My journey

My journey of discovery.

Though I was brought up in Manchester by Christian parents and went with them to the same Anglican church, where I was confirmed and was a leading member of the choir, I didn’t come to a personal faith in Christ until I was aged 24 (in 1974). By then I had gained a “first” in Classics at London University, specialising in ancient history and interpreting it from the Greek and Latin sources, and had joined the Civil Service as a management trainee. Within a year of my conversion, I started to realise that I had a teaching gift regarding the Bible and the Christian faith. I applied twice for ordination in the Anglican Church over the next three years and, though I was unsuccessful, I managed to finance myself, with the help of a charitable fund, to read theology at Keble College Oxford, though I was only able to complete half the BA course before my funds ran out. I was able to rejoin the Civil Service as a management trainee, met my future wife Andrea and within a year we were married. Over the next 8 years we had three children, and are very grateful that they have all grown up with a lasting Christian faith. We moved early on to Sheffield and I stayed with the Service for the rest of my working life, being promoted several times and finally was awarded an OBE for my work there, for which I am really grateful. I have been retired since 2008 and Andrea and I moved to Derby, joining Elim’s City Church there.

My time in Keble introduced me to the Hebrew Bible, and after I finished my studies there I set about learning Biblical Hebrew, initially with the kindly help of an elderly Orthodox Jew. I persevered and, in my quiet time on rising every morning, over a number of years read my way through the whole of the OT in the original language – even managing to find my way through the Aramaic portions. Of course, I kept reading the NT in Greek as I was already fluent in that language through being a Classics graduate. Being able to read the OT in Hebrew (with the help of an analytical dictionary at times!) has been an absolute blessing and I am grateful to the Lord for giving me the ability to do so.

I am very grateful to the Reverend Jim Goldie, then vicar of St John’s church, Flixton (Manchester), who early in my Christian journey got me interested in Bible prophecy and Christ’s second coming and convinced me that it was intellectually honest to interpret the Bible literally (though recognising imagery and poetry in that interpretation). I was finding it very frustrating that commentaries on the OT Prophets said very little about how their fulfilment, except where they were clearly fulfilled in Jesus’ life and work. I read avidly Hal Lindsey’s popular book, “The Late Great Planet Earth” (Zondervan, 1970), and similar books. As well as putting Jesus’ return centre-stage, what impressed me was that they took the OT prophecies seriously about the future of the people of Israel. I was also strongly influenced by David Pawson’s teaching sessions, including on Jesus’ return being a single event for the resurrection of believers and his return to reign, at the annual evangelical Christian Easter conference, “Spring Harvest”, in 1980 and 1981. As I studied the prophetic parts of the Bible (OT and NT) for myself, I started to seriously question the dispensational interpretation of prophecy that many of these writers followed (though not David Pawson).

Over the next 30 years, fuelled by my daily Bible reading of the OT and NT, I kept returning to the unresolved question to my mind of how to interpret Biblical prophecy and to put together a coherent picture of the future for Israel, the Church and the nations leading up to Christ’s return and then following his return. Though initially I had accepted that the promises to Israel and its people were unconditional and would be fulfilled literally in the Jews being restored to their land and to faith in God and in Jesus, I went through quite a number of years where I thought that perhaps they had forfeited those promises. I then studied Reformed theology, but was unconvinced by the relatively cursory way they seemed to deal with prophecy, the end of the age, Christ’s return and what would follow it. I gradually came back to believing that the OT promises to Israel were unconditional and would be fulfilled by the Jews returning to their land and coming to faith in Christ. I also came to the firm view, after studying all the various scriptures, that Christ’s return would be a single event in which all Christian believers past and present would gain their resurrection bodies and return with Christ to reign on the earth.

About this time I read David Pawson’s book, “When Jesus Returns” (Hodder & Stoughton 1995) and realised that his interpretation of prophecy was very much my own. I was greatly encouraged that over the last 20 or so years I had come to this understanding of prophecy through my own studies (though I’d been influenced by his teaching on Christ’s return in 1980/81) AND now had it confirmed that at least someone else whom I very much respected held the same views. This realisation coincided with my retirement, which gave me more time to study the Bible. My wife and I moved to Derby and I started studying Revelation again, putting together notes on interpreting the symbolism as I went. Andrea and I were now in Derby City Church (Elim) and I shared with Dom John, then assistant pastor in the church (he is now Pastor of City Church Koeln), what I was doing. He said, “Why don’t you write a commentary on Revelation?” His suggestion took root in my heart. I borrowed from a good friend in the church his commentaries on Revelation, worked through them as well as my own, and produced my first draft of the Revelation commentary. I then put it to one side and started producing a similar commentary on Isaiah (still a work in progress: as at end January 2018 I am up to ch 49) and detailed notes on the prophetic chapters of Daniel and Zechariah ch 12-14.

In 2015 David Ayling, Pastor of Derby City Church, approached Regents Theological College (Elim) to see what interest there was in the work that I was doing. As a result, I was invited to meet Dr Mathew Clark, Dean of Doctoral Studies, at the college and talk about my work with him. We met in September 2015 and Mathew encouraged me to continue with my work and to think about setting up my own website to make it freely available. This I have now done.

Finally, I want to thank all the believers in the various churches Andrea and I have belonged to over the years for their love, encouragement, help and support which has kept us going over the years and brought us through some very difficult periods in our lives. Thank you, all of you in Flixton (Manchester), in Poynton (Cheshire), and especially in Sheffield, where you did a wonderful job in inspiring and helping our three children grow in the faith. And finally, thank you to all my brothers and sisters in Derby City Church as we work together with the other churches to transform the city of Derby with the gospel. Thanks to Vic Green for all his comments on my early draft of the Revelation commentary, and to Kathy Miller for her patient help in setting up this website.  Thank you too to my children, Tim, Sarah and Daniel, for their encouragement in my writing work. AND none of the work I have done would be possible except for my wife Andrea graciously releasing me to work on the Bible every morning before breakfast and also in the evening. Thank-you, Andrea.

JIM SHAW