Lou Venden: Graham, you mentioned that Martin Luther couldn’t see this larger perspective of the cosmic war perspective and that he had trouble with the book of Revelation. Why do you suppose he had that kind of trouble?
Graham Maxwell: Why don’t we read it his own words, from his Preface to the book of Revelation, in English translation of course. “The book of Revelation approximates the fourth book of Esdras. I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.” And he gives his reasons. As he looked at it, “Christ is neither known nor taught in the book of Revelation,” even though it’s “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” And we know what his policy was for evaluating books in the Bible, because in the Preface to James he wrote, “Any book that inculcates Christ deserves to be in the Bible. Whatever does not teach Christ is not even apostolic.” If even Peter or Paul should write a book, it’s not apostolic if it doesn’t teach Christ. And a little later on he writes, “This is the principle that I use in my evaluation of books.” We have a name for that: the “Christomonistic principle.” That’s the “Christ alone” principle. If I don’t find Christ in the book, then it doesn’t belong in the canon. That’s a very good principle in theory. But what if the one making the evaluation doesn’t have a full picture of Christ? Based on his picture of Christ, Luther was ready to rule out four books of the Bible.
Lou: Rather than letting these books expand his understanding and picture of Christ.
Graham: Yes. It was a little backwards for Luther to do it that way. But when you think of the many wonderful things he did, I suppose we should allow him that. But based on what we know today, can we find Christ in the book of Revelation? I think so. So on the Christomonistic principle which Luther laid down, I take all sixty-six books seriously. The principle’s alright, but we’ve made a little progress since then.
Lou: And that would be supported by the book of Revelation’s own claim to be the “revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Graham: Right at the beginning (Rev 1:1). And look at the whole first chapter. It’s all about Christ, in His human form. And later on in the book, it’s about how He’s coming back and what He’s doing in the Heavenly Sanctuary. The book of Revelation is full of Him.
Lou: But now, Graham, in our reading in the book of Revelation, which you shared with us, it seems so clear; there’s a statement here that war broke out in heaven, and so on. But I’m wondering—how widely is this perspective shared by the Christian world in general? That is, the idea of a war, and the great controversy, this “larger view”, as you refer to it.
Graham: It’s strange that not many know about this. It’s as if there is a conspiracy of silence. Yet we’re finding more and more people in the nineteenth century and earlier who did see glimpses of this larger view. Since college days I’ve always enjoyed Milton– Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained. There’s part of the picture there, not the full picture.
One of the best at expressing a larger view was a preacher named Henry Melvill, who lived in England in the mid-nineteenth century. He was a magnificent preacher, and his wife used to neatly write out his sermons for him to present in no less a place than St. Paul’s cathedral in London. Melvill preached about a crisis among the angels, how they needed their loyalty confirmed by the very things God revealed through the death of Jesus. And Melvill was no minor figure, after his death, he was buried in St. Paul’s cathedral, an honor restricted to a very few.
One person who particularly enjoyed his writings was Ellen White. She had his book in her library. I don’t know anyone to this day who has expressed the larger view as well as Ellen White. Her work was based on all sixty-six Bible books and reading the marvelous writings of Melvill and others. Let’s look at one place where she lays out this larger view:
But the plan of redemption had a much broader and deeper purpose, broader and deeper than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to the earth. It was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded, but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe. To this result of His great sacrifice, that is its influence on the intelligences of other worlds, as well as upon man, the Savior looked forward, when just before His crucifixion, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world. Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me.” The act of Christ in dying for the salvation of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of the law of God, and would reveal the nature and the results of sin. (Patriarchs and Prophets, 68-69)
The statement of Jesus that she quoted above is from John 12:31-32. Although the King James Bible says “draw all men” here, Ellen White leaves the word men out in this quotation. She says simply “draw all,” which points to a much larger view of things. While there were saints through the years who spoke about this larger view, Ellen White is the one who summed it up the best to date, and seemed to understand it the most clearly.