What is the Book Of Revelation?
A Series of Apocalyptic Visions…
There are three key words to help us understand Revelation:
“Revelation” which is the word “apocalypse” – uncovering the truth
“Things that must soon take place” things happening or going to happen
“Made it known” God wants us to know
Read Daniel 2:28-29 & Daniel 2:44
God uses a dream/vision to reveal/uncover the reality that one day God is going to set up a kingdom that will never, ever be destroyed – and this is the first verse at the beginning of Revelation that John alludes to!
Revelation is a vision of how God’s Kingdom will be established and will never, ever be destroyed!
There is predominant use of symbols all over revelation. It’s less like a systematic theology and more like a picture book, designed to communicate truth through picture and symbols.
John is saying at the very beginning, this book is intended to be understood symbolically – it’s a vision filled with symbols that signify the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. Now that doesn’t mean every single thing is symbolic.
It’s Apocalyptic – revealing visions filled with symbols and numbers. Certain numbers are used over and over again as symbols of various things.
Filled With Prophetic Announcements…
So we have a series of apocalyptic visions filled with prophetic announcements. Look again at verse 3 “blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy.” So this is a prophetic book, just like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah and others, all of which are alluded to in Revelation.
There is a sense that Revelation is the climax of all prophesy because it’s isn’t announcing the coming of God’s Kingdom like the OT. The message of Revelation is the Kingdom of God has come and will soon be consummated. THIS IS HUGE TO UNDERSTAND. The book is not about the coming of the Kingdom, but about the King who has already come and reigns right now!
Written As A Church Letter…
Verse 4: John is writing to the seven churches in Asia, who represent all the church.
So again follow along the progression from V 1-3 and you see this comes from God, in Christ through an angel to His servant John, for the Church. Now don’t miss V3 “blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy and blessed are those who hear…”
They would read the letter to the churches, out loud, from beginning to end, and they understood it and could apply it to their lives, “…keeping what is written”
So what this means is we have to be careful not to overcomplicate the book. First century hearers, many who were uneducated, could read or hear the book in its entirety, understand it and apply it to their lives. No charts, not Revelation was written to them and for us.
It can’t mean to us what it didn’t mean to them. We have the same Holy Spirit to help us understand the word, even Revelation.
When Will These Prophesies Be Fulfilled?
Preterist Interpretation: the prophesies were fulfilled in the first few centuries of Christianity. By 500 AD. PROBLEM: Ignores final judgments for all the nations of the earth!
Historistic Interpretation: These prophesies have been and are being fulfilled in the course of Western Christian History. Basically reading western Christian history into the pages of Revelation (Pope is the Antichrist, or Hitler, or Napoleon) Or the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev is the anti-christ and that mark on his head was the mark of the beast! There’s all kinds of speculation that is involved in trying to find contemporary parallels, ten you have to constantly rework it for every new period in history. PROBLEM: makes the book of Revelation irrelevant for its original hearers (CAN’T MEAN TO US WHAT IT DIDN’T MEAN TO THEM)
Futurist Interpretation: All the prophesies are largely unfulfilled – basically chapters 4-22 are still waiting for fulfillment. Differing version of this but the PROBLEM this calls into question is what application this view would have on the first century hearers.
Idealist Interpretation: Says these prophesies are being and have been fulfilled, symbolically throughout the history of the Church. Basically this view would say Revelation is symbolic of the conflict between God and Satan, Christ and His Church and the one day culmination in the ultimate triumph of Christ and His Church. This interpretation avoids some of the speculation of the other views but seems to downplay the literal historical realities that are represented by certain symbols in the book of Revelation.
Which is correct? All have been held by godly Christians over time and there is some good in all of them. Some more good than others.
Three Millennial Views…
Premillennialism: says that Jesus will return before the millennium
Postmillennialism: says Jesus will return after the millennium
Amillennialism: says that the millennium is the church age 1000 years representing completeness and there is no future millennium before or after Jesus returns.
Panmillennialsm: everything is going to pan out in the end!
There are different views held by sincere followers of Jesus and we have to be careful not to let these differences divide us.
Now there are some doctrines that should divide us – these are First and Primary. The humanity and deity of Jesus, His substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, His resurrection from the grave, the Virgin Birth. If you don’t believe these things you are not a Christian. These are doctrines that should divide.
Then there is Second Tier doctrines that divide churches in healthy ways. Baptism would be an example (Presbyterians – infant baptism, sprinkling: Us – believers baptism, immersion). They think I m wrong, I think they are wrong, I wouldn’t go to their church – but I believe Presbyterian believers will be with me in heaven!
Third Tier Doctrines are beliefs that even Christians in the same church or the same family can disagree on. Differences on the millennium or revelation would fall in this category. Some of you will have different convictions on how to interpret these things. We can disagree and still fellowship together in the same church! Revelation was written cause division!
Two Important Things To Consider As We Study This Book…
First, we need to look at every text within its specific historical context. KEY THOUGHT: Revelation cannot mean for me what it did not mean to them.
We have to put ourselves in their shoes, the people who first read this book and try to understand as best we can what it was saying got them. Then we can try to understand what this passage is saying to us.
Second, we have to look at the overall biblical context. This book is the climax of the New Testament and contains over 400 allusions to the Old Testament. When we come to something we don’t understand, we have the rest of the Bible to help us.
One more thing: this book was not written to scare you or to promote speculation on when Jesus is coming back!
So Why Was Revelation Written?
To give unshakable hope to suffering Christians.
To encourage unwavering holiness in a seductive culture.
Revelation is filled with promises of blessing to those who are faithful and filled with warning of judgement for those who fall away.
This book gives us an amazing picture of God on His throne, sovereign over all the universe, completely in control. This is not a book about a battle between good and evil, like the outcome is in question!…but a letter that assures us that God has already won and that we are victorious in Christ Jesus who is our hope!
This is God almighty who we put our faith and trust in, who is encouraging you today, whatever you may walking through or dealing with – He has overcome, He is our strength,He is sovereign, nothing caching Him off guard, not “close calls”
God wants us to see in Revelation Who He is!
Closing quote, Dennis Johnson
“We need to see Jesus- to meet His blazing eyes of heart searching holiness, to wake up at the trumpet blast of His voice, to respond to His jealous demand for exclusive and passionate loyalty. Shocked insensible by the impact of His splendor, we need to hear his words of compassionate comfort, quelling the fears and quaking our hopes. Every congregation, whatever its struggle at its post on the battlefront, needs to fix its eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith!” – Dennis Johnson
Pastor Matt Surber finishes our series on Revelation and reminds us that the Book of Revelation is intended to fuel hopeful obedience and holiness in our present day.Read More /
Pastor Matt Surber studies the new heaven and new earth that are described in Revelation 21.Read More /
Pastor Matt Surber studies Revelation 19 and Christ’s return.Read More /