For quite a while I’ve been thinking about seriously digging in to Revelation, doing a “deep dive” as they say. As you no doubt know, it’s a rather intriguing book–probably the most fascinating book of the Bible, according to most readers. Then, in early December, I felt that unmistakeable Pneuma-nudge to read thru this apocalyptic book by John. And that I did.
It felt like a really fresh read. It was exciting and, somewhat surprisingly, greatly encouraging! The overall zeitgeist I took from my reading of it was that no matter how bad it may look, Yahweh is ultimately in control, and does indeed win in the end. Therefore, persevere, stay faithful no matter how bleak or depressing the world may look or get, or whatever trials befall you; keep trusting in the One who made it all by speaking it into existence, for He, our Father, is always with us and will not allow His children to be plucked out of His hand.
I just love how twentieth century commentator William Barclay summarized Revelation:
It’s aim is to tell of the terrible events of the Day of the Lord which will precede the new heaven and the new earth, and to strengthen mankind for the trials which should come. There is much that is obscure in the book of Revelation, but one thing it does say with absolute clarity is that in any time of trial, God is with his people, and that in the end victory is sure.
Now this book is not without its controversy, obviously. It has been notoriously difficult for a very long time. Way back in the fifth century Jerome said that Revelation contains as many secrets as words. It’s the only book in the New Testament which John Calvin did not write a commentary on. And did you know that Martin Luther, at least early in his career, did not even regard it as Scripture?? “I hold it,” he said “to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…My spirit cannot acquiesce in the book…Christ is neither taught nor known in it.” Dang. But years later Luther would write that Revelation provides assurance that “through and beyond all plagues, beasts, and evil angels, Christ is nonetheless with his saints, and wins the final victory.” Way to turn the ship around, Martin.
Some principal points to keep before us which may be helpful as we embark: Revelation has more allusions to the Old Testament than all other books in the New Testament put together. Therefore, one of the main keys for understanding Revelation is to understand how the Old Testament is used in the book. And as far as the 30,000 foot view, there are three main theological messages:
- Willingness To Suffer For Christ Is The Path To Ultimate Victory
- The Sovereignty Of God In Human History
- The New Creation As Fulfillment Of Biblical Prophecy
So these are just a few of my personal revelations as way of introduction. I thought it would be interesting, and hopefully encouraging, to share something learned from each chapter as we take a look again at this mysterious last book in the Bible. (My goal is to do at least one chapter per week, maybe with some other short, non-Revelation reflections sprinkled in. We’ll see how it goes.)
To be clear from the outset, what I’m not interested in is predicting the end of the world. I’ve been decidedly turned off from that nonsense ever since that pamphlet “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988” circulated around my high school and freaked a bunch of people out. If my memory serves me correctly, the so-called “rapture” did not occur that year. There have been many dubious predictions since, complete with bumper sticker reminders.
What I am interested in is doing some excavating of this mysterious writing, reading it in context as best we can, and listening for what the Spirit of Jesus might want to say to us thru its interesting language and vivd imagery.
Let us wonder together. . . .