Revelation - What our Times Desperately Need
My Favorite Book of the Bible
This is the first of a group of hubs on the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Relax! You will not get another wild and sensational account of the last days. I promise. Nor will you get a date for the end of the world. Revelation was written at the end of the first century when Roman persecution of Christians was on the rise. God's people needed some assurance that they hadn't embarked on a pipe dream; that, in fact, Jesus is risen and in control; that suffering had its purpose; that ultimate victory is certain. Kinda sounds like our times!
Indeed, Revelation, properly interpreted, is a spine bracing, faith encouraging, heart warming read. I want to help you discover Revelation for yourself. Approach it with a humble heart and inquiring mind and its truths will become self-evident. I'm indebted to William Hendriksen's More than Conquerors for much of my understanding of Revelation. Much, but not all. I actually disagree with him on a couple of items.
The Best on Revelation
Genre and Structure
You wouldn't read a cookbook the way you read a novel or a college textbook. Why? 'Cause their different. Dah! Well, yes. No one expects a riveting suspense story from a cookbook. You look for clear and accurate instructions, nothing more. So it is that there are different types of writings in the Scriptures. Actually, it's more helpful to think of the Bible as a library. Each book is distinct but links to the others by a common thread. That thread thickens into a rope by the time you get to the New Testament and becomes a cable in Revelation. What's the thread? God's gracious plan to call out of a corrupt and already condemned world a people who reflect his character by their words and behavior. It's the gospel of God's love for sinners. It's the news that God accepts us in Christ and transforms us by his Spirit into effective ambassadors of his eternal kingdom.
In Revelation you'll find all sorts of mind pictures which describe, from various points of view, the realities of our times. When God forbade us to make images of Him, it wasn't that he had something against art. Rather, He reserves to himself the right to create his own portraits in our hearts. So Revelation 1 presents a startling picture of the risen Christ. The first of many. Once you see it, you can't get it off your mind. Such is apocalyptic literature.
Another thing to keep in mind is Revelation's structure. It's not a history book that begins at the beginning and ends at the end. Rather, you'll find seven sections, each covering realities to be experienced in our times, the time between the first and the second comings of Jesus. This is most obvious in the fourth section, Revelation 12-14. It opens with the birth of Christ and ends with final judgment. As you read through the seven sections you notice that the weight of attention shifts from realities associated with the first coming of Christ to those that pertain to his return in power and glory. This is illustrated below by the wide end of the triangles gradually moving from left to right. Here are the seven sections: Chapters 1-3; 4-7; 8-11; 12-14; 15-17; 18-19; 20-22.