Profit from seminary research

Seminary is more than a training institution for ministry.

Benjamin D. Schoun, DMin, is president of Adventist World Radio, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Seminary is more than a training institution for ministry. It is a resource center filled with ideas, research, and creative work. Pastors and church leaders struggling with administrative, theological, or practical problems can find answers in the continuous research done at the seminary. One such resource is the dissertations and theses done by graduating seminarians.

Take, for example, the question of interpreting the seals of Revelation 5 and 6, a problem that has challenged the church through the centuries. With current increasing interest in apocalyptic prophecy, these two chapters are of great significance to Bible students and pastors alike. Ranko M. V. Stefanovic's recent Ph.D. dissertation, "The Back ground and Meaning of the Sealed Book of Revelation 5," provides some interesting new insights.

After a 100-page comprehensive survey of the interpretation of the seals from the second to the twentieth centuries, Stefanovic gives a detailed exegesis of the critical words and phrases that are decisive to the understanding of Revelation 5 and its context. His conclusion is that the scene is the throne room of the heavenly temple. But rather than being a setting of judgment, as is so often understood, it is the occasion of the enthronement of Christ. It is the moment when, in fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, "the resurrected Christ approached the throne, took the sealed scroll from the throne at the right side of God as the insignia of the transference of all authority and sovereignty, sat upon the throne of the universe at the right hand of the Father, and received the adoration and cries of acclamation that belong only to royalty."

Stefanovic refers to the Old Testament tradition in which the Israelite kings, as Yahweh's representatives, received the covenant book at the time of their enthronement (Deut. 17:18-20; 2 Kings 11:12), signifying their right to rule as "sons" under God, and their sacral function of instructing the people in His law. However, with the downfall of the monarchy and the breaking of the covenant, the Davidic kingship ceased, and the covenant book became "sealed" (cf. Isa. 8:16; 29:11), waiting for the promised Davidic descendant to unseal it. Revelation 5 says that the scroll has now been handed to the promised ideal king of the Davidic lineage, the Lion of the tribe of Judah who is actually the Sprout of David, the eschatological "Son" (cf. Dan. 7:13,14). Following the enthronement of Christ, the covenant is carried out.

With this understanding, chapters 4 and 5 can be seen as a high point in the book of Revelation. The theme of Revelation becomes God's covenant relationship with His people, and the focus is thus the gospel rather than political events, disasters, and woes. Christ's taking hold of the covenant is seen as the foundation for the three angels' messages.

Stefanovic's work provides a scholarly framework for pastors who want to understand the seals of Revelation better. This is just one example of the rich collection of dissertations and theses available through the seminary for use by Bible students and ministers.

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Benjamin D. Schoun, DMin, is president of Adventist World Radio, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

June 1996

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