Unlocking the Mysteries of Revelation
The Revelation of Jesus Christ is one of the most interesting books of the Bible. This message will give you the keys to unlocking the mysteries of Revelation.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1).
The Book of Revelation is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Many people believe that Revelation is one of the most mysterious books of the Bible. There are many people who are afraid of it or confused by it. That’s unfortunate, because this sixty-sixth book of the Bible was given to us by the Lord for our benefit, just like all the other books of the Bible. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable.” Revelation is no exception.
The Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). Many people have taken this Scripture out of context and taken it to mean, “God’s so mysterious, you never know what God’s going to do.” It’s important to notice the important connective word that starts the very next verse: “BUT God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10). These two verses go together. Even though with our natural eyes, ears and heart we don’t understand the things of God, the Bible says that God reveals them to us through His Spirit. God is not playing a big game of cosmic hide and seek and trying to confuse us. God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to find Him and know Him.
It is God’s desire for us to read and understand the Book of Revelation. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ, not the riddle of Jesus Christ. It’s unfortunate that some of the end-times TV preachers have given the average person the idea that only they can understand the secrets and mysteries of Revelation. That’s ridiculous. All Christians have the Holy Spirit inside of us, and we can pray for God to give us wisdom. We can know and understand what this book is about.
Because of the unique nature of this Apocalyptic Scripture, I thought I would share with you some background information to help you in your understanding. As we begin studying this great book of the Bible, I encourage you to take the time to read through it on your own.
BACKGROUND TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION:
The Apostle John is the author of Revelation. John was the only one of the faithful eleven disciples of Jesus who was not martyred for his faith, but not for a lack of their trying. They persecuted and tried to kill John, but he wouldn’t die. Church history tells us that they tied a huge millstone around his neck and threw him off of a cliff into the sea to drown him, but God miraculously preserved his life. John Foxe tells us that, “From Ephesus, John was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation.” (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). We know now the reason God spared his life and didn’t allow him to die a martyr’s death was because Jesus had a specific plan for John. After John was exiled to Patmos (kind of like an ancientAlcatraz), God gave him this great Revelation.
The book of Revelation was written during a period of extreme persecution of Christians during the first century. Believers who stood up and declared Jesus as Lord were martyred for their faith. The book of Revelation was most likely written before the destruction ofJerusalemin September of AD 70 and is an authentic prophecy concerning the continuing suffering and persecution of Christians.
The theme of the Book of Revelation is to encourage believers to be faithful to Jesus (even in the midst of suffering), and to give them hope that they will ultimately be victorious. We’ve read the back of the book, and we know we win. For example, if you were in the middle of a baseball game, and it was the seventh inning, and your team was down by a dozen runs, you might get a little discouraged. But if someone had a time machine and came from the future and they said, “In the next two innings, your team’s going to come back, and you’re going to win the game” that would change your perspective as you’re playing the rest of the game. You wouldn’t be so discouraged. “Wait a minute,” you would declare, “We’re going to win!” This is one of the purposes of the book of Revelation – to encourage us as Christians in the midst of the battle. God tells us that ultimately we will win and be victorious. That’s the encouragement of Revelation.
The second purpose of the book of Revelation is to teach us that God is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. That means He’s in control of everything. He already knows the end from the beginning. He already knows what’s going to happen in the future and how it’s going to end, because He’s the one who’s determining how it will end.
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11).
TIPS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND REVELATION:
Here are a few simple keys to help you unlock the mysteries of Revelation.
1. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the devil, beast or antichrist.
Sometimes when people talk about the book of Revelation, they say, “It’s all about the devil,” or “It’s all about the antichrist.” Incidentally, there are only 10 verses in the whole book of Revelation that talk about the devil, and the antichrist isn’t even mentioned in Revelation. This is “the revelation of JESUS CHRIST.” These are the first five words of the first verse of the first chapter of this book of the Bible. That makes Revelation just like the other 65 books of the Bible: all about Jesus and God’s wonderful, loving plan to redeem a sinful humanity. That’s good news.
2. Revelation contains a lot of Biblical symbolism – it cannot all be taken literally.
Some people get into error interpreting Revelation when they overlook the fact that some of what’s written here is symbolic. Revelation contains three distinct types of literature: apocalypse, prophecy, and letters. When we’re reading our Bibles, and we come across the statement where John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), we’re smart enough to know that Jesus isn’t a little sheep that’s walking around saying, “Baa!” We understand that John is using a symbolic word picture to help us understand something about the nature of Jesus. Jesus is not a literal, physical sheep. John is saying that Jesus is like the Passover lamb that was sacrificed in the Old Testament. Jesus died on the Cross and shed His blood so we can saved and forgiven.
When we’re reading Revelation, we need to remember that there is a lot of symbolism. Therefore, part of our task as we read through the Apocalypse is to discern between the literal and figurative language. I will give you some keys to help you figure out the figurative language as we go throughout this study. In Revelation, there are many places in the book itself where the symbols are actually explained for us.
3. “Revelation” is the Greek word apokalypsis.
Revelation means the revealing of something that was previously hidden. Some people think Revelation is a secret, mysterious book that God doesn’t want us to know about, but that doesn’t make sense. It is the revelation or revealing of Jesus Christ. God wants us to understand this book of the Bible and learn more about Jesus through it.
4. Read through the entire book of Revelation in one sitting to get the big picture.
This might take you anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on how fast a reader you are. This is one book, one unit of thought, and if you only read one verse here or there, you will have a harder time understanding it. As you start reading through it, do not try to figure out everything, at least until you have a feel for the book. There is a blessing that will come to those who simply read this book of the Bible.
FOUR DIFFERENT INTERPRETIVE VIEWS OF REVELATION:
There are four main different interpretive views to this book of the Bible. When I first became a Christian, I was only taught one viewpoint. They said, “This is how it is, and everyone must believe it this way because this is how we see it.” But when I started attending Pacific Life Bible College, I took a course in eschatology – a study of the end times. The book that we used for a textbook was called “Four Views of the Millennium” edited by Robert Clouse. This book had four different ways of interpreting the millennium in Revelation 20. The four different authors each wrote a chapter explaining their viewpoint, and then the other three authors critiqued that position. This way, we were exposed to all four different views of eschatology. This was a great tool for us as students to come to our own conclusions about what we believed about the end times.
Here are the four main interpretive views of Revelation. Even with all of these diverse interpretations to the book of Revelation, all believers agree with this one important truth: Jesus is coming back again. They might disagree about the event surrounding his return – be they premillennial dispensationalists, postmillennialists, amillennialists, or something else – we all agree that He is coming back again, and after He returns: Eternity, Heaven or hell – where are YOU going to go? That’s more important than the eschatology you hold to!
I like the perspective that Jack Hayford, a previous President of the International Foursquare Gospel Church, takes. “The Spirit-Filled Life Bible does not embrace any conclusive point of view concerning these popularly discussed subjects. Rather, it seeks to help fellow Christians clearly understand one another’s viewpoints in order to assist dialogue and to dismiss bigotry. It is probably not reasonable for one Christian to be divided from another on the interpretation of things yet future, things of which neither can know the exact outcome until their actual occurrence.” We will hold to a similar position as we seek to come to a greater understanding of Revelation.
The preterist interpretation regards the visions of the book as referring primarily, if not exclusively, to events belonging to the closing of the first century, contemporary with John. The prophecy was concerned with the persecution of Christians instituted by the “beast,” usually understood to be Nero or Domitian, and was continued by the Roman government, called “Babylon.” Revelation was written to encourage believers with the hope that God would intervene, destroy the “beast,” bring deliverance to His people, and establish His everlasting Kingdom.
According to the historical interpretation, Revelation contains visions that reveal in advance outstanding moments and events in human history from the days ofRometo the end of this present evil age. Within the book are discovered references to the various waves of barbarian invasions, the rise of Islam, the Protestant Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the French Revolution, World War I and so on. The “beast” has been identified variously as Mohammed, the Pope, Napoleon, or some subsequent dictator.
The futurist interpretation sees Revelation as primarily a prophecy concerning the resolution of history as it concerns the church in the world. The seven letters are addressed to seven historical churches, and the seals represent the forces of history, however long it may last, through which God works out His redemption and judicial purposes leading up to the end. However, beginning with chapter 8 or 16, the events described lie in the future and describe the final disposition of God’s will for human history.
The spiritual interpretation finds in Revelation relatively few references to specific events or persons of the past, present or future, but rather the presentation of great ‘spiritual principles’ intended to encourage and guide Christians in all geographical locations in every area of history.
(The Four Schools of Interpretation quoted from The Spirit Filled Life Study Bible by Jack Hayford).
Although you might initially be overwhelmed by the fact that there are all these different interpretations to Revelation, let this following truth encourage you: You don‘t have to adopt one particular view to benefit from studying Revelation. There is a blessing available to anyone who will read it for its overall message of victory.
This is a sample chapter from The Beausejour Pulpit.
Contact the author of this blog for your free copy of this e-book.