The only book of the Bible that specifically pronounces a blessing for those who listen and take the words to heart, as well as pronouncing a curse upon those who add or take away from the words, is the book of Revelation. For many people it’s a difficult book understand, and for others, it’s difficult to keep from descending into various arguments over how to interpret it. And if that isn’t the biggest understatement of the year… but I digress. Regardless of the brouhaha, for anyone who, without adding or subtracting, simply listens to the words and takes them to heart, there is a blessing from God.
It begins with a statement of purpose: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place.” – Revelation 1:1, and immediately we know the book is at least speaking of future events for the people of John’s day. John wrote the book around AD 96 according to early church fathers, which means he was in the middle of a persecution against Christians, and it wasn’t the first one.
That’s a fairly significant point actually,especially when it comes to what time the book is pointing us toward, i.e… is it speaking mainly about past history, or the future? A good portion of Christianity can be found on either side of that opinion, and this blog isn’t going to solve that debate.
Nevertheless, it is quite interesting because the book’s focus is broken down in Revelation 1:19 when Jesus tells John to:
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” -Revelation 1:19.
What John had seen was Jesus in chapter one. What was “now” would be John’s day, and specifically the Churches he was writing to at the time. After John writes specifically to the Churches in chapter 2 and 3, he hears a voice from heaven saying “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.” -Revelation 4:1. So it seems rather logical to say that chapter 4 and beyond would qualify as “what will take place later.”
That would be future to John and what was happening to the churches in his day. And what was happening was persecution and chaos. Many interpreters of Revelation will say that book refers to those persecutions and the fall of the Roman Empire. Yet writing in 96AD, that would more easily refer to “what is now,” not the stuff that would take place later which is written about in chapters 4-22.
Let me sort of outline it:
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”-Jesus
**“What you have seen” = What John had seen in Revelation chapter 1 = Jesus in His Glory
**“What is now” = What was happening in John’s day with Churches & Persecution = Revelation 2-3
**“What will take place later” = After John’s day. After the persecutions. The end. = Revelation 4-22
Thus, the prevailing idea of most evangelicals to take the book as future, speaking mainly of the end of the world, seems to fit with the timing of the writing. Having said that, there are those who have argued for an earlier date for the writing of the book in an effort to explain issues like this, (plus they cite writing differences between Revelation and the book of John etc…) but the early church fathers consistently pointed to the later date. In other words, the guys who lived a lot closer to the time when it was written, said it was written around 96 AD. Awfully hard to get around that. Plus, it has always been difficult to specifically apply the book of Revelation to historical events because… well how often has a third of the earth burned up or 1/4 of the population of the entire earth perished, or Christ returned?
So for me, the book is speaking of the actual end of the world. If you’d like to disagree that’s cool. You can still go to heaven last time I checked, although if it turns out I’m right, then you owe me a Mtn. Dew once we get there.
The second sentence tells us how the book came to be. “He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who testifies to everything he saw” –Revelation 1:1. Throughout the book, an “angel” is with John. (Angel literally translates as “messenger.”) This book is much like the dreams and visions in the Old Testament book of Daniel. You might remember Daniel for the stories of Daniel and the Lions Den, or the Fiery Furnace, or even the Handwriting on the Wall.
Hey, most of our clichés come from the Bible you know.
What you might not realize is more than half of the book of Daniel contained visions and dreams of the type you find in the book of Revelation. The BIG difference between Daniel and Revelation, however, is that in Daniel, an angel always explained at least some of the meanings in the visions. In Revelation, yeah, not so much.
And that’s ok. Jesus said only the Father knows the day or the hour. God left it vague enough so that people from the beginning of the Church until now have always been able to imagine a way in which God could come in their day. We’ve always had a reason to be ready, and even more so now as Bible prophecy has, in many ways, already been fulfilled literally as the world has taken shape in these last days. It’s an amazing time to live.
John was amazed when he saw Jesus in Revelation 1. We imagine Jesus as a meek and mild guy, often forgetting the calluses he probably had from working as a carpenter or the times He threw the money-changers out of the temple. Whatever toughness Jesus had while on earth, was nothing compared to what John records in Revelation.
“His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.” –Revelation 1:14-17
It brings up a sobering thought. If God is “good” then He’s more than just a loving God, but also a God who stands for what’s right, fair, and just. Good guys always stand against evil, right? It stands to reason that God, and in these verses Jesus, should also be feared as a righteous defender of good, a judge against evil. John sees Jesus in glory. An image so frightening he faints! Like the rest of us, John was a sinner. When we talk about being ready, the real question is: Are we ready to face Jesus in all his power or will we be terrified when our life is laid before Him like an open book?
He came as the “lamb,” but He’s returning as the “Lion.” In Revelation, it’s whole new ballgame.
We’ll take on Revelation 2-3 next week boys and girls.