When God gave us His Word He had the poor and simple in mind. He didn’t mean for it to be understood only by scholars and professors. Unfortunately, many Christians have bought into just that – the idea that the book of Revelation is just too hard to understand. “There are too many opinions & symbols, and it’s really not as important as the more practical parts of the Bible.” But before we ignore the book of Revelation let’s remember that God wrote the Book. In fact, He even promises a special blessing for those who simply read it (Rev 1:3).
In the Gospels, Jesus often spoke through parables that were hard to understand. They puzzled the multitudes because they weren’t straight forward. Didn’t He want them to understand? Of course He did. But at the same time He hides truth so that the humble & the hungry come after Him:
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” –Prov 25:2
God gives revelation based on the hunger we have for it. He doesn’t reveal the deep things of His heart to just anybody (1 Cor 1:18-31, Luke 10:21). It’s no different when it comes to the Book of Revelation.
WE CAN’T LOVE JESUS IN SLICES
The first thing to look at in the book is its title. It’s called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. That’s a HUGE point. It’s not the revelation of the antichrist, the beast, or the numbers. It’s the revelation of Jesus Christ. Lots of times people who are unfamiliar with the book automatically think of charts & numbers or doom & gloom. But that’s not what the book is about. It’s about the glory of Christ! Shouldn’t that be important to every believer? The most natural thing for us, as those who love our Savior, should be to love the revelation of who He is.
We can’t love Jesus in slices. To love one part of Him but dislike another isn’t love. Mature love for Jesus requires us to become familiar with every aspect of who He is. A hesitancy to embrace the book of Revelation really reveals an underlying problem: we’re not in love with certain aspects of who Jesus is.
In the western world a different Jesus has been created; a Jesus who doesn’t judge sin or have the authority to throw people in hell. A Jesus who would never kill people when He returns. A Jesus who isn’t the only way to salvation. But that’s not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is the same yesterday, today, & forever and He is filled with both grace & truth.
You’ve probably heard it said before that Jesus came as a Lamb at His first coming but is coming as a Lion at His second Coming. We need to fall in love with both dimensions of who He is.
For those who have a hard time picturing Jesus covered in blood & killing people when He returns (Isa 63) let’s remember that it’s the Lamb releasing the judgments we see in Revelation:
“Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals…” –Rev 6:1
Out of all the names God could have used He wants us to know that He’s the Lamb from Isaiah 53. He can be trusted to judge the earth because He already died for it. He is meek & lowly. He gave His life so that all might be saved. Everything He does is the greatest mercy and an appointed time is coming when He will purge the earth of wickedness & destroy all who would not receive Him. This doesn’t contradict His love or mercy. It confirms it.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
We don’t need to be afraid of this book. It reveals the love of Jesus for His bride like nowhere else. The book of Revelation is the “End-Times Exodus”. Just as God released His judgments on Pharaoh though Moses (Ex 7-12) so He will release the Great Tribulation judgments on the Antichrist through the Church. The judgments in the book of Revelation are not against the Church, they are for the Church (Rev 16:5-7, 19:2). It’s the Bridegroom fighting for His bride. For thousands of years we will look back at the events around His second coming & worship (Psalm 145).
A very important principle when it comes to the Book of Revelation is that, “Jesus will release the least severe amount of judgment to bring in the greatest amount of people at the deepest level of love, without violating their free will, while perfectly judging wickedness.”
Only one Man has the authority, love, & wisdom to do that.
Would if the reason there was so much warfare around this book is because the enemy knows it will be the primary tool for the saints to overcome him in the end-times? Would if Satan hates this book so much that he’s intentionally tried to keep it from gaining too much spotlight? Would if the Devil has created all kinds of false doctrines to confuse people so that they just give up? That’s exactly what’s going on.
I believe one of the biggest delusions the church in the western world is facing is a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine. Check out this statement from Corrie Ten Boom, who went through the holocaust:
“There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are some of the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution. In China, the Christians were told, ‘Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated — raptured.’ Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,
‘We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes — to stand and not faint.’
I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it. We are next. Since I have already gone through prison for Jesus’ sake, and since I met the Bishop in China, now every time I read a good Bible text I think, ‘Hey, I can use that in the time of tribulation.’ Then I write it down and learn it by heart.”
At the end of the day, there’s nowhere in Scripture that says we’ll be gone during this time period. In fact all of Scripture points to the fact that we will be here, but that Jesus will strengthen us in the midst of it. It will be the Church’s finest hour, and again, the judgments He releases will not be directed towards us but for us.
Surely it’s better to be prepared yet not have to go through the great tribulation than be unprepared and find out that we have to go through it.
UNDERSTANDING THE SYMBOLS
The things we read in Revelation are meant to be understood in their plain, straight-forward meaning. The first trumpet really means the first trumpet. The water turning to blood really means the water turns to blood. Unless it clearly states that something is symbolic it’s meant to be understood just as it was written.
There are 7 main symbols in the Book. Fortunately from Genesis to Revelation we have the whole Bible available to us! That’s how we can understand the symbolic language – the Bible interprets itself. The book of Revelation has over 550 references to the Old Testament. What John was hearing and seeing definitely overwhelmed him but it didn’t surprise him. He knew the Old Testament and lots of the things he heard & saw were already written in the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Prophets.
Here’s the 7 symbols:
1. Dragon: is symbolic of Satan (Rev. 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17; 13:2, 4; 16:13; 20:2).
2. First Beast: is symbolic of the Antichrist (Rev. 13; 14:9-11; 17:3-17; 19:19-21; 20:4, 10).
3. Another Beast: is symbolic of the False Prophet called “another beast” just once (Rev. 13:11).
4. Seven Heads: are seven empires from history that persecuted Israel (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, revived Roman Empire of Dan. 2:41-42; 7:7; Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3-16).
5. Ten Horns: represent a ten-nation confederation that serves the Antichrist (Rev. 17:12-13).
6. Harlot Babylon: will be a worldwide, demonically-inspired religious and economic system based in the re-built city of Babylon, near Baghdad in Iraq (Rev. 17-18; Jer. 50-51).
7. Woman with a Male-child (Jesus): is the faithful remnant of Israel through history (Rev. 12).
EMBRACING THE BOOK
Revelation reveals Jesus in His glory. It reveals the Church victorious in love, the habitation of God where we’ll live forever, the power and impact of prayer, & the strategy of God to utterly defeat evil. It reveals Jesus’ zeal for His bride & His battle plan to transition the earth to the age to come. We need to love this book!
Here are some good resources about the book of Revelation & the End-Times to start you off:
- “When Jesus Returns” – David Pawson
- “Book of Revelation Study Guide” – Mike Bickle
- “The Blessed Hope” – George Eldon Ladd
- http://mikebickle.org/resources/category/end-times/book-of-revelation/ – Free Resources Online