My freshman year at Wayland as all students were required I took Old Testament history and New Testament history. In both classes I was privileged to have Dr. J Iviloy Bishop. As he referred to himself "The Baptist Bishop." This was the first time I encountered the neutral approach. I was a "Gap theorist" concerning creation (a whole other issue not enough time to explain) and a premillennialist. In Old Testament class he listed and explained a dozen different theories on creation. There were a couple of students that would spend half the class trying to get him to tell us which one he believed, and he wouldn't do it. This drove those students crazy and you could tell he loved driving them bonkers. I started preaching for TANE (Texas Alcohol and Narcotics Education) going to area churches raising money for the organization. It was a chance to preach for a preacher boy. Dr. Bishop was the area coordinator and had the organization car. We traveled all over West Texas preaching in small churches, usually a group of four to six. It made for some interesting conversations outside of the classroom.
The Spring semester in New Testament history is where he stopped me in my tracks. When we were discussing the reason Jesus came here was to save mankind spiritually (eternal life), and that his disciples didn't get it. They were expecting him to set up an Earthly kingdom. Dr. Bishop then asked the question: "If Christ's ministry was spiritual then, why would it be different now?"
When it dawned on me that it wouldn't I realized premillennialism is based on the same misconception that Jesus is going to set up an Earthly kingdom. The disciples were wrong then and so is this theory. I didn't have much to replace the theory with at this time, but I knew from that point on I didn't need to dread and fear the future. That all the horrible things spoken about in Revelations weren't going to happen to me.
When I came home that summer Bruce gave me his copy of Ray Summer's Worthy Is The Lamb.
Dr. Winters had given him the book, he'd finished it and I read it over that summer. It's not an easy book to read. The other book Ray Summers is know for is the textbook for New Testament Greek." To say the least he's very academic in his prose. The first half of the book is an analysis of all apocalyptic literature and their purpose. Wading through this was tough.
The second half of the book is an exposition (explanation) of Revelations. This part of the book is much easier to read. He starts with a premise that I could whole heartedly agree with, and still do: In order to understand Revelation know what it said to the readers of that day, not ours. It has to be interpreted in the light of 1st century thought.
To those not really into this sort of thing, that might not seem like much, but for me it was like a 10.0 on the richter scale.
1. The book was written symbolically to deceive the Roman guards. It was in code, just like Daniel and Ezekiel. (There was a method to his madness in the first half of the book), and as with all codes you need the key to fully understand it. Fundamentalists interpret everything literally, which is the wrong key for this code.
2. Apocalyptic literature is written to people who are oppressed and despairing. The message is always one of hope for them to persevere and not give up. No matter how bad things are now, there will be a better tomorrow. It uplifts the readers spirit instead of filling them with dread.
3. He then ties in all the horrible things mentioned in tribulation and great tribulation putting them into historical context.
4. Lastly he points out that The Beast represents the Roman Empire and the Anti-Christ is Emperor worship, what the Christians of the day were being persecuted for: refusing to offer sacrifice to the emperor. Revelations is a hand book on surviving oppression and tyranny, not a blue print on how the world will end.
I've been at peace concerning the future from the day I finished this book up to this day. The future holds no fear or dread. It is not preordained as to what will happen. It's an open book not a closed one.