It can be argued that there is no book more neglected or misunderstood in all of the Bible than the Book of Revelation. Some have twisted and mistreated the bizarre imagery found in the 22 Chapters of Revelation, while others have stayed away from it all together.
Although the content of Revelation might seem a bit confusing at first, taking the time to dive a bit deeper will reveal this book is as relevant today as it was nearly two thousand years ago. I love the promise found in the first chapter for those that choose to read Revelation and take itâ€™s words seriously. John writes :
â€œBlessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.â€ - Revelation 1:3
Over the next several months, we will dive into this great book together as we gather for worship each Sunday. We will continue our discussion further in smaller groups through our house churches during the week. My prayer is that we will not simply read these words, but that we will hear them and take them to heart as together we receive the blessing of seeing and worshipping more fully Jesus the Lamb, Jesus the Lion, Jesus the Priest, Jesus the Judge, Jesus the Warrior, and Jesus the King.
A Little Perspective
The Book of Revelation was inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by John, one of Jesusâ€™ 12 apostles and closest friends. John and his brother James began to follow Jesus when they were young men, and continued to preach his name faithfully until their deaths.
By the time John wrote the Book of Revelation, he was living in exile on a small island called Patmos, located in the Mediterranean Sea. It was during this time, that the Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Domitian reinstated Emperor Worship, which required all citizens of the Roman Empire to declare that he was â€œLord and God.â€ This presented a great problem for people like John, who claimed Jesus alone was Lord and God. It was during this time, that many Christians were persecuted and put to death.
It was under Domitianâ€™s reign that John was thrown into a boiling vat of oil since he refused to denounce Jesus. Despite this horrific act, John lived and was exiled to Patmos. It was here that John the apostle, the missionary, and deep friend of Jesus wrote this incredible letter to encourage Christians to stand strong in the face of opposition.
Context is Everything
As I have discussed in the Introduction to the Old and New Testaments, the Bible is more like a library of 66 Books that compose one giant story, as opposed to just one book. Our Bible is arranged much like a local library in the sense that the books are arranged by Literary Genre.
Understanding the literary genre helps us greatly no matter whether we are reading our local newspaper or the pages of scripture. For example, if you opened up a newspaper and read the headline ... â€œTigers Maul Indiansâ€ ... depending upon which section of the paper you were in would greatly alter your understanding of that headline. If you were in the World News Section, you would know something had gone terribly wrong in the country of India, but if you were in the Sports Section, you would know who had won the baseball game the night before. Understanding what section of the Bible you are reading is just as important as understanding what part of the newspaper you are in.
Revelation is often categorized as Apocalyptic Literature. In our day and age, the word apocalypse can be a scary and sometimes confusing word. It often conjures up thoughts of destruction and chaos, but this is not what Johnâ€™s original readers would have understood this word to mean. In fact, the word apocalypse is a transliteration of a Greek word that simply means â€œunveiling or disclosure.â€
John makes it clear in the opening verses of this Book that Revelation is not about destruction or chaos, but instead it is about the â€œunveiling of Jesus Christ.â€ Over the course of 22 chapters, John will often use very figurative language to tell very literal truths of about the nature of Jesus, his sacrificial death, his conquering of the enemy, and his eternal reign. Much like one of my wifeâ€™s favorite writers, CS Lewis, who so brilliantly told the story of Jesus through the Chronicles of Narnia, John the Apostle uses all kinds of symbols, animals, numbers, images, and props to engage our hearts and minds as he pulls back the curtain so Jesus the King can step onto the center of the stage and into our lives.Â