this book last, under the auspicious setting that John's injunction would be interpreted exactly this way. They didn't want any further questioning of their compilation of the bible, and they wanted to declare "this is all there is" specifically because they knew they were not receiving any further revelation.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

The years tributed to writingthe Gospel of John ranges from 60 AD to the 90s AD. The Book of Revelations was written probably around 96 AD.

From my understanding this is what's generally accepted.

Michaela Stephens said...

The tricky thing for so many Christians is that if they allow that God continues to speak, then there will be more scripture, and then the challenge becomes trying to discern what writings would be scripture and what would not.

That challenge of discernment is simply overwhelming to most Christians. They are more afraid that they might mistake false scripture for true and be misled than they are afraid that they might discard true scripture thinking it is false. So they are more inclined to discard everything besides the texts that have been traditionally chosen as authoritative.

The thing is, even the books of the Bible were debated over about their inclusion in the canon. They were read and their respective virtues compared. When I compare the books in the New Testament with the books of the Nag Hamadi library, it is perfectly clear to me that the New Testament books deserved to be canonized over anything in the Nag Hamadi library.

Today, the only way that Christians can legitimately make any judgment of the Book of Mormon is if they read it and compare its virtues to the virtues of the Bible. Unless they do it this way, they will someday be condemned by those who chose the books of the Bible. Those who collected the Bible will say to them, “Look, WE were able to pick out the best books we knew of, even though revelation and prophets were gone from the earth. WE could tell the difference. You were not even willing to even TRY to compare the Bible’s virtues with the Book of Mormon to see if the Book of Mormon had anything of merit! WE were willing to have big debates about all the books we knew about, spurious and otherwise! YOU just rejected the Book of Mormon out of hand! In an age of great enlightenment and intellectual achievement, YOU chose to refuse to apply even SECULAR principles of examination to the Book of Mormon!”

Steve said...

Michaela wrote "the only way that Christians can legitimately make any judgment of the Book of Mormon is if they read it and compare its virtues to the virtues of the Bible". It's been done. Compare 2 Nephi 25:23 "...for it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do", to Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast". That is a HUGE difference - works vs. faith. Christians do good works out of love and gratitude to God for sending his Son to die for us. Do I trust the Bible, written by many prophets whose predictions came to pass, or the BOM, which was "translated" by Joseph Smith from golden plates? Hmmm...

Aaron said...

James 2:20 "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"

I think our understanding of having faith and acting on it is similar. People of the LDS faith don't typically believe they can work their way into heaven. Our faith in God motivates us to act and serve.

Our Works are an important part of our faith.

Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works"

It is important not to lose focus of the reason for the works. We do our works to glorify our God, not ourselves.

Steve said...

I'd like to believe that LDS people generally don't believe that they can work their way into heaven. Maybe that's true, but the LDS doctrine of the ultimate salvation, or exaltation, is works-based.

In the Gospel Principals, Chapter 47, Requirements for Exaltation section, there is a list of works required for exaltation, including marriage in the temple, tithing, baptism and membership in the LDS church, ...the summary at the end of this list is the kicker "In other words, each person must endure in faithfulness, keeping all the Lord's commandments until the end of his life on earth".

Who can keep all the Lord's commandments? No one can do that except Jesus during his incarnation on earth. But the point is, Gospel Principals has this list of requirements for exaltation, and the Bible in Ephesians 2:8-9, again, says "not by works."

The LDS have a different Gospel, and a different concept of Christ than what is in the Bible. Aaron, you say, "Our faith in God motivates us to act and serve." That is admirable, but is it done for the right reasons? But I don't understand all these requirements for exaltation. They are works.

MuralMama said...

Salvation and Exaltation are two things entirely different. We do not believe that works will SAVE a soul, that can ONLY be accomplished through Grace. We do, however, believe it takes good works & performance of earthly ordinances, such as baptism, to be EXALTED. Differently from other Christian faiths we don't look at the afterlife as being divided between black and white, heaven and hell, only. Why in the world would a Mother Theresa receive the same post-mortality glory as Joe Blow who was a professed Christian but never lifted a finger to serve his fellow beings? Then again, if Joe was generally a decent fellow, why would he go to "hell"?

Steve said...

It's not for us to judge Joe Blow, or Mother Theresa. God will be the judge. Your comment confirms the belief that those who work harder on earth will recieve greater rewards in "post-mortality". One of the "malefactors" on the cross with Christ was told "Today you will be with me in paradise. (see Luke 23:39-43). He was told that, based on his belief alone, that he would be with Christ in "paradise". As far as we know, he NEVER did one good deed, but he believed that Christ was his Savior. Ephesians 2:8-9 "...For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Note that Christ didn't say, "on my way up to a higher level of heaven, I'll see you somewhere along the way." He said "you will be with me..."


Also, Romans 3:20-31, specifically verse 20: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin".

Speaking of the difference between salvation and exaltation...where is the Biblical justification for the "exaltation" concept? I can't find it...

MuralMama said...

And James wrote a whole book about the importance of works. Degrees of Glory, if you're familiar with Corinthians, you can look that one up: http://fairmormon.org/Plan_of_salvation/Three_degrees_of_glory/Not_biblical

Papa D said...

"where is the Biblical justification for the "exaltation" concept?"

Then you aren't looking very hard, Steve. There are two main threads in the Bible, imo:

1) God protects his people (collectively, not necessarily individually) when they love and serve him); he withdraws his protection when they don't.

2) Mankind was created in the the image of God, the Father, with the express purpose of becoming like Him - through the grace and Atonement of Jesus, the Christ.

Theosis is a concept with a long tradition in Christianity - and the Mormon doctrine of exaltation merely is a reworking of that ancient concept. You might or might not agree with it, but to say it's not in the Bible simply is naive.

Papa D said...

Steve, it's late and this isn't the post for it, so if you really are interested and sincerely want to know the Biblical positioning of exaltation, read the following posts and comment about it on my personal blog:

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/09/as-god-is-man-may-become-is-biblical.html

and

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2010/03/believing-we-can-become-like-our-father.html