CERC Goes to CTC
24 Sep 2022
“I always thought the book of Revelation was only about the end of the world, before attending the Creation to Consummation (CTC) conference. I did not know it connected to Jesus Christ,” said Rachel Lau, a student at Segi college and a recent regular attendee at Christ Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) since early 2022. CTC is her first ever Gospel Growth Fellowship (GGF) conference. “A lot of it was new information to me compared to how I learned it before.”
Like Rachel, many of those who had been previously exposed to biblical hermeneutics in CERC but were attending a biblical theological conference for the first time in their lives also cited “seeing the connection between the Old and New Testament” as a vital take-home point from the biblical theological city conference held in Luther Centre, Petaling Jaya from 11 – 17 July 2022.
The speaker was Dr Brian Tabb, Academic Dean and Professor of Biblical Studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary and general editor of Themelios, a publication by The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series.
The CTC week opened with a prelude sermon hosted at CERC on 10th July, Sunday, entitled Revere the King, followed by 4 days of morning workshops called Behind the Scenes (BTS) purposed for more in-depth study of Dr Brian Tabb’s preparations for the series, and 4 nightly talks, supplemented by a ministry-focused sessions called Building Healthy Churches on 16 July 2022, Saturday. The CTC week concluded on 17th July with a Recapitulation sermon in CERC entitled The Return of the King.
A recent CERC regular, Roy Liew said, “It is impossible to read the book of Revelation without having biblical theology. Because in the Behind the Scenes (BTS) morning sessions, we see how everything is connected. Everything bizarre that appears in Revelation has been written in the Old Testament, and it is not random at all. Revelation affirms who I am as a Christian. I am more confident in why Christ had to die. It is the ultimate thing that connects everything together, so it gives me the confidence in what I have learnt… Now that I can see the beauty of Revelation, I feel the burden of it on my own shoulders, and I want to tell people, “Stop looking for signs and wonders, it’s not about that. Everything in Revelation is tied to the rest of the Bible.”
Being able to learn how the Old Testament connected to Revelation was similarly an eye-opening experience for Nottingham student, Cheah Wei Wen [photo, left], from Penang who pronounced it as “inspiring.” He said that “it made me appreciate the book even more.” Wei Wen had taken the 7-hour drive from Penang to Kuala Lumpur especially for the conference with another friend, Jonathan Lai, who had been similarly passionate about learning all he could from CTC.
Previously a Buddhist, Wei Wen had come to know the Lord through hearing Two Ways to Live from a friend and had joined CERC’s online campus ministry, SOLIDD Online and Tertiary Growth Groups (TGG). “From there, I was converted, and now I trust and recognize God as the only true God,” Wei Wen explained.
Being interested to “know more about who God is and what it means to live a Christian life and how to live it properly,” Wei Wen began regularly attending CERC Sunday gatherings after joining TGG, and had joined the latest CERC sermon series, The Christian Life.
“When I first heard about the biblical theological conference from CERC Sunday gathering, I was actually quite excited, especially when I heard [the speaker] was a famous theologian who was from the same seminary as John Piper,” said Wei Wen, visibly brightening as he warmed to his story.
Wei Wen had been excited and even more so on hearing that this year’s CTC would be on the book of Revelation. He had not read Revelation before but had heard that “Revelation was about angels, beasts, dragons, and heaven.” Wei Wen also cited the intense image of Jesus from Revelation 1 – his hair, white like wool, eyes like burning flames and his feet described as burning bronze – being impressed upon him strongly because he “always wondered how Jesus looked like.” He had also been struck at having grasped that Jesus would open all the seven seals of the churches, and that meant that Jesus was already raised in heaven and is now glorified. “Now that Jesus has been raised in heaven, and everything has been revealed, I have a new hope and I know that Jesus will be coming back again, I can place all my hope on him and he will come to judge all evildoers,” said Wei Wen.
Many participants echoed Wei Wen’s previously mentioned curiosity of the fantastical elements of Revelation. However, most of them drew the satisfaction of that curiosity to a renewed awe, hope and assurance in the work of God post-CTC after grasping their meaning through biblical theology, and highlighted the importance of BT in biblical interpretation.
Xin Yuan, a CERC regular and the president of the International Medical University (IMU) Christian Fellowship (CF) shared that the CF students had been interested to come to CTC because of the focus on the book of Revelation. “For them, it’s so mysterious! There’s the beast, the horses, the weird numbers – so many of them wanted to know how to read the book of Revelation and it’s a very good combination – biblical theology and Revelation – how do you read the book of Revelation in a biblical theological way? When we read any bible passage, we need to explain where the book or passage is situated in the biblical timeline for them to understand it appropriately,” Xin Yuan elaborated.
Paul Wong, a doctor pursuing a Masters in Medicine in HUKM and long-time CERC member, expressed that “the vision of God that John saw was really awesome – that picture of Jesus – the thought of meeting him on Judgment Day is really – really awe-inspiring,” said Paul, grasping for the right words to express his emotional response to the imagery of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1 while looking humbled. He also voiced his appreciation of Dr Brian Tabb “opening up the words of Scripture” for common understanding and interpreting the prophetic language in Revelation. “Another key thing that really encouraged me is the reminder that God’s Word is the trustworthy Word of God that we can place our hope in fully,” added Paul.
Paul, Rachel and their twin boys at CTC 2022: Revelation
A father of two 8-month-old twin boys, Paul and his wife, Rachel, had taken turns to come for the night talks from Monday to Thursday, given Paul’s on-call schedule at the hospital. In spite of their fatigue as young parents, the couple had brought the twins along on the last session of ‘Building Healthy Churches’ on Saturday in order to be edified, attending the session from the creche area provided by GGF organisers.
For Judith Yap, who had joined CERC at the end of 2021 and now attends Shah Alam Growth Group, CTC had been a challenging first-time experience. Judy had been born into a nominal Christian family.
“We were Christian in name, but we did not have much Christian practice – we didn’t go to church regularly but went for church camps, events…” said Judith. “We did not have proper teaching.” The gospel which she discovered in CERC while searching for a church to serve in had been very new to her, and it was only then did the Word “come alive” to her.
Judith in CERC for the Recapitulation Sermon of CTC on 17 July 2022
When asked if anything had been particularly significant for her at CTC, Judith replied, “The beast being described as thrown down into the sea, the fact that it was in the past tense, assured me that God is absolutely sovereign and in complete control. Most of the time, I rely on my own ability, but that image showed me God’s absolute sovereignty.”
The conference ended on a high at the Building Health Churches session on 16 July 2022 at Luther Centre, to consolidate everything that had been learnt and encourage participants to consider how they might edify their local churches. There were great practical questions about how to nurture and preserve the gospel within the local church and how a thorough understanding of the gospel might affect all aspects of practical life together – from expressions of love, to manner of speech, to the practice of membership and its various mechanisms as well as the forms of leadership that might be appropriate and helpful for the local Malaysian context.
The week ended with a deeply encouraging sermon in CERC on 17th July, Sunday where Dr Brian Tabb reminded the congregation to continue hoping in the worthiness of Christ as the true King who will return to bring justice and save his afflicted people.