How To Understand Revelation: A Guide
From the first record of history, humanity has been obsessed with trying to play the role of God.
Greek mythology is filled with accounts of ordinary humans who were elevated to the status of deity. Some earned their deification through hard work, others supposedly married a god or goddess and were elevated to godlike status, and others just happened to be lucky enough to wake up one morning as a deity.
If you think this kind of teaching is a relic of the distant past, look no further than the teachings of Brigham Young, the 19th century leader of the Mormon church who tragically promised his followers: “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming gods like himself.”
The truth is, humans have been trying to take the place of God ever since the Garden of Eden, when Satan told Eve, “Eat this . . . and you will become like God.” (Genesis 3)
Authors, celebrities, and TV-personalities of the day are obsessed with spreading their opinions about finding new revelation—new clues to defining their own destiny, new keys to guaranteeing success, new secrets to speaking to the universe so that the universe responds appropriately. Our unbelieving world has come to believe that they have power in their words, with the ability to define their destiny and achieve their own happiness.
More important than discovering some new revelation, we need to become reacquainted with the old revelation—God’s timeless, tested, and true word.
Our families, and our churches, and our world need to return to the old revelation of God’s Word.
Thankfully, God—through His apostle John—gave us an entire book entitled, the Book of Revelation. The opening words reveal what the purpose of this inspired book is.
Don’t move too quickly past the opening lines in Revelation 1:1: “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” While the Book of Revelation can be confusing at times, with references to trumpets, seals, bowls, kingdoms and dragons, there are sound, biblical explanations for these various symbols and events.
However, at its core, the Book of Revelation is centered on the triumph of Jesus Christ. Revelation’s theme is Jesus, the goal of history is Jesus, the starting point, journey, and destination are all about our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Allow me to answer some common questions as we strive to better understand the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
WHAT IS TRUE REVELATION?
Some scholars contend that the recorded events and prophecies in Revelation have already taken place on earth; others suggest the book should be consider allegorically— describing a spiritual conflict without any real-world events.
I believe Revelation is a prophetic account of actual future events, events specifically focused on the end-times period of this earth.
Just as we interpret the Old Testament prophets as prophesying real-life events, we have every reason to conclude that the apostle John was prophesying of events that will take place in the future.
WHY SHOULD I STUDY THE BOOK OF REVELATION?
The apostle John actually answers this question in verse 3: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).
John understood that this revelation was critical for the growth and encouragement of believers world-wide. Notice how John emphasizes the fact that this Revelation isn’t to be only read or heard but lived.
WHY DOES THE BOOK OF REVELATION MATTER?
John ends verse 3 by writing: “For the time is near.” There is a sense of urgency as he writes—urgency concerning the imminent return of Christ. Several times in the Gospels, Jesus told His followers that He was coming quickly, and John is eagerly awaiting the Lord’s appearing. We know several of the apostles— including Peter and Paul—believed that Jesus would return during their lifetime; they lived with a sense of anticipation, as well as urgency to live for Christ now.
I often imagine how much more diligently we would live for Christ and spread His gospel if we awakened every day with the thought: “Maybe today!” Christians today need to live with a sense of urgency toward Jesus’ second coming. I am convinced that a renewed sense of anticipation would lead to a greater sense of urgency.
Phoebe Knapp was a musician who wrote the melodies for several of Fanny Crosby’s hymns, including “Blessed Assurance.” Phoebe was married to Joseph Knapp, the founder of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Phoebe said, “It’s a wonderful thing to have insurance for life, but a far better thing to have assurance for life here-after.”
Let’s live our lives, not so much for the here and now, but for the here-after when we see Christ face to face.
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