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Melissa L. Archer
‘I Was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’: A Pentecostal Engagement with Worship in the
Apocalypse. Cleveland,tn: cptPress, 2015. Paperback $19.95.isbn9781935931461.
Melissa Archer’s I Was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Dayprovides a literary analysis of the worship scenes in the Apocalypse. Based on this analysis, Archer proffers apentecostaltheologyof worship.Thebook,whichisapublishedversionof her PhD thesis at Bangor University, pushes back against conventional pentecostal readings of the Apocalypse that often led to a flat interpretation of end-time events. Utilizing a narrative reading of the text, Archer encourages contempo- rary pentecostals to appreciate and adapt liturgical elements of worship found within the narrative.
Framing her initial premise that the Apocalypse is to be read (and heard) through the lens of worship, Archer suggests that a community’s participation with the Holy Spirit in reading and appropriating the narrative brings about individual and communal transformation through worship and the work of the Spirit. Thus, a Spirit-guided communal rearing/heading of the Apocalypse in the context of a worshiping community can work toward a healthy theology of pentecostal worship.
Archer emphasizes the importance of Wirkungsgeschichte, or reception his- tory, as a means to analyze the effects of the Apocalypse on early pentecostals. The influence of the biblical text appears to have been used to narrate the com- pelling and fervent spiritual experiences of early pentecostals in their worship and witness. She draws a well-defined connection between descriptions of wor- ship in early pentecostal literature and the worship scenes found in the Apoc- alypse. Within the first ten years of the movement, pentecostal testimonies utilized doxological elements from Revelation as a primary model for their own worship. The usage of similar language and liturgy found in biblical worship scenes led to their belief in participating in the communal worship of heaven. She recommends that pentecostals may want to re-examine the narrative of
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03804012
Revelation in order “to produce a fresh hearing of Revelation as a liturgical text” (p. 65). In so doing, the pentecostal community may also encounter the text in continuity with early pentecostals, who utilized language from the Apocalypse to testify of their encounters with the God.
Archer’s commentary provides valuable information on the Apocalypse and communicates the ubiquitous presence of throne-room worship and the pres- ence of God throughout the text. Archer suggests that the text continuously gives “attention to the throne of God,” (p. 179) as “worship belongs to God and the Lamb alone” (p. 191). She contends that the worship described in the Apoca- lypse supports monotheistic worship of Jesus as God and underscores heaven’s reality that juxtaposes the current or future suffering in the space/time of the audience.
Her work creates a shift from focusing on Dispensationalist readings of the text, which remain popular in pentecostal churches, to recognizing the cen- tral context of Revelation as “a narrative about worship” (p. 298). Stories within the Apocalypse are surrounded by and couched in heavenly liturgical acts of worshiping God. Archer maintains that the text reveals two alternatives of allegiance: worship of the true, living God and the Lamb or worship of the Dragon and the beast. One’s allegiance lies in her or his worship, and worship thus becomes “the definitive act of Christian resistance to any and all that are opposed to God” (p. 299). Followers of God or followers of the beast are rec- ognized by their worship, and are lead into distinct destinies based on their allegiance and devotion. Thus in the context of worship, the text warns the fol- lowersof Godto“diligentlyguardagainstthesubtle(andnotsosubtle)pressure to render worship” (p. 311) to the beast and anything other than the living God. Thereforecurrentandeschatologicalworshipof GodandtheLambbecomethe means by which people of God directly defy the beast and corrupted worship.
Central to Archer’s argument is John’s participation with the Spirit and the text’s continual environment and focus of worship.Through the context of wor- ship in the Spirit, Archer reorders the text and works toward a pentecostal theology of worship. She again connects the apocalypse language in early pen- tecostal testimonies of worship to the biblical text and connects the latter with its framework of worshiping in the Spirit. She rightly claims that pentecostals affirm an experiential worship with the Spirit in their liturgy, underscoring the Apocalypse as a rich resource for pentecostal worship. The narrative itself can be seen as descriptive of pentecostal ways of worship, as the text communicates “that true worshipisexperiential, involving the whole person—body, mind and spirit—in encounter with God in the Spirit” (p. 301). In this way, pentecostals can make meaning of their communal worship by using the text as a guide or biblical example of Spirited worship.
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Archer contends that the text communicates the means by which pente- costals are entreated by the Spirit to worship God and confirms that worship is the eschatological purpose for creation. The link of apocalyptic liturgical scenes with current pentecostal worship and maintains that the latter mir- rors the former’s written experience of “transporting the worshippers back and forth between heaven and earth” (p. 305). She affirms that this movement of current worship is a proleptic sign for worship in the eschaton as shown in the Apocalypse, when creation will worship God around the throne. As cur- rent pentecostals identify themselves as the eschatological people of God, the text can produce further implications for a theology of worship. Archer calls for pentecostals to critically reflect on their liturgical practices and discern between false rituals at work in the culture and true worship of the living God.
Archer allows reader to rediscover the narrative of the Apocalypse in the context of worship and liturgy rather than solely for end time events. Her book succeeds in creating a fresh reading of the Apocalypse and envisioning a future for a pentecostal theology of worship. I Was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day is valuable contribution to the study of pentecostal hermeneutics, theology of worship, pneumatology, and the Apocalypse.
Southeastern University, Lakeland, Florida
PNEUMA 38 (2016) 503–531